Thursday, September 9, 2010

Math problems of the week: 4th grade Everyday Math vs. Singapore Math

I.The final two pages of the first of two 4th grade Everyday Math workbooks, Student Math Journal 1, pp. 186-186:




II. The final two pages of the first of two 4th grade Singapore Math workbooks, Primary Mathematics 4A, pp. 183-184:





III. Extra Credit
Are Everyday Math students better informed about other countries than Singapore Math students are?

4 comments:

Deirdre Mundy said...

I thought Everyday Math was supposed to encourage "Mathematical Thinking"... Yet it seems like Signapore Math does a better job on the ideas of problem solving, spacial skills, algebraic expressions.....

So.... is Everyday Math REALLY everything Paul Sally hoped it would be? I had a passing aquaintance with the 'Math Pirate.' I have friends who were his devoted students....

And "Everyday Math" doesn't seem to match what he claimed he wanted to do with elementary school math instruction....

Any history/insight into what went awry?

Katharine Beals said...

Deirdre, I've actually known/known of Paul Sally over the years and had no idea he had anything to do with Everyday Math. What do you know about his connection? If it's anything more than as some sort of original but detached visionary, I can name tons of colleagues of his who would be absolutely appalled. I'll investigate further, but would love to hear what you know!

Deirdre Mundy said...

I was just going based on the fact that he used to be director of the Chicago Math project-- though some googling just now says he left because he and the educators kept butting heads--they wanted to dumb down his curriculum....

"Four years into the Chicago Math experiment, Sally departed as director, pointedly. “I got fed up with the educational bureaucracy,” he recalls, expressing the view that school leaders generally felt the best way to engage students in math was to make the math easier. He wanted to make it more challenging, in part by teaching the concepts behind simple mathematical operations—why any number multiplied by zero equals zero, or why the product of two negative numbers is always positive. "
( http://bcm.bc.edu/issues/spring_2010/features/sallys-calculation.html )

I wonder what he envisioned as the ideal math program for elementary school-- as the homeschooling mother of a daughter who adores math (I told her she could do math whenever she wanted and she acted like I gave her unlimited nintendo!), I'd like to see what the Sally curriculum would be!

Barry Garelick said...

I have spoken with Jim Milgram, a math professor from Stanford, who knows Paul Sally and of his involvement with Everyday Math. The description you provided via Google is correct. What it leaves out is that the Chicago Math (i.e., Everyday Math) program as originally envisioned was for gifted and talented students. The lattice method of multiplication, which is a mainstay of the current incarnation of EM, was originally included as a sidebar type of discussion, not as an alternative algorithm. The sidebar was meant to provide some discussion of why the method worked--something notably missing from the current EM. Jim remarked that he can spot some math problems in the current EM which were part of the original, and it is interesting and disheartening to him to see how the problems are just left as problems with none of the discussion and development that Sally and crew had originally intended.

The forces of the ed school politics at U of Chicago prevailed at that time, and Sally was unable to push back against it. This may seem incredible given a mathematician of Sally's stature, but not so incredible when you consider that teachers with frighteningly little math knowledge and proficiency have told Jim Milgram that he doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to how kids learn math. Jim would be the first to admit he is not an expert on pedagogy, but he does know what content students need to master and the proper sequence for presenting it. Content and sequence in the ed school perspective are viewed as obstacles that have prevented students from learning math.


See this article for further information on the ed school philosophy of teaching.