Facing protest over their choice of a new elementary school math textbook, Palo Alto school administrators have invited parents to observe lessons being taught from the disputed text and have posted online explanations of their selection process.

Distraught parents have gathered more than 150 signatures in an online petition asking school trustees to postpone the textbook adoption for a year, allowing teachers time to pilot-test other options.

Meanwhile McGraw Hill, which publishes the controversial text as well as "SRA Real Math," a textbook apparently more acceptable to most of the protesting parents, said its representative's statement to Palo Alto last fall that it could not provide and support "SRA Real Math" for pilot-testing and adoption was a "miscommunication."

The district's Board of Education is set to discuss the recommended text, "Everyday Mathematics," in its meeting next Tuesday and to take final action April 28 on adopting the text for use in all elementary schools this fall.

The "Everyday Mathematics" series was chosen by a committee composed mostly of teachers, but also including several parents, principals and administrators.

The committee enthusiastically endorsed "Everyday Mathematics" despite concerns from some parents that the series does not adequately cover standard problem-solving methods and strong mastery of basic skills. Committee members disputed those concerns. A parent information night at Nixon Elementary School on March 11 failed to quell the opposition.

"We appreciate the dedication, time and efforts of the Elementary Math Adoption Committee," the parent petition reads.

"Unfortunately, we do not agree with their choice of either 'Everyday Math' or 'Envision/Investigations,'" the only other piloted textbook.

"We need to prepare our students better to compete with their peers from Asia, Europe and the rest of the world."

The petition asks district trustees to revisit the selection process, with greater community participation and pilot-testing of one or more of the seven other state-approved elementary math textbooks, including "SRA Real Math."

"SRA Real Math" initially had been a top committee choice. However, district officials said, an SRA representative informed the committee he could not provide piloting materials due to a company policy decision.

On the contrary, Mary Skafidas, McGraw Hill Education's vice-president for marketing and communications, insisted Thursday, the company is actively supporting both "SRA Real Math" and "Everyday Mathematics."

Asked why a sales rep would not have been able to provide piloting materials to Palo Alto, Skafidas said: "I can only imagine it was a miscommunication. We offer a broad range of programs because we know school districts have diverse needs and want to be able to offer them the breadth they need to choose from."

Assistant school superintendent Virginia Davis said in an e-mail, "Of course the SRA people will say they want to sell in California. However, when it came to sending consultants to give introductions of the materials as all other publishers did, they did not have anyone. In addition, they were not willing to send materials for use in piloting in classrooms which all other publishers did."

As of Thursday morning, the online version of the parent petition had 160 signatures, about half of them anonymous. However, the petition warned signers who are anonymous in the online version that their names and addresses would be included when the petition is submitted to school trustees.

Some parents say they prefer anonymity because the math topic can be divisive within friendly school communities. A few have expressed worry that their children could be affected if they take a public stand.

The district has scheduled a parent information meeting on "Everyday Mathematics" for Tuesday, April 21, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Nixon. Both child care and Spanish translation will be available at the meeting.

## Comments

BP MomBarron Park

on Apr 10, 2009 at 2:44 pm

BP Mom, Barron Parkon Apr 10, 2009 at 2:44 pm

The SRA Rep said they do support SRA and there is a "miscommunication" wrt sending the material and piloting.

My vote would be to respectfully and peacefully end this debate and take SRA textbooks as was the Committee's first choice. In my ming that would be a win-win. The Committee gets their first choice, the kids and teachers get a great book and no parents controversey

and, we can all get back to our day jobs...

Calculators are a big mistakeCommunity Center

on Apr 10, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Calculators are a big mistake, Community Centeron Apr 10, 2009 at 2:55 pm

The final epitaph on Everyday Math, for me, is the explanation from the district on calculators, (see link above for online explanations), which includes

"In the Everyday Math program, emphasis is placed on using the calculator as a tool for learning mathematics. In kindergarten, for example, calculators add a visual dimension to oral counting routines as children count forwards and backwards by 1s, 2s, 5s, and 10s. Seeing the numbers on the calculator display as they count helps children learn written number sequences. (Activity 5.5) Furthermore, entering +2 on the calculator when counting by 2’s, reinforces the notion that when you count by 2’s you are actually adding 2 (not just skipping a number). (Activity 6.14) "

The "visual dimension" is a crutch for teachers that can't count, and that can't explain Math in any better way. What an insult to the students.

realityJLS Middle School

on Apr 10, 2009 at 7:14 pm

reality, JLS Middle Schoolon Apr 10, 2009 at 7:14 pm

If you are trying to teach kindergarteners that adding by twos means adding two of something instead of skipping numbers, could you not even more viscerally teach this by giving them beans, block,s poker chips or what have you to add two at a time than by having them see "+2" repeatedly on a calculator? My own children learned to count by tens in kindergarten by gluing 10 beans carefully on popsicle sticks and making 10 of them into "100s rafts" that taught the concept clearly and thoroughly. Calculators add a level of abstraction where none is needed in these early grades, under the pretense of clarifying concepts. Calculators do not belong in elementary school, and the committee Q&A language that de-emphasizes this aspect of Everyday Math is disingenuous at best, calculated to deceive at worst.

