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Elementary math textbook adoption: Reactions to Wed. night meeting

Original post made by Concerned Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 25, 2009

The debate on what math textbook program Palo Alto schools should adopt continues with differing viewpoints on last night's Information Meeting. The school board is scheduled to make a decision on April 14.

Comments (207)

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2009 at 4:25 pm

This is not a program which is good for students who intend on progressing to higher levels of math or to college. This program actually wants children in first grade to begin using calculators.

Everyday Math is such a deficient program that parents will be teaching their children at home or paying a tutor or taking their children to Kumon Centers so the child can learn to add/subtract/multiply/divide.

Basically, the program is a spiraling system where a worksheet will have a picture of a clock, some coins, word problems, etc. Instead of focusing on each until the child masters it, they think that they can learn it all at once if there is repetition. They also think kids can estimate if 3+3 is more or less than 6 + 8, when they have not been taught basic calculations.

It is a dumbing-down approach and was devised for inner city kids in Chicago. Everyday Math wants students to analyze and estimate numbers before even knowing the basics of numbers. Some of the word problems are so abstract that parents have a difficult time teaching it to their children.

Think you know how to teach your child how to multiply double digits? They have a long, drawn-out approach to teach children which will not work well when the children progress to middle school. For a YouTube explanation of how they teach this, see the link below.

With Everyday Math, children will not be able to go to the store and calculate in their heads the price of a sale item on sale for 30% off.

Here is a web link which describes EM: Web Link

Here's a quote:

A child could be getting straight As in Everyday Math and still be counting on his fingers.

I have heard Everyday Math referred to as “Every Night Math” because every night parents are teaching their children the math they should be learning in school or driving them to tutoring centers to supplement their education.

Sharon Collopy
Doylestown, Pa.

This is definitely not a good program for Palo Altans. Write to our school board at Web Link

Attend the Parent Information Night on Wednesday, March 11 (no meeting March 12), 7-8:30 p.m. at Nixon Elementary School.

Singapore Math is more appropriate for Palo Altans. It is approved programs by the state of California.

Posted by Palo Alto Parent who is still recovering
a resident of Duveneck School
on Feb 25, 2009 at 5:08 pm

I have direct experience with the Everyday Math program with my elementary school children when living out of state. My concerns are similar to those above. The program has significant fatal flaws which should raise the concerns of all Palo Alto parents, school board members, educators, and citizens. It is an extremely disjointed program which does not utilize a serial or incremental building of knowledge in mathematics. Rather, there is notable randomness to the method which touches concepts in a very superficial manner typically using very abstract examples. As a result, both children and even highly educated parents end up completely lost. Example, the answer may be correct but if there illogical manner was not used, it is still counted as wrong. Example, what would be the ideal color for the number 3 (a non answerable question)? Further, the example exercises for early elementary school children with their actual first exposure to coins and addition may start on a single work sheet from how quarters = 50 cents to what is the least number of coins (dollar, half, dollar, quarter, dimes, nickels, and pennies) to equal $3.67 by the end of the work sheet. How does one expect a first or second grader to solve that problem? My kids and their classmates were constantly confused and defaulted to not being interested to try to hard as the adult would end up telling the answer anyway. Very telling was the fact that most teachers in our children's school did not support this method either.

The school district which used this system had only 40-50% of their high schoolers meeting minimum state levels (hardly challenging) of math proficiency. Less than half. For context, this town was comprised demographically primarily with an educated, caucasian, middle class population.

Our only solution to Everyday Math was to send our children to an afterschool program to learn typically taught math. This math system has extremely significant implications for our children in a school district that has a long history of math achievement. Further, this system will be inadequate to prepare them for higher learning in math in college and beyond.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Spend the money on laptops - my notebook computer was under $300, and any competent teacher could write drills or adapt drills appropriate to class progress. Burn the books.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2009 at 5:26 pm

I hope all of you with concerns email these concerns to the school board and to Kevin Skelly. It sounds as if you may have more experience than they do with these programs.

Posted by Sue
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 25, 2009 at 5:41 pm

For parents who have some knowledge about this program, please do speak up and let your voice heard. Also, for parents who have young kids that will be affected by this textbook, please spend sometime to figure out whether this is a good match for you and speak up.

My kids are older and will not be affected by the new elemetary textbook. I found the middleschool math textbook (Connected Math?) didn't provide a solid training for my kids. That's another story.

Posted by reader
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2009 at 6:19 pm

I really dislike Everyday Math. It's just too chopped up and lacks cohesion. The topics change so frequently that kids never get the experience of sticking with something until they master it. I know that topics reappear frequently, on a "spiral", but this never worked for my kids. By the time the topic arrived around again it was already forgotten... On the other hand, we loved CPM (college prep math)

Posted by It's the teacher
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 25, 2009 at 7:17 pm

All over the nation school districts are adopting EDM. And they are districts a lot like Palo Alto. Menlo Park has it. Districts all over the nation are using it and teachers and math experts love it.

Here we go, back into the math wars. Let's beat on the district. Let's say how stupid everyone in the district is. Let's jump into the conversation in the 11th hour. It is, after all, the Palo Alto way. Hasn't the committee to select a textbook been at work since the Fall? Wasn't a new math adoption in the strategic plan? Why hasn't there been any talk until now?

The most important thing is the quality of the teacher. The materials are far, far less important. Anyone can read biased articles and claim to be a math expert. It feels like the one who googles the most articles wins in this town sometimes.

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2009 at 7:52 pm

It's the teacher,

The reason there hasn't been any talk about it until now is that it was not publicized, probably purposely so because the people who are proposing it know the program is controversial. I didn't hear about it until 3 days before the public meeting which took place on Tuesday.

Teachers and math experts do not love it. You must be on the committee. Teachers find it frustrating and I have a friend who said their teachers began leaving the school district due to the frustrating program.

It's marketed well and once school districts buy it for millions, they don't want to spend more money for a new program. Or they don't have more money to buy another program.

The YouTube video shows that kids cannot do well in high school math after learning to multiply with the EM method.

Find positive feedback and leave the web link here for us to see. Bet you can't.

Posted by real math fan
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 25, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Here is positive feedback. It teaches kids to THINK. It helps them to understand the material. I was a classroom teacher for a number of years. Then I was a staff developer for elementary schools in math. Any program that is aiming to help kids learn to make sense of the material, is a better starting point than work sheets and flash cards and thoughtless practice. Someone above mentioned it is simultaneously not rigorous enough and confusing to kids. It is only confusing if the mathematics content is unfamiliar to the student. Once the student understands it, it really isn't confusing.
Parents have trouble explaining it to their children - don't. If your child doesn't "get it", then let them go in the next day without it done so that the teacher knows who doesn't know how to do it on their own. It provides information to the teacher.
I'm sure some teachers don't like using it. It is more difficult to teach for understanding than it is to teach solely to the test. It takes more thought and more prep and more work.
I don't happen to think EDM is the best one out there. I think Investigations is a much more solid curriculum. But both of them were created (not to serve inner city Chicago youth as was suggested above) to do what traditional curricula never did - teach kids the MATH. The content. The big ideas behind crunching the numbers. We can't really say the "old" way worked because 85% of the US population says they hate math and/or can't do math. Clearly the old way failed most of our citizens. Let's not repeat our mistakes. Let's try to teach them the why behind the what.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2009 at 9:58 pm

Uh oh - the "new math" is back. But this time it will be different. Be afraid.

Posted by Alternate solution
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 25, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Eyes Rolling is right on about EDM and the programs PAUSD should be adopting instead.

District administrators need to expect the teachers to assess students to find their ceilings and provide appropriate materials and instruction. Because they only assess students to make sure they are at entry level expectations, they teach to the year end requirements rather than engaging the students in learning at appropriate levels.

Whatever data the district is using to support their adoption of EDM is probably skewed because of this. It takes initiative and motivation to do real differentiation when appropriate assessments are actually used which is why teachers don't bother. The unmotivated ones fill math time with busy work, endless workbooks, etc. Principals who don't want to make waves with teachers don't push them to provide real assessment because they'd rather not deal with the push back.

Parents with means and knowledge basically home school on the side so the kids receive appropriate level material. That's why the district doesn't know how to address the achievement gap.

For math, it is really straight forward. Start with appropriate, research based assessments. Do pre-tests to determine the appropriate level for each child, group them accordingly for that subject, provide quality instruction with research-based materials ideally from teachers actually engaged and enthusiastic about the subject, test to make sure the child achieves mastery of the topic, then let them MOVE ON to the next lessons...even if it means some material needs to be compacted, or a child needs acceleration. Pace instruction according to the ability levels in the groups. Let the students spend enough time on the material to achieve mastery so that struggling students receive appropriate instruction too.

Interesting that somehow only two programs are up for public discussion. Bet EDM will somehow be adopted even though parent input at the meetings will overwhelmingly be against it. Sad, because there are a lot of great things going for the district. Sometimes it seems like the prickly topics and issues that could become an issue between principals and teachers are "a lotta show and no go" to quote reality TV.

Posted by Anne
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 25, 2009 at 11:04 pm

My nephew uses Everyday Math in his school in PA and it is not helpful. My brother cannot help his son with his math homework because it is so ridiculous. It really stinks! My sister-in-law who is a math teacher with 30 yrs. experience and currently advises on curriculums has told me that Singapore Math is excellent. I have also heard this from other soures. I don't know who is pushing Everyday Math, but it is really lousy...

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 25, 2009 at 11:50 pm

I attended last Tuesday's meeting, and my conclusion is that the choice seems to be between two mediocre-to-bad programs.

Turns out that choice for enVision is really a choice for enVision PLUS a new version of TERC Investigations. In a sense similar to what we have now. Everyday Math, on the other hand, has a visceral dislike of teaching standard algorithms so they teach every other possible way to do addition/subtraction/multiplication/division (many quite awkward and none of which scale to arbitrary-sized numbers) EXCEPT teaching the standard algorithms. So for the California edition, Everyday Math slapped on couple of pages in the student book for each of the standard algorithms (without even teaching them in the teacher Edition) and that how they got the state approval. Quite pitiful for what are major topics in primary grade mathematics.

It is interesting to note that just yesterday a new evaluation of 4 elementary school math programs was published by IES Web Link . It is probably the most carefully designed evaluation of such programs ever done, but this report covers only the first grade. Anyway, it found the TERC Investigation significantly below (~0.3 std. deviations!) two other programs - Saxon (traditional) and "Math Expression" (new, rather-reform program, from Houghton Mifflin.)

In contrast, Everyday Math prides itself (and advertises heavily) that IES found it has "potentially positive effects" on students. This is true, but what they tend not to mention is that the quality of research support for ALL math curriculum effectiveness studies is very bad. Out of 61 Everyday Math research studies in existence, 57 failed to meet IES' standards, and 4 met it "with reservations." Based on these four "with reservation" studies, Everyday Math makes its claim to fame. That is why the recent IES report above is so important -- because it reflects, for a change, a methodologically robust study.

My simple summary is that currently there is no real good option for elementary adoption. One represents "the devil we know" (enVision + TERC Investigations), which is what we have been essentially using for the last 6 years, and the other (Everyday Math) is a program with known large gaps in key areas of elementary mathematics (and of Calif. and PAUSD math standards).

Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2009 at 7:16 am

It's the teacher and Real Math Fan:

Look at who is in charge of the Elementary textbook committee: Cathy Howard, principal of Barron Park Elementary (worst scores in the district) and former head of math curriculum at 25 Churchill when the last round of textbook decisions were made, and whose dogged insitence resulted in adoption of the universally panned (then and now) Dale Seymour "Investigations" (aka "math appreciation")series -- which has confounded our poor kids for a decade. Skelly and the Board should be paying better attention to the history of this problem and not letting it repeat down to the same offenders. Why do other states -- nay, other California counties -- manage to adopt reasonable textbooks while Palo Alto continues to mess around with our children's educations? A whole generation of children should not have to depend on their parents getting extra tutoring to make up for inadequate education. Achievement gap indeed.

Posted by One Camp
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 26, 2009 at 8:55 am

My kids are using Everyday Math, CA edition. It is mediocre, but the teacher has to supplement with algorithms and drill. (Without the drills it would be a disaster.)

The math wars seem to have split parents and teachers into two groups: those who favor concepts at the expense of mastering drills, and those who favor mastering drills over concepts. EDM fall into the former group.

I would like to see the schools put in place a program that teaches both concepts and how to perform calculations. The closest I know of is the Singapore math books, which have been approved as a CA text. These are conceptually heavy, and do not push much drilling. But they are designed to be supplemented by lots of drill.

Posted by board watcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2009 at 9:00 am

One Camp -- where are your kids using that textbook? Barron Park School?

Posted by former BP parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 26, 2009 at 9:11 am

Uh, oh. Barron Park students have suffered under Howard's math program. Those of us who stayed at the school were so frustrated. The reasons are too numerous to go into here. But many parents sought to get independent testing and hire tutors because our kids were below proficient on STAR tests in math at BP. Don't assume all the low performers at BP are under-represented minority students! But we could afford a tutor and many families cannot. If she is still involved at the district level, review the choices *very* carefully.

In addition to above comments on Everyday Math, my friends in NY say it is too language-based, so kids who struggle with language skills now also struggle in math.

Posted by TERC fan
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 26, 2009 at 9:57 am

We recently moved here from NY. Our school district used TERC (Investigations) and we loved it! Whoever said it's the teachers is right. The teachers need to buy in and understand how to teach it.

Boardwatcher - you say Investigations is "universally panned"? I can tell you where I come from it has raised test scores (in a district that already had pretty high ones) and also improved scores on "thinking" kinds of tests. I'm so surprised to hear such negativity about Investigations out here.

Mastery of drills is in no way enough. Of course, concepts without knowing how to use them effectively is no good either.
It looks like some schools are using Investigations?
Ze'ev says "the devil we know" involves using this curriculum for 6 years. Is it used across the district now?

