Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Stacking, regrouping, and corrupting the children, II

Rumor has it that a principal at a local school that uses Investigations Math has recently been making surprise visits to classrooms and demanding who knows how to add and subtract numbers via "stacking." (Stacking, which Investigations mentions reluctantly in passing and resists teaching to mastery, is that old fashioned method of arranging numbers one on top of the other before adding, subtracting, or multiplying them, and then "borrowing" or "carrying"--aka "regrouping"--from one column to the next.)

Since this principal has, for years, been a stalwart defender of the use of Investigations at her school, this was a bit of a surprise not just for the students, but also to their parents--especially the many who dislike Investigations. Some--including one who has set up an after school math program to teach stacking and other things that Investigations fails to teach--are now hoping that the principal is having second thoughts about Investigations (in spite of what the school's math consultant has said against stacking).

The specific surprise visit I heard about involved a 3rd grade class. Here a particularly brave girl who'd attended the after school enrichment program and knew how to stack volunteered to go up to the board and do so. She proceeded to stack, subtract, and get the correct answer.

What's unclear is what the principal made of this--or, for that matter, what her intentions were in the first place. While it's possible she's been having second thoughts about the curriculum, it's also possible she was simply fishing for confirmation that her kids can stack. That would give her a ready response the next time someone claimed that Investigations doesn't teach this. 

In general, the proliferation of Investigations in the greater Philadelphia area has been a boon to those running after school math programs. (One told me she really should have named her program "Thank You, Investigations.") But the symbiosis between Investigations schools and after school math programs is more dynamic than it might first appear. The more parents resort to after school math remediation, the more students (in spite of Investigations) learn math, and the easier it is for Investigations proponents to claim that Investigations is working--further entrenching both Investigations and after school math remediation. 

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

This phenomenon is not limited to math. Schools do not want to know what help - parents, private tutors, Kumon etc. - successful kids are receiving. It's deliberate blindnes. As long as there are enough successful kids to enable the admin/teacher/district to pat themselves on the back, they don't want to know more.

1crosbycat said...

Does the school charge for the after school program? I guess they would have to pay the teachers extra at a minimum.

I have long been tempted to csll all the new tutoring centers in our district habe had an increase in business and whether it correlates to the new math program (enVisionMATH) being mandated.

Katharine Beals said...

@1crosbycat,

The after school program is privately run--though the person running it is a parent of students at the school.

Re enVision, I've been trying to get some specific info about the curriculum (coverage, level of challenge, treatment of standard algorithms, how closely it resembles Investigations, etc). Have you gotten a close look at it?

momof4 said...

My grandkids' school switched to Singapore Math a couple of years ago, starting with the k-1s, in response to parent pressure. Luckily for them, it's a single-town, single-HS system that's easier for parents to influence. The newspaper reporting the change also interviewed the director of the local Kumon office, who admitted that he would be significantly influenced by the change.

Jen said...

My kid's district uses "mostly" enVision for K-5 -- though they couldn't bring themselves to get rid of EDM entirely. Instead they wrote their own curriculum using bits and pieces of EDM, always having a group activity first and with the lesson sandwiched in the middle few minutes.

enVision isn't great, but it's FAR more explicit and clear than EDM (or what I know of Investigations). The top of each 2-page spread has a bar with the exact steps for the concept listed out, for instance.

I would say it's an improvement over EDM, certainly, but at least in its incarnation as a mish-mash in our district not as effective as it or another program could be.

Then they revert back to Connected Math for middle school. @@

Anonymous said...

Please look at this math. As more "reform" math curriculum have been adopted, performance has improved for more students, and higher levels have been achieved by more students.

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_mat.asp

Katharine Beals said...

NAEP sets a low bar (particularly compared to other countries) and doesn't disaggregate results (e.g., which students used Reform vs. traditional math; which students did after school Kumon or Khan, etc.).

Here's a more pertinent study, courtesy Leigh Lieberman:

http://www.math.msu.edu/~hill/HillParker5.pdf