BP MomBarron Park

on Apr 10, 2009 at 9:34 pm

BP Mom, Barron Parkon Apr 10, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Here is the petition mentioned in this article for parents who care about math to express their opinion

Web Link

PA ParentBarron Park

on Apr 10, 2009 at 9:58 pm

PA Parent, Barron Parkon Apr 10, 2009 at 9:58 pm

This coming Tuesday, April 14th the Textbook Adoption Committee will present their recommendation of the Everyday Math program to our Board of Education. The meeting is open to public. It will start at 6:30 and can go until 10:00pm at 25 Churchill Ave, Palo Alto. Please try and show up at this meeting to show your support for the petition. Yes, attendence will matter. The more people that show up the better.

PA ParentBarron Park

on Apr 10, 2009 at 10:02 pm

PA Parent, Barron Parkon Apr 10, 2009 at 10:02 pm

PAUSD Board Packet Now Available - Materials that will be presented at Tuesday's Board Meeting

Web Link

PA ParentBarron Park

on Apr 10, 2009 at 10:34 pm

PA Parent, Barron Parkon Apr 10, 2009 at 10:34 pm

I completely appauled to see that the Textbook Adoption Committee unanimously wants to pilot SRA. The Textbook Adoptin Committee had two really weak choices. They picked the one that they thought was lesser of the two evils. Now that the miscommunication is coming to light, the publishers are willing to work with us in piloting SRA which was the Committee's first choice. A lot of parents think this is a reasonable common ground. Why is the district pushing so hard to select Everyday Math? Why would the Board allow this when we can have a great choice that everyone can live with?

Google Everyday Math - there's nothing positiveAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 10, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Google Everyday Math - there's nothing positive, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 10, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Here's the Everyday Math which the math adoption committee recommends: Web Link

Here's more information on Everyday Math: Web Link

The math adoption committee is ignoring all the outside data which shows that Everyday Math is a failure and parents and children dislike the program.

Stanford professor James Milgram is one of the authors of California's current math standard and he opposes Everyday Math.

Professor Wu, of UC Berkeley mathematics department and an expert in K-12 math education also opposes Everyday Math.

Please write or phone with your feedback:

Kevin Skelly, Superintendent: [email protected]

Ginny Davis, Asst. Superintendent: [email protected]

Please write or phone our school board members with your feedback:

Melissa Baten Caswell

[email protected]

1129 Channing Ave., PA 94301

823-1166

Barb Mitchell

[email protected]

550 N. California Avenue, PA 94301

328-6027

Dana Tom

[email protected]

1419 Hamilton Avenue, PA 94301

321-4506

Barbara Sih Klausner

[email protected]

691 Salvatierra St., Stanford, 94305

324-4220

Camille Townsend

[email protected]

2450 W. Bayshore Road #10

Palo Alto, 94303

493-3410

Reality checkAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 11, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Reality check, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 11, 2009 at 1:30 pm

The district online explanations have left out the Elephant in the Room in PAUSD Math, which is Private Tutoring.

Let the Facts Speak For ThemselvesAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 11, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Let the Facts Speak For Themselves, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 11, 2009 at 6:21 pm

This was posted on the other forum:

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Apr 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm

There have been a lot of misunderstandings about how Everyday Mathematics attempts to teach for skills and fluency, and how does its spiraling works. Instead of me attempting to explaining it yet another time, I thought that a recent explanation from prof. Hung-Hsi Wu, of U.C. Berkeley mathematics department, may help. Prof. Wu was a member of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, and has long history of doing professional development for teachers in mathematics, and work relating to California's Mathematics Standards and Framework. The following is by permission of the author.

----------------

EM is a not a program I'd recommend because it is extremely misleading. It claims to promote Conceptual Understanding, but in my opinion, it raises hope while dashing it mercilessly. It does not pay careful attention to the need of the painstaking build-up of skills, and when this happens in *mathematics*, you may as well bid farewell to conceptual understanding. 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. If several skills are taught each week without allowing children the time to internalize the one or two key skills, the end result is that they learn nothing. But this tactics allows Everyday Math to claim that it has given skills their due and at the same time succeed in de-emphasizing them.