One of the things I miss most about our district in NY is the way they taught math. My daughter and son both understand it in ways I'm sure I didn't when I was young. It is sometimes more challenging to help with homework because I just know "my way" but I ask them questions and if they are really confused I let the teacher know.

I hope more schools use Investigations! In our old district, we found it much more rigorous and easier to use than EDM.

Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:13 am

Based on the majority of comments that are negative both here in Palo Alto and elsewhere in the country, why is Everyday Math being considered so highly at this late stage?

Also, why has there not been more transparency with this process of math curriculum selection? This issue has only come to the surface at the very last stages of decision making. We as parents have been burned so many times over the years where school committees quietly move towards a final decision to avoid open dialogue and to meet either intentioned or personal agendas.

I thought that Palo Alto with its long history of excellence would be different.

Posted by board watcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:21 am

TERC fan, please cite the professional or peer reviews that discuss how wonderful the Investigations curriculum is, and in particular the California edition. There are scores of reviews out there that say this is a really bad, bad program.

At Barron Park, the principal insisted for years (not sure if this is still true) on exclusively using Dale Seymour. The scores were and remain abysmal, the achievement gap is striking there -- so much so that now the school has its own little mini academic academy serving children of color. Glad it worked so well for your kids and those in the NY district of which you speak, but the way it has been used in this district has not benefited our kids. Don't blame the teachers. Parents heard all the time at Barron Park that *good* teachers could teach from Dale Seymour. Ok, *good* teachers can teach from their own materials too, but forcing them to use a really bad curriculum and then blaming them for resulting lacks in student competency is just outrageous.

But we aren't even talking about keeping Dale Seymour. We are talking about replacing it with another poorly reviewed curriculum instead of one of the many that are both approved for use in California and highly regarded by math educators.

Two great math programs that teach math in comprehensible ways that allow all children to follow along, combining big picture with drill, are Saxon and Singapore. Do you have experience with them? I know many, many kids who have thrived on them, and not needed extra tutoring or parent intervention to achieve basic competency in the skills taught.

Posted by board watcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:55 am

So, Eyes Rolling, Ilooked over the links you provided -- very helpful. It looks like the main thing going for Everyday Math was that it is NOT connected with TERC/Investigations!

There are lots of sites with individual and comparative reviews. Very informative.

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:56 am

Maybe a word on the history will help.

PAUSD adopted TERC (a.k.a Dale Seymour) Investigation around 1996-7 for elementary schools. In 2001 (2002?) PAUSD adopted another material, more traditional than Investigations, by Scott-Foresman (which was acquired by Addison-Wesley around that time). The SFAW series is called "California Mathematics." The understanding at the time was that teachers will use the new series (SFAW) and continue to use the Investigation for supplementation. The district also committed to prepare alignment/supplementations maps between the series to assist teachers in this task.

Meanwhile Pearson acquired all the publishers above whether directly or indirectly, and by now Pearson owns the TERC Investigations (which had a new edition since 1996), the old SFAW "California Mathematics", and the new series called "enVision", which is essentially an evolution of the old "California Mathematics."

Investigations are NOT approved for California, but the new enVision program is. It seems that the publisher(Pearson) is willing to throw in (for "free", whatever it may mean in this case) the Investigation if PAUSD will buy the enVision. Consequently, the vote for enVision is effectively a vote for the state-adopted "enVision" PLUS the not-adopted "Investigations" -- quite similar to what we have had since about 2002. That is what I meant by "the devil we know."

Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2009 at 11:04 am

There is excellent dialogue here. Please, please All - forward your thoughts to the PAUSD Superintendent and School Board Members. They need to here the voice and concerns of the Palo Alto community.

Excuse me, I need to sign off to reserve places for my kids at the Sylvan and Kumon learning centers.

Posted by PalyAlum
a resident of Duveneck School
on Feb 26, 2009 at 11:17 am

A Menlo Park teacher said they will start Everyday Math this fall. She said Menlo Park wants their scores to be as high as Palo Alto scores. Can we wait to hear their feedback?

As I understand it, Everyday Math salespeople claim the program boosts scores and people believe it without checking outside sources. Also, the schools with improved scores are schools which had very, very low scores in the first place. How they market to educators is what is selling their product.

Los Altos scores are better than Palo Alto's and they use the SRA program. I think we should pilot this program.

I heard that Envision, the other program PA is piloting is not much better than Everyday Math.

Posted by Carrie Maser
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2009 at 11:46 am

I encourage all of you who feel so strongly about this issue to 1) go to School Board meetings or at least watch them on tv so you are not caught off guard when decisions are made 2) Volunteer to participate on school and school board committees 3) Give the people working these decisions your respect - they are not idiots - they are hard working public servants and volunteers. In the words of our President, we can disagree without being disagreeable.

Posted by Mani Varadarajan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Is it too late to give feedback on this? Is it worth emailing/writing at this point?

I've used Singapore Math for my own child to supplement the abysmal curriculum at a prior district and she loved it. It was very successful. I've also recommended it to other parents who have also had success.

Singapore always ranks near the top in the world in mathematics education.

I would hate to have our math dumbed down even more (calculators?!).

Posted by duveneck community
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2009 at 12:12 pm

I have a 3rd grader and a kinder in the PAUSD schools so this topic is near and dear to my heart.

I try to keep a balanced perspective on "concept" vs. "practics/drill" on the math topic. It seems that EDM is more on the "concept" end (some may think its unneccearily, overly so.) My question is what do our middle/high school teachers/parents/students think of the EDM approach? Do they believe the "concept" drill is far more/less important than, or equally important as "speed/caculation" drill? What is their experience with the EDM textbook/education? what kinds of preps work in elementary they believe made an impact in helping them becoming a better math learner and achieving better results in middle/high schools?

Posted by Mani Varadarajan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2009 at 12:13 pm


Look at the goals of the Everyday Math curriculum here and see if it matches what you expect from your child.

Web Link

It seems at least one grade level behind where it should be.

Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2009 at 12:59 pm

To poster named "Duveneck Community"

The data on longer term outcomes from EDM should make any parent extremely worried. The demographics of my prior community is primarily caucasian, educated, middle class professionals with few ESL. Only 40-50% of high schoolers (most subjected to EDM in elementary school) in that school district met the minimum state standards (hardly a high bar) for math. Those longer term results are abysmal. Those kids have ended up as "dumb as stumps" in math from EDM.

Posted by lagging behind
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 26, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Thanks Mani Varadarajan for the link to the EM program. I took a look and think it's at least 2 grades level behind what the kids are learning in China. (I just got a set of Chinese textbooks from my son's Chinese friend)

Good or bad?

Posted by A Cynic
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2009 at 1:49 pm

The goals are about the same as what the state sets. I agree that they seem too low, but that's a completely different problem. This is why I see curriculum compacting and differentiation as the most important part of any math program - a first grader that comes into class able to subtract two digit numbers should pretest out of the sums-to-five unit and go on to something that is EITHER drill OR concepts that the child hasn't already mastered. Both of these are important for moving forward. Work that teaches nothing new is treading water.

It's really, really hard for teachers to do this. Computerized instruction should help, but I don't really want my kid spending all day in front of a screen, and the district doesn't really have a spare $300 per student to provide them all with laptops. Grouping them with others at the same level helps, but only if the work is actually different, which is again very hard for teachers to organize. Swapping groups between classrooms, so that each teacher only has to prepare lessons for one level, is a logistical and political nightmare.

As I understand it, EnV comes with pretests and EM doesn't, so I'd vote against EM - but pretests only help if the teacher is able to use them to devise individual lesson plans, which I wouldn't expect anyone to do. I don't blame the teachers, I don't even really blame the district, but I'm resigned to providing all my child's math instruction outside of school.

Posted by Mani Varadarajan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2009 at 2:00 pm

The right way to do this is to supplement the students who pretest poorly rather than dumb down the entire standard and curriculum. This is what we do with English education, right? ESL/ELD for those who need extra help. We don't complain that much about this subject. Why are we always struggling with teaching Mathematics to a range of students?

Another point to note is that curricula such as Singapore Math are not new to Palo Alto. Many schools in the district have well-subscribed (and expensive) afterschool programs using this method. As far as I can tell anecdotally, everyone who uses this curriculum is very happy with it. I don't understand why it's not even an option for us.

Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Agree with you Mani

Selection of the math curriculum should be an entirely data driven decision. The majority of data support programs such as Singapore Math (and similar programs) and not EDM.

I am very confused as to why we are all in the current predicament of trying to understand the rationale of the selection committee in moving towards a fatally flawed system with EDM?

Posted by A Cynic
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Apparently the initial review of Singapore Math found that it was weak on problem solving and mathematical reasoning, and required a whole-class method of instruction that wasn't suitable for our heterogenous classrooms.

I've heard elsewhere that while it works well for teachers who are well-trained in its use, as I would expect the leaders of the afterschool programs to be, but that the series requires a very different classroom approach that would take a lot of training to apply effectively.

I'm not sure I agree with the rationale, but because of the training issue, I wouldn't push the series on a district that was not committed to providing the trainings or teachers who were not committed to changing their instruction methods. I plan to check it out for use at home instead.

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 26, 2009 at 4:14 pm

"Apparently the initial review of Singapore Math found that it was weak on problem solving and mathematical reasoning, and required a whole-class method of instruction that wasn't suitable for our heterogeneous classrooms."

I doubt that the Singapore program was found weak on problem solving and mathematical reasoning. If yes, it indicates that the teachers that examined it have little, if any, understanding of mathematics. The alternative interpretation would be that the rest of the world, including professional mathematicians both on the reform side and on the traditional side that praise it, have no understanding of mathematics.

I am more understanding towards the claim that it "requires a whole-class method of instruction." It is true that a significant amount (but not all!) of the teaching is expected to happen in this mode. This is not, however, because in Singapore they have homogeneous classes (they don't until the middle grades) or because Singapore ignores the weak or the high achievers. It is simply because with the Singapore program one is able to teach a whole heterogeneous class with essentially every child "getting it", and the program has enough complexity that even the high achievers have enough tough nuts to crack. In other words, people that claim "too much whole-class instruction" are ideologues who value their pet beliefs on method of instruction delivery over proven children's success. Check TIMSS and PISA results for proof.

I also heard directly that teachers didn't like the fact that the Singapore program has "only one method to teach XYZ." I am not too surprised, as there is a wide-spread--but mistaken--belief that in modern classroom one always has to have a multitude of ways to teach any given thing. This is simply incorrect, as any seasoned teacher will tell you. One should develop a single major effective way to teach any given thing, and one should work hard on making sure this way matches the content and not the student. And that is what the Singapore program reflects. Only in a rare case where a student needs extra help should an alternative method be tried.

Most of our current textbooks pile on many alternative ways to teach every little thing, in the mistaken belief that if one way doesn't work for a student, then the alternative one may. What they miss is the awful confusion it sows in the students, who are flooded with multiple alternatives for every concept before they actually internalized even one of them. Consequently, students emerge with no mastery of anything, and with a confusion of everything.

To summarize, the belief in "the more the better" when it comes to teaching methods FOR A GIVEN CONTENT is mistaken. It can probably be traced to misinterpretations of Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences that are common in our schools. We should not confuse this with the fact that different content often necessitates different teaching methods. In other words teachers do have to use different teaching methods for different content, and they should select a method that fits the content rather than the student.

Apologies for sounding so didactic.

Posted by A Cynic
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 26, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Ze'ev, I agree with you completely. I'm simply relaying the information on the critiques that I have from district officials. That's why I said I don't necessarily agree with their rationale.

I can't really speak to the committee members' understanding of mathematics.

I would imagine that most of the attendees have been teaching for less than the 18 years since 'new', 'fuzzy', or whatever you'd like to call the existing trend of math teaching came into favor. Regardless of their *understanding* of mathematics, they may have been taught that you must *teach* mathematics with a variety of methods, the kids proposing their own algorithms, etc. Changing that teaching style is going to take a major reform, and I doubt it would take hold without a lot of support from the entire organization, from top to bottom. It would appear that our district and teachers are not ready to give that level of support before my kids leave elementary school.

My reading of the IES conclusions is that textbook choice makes little, if any, difference at all - it's teachers that make the difference. Based on that, I suspect that teachers pressured into a new, unfamiliar, revolutionary curriculum will not be able to teach as well as those who continue to use a bad book that they're used to. I'm willing to let them make the choice. Apparently Singapore Math is mostly used as supplementary material in our district, and we are state-required to select a main text this year and supplementary texts later.

I do wonder how EnVision, which got only No and Maybe votes at the initial review meeting, made the cut when SRA, which got all Yes votes, did not. I would have thought that choosing our curriculum for 7 years was critical enough to make a real effort toward trying it out. Maybe there will be enough discussion March 12 to convince them to pilot SRA.

Posted by Open2math
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2009 at 6:04 pm

If you would like to educate yourself about Everyday Math with real facts and research, check out this website. It has a paper about how Everyday Math approaches algorithms and a research article from the US department of Education. Very interesting reading. Web Link

Web Link

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2009 at 6:50 pm


How can you get an unbiased report on the actual Everyday Math website? Of course they are going to report the schools which improved. And there are only three of them. What they don't display are the schools where the program has failed and the high schoolers are the victims. How many of those are there?

Posted by Open2math
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Everyday Math didn't do the research, they just posted it. If you feel better looking it up on the US Dept. of Education website, go there. Web Link and click on PDF: Topic Report (486 KB) on the left hand side of the website.

And what independent company did the research that you are basing your opinion on? The link you post in your first comment section goes to Michelle Malkin's blog, in which she states she is "a mother, wife, blogger, conservative syndicated columnist, author, and Fox News Channel contributor." Doesn't sound like a creditable math educator or researcher.

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 26, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Two comments on Cynic's post, and one on open2math post

1. "My reading of the IES conclusions is that textbook choice makes little, if any, difference at all - it's teachers that make the difference."

