Monday, March 9, 2009

"Fuzzy" Math Coming to My Town, Ugh!

To stay informed, I make it a habit to read the summary published in the local paper of the school district board meeting. I may not enroll my own kids in the government-run schools, but I am very concerned about education especially in light of California's current budget crisis.

So last week I was checking out the summary from the recent board meeting when, buried among the numerous other items, I come across the following:

"Approved the Elementary Math Committee's recommendation of Everyday Math for the [district] math program."

The notorious Everyday Math? The one that eschews teaching kids traditional algorithms in favor of calculator use? The one that has students answering inane questions such as "If math were a color, it would be [blank], because [blank]", "If it were a food, it would be [blank], because [blank]", "If it were weather, it would be [blank], because [blank]". That Everyday Math? Seriously?

I went to the district website to see if I could find out any additional information on the school board's decision. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I could not find any information on the members of this math committee, nor whether there was any sort of parental/community input.

I smell something rotten in the state of Denmark. Why all this secrecy around the adoption of Everyday Math?

The next town over uses EM. Over the weekend, I bought some Girl Scout cookies there. The 2nd grader I bought them from struggled to figure out the correct change from a $20 bill for a $16 purchase. I don't think that 20 -16 = 4 should be all that difficult for a student seven months into 2nd grade, know what I mean? The Right Start Mathematics Level C that I'm using with Miss Scarlet (designed for 2nd graders) has students mentally subtracting a 2 digit number from a 3 digit number with regrouping (e.g. 103 - 58) in lesson 86. The table of contents for Saxon Math Grade 2 lists subtracting 2 digit numbers in lesson 109. Singapore Primary Math 2A also lists subtracting two and three digit numbers with regrouping. So 3 of the math programs popular with homeschoolers all expect 2nd grade students to solve even harder subtraction problems.

EDITED: I found a scope & sequence for Everyday Math Grade 2, and their goal is for students to do 2 digit subtraction "using manipulatives, number grids, tally marks, and calculators." It isn't until 4th grade (!) that students are expected to do subtraction with "automaticity".

I find it a bit ironic that just about the same time my local school board voted to adopt EM, a study for the U.S. Department of Education found that the traditional Saxon led to significantly higher student math achievement than the similarly "fuzzy" Investigations.

I predict there will be a surge in enrollment at the local Kumon tutoring center...


Kirsten said...

Why do you (and the Right Start Math curriculum) want her to do 105-58 in her head? I would be happy and satisfied with doing it on paper.

Really, paper and pencil is the goal.

Crimson Wife said...

Often in real life, we need to do mental calculations quickly and accurately. Think of when you're out shopping. You know you have $105 in your wallet and you're considering buying something that costs $58. How much will you have left after making the purchase? Do you really want to have to scrounge around for pencil & paper?