Andy Issacs, the major author of EM came to see me to protest my low opinion of EM, so I told him more or less the following, face to face:

The decision by EM to dump many topics on children each day, and hope that by chance some of them will stick to the children's minds in the long run, is contrary to the way mathematics should be learned. Mathematics is simple and clear, and its progression is orderly and hierarchical. We want children to learn the most basic things, and learn them well each time, so that they can move to the next stage with a clear understanding of what they have learned, and what they can do next with their new-found knowledge. Some skills and concepts in elementary mathematics are so important (place value, standard algorithms, etc.) that one must not leave the learning of such things to chance. They must be learned, and learned well, and the only way to do this is to isolate them and give children time to absorb them. When you do the standard algorithms as some items among a few dozen that children should know, you are doing public education a disservice. You are in fact misleading the public by design, because it allows you to claim, on the one hand, that you recognize the importance of these basic skills and concepts and, on the other, pander to the ideology of others by making the learning of said skills and concepts virtually impossible.

Imbedded in EM is a mathematical knowledge that is above the norm in American educational publishing. Unfortunately, this knowledge does not filter down to the pages of the student texts. These texts use language that is as vague and misleading as other texts from major publishers. Moreover, the flawed design in the structure of your lessons puts this knowledge to waste. For this reason, I do not consider EM to be suitable for the typical elementary teacher or classroom.

-----------------------

Google Everyday Math - there's nothing positiveAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 11, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Google Everyday Math - there's nothing positive, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 11, 2009 at 8:56 pm

People do not need to have children in elementary school to sign the petition to oppose Everyday Math. Every adult living in a Palo Alto residence may sign it, including grandparents. The deadline for signing is Wednesday, April 22.

Web Link

Superintendent Kevin Skelly will be at Duveneck Elementary (705 Alester Avenue, PA 94303) this Monday, April 13 from 6:00-7:00 in the MP Room to answer questions and comments on Everyday Math. This will be a good time to learn more about the program and be able to voice your questions. The Nixon meeting on April 21 may not allow parent questions, as the last Nixon meeting allowed very limited input from parents.

AnonAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 12, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 12, 2009 at 12:29 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

realityJLS Middle School

on Apr 12, 2009 at 1:02 pm

reality, JLS Middle Schoolon Apr 12, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Skelly needs to take back control and be the boss and assert himself or he will be trampled by the business as usual machine that we hoped so much would be changed by his arrival. The way he was chastised by the committee members at the last meeting was completely gross, entitled and unprofessional and showed that those members have no respect for him as the one ultimately in charge. We can expect that to continue unless he asserts himself. Caving will do nothing but invite more of the same. We've seen this before, a lot, and it's entirely predictable at this point. If Skelly cannot stand up for the good of the district kids, I really hope the new board will.

the challenges of EMAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 12, 2009 at 4:38 pm

the challenges of EM, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 12, 2009 at 4:38 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Jerry UnderdalBarron Park

on Apr 12, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Jerry Underdal, Barron Parkon Apr 12, 2009 at 10:39 pm

I'm in agreement with PA Parent in supporting reconsideration of SRA Real Math as an option now that the company has affirmed that it would continue to support it in California, contrary to what PAUSD was told by its representative when approached for materials to use in piloting the series.

This was, after all, among the most favored choices at the beginning of the selection process. All of the other products except the two that were piloted and SRA Real Math were found wanting, using the criteria that the committee was bound by. Singapore Math and Saxton lost out, if I understand correctly, because of inadequate support for differentiated instruction. That judgment probably should stand, unless the publishers have substantially improved their offerings to meet this criterion.

I recall the packed community meeting about mathematics instruction held at Gunn H.S. several years ago when we were told that one of the key criticisms of math instruction in the US, and a major source of its lagging scores in international studies, was the attempt to teach too many standards at each grade level. Further, we were told that the spiralling curriculum magnified the negative impact, because already limited instruction time--many fewer days than in many nations--was spent teaching material that should have already been mastered.

I'd be sorry to see the district adopt a mathematics program that doesn't adequately address this criticism if there's another program that meets all of PAUSD's requirements and in addition moves us towards matching international standards of mathematics attainment.

It's worth giving SRA Real Math a look if this is one of reasons the committee originally was interested in piloting the program. It would be a confirmation, not a repudiation, of the process. Shame on the sales division of McGraw Hill for allowing this mess to happen. The committee had a mandate to fulfill and it has done so. With the new option to examine whether SRA Real Math satisfies our needs, the district should go the additional step of piloting this series before making a decision that would bind the district's options for the next seven years.

PointOfViewMidtown

on Apr 13, 2009 at 10:25 am

PointOfView, Midtownon Apr 13, 2009 at 10:25 am

A reconsideration of SRA, based on a description of marketing policy as "miscommunication," should be considered very carefully if we intend on relying on vendor support.