Actually this is not what the IES report says. IES finds the effect sizes of the better curricula over the worse to be 0.3 std. deviation, or 9-12 percentile ranks higher (p. 60, top). This is an effect size per year. We do not know yet if the effect size is cumulative over two or more years (future reports may resolve that), but it is reasonable to assume that they are cumulative to a degree, even if not simply additive. For comparison, 3 years of effective teacher seems to move a child by 18-20 percentile ranks (see e.g., Web Link In other words, the effects of curriculum are about the same order of magnitude as teacher effectiveness, or possibly bigger. More interesting is that the curriculum effects are generally strong on both weak and strong teachers (see charts on p. 65 in the IES study), so this alleviates to a degree the issue of weeding out less effective teachers.

2. Even if Singapore is used as supplemental text in our district, this doesn't need to be so. Singapore math is a full-blown program that is adopted by California and can be adopted by PAUSD if it chooses to do so.

3. Open2math directs us to Everyday math web site for research evidence of Everyday math successes. Unfortunately the overwhelming number (57 of 61) studies in existence by 2007 were of unacceptable research quality to IES and only four were almost acceptable (“with reservations”). Web Link and Web Link/research.asp . The Everyday math web page should be treated as what it is: a publisher PR. Even if it happens to reside on the University of Chicago web site. At the same time I should repeat that research base for the efficacy of all US textbooks is poor to non-existent.

Posted by Emily
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 26, 2009 at 9:55 pm

I moved to the area 1.5 years ago from Newton, MA. We were using Everyday Math in our elementary schools. I thought it was terrific. My child attends a private school in MP and he was a year ahead of that school's math program. I recently read that Newton, MA math students tested right up with the top, mostly Asian countries, in global testing for math and science. I wish our school had Everyday Math!

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Newton, MA? Ah, let's Google it...

Posted April 16, 2008 at Web Link

At a recent math conference, a speaker deviated from her presentation to discuss the Everyday Math Junk that has been adopted in Newton, MA. According to the town, $10 million has been spent on this Junk. In Sept. 2006, so many parents complained that last September the parent informational night was not held. Many parents are now paying to send their children to the after-school and weekend programs at the Russian School in Newton. This school is so popular that a branch has been opened in Needham.

More Needs for Math Tutoring Web Link

Newton-TAB reported that hundreds of students are attending the Russian School of Mathematics for two different reasons: one is for a better way to learn math, and the other is for a challenge the schools do not give.

Math tutors ‘fill in gaps’ for many Newton students Web Link

The new tutoring center is right across Winchester Street from Math Monkey, which sits five minutes away from the Score! Educational Center to the north and the Russian Math School to the south. Together, the four centers serve about 1,000 Newton students.

But some said there’s a demand for more education than public schools are offering, for both remedial or gifted students, and especially in math.

“People have figured this thing out, and the market is responding,” said School Committee member Geoff Epstein, who has long advocated for stronger math and science instruction. “When people say ‘we don’t need to improve math,’ this is a much better indicator.”

But K-8 Math Coordinator Mary Eich said the schools are doing the best job they can: “I don’t feel like we’re failing children in Newton,” Eich said. “We’re providing everything we possibly can.”

Outside help multiplying
Math education has been a hot topic for the past few years, and the math department will report to the School Committee on Feb. 23 about math coaches, differentiated instruction and students using outside tutoring, Epstein said. But while educators are discussing, parents are just going outside the system.

Posted by Annie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 26, 2009 at 11:40 pm

As a teacher (trained in Boston), I am also familiar with Everyday Math. The Brookline, MA, schools were using it where I was a 3rd grade teacher in the mid 1990's. For a few years, I also taught Everyday Math at a private school in Palo Alto (they've since switched to Singapore Math).

Everyday Math's strength lies in teaching the math concepts. I learned early on to *never* send Everyday Math home for homework. Children couldn't ask parents for help. I'd always send home my own skill 'n drill work. Though, I remember liking the "home connections" that they'd suggest for homework (gathering information or items from home to use or share in class). They also had lots of terrific small group and partner games to help teach the concepts in class. The Brookline/Boston parents were very pleased with the program. The school district there seemed quite relaxed and content with the progress their students were making in math.

With all of that good, I do remember:
(1) intense prep for each class. The games, the group work, the EDM language to learn for each lesson, was prep heavy. However, after the first year (like all teaching)... the prep gets easier and easier.
(2) not feeling like EDM had a good assessment program. I found it hard to get a really good grasp on what concepts each child really mastered, and which concepts they didn't.
(3) I used to call it, "Everyday Different Math" Because, if you followed the program to the letter, it seemed to jump all over the place. There was no "neat" 6 week unit on multiplication. It was bits and pieces scattered throughout the year.
(4) Because of those negatives, I found myself not following the chapters. I'd use the games I loved to help support the concepts. I'd have them work on their "math boxes" (workbook pages that had a different skill in each box - 8 boxes) for review, 2-3 times a week. I'd send home my own math homework. I started using more "Real Math" curriculum I had learned from a summer workshop. At that point in my teaching.... parents, students and I were the happiest.

Posted by concerned
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Feb 27, 2009 at 8:03 am

I'm more than a bit concerned about the tone of this chatter. I've heard several people say they liked this curriculum and they have been questioned about it. The parent who moved from Newton evidently liked it and knew other parents who liked it. Yet, Newton was googled and links were listed to what? Prove her wrong? She liked it. She knew others who did.
Isn't it good to know that there were some parents who found it useful?
I'm not sure if the TERC fan has any supporting research to back up her (his?) like of it where ever it was used in NY. But even if this person doesn't, it doesn't mean that family and the families they knew didn't get a lot out of that curriculum.
I don't think people are going to prove their point at how horrible this is by questioning the experiences of others.
Let's try to keep it calm, please? I don't think we're doing our kids any favors by inciting panic and questioning each other.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 27, 2009 at 10:45 am

I am guessing that the cost of the Math program has a lot to do with what program is chosen.

Posted by julie dimas
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2009 at 11:46 am

They started using this approach in my niece's school outside of Chicago. The children did horrible on their state exams and she has been taking her daughter to Kumon three times a week--luckily that has worked but who wants to have to do that if their child really should not need the extra help!!! I encourage everyone to read up on this program and decide for yourself, but I too have heard really bad things.........

Posted by BP Mom
a resident of Hoover School
on Feb 27, 2009 at 2:07 pm

This is very good discussion. PLEASE attend the parent input meeting on Mar 12 so your concerns can be heard. If you don't like this curriculum now is the time to speak up. Here are some things we should do to make an impact -

1. As suggested by a couple of parents email the district leaders to let them know your thoughts Becki Cohn Vargas , Virginia Davis and Kevin Skelly

2. Send email to your school news groups - make as many parents as possible know about this and what they can do

3. Show up for the meetings - once the curriculum is adopted there is little we will be able to do

Posted by K Jalalpour
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2009 at 2:14 pm

I teach at a private school in Midtown Palo Alto that is in its 4th year of using Singapore Math. We used to use Everyday Math, and switched because of the conceptual integrity, strong mental math component, and word-problem approach in Singapore Math. We are delighted with our students' progress using SPM!

Just for fun, here is a Letterman-style TOP 10 list of MYTHS about Singapore Math:

10: SPM doesn't reach the end of the spectrum of learners. False!.... SPM has excellent enrichment and remediation books.
9: SPM doesn't use manipulatives. False!... SPM uses base-10 blocks, disks, fraction strips, etc. more extensively than any other curriculum I've tried.
8: SPM doesn't include a Teacher's Guide. False!.... SPM has two thick TG's for every grade level.
7: SPM doesn't include enough drill. Well.... SPM doesn't need to subject students to pages and pages of memorization because it concentrates on mental math every day, building true number sense.
6: SPM isn't available at the middle school level. False!... There are several middle school textbooks. Alternatively, a SPM elementary education prepares students to go on to ANY upper school curriculum successfully. Our 8th graders transition well to Algebra I.
5: Singapore has a more homogenous population than California does. Only partly true!... Singapore also has wide income disparity, and also has children entering school who don't speak English yet.
4: SPM is expensive. False! ... Four thin student books a year, around $11 each. Two are consumable, two reusable.
3: SPM is too rigorous. Partly true, but not because students work too hard! SPM simply gives students the conceptual understanding and tools to do complex mathematical thinking.
2: SPM requires teacher training. ANY textbook requires training, but SPM trains teachers in how to think mathematically and therefore to teach mathematically.
1: SPM isn't fun. FALSE!! Our students love the manipulatives, the story problems, the games and above all, the feeling of SUCCESS!

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Singapore Math it would be ideal and here is a report on it: Web Link

Here's another article on it: Web Link

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Here's a report on positives and negatives of Singapore Math: Web Link

Posted by Mandy Lowell
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Some people have asked if the cumbersome computation methods in Everyday Math as described on the web, particularly on the You Tube video, are in the current edition. The answer is yes.
Here is how I respond to the many questions that have been asked of me lately.
Q. Does Everyday Math for California (EDM), one of the two options PAUSD is considering for elementary students, extensively cover the lattice method and barely mention the regular way to do multidigit multiplication and multidigit division?
A. Yes
Q. What is wrong with EDM showing several ways to handle a problem, such as for multiplication the “partial products” method, the “lattice method” and the standard algorithm?
A. Nothing; Showing several methods is fine, but what EDM tells teachers to teach is the partial products method and the lattice method. The 4th grade teacher’s edition has 3 lessons (19 pages) on the partial products and lattice methods, but only refers to the regular algorithm in side notes. No lesson.In contrast, both the National Math Panel the California Math Standards recommend that all students learn the standard algorithm.
EDM does not just briefly cover these methods as examples to build understanding of the standard algorithm, but instead in the Teacher’s Edition directs students to write math journals and do worksheets to learn these methods, but not the standard algorithm. (EDM lessons 5.5-5.7, and for decimals 9.8 4th grade) EDM teaches the lattice method in both 3rd and 4th and 5th grades. EDM is structured to focus on alternatives to commonly used, effective algorithms. The Teachers Edition only refers to the standard algorithm: “The US traditional multiplication algorithm for multiplying single-digit numbers by multidigit numbers is presented on page 24C of the Student Reference Book. Some students may prefer to use this method for solving multiplication problems.” (EDM 4th grade p. 339) (EDM similarly just refers to, rather than teaches and reinforces, the standard algorithms for addition, subtraction, and division. )

Q. What is the lattice method, and what does EDM say about it?

A. Lattice, too bulky to summarize without graphics, is explained on Web Link (a video on different types of math instruction). EDM informs teachers that:
“For problems with three or more digits in the factors, the lattice method is much faster and much more likely to yield a correct answer [than “the partial-products algorithm or the traditional multiplication algorithm .”] Consider that phrasing: “More likely to yield a correct answer”! (EDM p. 350) The “traditional” algorithm, and partial products, (and I hope the lattice since it is so extensively covered) always yield a correct answer.
EDM advises “If students do not yet have a favorite multiplication algorithm, the lattice method is a good method to suggest.” (EDM p. 351)

Q. Can’t teachers just supplement to teach the regular algorithm?
A. Yes. The issue is, given the value of classroom time, and the relative utility of nature of the standard algorithm, is it wise to spend so much time and effort explaining and assessing the complicated lattice and partial products methods, without providing teachers with any explanation in the teacher’s manual of how to transition or teach the standard method. Moreover, this is just one example on Everyday Math’s gaps. Yes, teachers can supplement, but this is a fairly core item.

No need to take my word for it. Go to 25 Churchill and look at the books yourself, and if you want to compare to other ways to approach the problems, you can go to 101 Twin Dolphin in Redwoood Shores.

Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2009 at 5:48 pm

As a formed BoE member, Mandy, can you speak to the impact that using TERC had on students' basic computational skills in PAUSD? On the Achievement gap?

Do you have any insights as to why Saxon or Singapore Math seem to have been dismissed as options at this point, even though they get extremely high marks from NCTM and others and are used around the state and country with great success?

Posted by Mandy Lowell
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2009 at 9:03 pm

No, I cannot speak to the effect of TERC, but PAUSD scores stay high over decades. A few individual elementary schools, albeit high, have fallen in rank, but I do not know the reasons or if it is just random fluctuation. Going up or down a few points is not significant. For the past 7 years, PAUSD elementary schools have had, in addition to TERC, a math textbook. The extent to which Investigations or the text or both were used varies among schools and classrooms, and the extent to which students received math in addition to school varies as well. Too many factors to draw causal conclusions. One hears a lot of anecdotes about use of additional resources -- SCORE, Foudations for Education, Singapore Math, EPGY, tutoring-- yes even for elementary kids-- but I do not know of data on that.
What I would do as a parent is to keep abrest of my child's math development. If you want your child to know math facts with automaticity-- as everyone agrees that they should-- then monitor that yourself. *
This is not simply a matter of computation. To succeed in problem solving and in algebra, automaticity is necessary. For example, a mathematically competent student should look at the fraction 3/21 and think 1/7, or 8/24 and think 1/3.

*The National Math Panel, Everyday Math along with nearly every math program, and the California State Standards, call for automaticity of basic facts, or some similar phrase. The District handout at the Feb. 24 Math Committee meeting, however, included in the list of "what makes a mathematically strong student" ----"Knows basic facts or has a strategy to get them quickly." It doesn't take that much effort for most students to master basic facts (add & subtract up to 20 by end of first grade, multiplication/division facts by end of 3rd). If students have those facts, they will more readily understand concepts underlying more complicated math.

Posted by Info Please
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 27, 2009 at 9:08 pm

What difference does it make what method a child uses to solve a multiplication problem if s/he gets the right answer in a reasonable amount of time? There is a load of research out there that shows people learn differently, so why should the standard algorithm be the gold standard for solving problems? According to many of the posts, there seems to be a hugh lack of trust in the PAUSD to educate kids. I thought Palo Alto had high test scores and well-respected schools. Why do some of you think that the district wants to miseducate your child?

