Monday, May 16, 2016

Hating Everyday Math--every day

"What makes Everyday Math especially misleading is the fact that, when other programs are blatant about the de-emphasis of skills, Everyday Math camouflages this de-emphasis by the massive onslaught of a super-abundance of skills."
--Prof. Hung-Hsi Wu, U.C. Berkeley Mathematics Department.
This quote was sent to me by a comrad-at-arms in the math wars--along with a petition for the Central Bucks school district in Eastern Pennsylvania to Drop Everyday Math.

Yes, while math education continues to morph-- from Common Core-inspired tests to flipped classrooms to online learning--Everyday Math is still very much with us.

One of the locals who signed the petition provided a link to a 2013 article in Forbes by Emily Willingham. Willigham concludes with this:
“My children like math and play math games at home for entertainment. But they hate Everyday Math, every day.”


Anonymous said...

I've been a regular reader of this blog for years, but I've never felt the need to comment until now. I attended Linden Elementary, Lenape M.S. and C.B. West between the years of 1998 and 2011. I went through six years of the Everyday Math curriculum. When I went into Kindergarten, my parents had taught me to do math on a second grade level; when my school began tracking students for mathematics, I was placed into the lowest level. I didn't know how to multiply large numbers (by any algorithm!) until I taught myself halfway through fifth grade.

My goal, from the fifth grade on, was to complete CBSD's mathematics sequence because I felt that I had been wronged by not being put into the advanced math track. I came close; I managed to complete up through AP Calc AB. That said, it was not an easy feat to accomplish. The Everyday Math curriculum had left a number of holes in my mathematical foundation. My math education between the grades of seven and nine (prealgebra through algebra 2) was better than in elementary school, but by that point I had just assumed that I was bad at math. High school followed similarly, although I was at least able to get an A in geometry, thanks to the wonderful pedagogy of my teacher.

There is a happy ending here though. While a junior in college I decided on a lark that I would take a discrete math class; I finished that course with one of the highest grades in the class. The professor encouraged me to complete a mathematics minor. I did, and I discovered that there are few things I enjoy more than the rigor of proof. However, it took until I was 20 before I had that confidence. My entire life I had wanted to be a scientists, and it was a struggle growing up to think (and to have other people around you suggest) that that wasn't going to be able to happen because I hadn't been tracked into the advanced math classes, where all of my friends were. I can't imagine how many other children were put into a position similar to mine, who didn't find the chutzpah to work through that setback.

This is one petition I will definitely be signing.

Auntie Ann said...

It is the fear of mathematical rigor on the part of teachers, most of whom were humanities majors, as well as ed school faculties, that is at the root of much of the problem with math today.

I doubt there are many teachers teaching in K-8 who ever really enjoyed working their way through difficult math problems or proofs. Since so many never found enjoyment there, they assume that no student should ever be asked to do such things. Instead, they work to make math "fun" by reducing rigor, practice, depth, and level of challenge.

Leigh Lieberman said...

I completely agree with Auntie Ann that far too few elementary school teachers are comfortable with math, let alone adept at handling difficult math problems or proofs. The same can be said of most of their supervisors and administrators who are easily suckered into shallow, spiral programs like EM. Few of them will be able to effectively teach/supervise higher quality math text book material without serious professional development in math content; such preparation should be required for either certification but unfortunately is currently not addressed at all in PA or most other states.

I am pleased to report that the petitioner's concerns are being taken seriously and I have copied her update below from
Leigh Lieberman

PETITION UPDATE A step in the right direction...
Cheryl Giacomelli
MAY 19, 2016 — At last evening’s CBSD Curriculum Meeting, Math Supervisor, Richard Kratz recommended CBSD not immediately adopt Everyday Math 4. He provided a comprehensive three year plan that includes piloting other math programs, in addition to EM. Mr. Kratz shared he and the committee are dedicated to ensuring Central Bucks adopts a math curriculum that best serves our district. He emphasized Everyday Math 4 is still in contention, however he and the committee want to ensure the district adopts a curriculum that is of greatest superiority.

I commend Mr. Kratz and the committee for their dedication to this important issue. While Everyday Math is still being considered, I am hopeful our district adopts a program that most parents and students support. I believe there is a disconnect between the theory and principles behind EM and its implementation. I am certain there is no perfect program, and I understand it is impossible to please everyone, however when so many highly educated parents voice concerns it is important the district listens. I feel the district and Mr. Kratz have taken this issue very seriously and they are committed to adopting a math curriculum that will best serve our students. I appreciate their professionalism and dedication regarding this.

Please continue to share this petition and share your experience with EM in the comments. Thank you for your support.