In general, corporations ask their sales forces not to sell things when the support required after sale to sustain reputation will drain more resources than the corporation is prepared to provide. They do this when they know that they will have a problem. A corporation does not put the breaks on a sales effort for something they want to sell.

"Oh, you want to buy THAT one, sorry, yes, we can indeed sell and support that one, forget about what we told you before, even though you pressed us, that was a mistake."

ParentAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 13, 2009 at 10:56 am

Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 13, 2009 at 10:56 am

What the heck kind of 'support' do you need from a mathbook company, anyway. You buy a reasonable straighforward well accepted mathbook, you hand it over to compentent teachers, they teach it. End of story.

You buy a complicated experimental crazy math program, requiring parent education, teacher education, and a nonsense approach that no one gets (least of which the kids), well sure, I can see why 'support' is a big deal.

I'm not a math expert, but I learned math (a lot of it, for a long time), and I'm a parent. If the school district has to have me come in for parent training sessions on their stupid math books - they're doing something wrong. Really wrong.

Lets get over this full-of-themselves district staff thats more enchanted with the avant-guarde reinventing of the wheel. (For sake of making their own jobs interesting.) Skelly, this is what we hired you for - to bring some common sense leadership to the district. Do your job already.

Give SRA a tryAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 13, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Give SRA a try, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 13, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Point of View,

Either the SRA publisher is flakey or reliable. Flakey you say. Based on your logic, we shouldn't be buying Everyday Math either since SRA's publisher publishes Everyday Math too.

All the books on the state's approved list only get there after the publisher has vowed to fully support them for the full 7 year adoption period. So equally possible is that the "miscommunication" was on our side not theirs.

But there is no need to speculate. SRA sounds like it is happy to sell to us. We should find the best book possible and if that means delaying to try out SRA, the math committee's first choice, so be it. This is, in the end, about making the best choice for our students.

realityJLS Middle School

on Apr 13, 2009 at 6:05 pm

reality, JLS Middle Schoolon Apr 13, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Maybe someone can clarify something for me. Minutes from the piloting committee meeting (October 2008) say that the SRA rep was not available to present to the committee. Next meeting, no minutes about the SRA rep being unavailable for support? Just a summary of how they are divvying up the piloting work. Who talked to this rep? Where did the information come from that the company would not support? Where did the information come from that the company WOULD support it? It all seems very fishy, not necessarily on the part of the publisher. It's too reminiscent of business as usual over there in the entitled and arrogant district office.

In any event, given that SRA seems to have been given a less than fair trial but appeared to be the most widely preferred by the teachers, there should be no question that the district will pilot SRA. I'm with Parent. Let's stop with the avant garde nonsense and just educate the kids already, with the least controversial and still well-regarded program available. Skelly needs to have the district pilot SRA and postpone the decision a year, if not just adopt SRA in the first place. The question at this point is, will the committee stand on its recommendation of EDM and demand that Skelly "support" its decision?

OhloneParDuveneck/St. Francis

on Apr 13, 2009 at 7:49 pm

OhlonePar, Duveneck/St. Francison Apr 13, 2009 at 7:49 pm

McGraw-Hill's a large media corporation. My guess is that the SRA unit operates pretty separately from the EDM set.

Still, who turns down a big textbook sale?

Jerry UnderdalBarron Park

on Apr 13, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Jerry Underdal, Barron Parkon Apr 13, 2009 at 8:54 pm

I think I jumped in prematurely to approve holding up the adoption process to pilot SRA Real Math. I was under the impression that there was strong support for SRA Real Math on the committee at the start, which was frustrated by the company's marketing decision not to encourage or facilitate piloting SRA Real Math in California. I've since learned was not the case. It was one of the programs they wanted to look at, but not more than that.

I still am interested to know the relative strengths of the programs in avoiding textbook-driven standards clutter, but unless there's reason to believe that SRA Real Math is outstanding in this regard and that teachers would prefer it to Everyday Mathematics, it would be a waste of the time and energy expended this year to hold off on a decision for another year.

BP MomBarron Park

on Apr 13, 2009 at 9:06 pm

BP Mom, Barron Parkon Apr 13, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Well, pilot is not necessary - the teachers can either go with SRA or with Envision. EDM is just not a good choice. And, Skelly is concerned about the district's and committee's "waste of time and energy" I am worried about the time and energy SO MANY parents, teachers and kids will spend when they use EDM. Secondly, why think of this as waste of time of committee - this is due diligence. And, yes, this was their first choice and they wanted to look at it. The fact that they did not look at it tells me that SRA was not given a fair chance!

realityJLS Middle School

on Apr 13, 2009 at 9:14 pm

reality, JLS Middle Schoolon Apr 13, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Jerry, what ios your source for the information that the teachers were just sort of interested in considering SRA? I ask because the minutes suggest the interest was considerably more enthusiastic than that. I am concerned about the level of disinformation that has historically gotten passed around this district.