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Info Please,

Here is your answer: Web Link

It is not a "reasonable amount of time" to answer the question with the EDM algorithm. If a child can learn their algorithm, the same child can learn the standard algorithm and it's faster.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2009 at 10:02 pm

I wish they could just teach Kumon math in the schools.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 27, 2009 at 11:05 pm

In response to the Inconvenient Truth clip on YouTube:

My daughter had TERC/Investigations/ starting in 3rd grade in Palo Alto with no outside tutoring and minimal help from us, and she is now an engineering major at Washington University in St. Louis. Clearly that program is not the total waste it was made out to be.

Posted by A Cynic
a resident of Duveneck School
on Feb 27, 2009 at 11:08 pm

I made the trip to 101 Twin Dolphin Drive, Redwood Shores today and looked at Singapore, EnVision, Everyday Math, and SRA Real Math. It took 30 minutes for me to form an opinion on the series by comparing the same topic in different teachers' guides. I highly recommend that anyone else with time during business hours do the same. They have _all_ of the state-approved texts there to look at.

It's my opinion that of the four, SRA offers the clearest route to differentiation, which is my priority. All of them do enrichment and supplementation, but SRA has big colored flow charts on the first page of the teachers' manual for every daily lesson on how to teach to different groups: Intervention (Remedial), English Language Learners, Enrichment (Advanced), Extra Practice, and Reteach (if the lesson is not learned the first time through). SRA has much more supplemental material to use with these groups - a book for each rather than the same size book for all of them combined.

I'm not a teacher. It may be that many teachers don't need this, but it can hardly hurt - and this is the series that the committee liked best. The more I see, the more I think we should pilot the series.

I'd like to hear opinions of other parents who check out the series we haven't piloted.

Posted by Learn2Think
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 27, 2009 at 11:56 pm

1. "Why are hearing about it only now at the 11th hour?" Because you weren't listening. It's been front and center on the school district web site (and other school communication channels) all this school year. Many of the other parents voluteered to serve on the committee, attend numerous all-day evaluations, visit classrooms, and see for themselves how the piloting is going and what the challenges for teachers and students will be. That could have been you.

2. "Other people say it's bad, so it must be bad." "My kid isn't doing well with EDM and even I, a college educated xyz professional can't do the homework." Strangely enough, half the kids in any class are below the median. Many college-educated people never really learned mathematical concepts or how to use them. Memorizing the multiplication tables is necessary but not sufficient. If a reference book that supports conceptual thinking and USING mathematics can save larger fraction of the next generation from being mathematically illiterate, I hope we will adopt it and give the teachers the support they need to use it.

3. "The Inconvenient Truth video shows how bad it is." I watched it and think it shows the opposite - EDM is excellent. One can infer, for example, that kids will learn the multiplication table AND understand place value. One can infer that kids will understand how to tell if an answer makes sense. If you watched the tv weather woman video, then please watch a video response from a college math professor. Search YouTube for jamesblackburnlynch and scroll down to the Everyday Math videos. Then watch a few more -- maybe you'll learn something.

5. If your child is struggling, visit with the teacher, share your concerns, and find out how you can help.

6. Palo Alto has great schools. It has great teachers. It has great parents. It has great students. I'm confident they're capable of using any of these books as a PART of a balanced mathematics education program. I hope they'll put in the effort. Learning (and teaching) to solve problems is much more difficult than memorizing tables and algorithms.

Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 12:54 am

Thanks for commenting, Mandy. I sometimes wonder why anyone suggests we write the BOE, which comes across as disdainful of community input. Good to know you are considering the comments here. However, I wonder how much any of the input will affect BOE decisions, which given past experience, are probably already made.

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 28, 2009 at 2:29 am

Some comments on learn2think post.

1. It is true that the district has published the adoption information for a long time, and parents had a chance to involve themselves. It is not true, however, that many did. Only very few did, and as far as I know the district didn't do outreach to get more people involved. At the same time one could argue that it is not the job of the parents to watch the district. It is the job of the paid staff to make wise choices and not to create unnecessarily divisive situations.

2. "Strangely enough, half the kids in any class are below the median." Unfortunately this is false for any smallish group like a class or school, unless by "median" think2learn means the "class median", which is meaningless. Throwing this argument here just sows confusion. It is easy to imagine a good school in which all students are above the state or the national median (or average; either one will work here.) In fact, many classes in Palo Alto schools routinely have large majority of students above state and county averages.

3. "Memorizing the multiplication tables is necessary but not sufficient." This is indeed true, and almost all textbooks series adopted in California teach not only memorization and fluency, but also understanding the concepts of the four arithmetic operations, and the logic behind their computation. Some do it better and some worse. Unfortunately Everyday math is an exception to this rule and while it does teach the concepts it does not teach memorization of the basic facts or fluency with the standard algorithms.

4. "Palo Alto has great schools. It has great teachers. It has great parents. It has great students. I'm confident they're capable of using any of these books as a PART of a balanced mathematics education program." If Everyday math were adopted with another program that complements it, this argument would have some merit. This is the case of TERC Investigations (that also don't teach standard algorithms) but is proposed to be complemented by enVision that does. Everyday math, however, is proposed to be adopted as the SOLE textbook, so the district will need to scramble to complement it. At the same time, it surely make more sense to adopt a program that covers all the bases rather that try to piece together a coherent program from two disjoint ones, if such program exists. From the discussion here it seems that Singapore math may be such a program. And it is praised by both reform and traditional mathematicians (e.g., Web Link ). There are not many more "reform" mathematics educators than Steven Leinwand.

As an aside, Palo Alto does indeed do a good job teaching most of its students math. It is difficult to decide how the credit should be split between schools and families, but the bottom line is that most children do get good education here. However, when it comes to students with low socioeconomic background--of which we have less than 10%--we do not do such a good job. In fact, if one looks at low SES students in some schools in Inglewood, a very disadvantaged district near downtown LA, Inglewood seem to be doing significantly better job teaching math and language to their low achieving students than Palo Alto does. Adopting programs that skip the basics surely will not help this weak population.

Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 28, 2009 at 8:44 am

Gotta love Palo Alto. I find it amusing that "A Cynic" could spend 30 minutes looking at 4 sets of materials (less than 8 minutes each!) and make a decision but has no regard for the group of 30 educators who have spent days poring over these materials in detail, listening to the publishers and piloting them in the classrooms. I wonder if those of you who have watched the weather lady's "Inconvenient Truth" video on you tube have also watched the rebuttal by a math professor. Did anyone else with google access figure out that SRA has acquired Everyday Math? I hope this isn't representative of the "rigor" that you hope to introduce into our children's math curriculum.

Posted by A Math Dad chimes in
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 28, 2009 at 8:54 am

Ze'ev -
You're comparing apples and oranges. The research paper you are linked to is NOT an evaluation of the Singapore Math program that has been approved for use in California. It is an analysis of the way math is taught in the COUNTRY of Singapore. The textbooks they are comparing in that study are not the textbooks called "Singapore Math" in this country. There are a number of huge differences between the US and Singapore -
1. Singapore has state-funded education beginning at age 3.
2. Singapore has tri-lingual education for the first 4-5 years, giving every child education in their home language while they learn English.
3. Singapore does not use social promotion. Children have to test into 6th grade.

Surely these factors have a larger impact on test scores than concepts like the bar diagram!

Posted by Jennifer Smith
a resident of Portola Valley
on Feb 28, 2009 at 9:17 am

Portola Valley also uses EDM so perhaps residents there can comment on their experiences.

We also moved from a school system in NJ that used Everyday Math in K-5. The dirty little secret in town was that most kids in middle school had to get math tutors for the higher level math (e.g., algebra) because they were so unprepared by the Every Day Math program in the lower grades.

I think you have to look at the results of children who moved from grade school EDM to middle school, to high school and beyon. How smooth was their transition? And how much extracurricular activity (i.e., private tutoring) was needed to support the transition?

Singapore Math is consistently referenced as a very strong program, I'm surprised it's not on Palo Alto's list of possibilities.

Posted by One Camp
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 28, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Math Dad,

"The textbooks they are comparing in that study are not the textbooks called "Singapore Math" in this country." This is misleading. There are a few versions of the Singapore Math books, one of which had a few pages added to meet CA standards. The versions are substantially similar, and proceed from a similar philosophy.


"please watch a video response from a college math professor. Search YouTube for jamesblackburnlynch" That guy misses the point, which not surprising since he is not informed on math pedagogy at the elem level. It is possible to teach both concepts and efficient algoriths--you don't have to sacrifice one for the other. The criticism of EDM is that it does not teach speedy, efficient algorithms (which leads to the automaticity referred to above). The suggestion is NOT that we should jettison conceptual understanding, but that we should aim to teach both.

I think most people, once they have informed themselves of the issues, would want a curriculum that teaches both concepts and efficient calculation skills. The question is what text or combination of texts will achieve this. We could create a mash-up of a text strong on concepts and weak on calculation (e.g. EDM) and another text strong on calculation and weak on concepts (examples?). But why?

Why not use an integrated approach? Has the district said publicly why it is not investigating a program like Singapore math? A Cynic says the district found problems with Singapore math. Was there a public statement on that?

Posted by Mandy Lowell
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 28, 2009 at 12:19 pm

The committee has not yet selected Everyday Math; they are looking at another set of materials, not just Everyday Math. I do not understand why people should refrain from discussing the options.

Accordingly, this discussion is not, I hope, about disregarding the views of our very professional teachers. If you attended the Math committee meeting, you could not but be impressed with the teachers' great desire to select a good program.

Everyone also agrees that no textbook is perfect, and many parents must be asking themselves whether they need to supplement their child's schooling in math. Everyday Math and Investigations are both programs that stake out one end of a spectrum in math education. They eschew algorithms, and are based on the notion that the methods that children select for themselves will lead to the greatest math understanding. This is not like choosing among different brands of running shoes; it is more like choosing between sandals and running shoes. It is hardly surprising that engineering parents who use higher math everyday, that Stanford Math professors, that computer scientsts, who have a different perspective, would have concerns.

When I was a working parent, who did not have the ability to chat with other parents after walking your kids to school,I appreciated the opportunity to learn electronically of what the concerns were.
Teachers on the committee and most commenters on this forum agree that kids should master certain basic facts and should understand both the "how, why, and when" to use certain math concepts and algorithms.
If the promoters are wrong, and Everyday Math does not deliver the promised results, adverse consequences can be prevented by making sure your child does understand what's needed. That is pretty easy and inexpensive thanks to Singapore Math and otehr options. Sure it is too bad that rather than being out playing out in the fresh air, some kids will be doing extra math after school on issues they might have learned in school, but that's the family's choice based on the circumstances in which they may find themselves. Because our public schools are intended to educate all the kids that attend them, yes this type of supplementation could be said to disadvantage kids that are not supplemented. If, however, one believes that Everyday Math and the classroom are delivering all that is needed, then one need not worry that other families are doing unnecessary work. Parents might validly believe for all children or for their own child, the hassle of outside-of assigned-work is not worth the burden. Why begrudge those who make a different call. If, however, one believes that there are gaps that need to be covered by supplementation, then one should be grateful for forums that allow more parents access to that information. In other words, for example, if one believes that familarity with algorithms, particularly the standard ones, aids in learning higher order mathematical thinking, or that Singapore math helps, then the correct thing to do is get out the word on forums like this.

Posted by Math Dad
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 28, 2009 at 12:42 pm

One Camp -
You are confusing Singapore Math books in the US with books they actually use in Singapore. If you read the link that Ze'ev sent out, you'll see that they cover fewer topics in Singapore than they do here so the books can not be substantially similar and still meet national and state standards.

Mandy -
With all due respect, I am one of those engineering parents who uses higher math every day. And I use partial products about 100 times more often than I use the standard algorithm. My biggest concern people who want to go back to "drill and kill" teaching of math algorithms instead of teaching students how to think about math.

Posted by It would have been nice to know
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 2:15 pm

To Learn2Think and others

I ditto the comments above about not knowing about the committee’s work until the 11th hour. Why didn’t the K-5 committee put something out in enews or on the front page of the district website until a week before the vote?

I must not be the only one concerned, because some district type just decided to delay the committee's vote and open its meetings up for public input.

The “front and center” on the district website you must be thinking
about is the middle school math book adoption, not the elementary. At the middle schools, principals invited parents to look at the books in enews and newsletters months before that committee voted. I didn't notice anything on the district site about the elementary books until a week ago.

At the middle schools, the piloted text books were on display at all 3 sites. Elementary parents have to go to 25 Churchill to see theirs.

And you say "many of the other parents voluteered to serve on the committee.” I read that only 4 volunteered for 3 spots. From the volume on this online discussion, there probably would have been many more parents had they known.

Posted by One Camp
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 28, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Math Dad,

No, the Singapore Math books here are essentially the same as what they use in Singapore. (The Singapore books were revised a few times, and I believe there are now a couple competing up-to-date versions in different schools.) Apart from those variations, the only changes were adding a few things to meet CA standards (e.g. units of measure are metric in Singapore).

As far as I know, no one wants to go back to drill and kill or abandon concepts. You're posing a false choice. If we pick the right book, kids can learn both the algorithms and how to think about math.

Posted by I'm a cynic too
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 28, 2009 at 2:28 pm

To A Cynic

I also heard that the committee rejected Singapore Math because it was weak on math reasoning and problem solving.

Maybe it didn't get to spend enough time with it because the LA Times article mentioned above reports that a U.S. Department of Education study about Singapore Math found that “Singapore’s textbooks build deep understanding of mathematical concepts through multi-step problems and concrete illustrations that demonstrate how abstract mathematical concepts are used to solve problems from different perspectives.”

Link: Web Link

Posted by Another engineering professional
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 28, 2009 at 2:31 pm

I'm another one of those engineering professionals. I use math every day. I like what I see in EDM and would have loved to have it when I was an elementary school student.