If the committee was only vaguely interested in SRA as you imply, why is that? Why did they not consider the significant studies and reviews that hold SRA up as a great alternative and pan EDM. That question has yet to be answered. The closest we've gotten withthe committee is "we know better than you."

Jerry UnderdalBarron Park

on Apr 13, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Jerry Underdal, Barron Parkon Apr 13, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Reality,

I don't think it was a case of being just "vaguely interested", but it doesn't seem to have been a case of "just got to have this!" either. And when the committee got what they perceived as a brush-off from the SRA Real Math sales team they went ahead with piloting two instead of three choices. You can't push a string, and a potential customer can't make a company do a good job of promoting its product.

BP MomBarron Park

on Apr 13, 2009 at 10:39 pm

BP Mom, Barron Parkon Apr 13, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Jerry - so someone messed up - either the committee of the publisher. But, our kids will pay the price. Is that fair?

BP MomBarron Park

on Apr 13, 2009 at 10:51 pm

BP Mom, Barron Parkon Apr 13, 2009 at 10:51 pm

All - let's all wakeup! this is not the time to point fingers. EDM is clearly not a good choice. Let's not get bogged down by she-said he-said. Let's not play with our kids future.

If you care enough - show up to the Board meeting on Tues April 14th at 6:30pm at 25 Churchill, Palo Alto.

And, let the board know how you feel. The Board will consider voting this down only if they are sure enough parents are against EDM.

OhloneParDuveneck/St. Francis

on Apr 13, 2009 at 11:18 pm

OhlonePar, Duveneck/St. Francison Apr 13, 2009 at 11:18 pm

Why, again, is anyone assuming that our teachers don't know how to get the best out of a math textbook? EDM doesn't sound particularly experimental--it sounds like it's been used and studied and what's good and bad about it is pretty well known.

Give SRA a tryAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 14, 2009 at 12:20 am

Give SRA a try, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 14, 2009 at 12:20 am

October 7: the committee took a poll to indicate which books it liked best. Top two in order: SRA (all 6 yeses) ("was the publisher with the most yes votes and best met the criteria according to every grade level") ("Based on the above chart, it was clear that the group wanted to further review ...SRA.") ("majority agreed to focus on ...SRA") and then Everyday Math (4 yeses and 1 maybe) ("was the next choice for further review according to the majority of grade levels").

The committee agreed to invite four publishers to make a presentation and decided to decide after the presentations which to pilot. It voted to invite Envision, SRA and Everyday Math to present. Web Link

October 16: 4 presentations were made - SRA, Everyday Math, enVision and Harcourt.

The committee voted and Everyday Math and enVision got the most votes and SRA was next highest.

"While Ginni Davis suggested piloting only two texts, she did not say that only two texts could be piloted. It was decided that Everyday Math, Envision, and SRA would be piloted." Web Link

Google Everyday Math - there's nothing positiveAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 14, 2009 at 12:53 am

Google Everyday Math - there's nothing positive, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 14, 2009 at 12:53 am

Re: OhlonePar's comment: "it sounds like it's been used and studied and what's good and bad about it is pretty well known."

There's nothing good about Everyday Math. Google it. Maybe a few articles?

But a waterfall of articles on Everyday Math being a bad program.

Here's some data on Everyday Math: Web Link

realityJLS Middle School

on Apr 14, 2009 at 8:51 am

reality, JLS Middle Schoolon Apr 14, 2009 at 8:51 am

Anyone want to comment on the meeting with Skelly at Duveneck? Early word has it that he couldn't answer questions on how parents can help their children if there are so many ways the children are being taught, and was generally very defensive and evasive. What a shame. He had such potential.

Skelly needs to do his job, which is NOT to rubber stamp the decision of the committee -- made *after* SRA was taken out of the equation. Moving forward and insisting upon EDM at this point without reconsidering SRA is very revealing.

BP MomBarron Park

on Apr 14, 2009 at 12:06 pm

BP Mom, Barron Parkon Apr 14, 2009 at 12:06 pm

I am pasting interesting comments from another Town Square board -

Here is a letter sent by a Stanford Math Professor on Everyday Math:

I am writing to give my impressions of the program Everyday Math, which is being considered for adoption in the Palo Alto district. I have had three kids go through the district (last one graduated in 2005), and continue to watch the development of the mathematics program with interest. Everyday Math certainly has strengths, but my feeling is that it misses the mark in certain important aspects, for example in the area of algorithms for basic arithmetic operations. I will first briefly describe my view of the reasons for teaching these algorithms to students.

One item of controversy in many discussions of mathematics education is the relative valuation of algorithmics/computation on the one hand and various notions of conceptual or higher level thinking on the other hand. I believe this is a false dichotomy, since algorithmic thinking and conceptual thinking support each other in very direct ways. Fluency with algorithmics and computation provide the familiarity with concrete consequences of conceptual thinking which solidifies otherwise abstract notions, and conceptual understanding provides both motivation for computation as well as the ability to detect obvious errors in computation. This fluency with computation plays much the same role as fluency in the study of languages, or in the development of musical skills. Fluency in language frees the mind to consider the subtle ideas represented by various turns of phrase, and in music permits one to interpret pieces of music rather than simply reproducing them mechanically. On this basis, I favor that students be taught “optimized versions” of the algorithms for computation, i.e. the standard methods which are understood to be the simplest and quickest to implement in manual computation. The importance of simplicity should be clear, but the value of speed is also crucial. If the computations are carried out in a much too laborious or time-consuming fashion, their value in supporting conceptual thinking will be diminished. Think of a method for teaching piano in which one is taught the logical structure of chords and scales, but never is given sufficient practice to play fluidly and quickly. To actually play the piano requires instant recognition of chords, and if that recognition process is too slow, producing good music becomes impossible. Similarly, if one were taught the definitions of words and grammar, if one does not have a mechanism for decoding the printed page which is relatively instantaneous, the process of reading becomes too laborious and will be avoided by students. Such fluency in the mathematical domain is critical to success in algebra and later in calculus, where a lack of such fluency will greatly hamper the student’s ability to problem solve and therefore ultimately his/her ability to understand the underlying ideas.

My view is that Everyday Math introduces idiosyncratic methods for performing addition, multiplication, and long division, and that this is done because in the view of the authors these methods are easier to explain conceptually than the standard, optimized, ways. They also believe that these methods are somehow easier on the students. For example, the Partial Quotients Division algorithm is described as a “low-stress” algorithm. The first point is a good argument for introducing these methods as interesting examples which can clarify theory, but it is not a good argument for teaching these algorithms as the algorithms of choice for performing all computations. For addition, the book introduces a “partial sums” algorithm for computing sums, which has the effect of lengthening computations in most cases. The authors describe the standard method as being suitable for struggling students. In fact, the standard algorithm is simply a quick and effective short hand version of the partial sums algorithm, which is valuable for all students. The differences between the Partial Products Multiplication method for multiplication introduced in Everyday Math and the standard algorithm are much more pronounced. It breaks up many of the steps in the standard algorithm and in general increases the number of required additions significantly. The argument in favor of this method is that it makes clearer the role of the distributive property in performing multiplication. This is useful to point out, but one should not require students to “hold one hand behind their back” by avoiding the standard shorthand which speeds up these calculations. The Partial Quotients Division algorithm is similarly awkward.

An additional point is that the structure of the standard algorithms provides a great opportunity to exercise conceptual understanding. Each shorthand step illustrates a valuable application of a fundamental property of numbers, and a thorough analysis of each such algorithm from this point of view would do a great deal to solidify students’ understanding of the fundamental properties of arithmetic.

I have only discussed my observations about algorithmic thinking, but I certainly have misgivings about other aspects of the program, such as early use of calculators and the handling of fractions, but have not had chance to look at them in detail.

In summary, the authors of Everyday Math feel that it is worthwhile to trade computational fluency and speed for having algorithms in which the underlying properties of arithmetic stand out in the clearest possible way. I do not regard this as a necessary or desirable trade-off. The connections of the theory with the algorithms are important to demonstrate, but need to be done only when the algorithms are introduced. One does not need to saddle students with less effective methods in order to remind them of this connection every time they perform a calculation.

Sincerely yours,

Gunnar Carlsson

Professor, Department of Mathematics

Jerry UnderdalBarron Park

on Apr 14, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Jerry Underdal, Barron Parkon Apr 14, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Question and comment:

Does anyone know how to remove your name from an online petition?

Wright McGraw Hill publishes Everyday Mathematics, SRA/McGraw Hill publishes SRA Real Math. I wonder if they are reluctant to actively compete against each other if one or the other already has a major presence in a district.

Elementary School ParentSouthgate

on Apr 14, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Elementary School Parent, Southgateon Apr 14, 2009 at 12:57 pm

I was at the meeting last night with Skelly. It was a 'show' for the parents to promote their decision. They had no counter agreements of any substance for the concerns that almost all the parents expressed. Skelly said that you can find people who have negative comments about anything. Skelly said several times that our teachers are better than those at other school districts who dropped EDM and that we had the funds to properly teach our teachers how to do this program.