I don't believe for a minute that by selecting EDM or any of the other options as our "only textbook" we'd stop Palo Alto teachers from doing what they've always done, which is to supplement the textbook with their own material to teach the subject, not a book.

If the primary (or "only") text were 'fundamentals' based, I agree teachers would need a counterbalancing supplement to use for developing thinking skills, because that sort of material is time consuming and challenging for a teacher to create. If on the other hand, the primary text is concept based, I expect teachers won't have any difficulty adding drills and worksheets as they see fit to ensure the foundation is sound.

Posted by Piping in
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2009 at 3:17 pm

To Real Math Fan and TERC fan

In a comprehensive study published last week, Investigations/TERC/Dale Seymour was carefully evaluated by the US Department of Education which found other elementary math programs produced significantly better results.

Investigations also didn’t make it past California state’s curriculum committee so is not a state approved text. Doesn't that mean that the money PAUSD will use to buy it comes out of staffing?

Web Link

To It’s the Teacher and Open2 Math

The EM research links you provided are from Everyday Math's publishers which someone pointed out is seldom a good source for independent, balanced information. But even if EM's reports are balanced, take a careful look at what they say.

EM lists only about 8 studies, a low number given the number of school districts that have tried it.

1) One of EM's reported successes is Pittsburg School District which adopted Everyday Math in the early 1990s. After over 10 years of using it, the Pittsburg school district decided not to renew Everyday Math and selected enVision instead. Pittsburg found among other things that EM required a considerable investment in professional development for teachers, district staff and principals.

2) Other reports EM cites as support are critical of it suggesting revisions be made or found that EM had no significant affect on student outcomes.

Even the "What Works Clearinghouse" government study that EM uses as an endorsement rejected the supporting research EM cites as not sound. It concluded that EM has "potentially positive effects on students’ math achievement" with an average of 6 percentile points improvement." (It did not look at the other programs Palo Alto is considering.)

Link: http://ies.ed. gov/ncee/ wwc/pdf/WWC_ Everyday_ Math_043007.pdf

If the Los Angeles Times article is any indication, Singapore Math shows percentile gains 6 times that.

If these are the best studies EM can come up with, I think we should be looking at adopting other programs.

Posted by Scarsdale
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Feb 28, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Scarsdale NY just switched to Singapore Math.

Web Link

Web Link

Posted by Piping In
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2009 at 5:00 pm

To A Math Dad

I wondered the same thing about the differences between Singapore Math books in Singapore and those in the US so I asked the publisher. Here's what it said:

The Singapore Ministry of Education made changes to the mathematics syllabus (their national curriculum) beginning in 2001, one result of which was the gradual phasing out of the Primary Mathematics series that had been the sole textbook series for almost twenty years. Primary Mathematics was at that time in its 3rd Edition.

In 2003, we went on to adapt Primary Mathematics for the US market by making cosmetic changes such as British to US spellings, Singapore to US currency, etc., and that became Primary Mathematics US Edition.

In all important respects the US Edition is identical to the 3rd Edition, although we included a unit from the 2nd Edition on division of fractions in keeping with our goal of providing the most rigorous elementary math program possible.

In 2007 we decided to take part in the California adoption process and created Primary Mathematics Standards Edition. The Standards Edition is based upon the US Edition. Although nothing was removed from the US Edition, there were substantial additions, such as new units on Probability.

Primary Mathematics is no longer used in Singapore schools, the series having been phased out by 2006. Interestingly, Singapore ’s fourth and eighth grade students dropped from first place to second and third, respectively, in the latest round of TIMSS. The new series used in Singapore are less rigorous, but of course Singapore will continue to succeed in elementary math education because their teachers are extremely confident and competent, and the basic sequence (fewer topics per grade level, taught to master) has not changed.

We evaluated the new series that were introduced and realized that the reduced syllabus was not the direction we wanted to take Singapore Math in the US.

Posted by PointOfView
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 28, 2009 at 6:10 pm

'm another dad with graduate math education working in tech who likes the descriptions so far around Everyday Math.

Granted, I have no training in education. But I have taught math and computer science and thought a lot over the years about what I learned and what I actually wish I had spent time doing.

Here's what I think. Most of the math I learned in school I don't use; there's just too big of a gap between what I learned and how I want to use it.

When I'm in a grocery store, I sure don't use the standard long division algorithm. I use more like the methods described in the video for EM, which lend themselves to "mental math." Why someone is hung up on division or multiplication algorithms, I don't know. I also spent many hours as a kid doing long division, and while it helped review the single digit number facts, it did little else of value.

The big thing to gain from mathematics is how to use it, and when to use what approach. For example, when do you just think about the most significant digits? When do you need to just estimate?

Suppose you want to determine whether it is better to balance a portfolio weekly vs. selling covered calls. What approach makes sense?

Suppose you want to know whether it's safer to drive to a place or fly to it?

Whether to believe Obama or be skeptical?

These are the things that are not learned while you are practicing long division.

But at least by exposing kids regularly to mathematical challenges that are partly within their grasp, some will learn how to choose which mathematical approaches are the right ones.

Now, in order to do that, you do need to know the approaches frontwards *and* backwards. I agree with "Another Engineering Professional" that this is the easy part.

Also, I am not impressed with studies that show that EM students don't do as well on standardized tests. Those tests are testing what other curricula teach; they are not as relevant for those learning to understand how to use math as a normal part of their daily life.

For those who care about the test scores more than anything else, EM is certainly the wrong way to go.

Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 7:43 pm

I really wish the Board would take another good, hard look at Saxon Math. A typical lesson chapter starts with a "problem solving" section that gets kids to reason through a few problems. Then there is the explanation of new material, which is always very clear and easy to follow and takes you though new concepts in steps. Then there are practice problems to do in class, I suppose, and then the actual problem set at the end of the chapter. Those problems consist of review problems, word problems, drill-type problems, problems designed to capture the new material, and then extensions. The book shows several ways to look at a problem, for example, giving the numbers 4, 5, and 9 and asking the child to make 2 addition and 2 subtraction problems. It asks kids to imagine how they might figure out an answer to a word problem. The questions also require a child to sort of re-articulate a math rule so they are not just memorizing a rule but "owning" it (for lack of a better word). Anyone who claims Saxon is all about "drill and kill" has not spent a lot of time with it. I have. It's a great series and it practically teaches itself so that getting a solid math education does not depend on your having a teacher who is really into math or a parent who knows what you need to learn and teaches it to you at home.

Let us not forget the achievement gap part of the equation. Kids in homes with lower income, non-English speaking and lower educational backgrounds tend to have parents who believe you should let the school do its job, and that they will be told if their children need help. They trust the schools, and the schools lie to them and pass their kids through. All too often, PAUSD elementary report cards are all filled out more or less identically, with every child seemingly "meeting expectations" or "making expected progress." It is not ok simply to say, blithely, that parents who worry about their children becoming proficient in math wll just pull them out of some upper middle class after school activity and substitute Kumon or some such class. Those are the parents who are in a position to know they should be worried. Why would the district adopt textbooks that are more or less guaranteed to perpetuate this problem? And why is the district even seriously considering buying textbooks (again) that are so widely discredited?

Finally, if the district had really wanted input from parents, it could easily have sent out a global email to them the way Dr. Skelly did recently to tell everyone how great Walter Hays was when he visited. It did not do so, and it never even announced the final formation of the committee or solicited input from parents who are not on the committee. Saying parents should keep informed, and then widely publicizing only certain things, is really disingenuous. Do those of you who criticize the "uninfomed" parents seriously think there are only 4 parents in the entire district who cared enough to join the committee? Puhleeeeze.

Posted by A Cynic
a resident of Duveneck School
on Mar 1, 2009 at 2:19 am

Palo Alto Parent,

If you notice, I did NOT find a different answer than the professionals. They unanimously voted to try the SRA series. When I looked at it, I thought I understood why, and agreed. What I don't comprehend is why this series was not piloted.

All of us need to get beyond hurling test scores around. We need to try to understand how math is actually taught, and what materials might be useful. My point was that the series were very different in the types and level of support they offered to teachers. Yes, that was obvious in 8 minutes per series. I can't evaluate algorithms in that time, but I can see which books have enrichment and which advise the teacher to work on vocabulary with the advanced students. (Yes, using the proper math terms is important. But it's not math.)

My time at the library was much more useful than the time I spent watching the two online videos. This debate would be different if the majority of parents had looked at the materials, and not just soaked up the opinions they found on websites.

Posted by Uncynical
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2009 at 7:42 am

A Cynic -

Agreed. Thank you for going to Redwood City to see the books. Too bad they aren't at the schools so more parents can see them.

I looked at the books and had my kids look at them too. We all agreed that Everyday Math was disorganized, difficult to use especially if you needed to go back and review for something you didn't understand, and the differentiation activities, so much needed in Palo Alto, missed the mark.

"Enriching" advanced 4th graders who know how to add by having them write word problems around the concept is in my child's words "a writing project, not a math problem." Very true, but my head scratching went another direction. Why does a textbook whose selling point is built in enrichment have advanced 4th graders working on simple addition at all, a skill that all students are supposed to have mastered in second grade?

I agree one-off opinions posted on blogs aren't too helpful, but getting a feel for what studies sponsored by the US Department of Education say should be in the mix. The point of these studies, which from the Committee's minutes appear not to have been considered, is to help school districts evaluate good textbooks because of all the info and misinformation generated during the math wars. Unlike biased and inaccurately summarized publisher-cited research, the US studies base their evaluation on sound research identified by the US National Math Panel whose jobs was to figure out what schools can do to improve math education.

On your point that text books need to be easy for teachers to teach from, I'd venture to guess that Everyday Math doesn't fit that bill. Pittsburgh appears to have canned it for that reason after 10+ years of trying.

I am sorry that you are "resigned to providing all my child's math instruction outside of school." Palo Alto has good resources and passionate teachers and can do this right.

Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2009 at 7:45 am

Here is a standard-by-standard comparison of 3 California textbooks, including SRA and Saxon, for several grades.

Posted by I use elementary math
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 1, 2009 at 9:16 am

Point of View

Where to start?

*First we are talking elementary math - addition, subtraction, simple division and multiplication. Maybe you don't use the math you learned in elementary school as an engineer (hard to believe) or in life (even harder to believe), but I'm not a science type and use it all the time. I don't always have time to search for my calculator, so I end up doing long division, with pencil-to-paper, for such mundane tasks as evaluating different home re-fi options and budgeting home expenses.

*Everyday Math doesn't have a lock on grocery store mental math. All the state math textbooks have mental math and estimation in them.

*You ask "Why someone is hung up on division or multiplication algorithms?" You could ask the same of Everyday Math which spends lots of time on teaching multiple algorithms for single concepts.

*You mention concern only about students who need "math as a normal part of their daily life." "By exposing kids regularly to mathematical challenges that are partly within their grasp, some will learn how to choose which mathematical approaches are the right ones."

Our goal here is to teach all students not just "some," from those who may only use it at home to those who want the option of being in a professional field that demands it.

*As for not teaching long division so we can free up time to teach kids to be critical thinkers, there are 6 other periods in a school day where they can learn that. Teaching concepts on why math works the way it does is important, but that doesn't mean that math instruction has to spend time with false, frustrating student devised leads to do it right. Math is skill based and the magic of it is if you learn it the right way to start with you get the right answer, quickly.

How about freeing up time by not requiring that students discover on their own 4 different ways to divide and then do another 30 minutes of games and discussion groups to reinforce all of them as Everyday Math does?

Math helps me be a critical thinker. I use it to figure out whether politico's proposals to increase taxes are going to reduce the federal deficit and whether it is cheaper for my family to fly or drive.

Anyway, the state requires all teachers to teach long division, so debating its usefulness isn't going to get it out of the classroom.

Posted by math_major
a resident of Addison School
on Mar 1, 2009 at 10:43 am

i am a former woodside resident but now reside in palo alto. for reference, woodside has been using EDM for 8 years and just "renewed" for another 5-7 (?) years. my daughter is entering K in the fall so i do not have first hand experience with EDM. however, i'd like to share with you what fellow moms have experienced in woodside.
* one mom said she had to hire a tutor for her middle schooler in order to keep up at menlo school. the tutor commented oh yea, i have a special program for woodside kids since they can't do math.
* the CEO of a reputable tutoring company commented that woodside's math curriculum is worse than some of the cities where he does pro bono work - perhaps this is due to EDM? he's not complaining though since it gives him lots of great business from affluent families.
* one current woodside mom puts her kid in afterschool math program at woodside, which uses the singapore math books
* saw this on PAMP last night -
Segment on YouTube on EveryDay Math called, "Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth." Web Link

Web Link

Hope this data is hopeful in the Palo Alto debate.

Posted by Mandy Lowell
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I hope that we are not making in elementary school a decision that a student will not go on to higher math. To leave out essential skills or to fail to have students be nimble with numbers, or to focus on cumbersome multi-step procedures, which common algorithms simplify, all of which Everyday Math does,seem to contribute to students who will not go to higher math levels.

IN addition, it is not just about what you will use in your career, but a useful way of thinking. I am not an engineer, and unlike many Palo Altans, I cannot say that I use differential equations in my daily life. Nonetheless, learning calculus and higher math offered me several benefits. Rigorous math helps one define assumptions and clearly state problems. Proofs develop logic. Some people seem to advocate that students computational accuracy in some way impedes being a problems solver. That is not a view that most mathematicians hold. Ask professors in the Stanford Math Dept-- Carlsson, Cohen, Li, and others. With early grades math, knowing math facts and basic methods to do addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, help students to know how to approach problems. No one I know wants kids to just sit doing drill worksheets for a year. Rather, they want students to master their addition and subtraction facts to 20 in first grade so they can better appreciate the concepts behind regrouping, multiplication as repeated addition, etc. Kids can be better problems solvers. And the more mainline books DO ask kids to explain their reasoning, and have lots of word problems, usually more than Everyday Math.

Posted by Palo Alto Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2009 at 9:18 pm

To the person who asked about SRA.

I called SRA because I too was interested in knowing what happened, and here's what I was told:

Our regional SRA office just hasn't had teacher/District acceptance in California pilots for SRA math. (It sounded like SRA is much more easily accepted in other states and maybe other areas of California, but I couldn't get a lock on this.) As a result, SRA decided to focus its dollars and energy in next years textbook adoption (which I believe is Language Arts) and not to provide pilot materials in Palo Alto or any other district in the San Francisco Bay Area.

If we want SRA to be piloted in Palo Alto, we're going to have to make SRA feel that they have a viable opportunity here.

Just like all businesses in these recessionary times, they are watching their spend and return on investment carefully.

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2009 at 12:41 am

In reference to Point of View's comments:

"Also, I am not impressed with studies that show that EM students don't do as well on standardized tests. Those tests are testing what other curricula teach; they are not as relevant for those learning to understand how to use math as a normal part of their daily life.

For those who care about the test scores more than anything else, EM is certainly the wrong way to go."

My comments:

Can students expect to be accepted into universities with low GPAs and poor SAT scores? Should they just write in their letter that they are intelligent and knowledgeable but they just bomb tests?

Posted by Real Life
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2009 at 6:58 am

Here's a real life math word problem.

Say just after school starts you are standing in line at California Pizza Kitchen ASAP with your 6th grader. The line is long so you have to choose quickly. Which is a better value - 1 14" pizza for $13 or two 9" ones for $8 each?

No calculator in sight and under pressure to order, your daughter, who you were told excelled in math in Palo Alto elementary classrooms that taught multiple algorithms including lattice multiplication, played Investigations math games, and told parents to come up with their own math drill problems at home because there wasn't enough time in math class to teach them, tries to figure it out in her head.

Using the math she learned, she announces that the two small pizzas are a better value and the 21 year old checkout guy nods in agreement and says people ask that all the time.

While waiting for the pizzas, you take pen to napkin. What do you discover?

That you are impressed that your child knows the concepts and which formula to use but shocked that she doesn't know where to start when asked to put pencil to paper to check her mental math.

That her mental math didn't help her much because she was off a digit on one of the pizzas that skewed her comparisons.

That you could show her how to solve it some 30 years after you learned it a traditional math classroom.

And, that your daughter and the check out guy were both wrong. The larger pizza turned out to be the better value.

Last night, we talked about that trip to CPK and the math she learned in school. Our daughter said her elementary school taught her that math is not about getting the right answer as long as you have the right idea.

Parents beware.

If other math students who are doing well in our elementary schools walk out of 5th grade like her, you won't want your kids learning from Everyday Math or Investigations and you certainly won't want them balancing your checkbook when it comes time for you to check into a nursing home.

No matter how dry it may seem, our kids need to learn to solve problems with pen and paper, get the right answer, learn the concepts, and realize that close enough isn't always good enough.

Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2009 at 7:21 am

Another, Amen to that.

One of the stupidest things I heard when my child was in elementary was a school administrator's assertion that it was more important for the kids to *like* math because then they would be so excited they would want to do math all the livelong day and that way the facts would osmose into their brains. And that understanding how to get the answer was more important than actually getting the right answer.

Helloo . . . wake up call to textbook committee -- the beauty of math is that there IS one right answer. Why take away that comforting fact from children?

And as Another says, let's be very afraid about our Palo Alto educated children in th real world. Banks, too, think there is only one right answer and they don't give a fig how you feel about cacluating it.

Posted by Mandy Lowell
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:01 am

Division-EDM does not give kids a good grasp of numbers, which is why by fourth grade, some students, have to do several steps to see that there are 3 12’s in 38 or 8 7’s in 57. See examples below. And rather than suggesting that students should do more problems to become nimble with numbers, EDM advises that “The student would reach the answer in three steps rather than two. One way is not better than another.”

The actual layout cannot be reproduced here, but just examine the books and lessons yourself to make your own judgment.
In dividing 7/127, after subtracting 70, 57 is left; EDM appropriately offers the next step is to find the number of 7's in 57. EDM gives “two ways to do this.” One is just to use the "fact family" that 8x7 is 56; the other is to use “easy numbers, ” “are there at least 10[7’s] in 57? No….Are there at least 5[7’s]? Yes” then put the partial quotient 5 to the side, “subtract 35 from 57” leaving 22, in which there are 3 [7’s], so put the third partial quotient of 3 to the side; then add the partial quotients 10+5+3 to get 18. (EDM p. 414.)

Were this just an example using easier numbers to handle, building up to understanding of division, there would be little concern. That, however, is not what EDM says. In a similar division lesson, when the student is using the partial products algorithm to divide 158 by 12, and encounters 38, EDM advises that the student can ask " how many [12's] are in the remaining 38?" The manual explains that "some students might know the answer right away (since 3[12's] are 36.)" EDM then gives an example the 4th grader tries 2x12, puts a 2 partial quotient to the left, then tries another 1x12, then adds the two partial products, etc. EDM tells the teacher that "the student would reach the final answer in three steps rather than two. One way is not better than another." As a way to understand how to break larger divisions into smaller ones, this type of example is not bad, but the concern is that EDM does not aim to move students to more efficient handling of numbers.

EDM lauds partial quotients because “students can use numbers that are easy for them.” (EDM 4th grade, Teacher’s Ed. P. 394.) Much of EDM is based on the notion that kids should work with the easy multiples—2, 5, 10 and powers of ten of these. Warning teachers to watch for students who use only multiples of ten, EDM advises teachers to “suggest [they] first compile a list of easy multiples of the divisor as appropriate.” This is for 5th graders :for a problem of 6/1010, the students would “make the following list: 200x6 =1200: 100x6=600; 50x6=300; 20x6=120; 10x6=60; and 5x6=30.” “remind students that listing the easy multiples in advance allows them to focus on solving the division problems, rather than looking for multiples.” (See 5th grade TE 250-52). The 5th grade Math Master has a sample charts for 5th graders to list multiples of 1000, 100, 50, 20, 10, and 5.

Again, if this were a bridge to demonstrate to students underlying concepts of how division of larger numbers works, and then to condense several steps into one step with a more efficient procedure, there would be little clamor. EDM validly wants students to learn the California standard of “when and how to break a problem into smaller parts.” But breaking into 2’s, 5’s and 10’s problems that are otherwise relatively simple math manipulations if one knows 3x12=36 hardly lays a solid foundation of working with numbers.

The California Math Frameworks notes that by 5th grade ”students should know all the basic facts and be able to recall them instantly.” (CDE CA p. 157.) While Everyday Math claims to teach basic facts, the problems offered in 4th and 5th grade, imply that the EDM either does not succeed or does not consider it sufficiently important for students to have mastered the essential multiples.

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2009 at 8:58 pm

DATE CHANGED TO WEDNESDAY (no meeting on March 12)

District-wide Parent / Community Information Night
K - 5 Elementary Math Materials Adoption

Wednesday, March 11th
Nixon Elementary School, M.P. Room
7:00 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.
1711 Stanford Avenue

Questions? Ginny Davis, Asst. Superintendent: 329-3709 or email to

More info on this topic: Web Link

Posted by Erica B
a resident of El Carmelo School
on Mar 3, 2009 at 12:23 am

Here are some answers to many of the issues raised above from my cousin who teaches EDM math in Illinois. It is just one teacher's perspective, but I found it helpful. It definitely looks like we (parents) will need to learn the algorithms taught in the classroom to be able to help our kids if they struggle.

My questions begin with a number; her answers begin with a ~.

My job requires me to know and teach Everyday Math to 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, so I am pretty familiar with the program from beginning to end (since I think it is a grade 1-5 program). A lot of the concerns that you have heard I disagree with, but I am going to address each concern separately to try to give you as much specific feedback as possible for your own use.

1) The kids don't get a fundamental understanding of numbers.
~This concern confuses me because I feel like any math program at a minimum gives kids a fundamental understanding of numbers. In first grade they start with concepts like even and odd numbers, "skip counting" (counting by 2s), counting by 5s, counting by 10s, basic addition facts, basic subtraction facts, coins, etc. By fifth grade they can add, subtract, multiply, and divide, work with fractions and decimals, negative numbers and exponents, etc
2) They are taught to reach for the calculator so quickly that they cannot compute a sale price in their head (ex. 30% off a $45 item.)
~ They rarely use calculators in Everyday Math. In fact, the majority of the pages in the workbook have a sign in the corner with a symbol of a calculator and a big X through it (i.e. "No calculator allowed!) I can tell you that my 5th graders are about to start a unit on Fractions and Percents, and they won't be using calculators! (Especially not in my room!)
3) Math questions include: "If ... three were a color, it would be ..."
~ I have never seen a question like this, and am unsure where it has come from......
4) The high schools struggle with unprepared kids coming out of elementary school.
~Unfortunately, I don't teach high school (or even junior high) so I can't vouch for how kids do in high school after using Everyday Math in elementary school. I have trouble believing that students go to high school unprepared. I can tell you that my district had a 95% pass rate in Math on the 2008 Illinois Standardized test. If the kids aren't learning math and preparing for higher education, I wonder about the accuracy of the state standardized test....
5) The parents need to spend hours or hire tutors to compensate. (There is a local tutor for a nearby district who explained that he develops a special program to address the gaps in the EDM program.)
~ This one I will admit may be slightly true, but only because of the unique algorithms. Since it isn't what we were taught as kids, many parents feel unable to help their children with math homework and want to turn to outside help when their kid has trouble. That being said, at the beginning of each unit a "Family letter" is sent home explaining the concepts coming up in the new unit, and it usually includes the algorithms for that unit and how to do them. However, I don't think there are huge gaps in the program that need to be addressed by a private tutor....
6) It's just for poor-performing kids who can't learn the regular way.
~In today's education, there is no "regular way" to do Math. The big push right now is that every student learns differently and that we should support these differences. That is why Everyday Math has different ways to do the same type of problem. For some children, traditional multiplication makes sense and they have no problem with it. For others, it confuses them and they do better with Partial-Sums or Lattice Multiplication (two algorithms in Everyday Math. P.S. I'll have to show you Lattice one day. It's amazing! It seriously changed the way I viewed multiplication!) It doesn't matter how you do it, as long as you can get the correct multiplication answer in the end.
7) It's just for high performing kids who can handle concepts and reasoning. {I've actually heard both arguments.}
~ It's definitely not just for high performing kids. The concepts can be taught at different levels for different learners, but it is not focused on just one level of students. The teacher's manuals include alternatives to each lesson for higher learners, for lower learners, and even for Bilingual learners!

Posted by Illinois Reply
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 3, 2009 at 6:14 am

My sister also teaches in Illinois so over the years I've come to learn some important differences between the two states when it comes to standardized testing. While Erica B's sister's Illinois district may have had a 95% pass rate on the standardized test, that high score may be because Illinois allows elementary kids to use calculators on that test and gives English language learners and children with disabilities easier exams.

In California, no calculators are allowed and there is just one test for all, including Palo Alto's 25% ELL and disabled students. Add to that that Illinois' standards are not nearly as rigorous as California's (earned a D compared to California's A in a recent comparison) and it is possible that not as many kids are doing so well with math in Illinois as it seems.

Student learning style differences: Assuming kids come with multiple intelligences, which is a theory not an absolute

Web Link

means that teachers figure out what works best for each student and teach that method to the child (differentiation), not teach all methods to all students in the hopes that one will stick. That's in part why people find Everyday Math, which has students spending lots of time learning multiple methods for the same concept, an inefficient use of limited classroom time.

Addressing low and high performing students. If you have children in these groups, check and see if the enrichment questions Everyday Math math poses are too easy or hard for them. I did for mine and the ones I saw didn't fit.

What happens to kids and math in high school? This data point is crucial. Has anyone asked the middle and high school math teachers how they feel about the elementary math books under consideration? I don't see input on that here or in the Committee's minutes. I hope they will be asked before the district makes such an important decision.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:04 am

In my experience, the elementary and middle school teachers rarely use the math textbooks anyway, so how much does it matter what we choose.

Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:35 am

Wow. Which schools are you talking about? And do you like the curriculum they present? Do they avoid Investigations so as to teach real math? Or are you saying they just don't teach math anyway.

Posted by Illinois Reply
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 3, 2009 at 10:38 am

The reason middle and high school teacher input would be helpful to have is so the district can get a pulse on how well prepared students are when they enter their math classes. If half of the students who take Algebra 1 in 8th grade are told to repeat it in 9th not all are as prepared as they could be.

If I were a Palo Alto admin type I'd certainly like to know the reason for this. It is possible that it has as much or more to do with how basic skills were taught in elementary school than what transpired in their middle school classrooms.

Posted by Erica B
a resident of El Carmelo School
on Mar 4, 2009 at 8:38 am

I agree with Illinois Reply that it would be valuable to hear the observations of the high school math teachers, especially ones who can compare different elementary preparation.

I asked my cousin to help with that, and she is trying, but they are testing all this week, and very busy. If others on this discussion can get high school math teachers' opinions, that would be helpful.

Posted by Gail Cassel
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2009 at 9:49 am

My daughters use the Everyday Math program in their school here in Philadelphia. I strongly dislike the program and have resorted to supplementing it at home. The 2nd grade program "spirals" so quickly, introducing new concepts ideas seemingly every day, revisiting old concepts sporadically, my daughter has become extremely frustrated. Homework time is very difficult for both of us - I have no idea how to help her because the methods are illogical and she is frustrated and confused. During a recent assessment, her teacher suggested she needed "support" with certain concepts, such as telling time ( which Everyday Math is notoriously poor with). I downloaded a bunch of old fashioned, straightforward worksheets, and she is now up to speed and even enjoying math the "old fasioned" way. In the later grades, the program is still confusing, requiring students to learn several different ways of solving algorithms, resulting in more confusion and math aversion - for both parent and child. I have been supplementing this program at home for some time - I can't imagine how my children would know any basic math if I didn't.