As one point a parent asked how can we have a vote in this. And Skelly was visible angry and derisive that parents would think they get a vote. (that's how I read his body language and how he expressed himself).

When asked about Singapore math and the fact that Keyes school in Palo Alto - a private school - had dropped EDM and then adopted Singapore math. The parents were told that that school officials went to observe two classrooms at Keyes during math "because we knew you'd ask". The women (I forget her name) with Skelly said 'it was nothing to get excited about". A few parents responded that it was unfair to expect another school to put on a show for them and that if you walk into any classroom in any Palo Alto public school randomly there isn't anything to get excited about either.

My personal take from last night was that they were 100% behind this program and dismissive of parents concerns.

BP MomBarron Park

on Apr 14, 2009 at 1:03 pm

BP Mom, Barron Parkon Apr 14, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I wonder what will be cut from the District next year to make funds available for EDM training? was that covered at Duveneck?

paloaltomathtextbooksAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 14, 2009 at 1:45 pm

paloaltomathtextbooks, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 14, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Jerry Underdal your name has been removed from the petition.

OhloneParDuveneck/St. Francis

on Apr 14, 2009 at 2:34 pm

OhlonePar, Duveneck/St. Francison Apr 14, 2009 at 2:34 pm

Google Everyday Math,

Yes, there are negative views of Everyday Math, but the link you gave me is thin on actual data. Which has been an ongoing issue in this discussion. Good *comparative* studies seem to be in short supply. And that's what needed. There isn't a math program that succeeds for every person.

Elementary School Parent,

Are you willing to have teachers have a vote on the materials you use for your job? I'm not. Of course the teachers and administrators are peeved. Why would you expect them to be anything but antagonistic given the way this has been handled?

BP Mom,

Why would anything be cut? The district has staff-development days. I'm delighted to have math--certainly core curriculum--covered in training. It seems clear that the teachers have heard the key concerns about EDM--using calculators, neglect of standard algorithms--and plans to adapt accordingly. Calculators won't be used in the lower grades and the standard algorithm will be taught.

Again, is it clear that Singapore kids perform better in math than do kids in Palo Alto? Or that Singapore math, with its heavy dependence on the instructor, will work well in American classrooms? And given Singapore's lack of top-caliber mathematicians, is Singapore math really the ideal in an area with a greater-than-usual percentage of mathematically talented kids?

I know many of you are concerned about EDM--but surely there are less antagonistic ways to deal with this? You'd probably have gotten a lot farther if you acknowledged something positive about EDM and then proceeded with a "but" with your concerns. As it is, many of you made it a black and white issue and it is so clearly not.

Google Everyday Math - there's nothing positiveAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 14, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Google Everyday Math - there's nothing positive, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 14, 2009 at 2:35 pm

At Duveneck, Skelly couldn't answer the question of "If parents are supposed to help fill in the gaps, how can they if they don't know the alternative multiplication methods being taught by Everyday Math?" His reply was simply, "I'll get back to you on that."

At Juana Briones, the question was answered with "We'll have parent information meetings so they can learn how to help teach their children."

If a math program is so bad that engineers, physicians, mathematicians, accountants cannot help their children with math, then to me, it's a failure of a program. Teachers are already so busy. How can they be expected to do all of the teaching without parents helping at home?

BP MomBarron Park

on Apr 14, 2009 at 2:54 pm

BP Mom, Barron Parkon Apr 14, 2009 at 2:54 pm

OhlonePar - where are you getting your "You'd probably have gotten a lot farther if you acknowledged something positive..." As far as I have seen/heard/said the parents have been appreciative of the efforts of the committee but respectfully disagree with the choice. How is that "antagonistic"?

parentAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 14, 2009 at 2:59 pm

parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 14, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Ohlone Par,

I have always suspected that somehow you are on the inside in the district. You never look at things from a real user point of view. And you reply to everyone, calling out to each poster like a teacher, pontificating

OhloneParDuveneck/St. Francis

on Apr 14, 2009 at 3:58 pm

OhlonePar, Duveneck/St. Francison Apr 14, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Google,

Was Skelly saying that parents wouldn't be able to help their kids with EDM or was he simply responding to questions where that was the premise?

Speaking for myself, I was surprised the first time I heard my kid work an addition sum in the opposite direction in which I had learned it. Then I realized that A) my kid was coming up with the right answer and B)when I thought about it I realized that I also did sums in the opposite direction that I'd been taught whenever I estimated in my head.