Posted by Kim Bomar
a resident of Nixon School
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:25 pm

I recently met with Mary Pat O’Connell, the principal at Nixon Elementary School, regarding my letter to the math text selection committee in which I expressed my concerns about Everyday Math. No decision has been made between EM and enVision (which is new, so there isn’t much info available on it), but here, in a nutshell, is what I learned about EM.

First, this school district intends to continue teaching the standard algorithms (including multiplication and long division) along with other conceptual learning tools, in accordance with California standards, regardless of the math text that is chosen. It is not true that students will not learn the basic math algorithms with EM.

Second, students will continue to be required to learn basic math facts (like the multiplication table). Students will not be taught to focus on the use of calculators to the detriment of knowledge of basic math facts.

Third, EM has the advantage of offering differentiated learning, meaning that it allows students at different levels to approach the same concept in different ways. For example, students who are learning a concept can focus on understanding, and those who have mastered a concept can apply their knowledge in different ways. Finding a math textbook that offers differentiated learning is one of the top priorities of the school district, as this is one of the biggest challenges facing our teachers.

Fourth, EM offers lots of examples, and this is essential for students to get the practice they need in order to master math concepts.

Fifth, (although the statistical evidence is inconclusive in my opinion) some school districts are finding that math scores of students using EM trend upward over time, as opposed to downward, which is the statewide trend. Increasing math scores is, of course, a top priority of our school district.

I found this information to be very helpful, and it puts to rest most of my major concerns with EM. I encourage all concerned parents to attend the March 11th meeting regarding the math text selection, at which parents can get a more comprehensive overview of the pros and cons of both these programs and the selection process itself, as well as give feedback to the math selection committee members.

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 5, 2009 at 3:26 am


I am not sure what the fifth point of your post was trying to say, but the California's statewide trend in mathematical achievement in grades K-5 has been one of steady increase over many years (Web Link ). What this says about the claims that EM students "trend upward" is unclear to me, except to say that there are very few California schools that could have been using EM, as it was adopted in Calif. only 14 months ago. As to its nationwide use, it was already mentioned here that there are no high quality studies of EM effectiveness in existence.

Posted by Need for optimism?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2009 at 8:08 am


I find that principals tend to be an optimistic bunch when it comes to what can be accomplished in classrooms. They need to be to inspire and motivate teachers and answer parents’ concerns. But when I chat with my children’s teachers, they tell me that there just is not enough time in a day to do it all, especially in math.

An example: each year teachers at my school tell parents to work with their children on the basic math facts because they don't have time to do it in class. I applaud their honesty. This is not assigned homework mind you, but an open-ended request to parents to set the schedule, find the materials, and give timed tests at home, on their own.

Based my 5th grade math lab experience, it's no surprise that half the kids don’t have those basics mastered. Maybe that explains why you see so many kids using calculators in my schools' classrooms.

If teachers can't get to the basics with a straight forward math text, how in darnation are they going to be able to do it with Everyday Math?

My friends who've had their kids taught out of Everyday Math say it takes up tons of time. Makes sense if it requires kids to learn multiple ways to do one thing, makes them invent many of those ways themselves, and then tells them to chat about that worked and what didn’t in small circles that one teacher cannot possibly oversee at the same time. I'd imagine lots of frustration all around.

And woe to the new teacher who has to put in double the work her first several years just to get down what she needs for her classroom to work smoothly. Two curriculums -- Everyday Math and one she has to find her own materials for -- seem to be a formula for failure.

Bottom line, Everyday Math = students learning less.

Add all the economic woes schools are facing right now which will add to teacher time demands big time with bigger class sizes, fewer aides and little or no money for teacher training, and it is clear that we should be selecting one text and make things easier for our teachers.

Posted by HSParent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2009 at 8:40 am

Someone mentioned the "dirty little secret" in her former community, where middle school kids had to get math tutors to keep up.
I wish PAUSD would investigate our own "dirty little secrets." The number of kids getting private tutoring at the HS level is staggering (In all subjects, but especially in math and science). So is the expense. Not only does this point to obvious inequities, it also skews all of our grade and testing data. How well are we teaching in the classrooms? Who knows? How much are kids learning in public school, and how much at "private school" at home? How can we possible measure our kids' education when there are such wide, and uncounted, after-school variables?

Posted by "Success Stories"
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Mar 5, 2009 at 9:12 am

Everyday Math's website has a list of "Success Stories" it wrote up and promotes:

Web Link

Most of the "successes" reported are districts whose standardized test scores exceeded the state's average. Not a very high bar.

Included are some before and after reports. One which claims that Everyday Math students perform a year ahead of grade level has a chart that shows scores dropping. In another, the improvement shown was just 1 or 2 percentile points. If you look up the most recent STAR scores for the district in the California report, after 10 years of working with Everyday Math students' math test scores hadn't improved as the students continued working with it.

Posted by Practice problems
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 5, 2009 at 9:41 am

Found this on the web which compares some of the text books Palo Alto is considering and how much time each devotes to practice problems that help with mastery:

Multiplication practiced in 3rd grade

Everyday Math (2008 version): 393 times
enVision (2009 version): 1,986 times
SRA (2009 version): 1,063 times

Division practiced in 3rd grade
Everyday Math: 133 times
enVision: 860 times
SRA: 372 times

Posted by Experienced Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2009 at 10:42 am

For what it is worth, I used Singapore Math in the summers to supplement my second son in elementary school because the PAUSD materials in the school were SO circular, so confusing, that my son couldn't ever actually learn in depth the basic concepts.

I mean, I saw him doing a little fraction, a little multiplication, a little division, a little algebra, a little "problem solving" this and that in the year that traditionally was used for multiplication mastery ( 3rd grade). This meant that, except for the VERY BRIGHTEST, kids were left just confused.

Really, how can you "problem solve" until you have learned a few tools to use? Like asking someone to build a house who has never used a hammer.

So, in the summer, we "drilled" with Singapore math.

I loved it. How did I know to try this?

I got concerned about the math of my second child because of the experience of an older kid who had gone to a private school in elementary school. I had seen how he did the dreaded "drill, drill, drill" every night throughout the private elementary school, and worried about the effect on him because he was my first and all I knew was the prevailing "thought" about math... but he mastered ONE SKILL AT A TIME at an appropriate developmental level. There was no "algebra" introduced before knowing the multiplication tables cold.

Result? When he came back into our PAUSD, he was 2 years ahead in math.The highest math performers at his High School now? The top 1% in math in his class almost ALL went to private elemenatary schools. And private schools will DRILL DRILL DRILL because parents won't pay for few results.

I think a lot of this discussion is focused on who liked what for their kid or to teach, but these comments are from people who have not ever experienced OTHER METHODS. Be careful of liking the only thing in your repetoire!

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2009 at 11:01 am

My Experience With Everyday Mathematics: Web Link

More comments on Everyday Math: Web Link

Posted January 7, 2008, bottom of page: Web Link

As a math expert . . . I can say that this program is flawed and hinders the development of children.

Incorporating language skills with math at such a young age is like teaching a child English and Russian at the same time - difficult. The child will have difficulty being fluent in either language.

Children need a base in mathematics before any progression of "critical thinking" can begin. They do not think like and adult and in fact, a 7-year old thinks differently than a 9-year old, and an 11-year old thinks differently than an 11-year old. The comprehension of these different age groups is dramatically different and these ages will never think like an adult. Critical thinking develops as the child's brain develops.

Any use of calculators is an educational crime. As a professional, I do calculations with pencil and paper. This is still a common method for engineers even though we use computers and calculators. What gives us adults the advantage is the fact that we have a sound base in mathematics.

Written by a N.Y. teacher: Web Link


Everyday Mathematics. . . What matters is showing that you understand a concept, not whether you can perform a calculation and come up with a right answer.

Defenders of critical thinking say we need to rescue our schools from a repressive "drill-and-kill" pedagogy that makes children automations, spitting back the facts and rules. . . and never learning to think on their own. The truth, of course, is that no once claims that knowing how to think independently isn't important. But thinking can't take flight unless you do know some basic facts - and nowhere is this more the case than in math. If you really want your students to engage in "higher-order thinking" in math, get them to master the basic operations like their times tables first. When a middleschooler is learning to factor equations in eighth grade, it's a crippling waste of mental energy if he needs to figure out how many times four goes into 20. Mastering fundamentals through practice can lift a child's confidence to do harder work.

As one local paper put it, "Rote learning and the memorization of traditional algorithms appear to have been thrown completely out the window."

Instead of memorization, students move haphazardly form one seemingly unconnected topic to another, called "spiraling." Trying to teach a host of different methods to students if students haven't sufficiently mastered any specific one - as is all but inevitable, since they haven't spent much time practicing any specific one - can be very confusing.

As the website points out, "the authors. . . believe it is very important to help parents become actively involved in their child's mathematical education, and they have worked hard to provide opportunities (i.e. hard problems) for this to happen." This sounds nice - who doesn't want to see parents involved with their children's education? But what if the parents worked long hours, lacked college educations, or barely spoke English? Or just weren't interested? For my class anyway, I came to believe that a good homework assignment should almost never require parental help. Homework should simply build mastery through straightforward practice of what classroom instruction has already taught.

Posted by "Success Stories"
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Mar 5, 2009 at 11:12 am

This from Montgomery County might be of interest to parents who hope their kids will be advanced math students. Montgomery County is one of the success stories listed on Everyday Math's website, started there in the early 2000s.

Walstein, a high school math teacher in the County's Math Magnet school for the county's most advanced students, wrote to the Washington Post this week:

"I have the privilege of teaching some of the best young
minds in the United States. But even as standardized test scores have risen and the county has claimed great strides in math instruction, our program has had to offer a week of remedial math classes during the summer for our entering ninth-graders [who] lack the rich math background to fully understand their current work... Many of my current students complain that curriculum acceleration made them move too quickly without proper understanding. Take the calculators away, as we did, and even the county's brightest bulbs now get a failing grade on material they supposedly have learned with top marks...The students have the ability, but the school system is not matching their commitment."

Walstein has been coaching winning math teams for more than 30 years and is a three-time winner of a national award for distinguished high school mathematics teaching.

Posted by One Camp
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 5, 2009 at 11:34 am


I'm not sure that EM offers much in the way of differentiated learning, despite what your principal told you.

Merely teaching different ways to solve a problem is only minor differentiation. Real differentiation would mean also setting the content and product differently for kids. PAUSD is committed, as far as I understand, to never modifying the math content. Hardly, then, a top priority.

Posted by EDM Research
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Mar 5, 2009 at 3:46 pm

From EDM’s paper “Research Basis of Everyday Mathematics”:
Web Link

That paper claims that a large number of studies of Everyday Mathematics student achievement have been conducted. In 2007, the US Department of Education reviewed that research and said only four of these were rigorous enough to be of any help. Those four only showed a “potentially positive effect” on achievement of 6 percentile points on average.

After excluding studies conducted by the publisher and groups related to it, the paper refers to three conducted by individual schools/school districts.

Two (Greene, 1996 (Tenafly, NJ) and Mathematics Evaluation Committee of the Hopewell Valley Regional School District) were rejected by the US Department of Education as not sound research.

Also rejected was Briars & Resnick, 2000 (Pittsburg Public Schools) which found that:
– Pittsburg, which adopted EDM in 1993, had about 20 percentage points improvement in 3 years compared to classrooms where individual teachers created their own materials
– Many teachers were unprepared to teach the EDM curriculum and needed "substantial content preparation"
– EDM can exacerbate weaknesses in classroom management that principals could not help with
– Schools had to provide support to parents who didn't understand the program.

The report concluded that "these factors all point to a need for considerable professional development for both administrators and teachers if programs such as Everyday Mathematics are to be well implemented across an entire school district." Web Link As mentioned in a prior posting, in 2008 Pittsburgh decided not to renew EDM textbooks.

The EDM paper also cited three studies conducted by “independent researchers" supporting its effectiveness.

Hawkes, Kimmelman, & Kroeze, 1997 was rejected by US Department of Education as not sound (conducted by superintendents of Chicago area schools, not professional researchers).

Two were approved by the Department of Education as sound research:

Woodward & Baxter, 1997 (one year study comparing students with learning differences) which found EDM had no significant effect of on overall math achievement. Web Link

The Riordan & Noyce study has been criticized because it did not identify the schools so the results could not be verified and some assert tht one of its authors headed a foundation aligned with constructive math programs like EDM. Web Link

Posted by National Math Panel
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 5, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Does anyone know which textbooks being considered best meet the National Math Panel recommendations?

Here are a few of them:

Recommendation: A focused, coherent progression of mathematics learning, with an emphasis on proficiency with key topics, should become the norm in elementary and middle school mathematics curricula. Any approach that continually revisits topics year after year without closure is to be avoided.

Recommendation: Based on its review of research, the Panel recommends regular use of formative assessment, particularly for students in the elementary grades. For struggling students, frequent (e.g., weekly or biweekly) use of these assessments appears optimal, so that instruction can be adapted based on student progress.

Recommendation: All parties involved in the publication and adoption of textbooks should strive for more compact and more coherent mathematics texts for use by students in Grades K–8 and beyond.

Recommendation: States and districts should strive for greater agreement regarding the topics to be emphasized and covered at particular grades. Textbook publishers should publish editions that include a clear emphasis on the material that these states and districts agree to teach in specific grades.

The National Mathematics Advisory Panel presented a report to the President of the United States and the Secretary of Education in 2008. It took 2 years to interview experts and study the studies to determine how to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics in the United States.