PointOfViewMidtown

on Apr 15, 2009 at 2:00 pm

PointOfView, Midtownon Apr 15, 2009 at 2:00 pm

This is key:

"when I thought about it I realized that I also did sums in the opposite direction that I'd been taught whenever I estimated in my head."

There is a clamor for arithmetic and elementary math in general to be taught as it has for 100 years.

Over that time we have learned that:

PointOfViewMidtown

on Apr 15, 2009 at 2:18 pm

PointOfView, Midtownon Apr 15, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Sorry, hit a <tab> followed by <return> which inadvertently submitted my post.

This is key:

"when I thought about it I realized that I also did sums in the opposite direction that I'd been taught whenever I estimated in my head."

There is a clamor for arithmetic and elementary math in general to be taught as it has for 100 years. True, we've botched some sort of "new math" and confused indulgence with teaching for decades, but we should not teach how we did 100 years ago. We should incorporate in our teaching that over that time we have learned that:

- numbers are a specific example of a type of symbolic system elaborated by abstract algebra courses, first taught in grad school and now taught earlier. A Rubik's Cube is such a system, as is a verified piece of software.

- the way good mathematicians calculate with arithmetic is not by applying the standard algorithms all the time. In fact, they rarely do. They apply the more general arithmetic concepts such as commutativity, associativity, estimation, and thoughts like f(x +3) = f(x) + 3 (e.g. 103 + 39 = 139 + 3 = 142).

- mathematicians have become so specialized that there are multiple specializations in applied mathematics; the problem is not that there aren't enough people who know the standard algorithms, the problem is that aren't enough people with the sense and ability to know when to apply basic math (e.g. knowing what thousands, millions, billions, trillions mean because of practice with ballpark estimates throughout the math-learning experiences of ages 7 - 12; knowing what "payments may increase as interest rates increase" means because of frequent exposure to problems to which you have not been spoon fed an algorithm; knowing that enemies hidden among civilians throughout the world is not the same as enemies gathered together in a geographical unit, etc.).

Don't know EDM, but I do know that a lot of posturing around how great traditional approaches are misses the mark.

Other point of viewAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 15, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Other point of view, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 15, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Point of View,

"the way good mathematicians calculate with arithmetic is not by applying the standard algorithms all the time. In fact, they rarely do. They apply the more general arithmetic concepts such as commutativity, associativity, estimation..."

since when has traditional Math not taught the above? Where do you think new Math came from - old Math

the issue is WHAT, WHEN, AND HOW in the Elementary curriculum. Some of us respectfully disagree that there is much to do about what is timeless and Basic, and would rather not put steroids into what is simple.

OhloneParDuveneck/St. Francis

on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:54 pm

OhlonePar, Duveneck/St. Francison Apr 15, 2009 at 9:54 pm

BP Mom,

I get the attitude from what I've read in the Forum. I think there's a lack of self-awareness on the part of many about the attitude reflected in their posts. Of how it comes across and what assumptions that they're making--i.e. teachers are too incompetent to pick the right math text.

parent,

No, I'm not inside the district. I do know some people in the education, which gives me some information about how PA parents are seen by the pros. But just as importantly, in person I'm good at paying attention, getting people to talk and at asking questions.

And I like to think about things--pontificate as you put it. I call out to each poster because people have gotten confused when I haven't.

PointOfView and Other point of view,

My "traditional" math in school didn't teach me to play with numbers--and I didn't become "good" at math until I worked out methods that worked for me. The traditional algorithms can be cumbersome and often don't work as well for mental math. At the same time, they can create a sense of solidity that works well for many kids and adults.

One person's steroids is another person's basic. Ideally, I suppose, we'd figure out a kid's particular learning style and teach accordingly. Though that would mean that there'd be a consensus that there were different learning styles or aptitudes. I think the Basics crowd think traditional really is the best for everyone. I don't agree (in part because it didn't work well for me) but I also understand feeling that traditional math instruction is the way to ensure a solid mathematical foundation.

Kathyanother community

on Apr 17, 2009 at 2:38 am

Kathy, another communityon Apr 17, 2009 at 2:38 am

Curious-happened upon this discussion and see that enVision was piloted. Wondering why Everyday Math was chosen over enVision?

Jennifer HessBarron Park

on Apr 18, 2009 at 6:59 pm

Jennifer Hess, Barron Parkon Apr 18, 2009 at 6:59 pm

I also would like to remove myself from this petition and also from the e-mails asking me to find other people to sign it.

How does one go about that?

paloaltomathtextbooksAnother Palo Alto neighborhood

on Apr 18, 2009 at 10:06 pm

paloaltomathtextbooks, Another Palo Alto neighborhoodon Apr 18, 2009 at 10:06 pm

Jennifer Hess your name has been removed from the petition.