Posted by Minutes
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Mar 6, 2009 at 9:37 am

The PAUSD math committee's minutes address many of the points posted above. It reported the following:

Both programs will involve other costs. Teachers want paid staff development days over the summer and, if enVision and Investigations is selected, they asked for a “huge undertaking” to create a correlation guide for the 2 different programs.

Much positive was said about each program. On the concerns expressed in this forum:

Kindergarten teachers did not like that EDM had students using calculators.

5th grade teachers were concerned about EDM’s missing standard long division algorithm, little practice opportunities, and that EDM would leave students unprepared for 6th grade math.

In the classroom pilots, almost all grade level teachers disliked:
- The way EDM’s curriculum spiraled, calling it confusing, noting that it required teachers to re-teach concepts covered already,
- How burdensome EDM's implementation would be (needing teacher support and professional development, and disliking how many materials the program has teachers work with)
- How easy enVision would be for our students, and
- The difficulty of integrating Investigations and enVision into one curriculum.

No studies or US Department of Education guidelines or interviews with other districts or teachers who used these materials was mentioned. The only research reported was googling EDM and finding negative comments about it.

On balance, the committee currently prefers Everyday Math.

Web Link

Posted by Michelle Richmond
a resident of Hoover School
on Mar 6, 2009 at 9:38 am

I grew up with two academics and I have to agree with an earlier comment that it is the teachers we have to rely on, whatever program the district forces on them. A better argument to have at this juncture is whether anyone EXCEPT the teachers should have a say in this decision. These folks have Masters Degrees in most cases and years of experience and anyone who can survive in front of 20-30 professionally honest humans is automatically designated a bright, flexible individual in my book. Lets try respecting and empowering the teachers instead of the school board for a change.

Goodness, I'm an engineer, and if a teacher walked up to me and told me I had to use XXX program to generate schematics instead of YYY I'd have a fit. That teacher is not qualified to determine what tools I use to get my job done -- no more qualified than most of us are to tell them what tools they use to get their job done.

Whatever program is chosen, I encourage all the parents out there to work with your teacher to allow them to do what is best for your child. They know what to do, and it has nothing to do with the program that is chosen. What they need more than anything is our permission and our understanding. I recall my mother complaining that the district forced a particular program on her when it was very obvious to her that no one program works for all children. Did you all hear that? No one program works with all children. To get around this, she had a storehouse of materials and if a child was having trouble with a concept or process, she had them work out of a different book with an approach that her judgment, training, and chops told her would work better for that individual child. By the way, she did this with no aide and 32 kids in her classroom, one or two of whom were mainstreamed learning disabled, so don't tell me its impractical or can't be done.

I believe that what we need to remember is that there is no practical reason to become a teacher in our culture. They are paid poorly and the job is largely disrespected as a career choice. Consequently, for most of the individuals that go into this field, teaching is a calling, not a vocation. They are highly committed to the success of your children. Support them in this. Encourage them to keep pouring out their energy and worry and time to the benefit of your children. Lets back the teachers in this discussion, wherever that puts us, and I believe our children will come out the winners.

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2009 at 9:59 am


We do respect and applaud our teachers. What's disturbing is the way EDM is marketing to them. Teachers are frustrated with the program once it is adopted. And as posted above, they have to find ways to make it work for them, if they can. Parent frustration is going to add to the frustration for the teachers.

Someone I know was on the Menlo Park math adoption committee and they will begin EDM this fall. She had no idea the program has flaws because, of course, the way it was marketed to them. "Is it really bad?" she asked me.

Envisions is still mediocre.

I think they should pilot Singapore Math, which has been a proven success.

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 6, 2009 at 11:17 am


You write that "if a teacher walked up to me and told me I had to use XXX program to generate schematics instead of YYY I'd have a fit." I see two problems with this sentiment.

First, I don't think you will have a fit if your manager, or your customer, walked up to you and told you that you should use XXX instead of YYY because the readability and aesthetics of the resulting schematics that YYY produces is poor, or that YYY produces erroneous schematics, or that it misses certain features that YYY produces and they want them, or that the cost of YYY is much higher than of XXX and both produce equivalent results, or that in your manager's opinion--and supported by study or two or by couple of newspaper articles describing successful competitors using XXX--worker efficiency is higher using XXX and hence the company is switching to XXX. In fact, also being an engineer, I can tell you this happens daily in the industry and frequently for the better. And few people throw a fit.

Second, the situation is somewhat different when we deal with people rather than with widgets that can be relatively objectively qualified. Consequently, when you visit a doctor it is not enough that the doctor recommends something to you--you need to agree with the recommendation. Or you can seek alternative doctor, alternative treatment, or both. Same with your lawyer, or with your politician. And you don't need to hold an MD, JD, or MPP, to override the professionals--it is you, after all, that it is all about. And the same is true with your teacher and education professional. Being an educrat (in addition to being an engineer :-) I can tell you that this also happens daily in schools and districts, and that it is also frequently for the better.

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2009 at 11:21 am

Please attend the meeting this Wednesday, March 11, 7:00-8:30 P.M., Nixon Elementary, M.P. Room to show your support or opposition of EDM. Here's the agenda: Web Link

Here are the minutes from the last meeting on February 24: Web Link

Posted by Andrea
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2009 at 4:44 pm

I do not like Everyday Math.

My 1st Grade child did not have a good experience with Everyday Math in a Mandarin immersion program. This year her school switched to using California Math, and it is much better.

There difference I observed:
Everyday Math tends to work in this mode - the exercise on most pages jumps through many topics (time, skip counting, money, etc.). I heard that the suppose to be that the different topics give different views of the application of math. But for a program at my school where half the math is taught in English (Everyday Math), and half is taught in Chinese using other books -- the child never gets in depth or enough practice on a topic. This may work for a non-immersion program where there is a lot of time spent in math, so that it mitigates the effect of topics on each page jumping around.

California Math tends to treat things in lots of depth, repeatedly with exercises and using Word problems so that the problems need to be understood. There are also problems at an advance level. We enjoy it much more after the switch to California Math.

Posted by math skills
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Michelle -

I don't know about Palo Alto's elementary teachers or math specialists, but if they follow the US trend they don't have masters degrees, college majors, or even good grades in math.

While countries like Finland require elementary teachers to have masters degrees to teach, not so in the US. In the US, elementary education school graduates' math skills are not that strong. These grads lag behind the average mathematics SAT scores of all college graduates and have the lowest math SAT score for all grads wanting to teach except for PE and special education teachers. "Many of them fear math." To top that off, few education schools teach their students the math they need to know in their classrooms.

National Council on Teacher Quality:

Web Link

Posted by Calculators
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2009 at 7:07 am

Interesting discussion.

Everyday Math 1st graders are given calculators in their tool kits and are taught how to use them. 1st graders can use calculators at any time, even when taking tests.

My Parent Handbook says that I should encourage my 1st grader to use the calculator whenever she "encounters interesting numbers or problems that may be easier to handle with calculators than without them."

Posted by what are they thinking?
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 7, 2009 at 8:25 am

The Math Committee likes Everyday Math the best, but:

1. Experts agree that schools should have a focused, coherent progression of mathematics learning and avoid using math texts that revisit topics.

2. The main complaint from Palo Alto teachers piloting Everyday Math is that it spirals back and forth between concepts.


1. The California Education Department says that our kids need to learn long division.

2. PA's 5th grade teachers couldn't find long division in the Everyday Math books they piloted which tell them to teach division another way instead.


1. All agree that memorizing math basics is very important.

2. Everyday Math gives kids by far the least practice.


1. Everyday Math wants kids starting in kindergarten to use calculators, before they learn math on their own.

2. PA's piloting Kindergarten teachers don't want their students using calculators and an expert High School math teacher says his district's brightest students fail when you take their calculators away.


1. Several Everyday Math "success" districts have since abandoned it.

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Seattle, WA advertisement: Web Link

Our tactics at OQ tutoring depend on each individual student; for instance, if a child doesn't know the fundamentals in the Everyday Math curriculum - something not uncommon in the EM program - our tutors build into each session strategies. . .

Posted by If math were a color
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 9, 2009 at 8:03 am

Google brings up over 100 hits when you search for Everyday Math's 5th grade "if math were a color" question, including a letter from the publisher discussing it. The idea is that teachers should assess their students attitudes toward math by having them complete a "mathitude survey."

This survey is one of Everyday Math's research-based strategies.

One teacher who gave students the survey found those answering pink, red, or black felt anxious about math. Another, found students selected pink, red or black because they were their favorite colors.

Everyday Math doesn't ask this question any longer.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2009 at 9:26 pm

I am in the Cupertino district. Recently (last semester), the district went through the evaluation process for the consideration of Everyday Math. My child's teacher was one of the teachers did the evaluation. The result was that the teachers voted AGAINST the adoption of the Everyday math program. Although the district's decision didn't publicize yet, the teacher believed that the district will listen to the teachers' recommendation and will NOT adopt the program.

I hope you will find this information useful.

Posted by Mandy Lowell
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Some people have asked what Everyday Math Spiral means. Isn't that "review?" Not exactly. IN maninstream programs teachers work to get students to master a concept or skill, through teaching and solving problems, assess to see whether the student can apply the concept to solve problems, reteach and practice more if necessary. One may later quickly review the already learned material, perhaps implicitly. For example, using a mainstream text, in reducing 7/21 to 1/3 or 6/42 to 1/7, a student is reinforcing multiplication facts and the concept of division being related to multiplication.

So what is Everyday Math's spiral? See how their materials explain it.

Here are excerpts from EDM handouts that the district distributed at the Math Committee meeting:

copyright 2001 Education Development Center, Inc.

This has been difficult for teachers, because they are accustomed to pedagogic
procedures in which you bring up something, then teach and test to “mastery,” all
within a fairly short time. What we want teachers to do is to bring it up, drop it,
bring it up again, let it go, bring it up again, let it go, and then at some point, aim
for mastery. That’s built into essentially every part of our program. Teachers have
to be aware that they will seldom push something on to mastery the first or second
time the kids see it. It’s one of the things about Everyday Mathematics that is
strange and difficult for both teachers and parents. But it does work well and will
remain a feature of our program. . . .

The spiral curriculum is one of the hardest things for teachers to adjust to. When
I work with teachers, I tell them, “You need to have the faith that the children are
going to see it again. Don’t be afraid to leave a concept, don’t expect mastery right
away.” I think the teacher at the outset has to talk to her class or his class and
explain to the children that, “We don’t expect you to learn everything the first time we teach it. You’re going to see things over and over again and you might not
understand it the first time, and that’s okay.” For your high-achieving students,
that can be very difficult. They’ve always been able to pick something up the first
time they’ve been taught, and all of a sudden some of the high-achieving students
are not the high-achieving students, and that’s very, very hard. We have to constantly
remind the kids that it’s okay not to have complete comfort with this: “Don’t
worry, you’re going to see it again.”
. . . .
With the spiral curriculum, when a child is just not understanding a concept, we
don’t spend day after day after day on that same concept with the child feeling
worse and worse and worse every day because they’re just not understanding it. If
a teacher is explaining to a child, “We’re going to see this again. Don’t worry about
it and let’s move on,” that’s comforting to a lot of kids. If they hear, “I don’t have
to know this right now. I’m going to see it again—the teacher’s not worried that I
don’t know it right now,” and then move into something that the child can be successful
at, then the child’s attitude towards math becomes much more positive. On
the other hand, one of the weaknesses of the spiral that I see—and this is related
to its strengths—is that we’re constantly changing topics, and that sometimes is frustrating for children and teachers." End of excerpt

Here is a typical district's instruction to teachers about mastery in Everyday Math:
"Please review the Management Guide in the Teacher’s Reference Manual for assistance. Remember, Everyday Mathematics is a spiraling curriculum with repeated exposure to objectives throughout the year. If teachers are struggling with the pace, they may be trying to teach to mastery instead of “trusting the spiral”. “

Resume comment--In evaluating whether Everyday Math is good for your student, you should consider whether your student enjoys repeating material in successive years, and whether if your student would be better off revisiting partially learned material in the following year, or as in a more mainstream text, would benefit from teaching, practice and reteaching until mastery. I do not know PAUSD teachers that just "move on" after one lesson, so this is not saying that mastery is expected in the first lesson. but in a mainstream text there is a sense of assessing to see if the concept can be applied, and not just moving on whether or not the child seems to have learned. Mainstream texts view math as more sequential, later material building on earlier learned material. In history, one can understand US History without learning about Greece and Rome; with math, it is harder to learn Algebra if you have not mastered the Distributive property. Also, students can have gaps that go undetected.

Posted by Doesn't compute
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2009 at 6:38 am

I wouldn't want my child using a calculator in elementary school and can't imagine why any parents would when high school teachers and top college profs are saying that calculator use in early grades is why kids perform so poorly in calculus and children from countries that score high on international math tests aren't allowed to use them before 6th grade.

A school district like Palo Alto, with so many students who could do so well in math and science with the right foundation, should not be considering a math text book that stands in their way.

Everyday Math must have been written for school districts which have few children who go on to college.

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 10, 2009 at 10:58 am

In my mind, the biggest problem with Everyday math is that is flies directly against the recommendations of the National Math Panel last year. The Panel, after reviewing for two years the best research on the subject of math education, and having among its members both highly respected mathematicians from Berkeley and Harvard, as well as highly respected math reformists like Deborah Loewenberg-Ball and NCTM President Skip Fennell, strongly recommended as its number one recommendation to teach for mastery and shy away from spiraling. Which is exactly what Everyday math does not do, as Mandy Lowell's post above details. It spirals, it shies away from serious practice, and it avoids teaching standard algorithms.

National Mathematics Panel report is at Web Link

"Recommendation 1) A focused, coherent progression of mathematics learning, <b>with an emphasis on proficiency with key topics</b>, should become the norm in elementary and middle school mathematics curricula. <b> Any approach that continually revisits topics year after year without closure is to be avoided.</b>
By the term focused, the Panel means that curriculum must include (and engage with adequate depth) the most important topics underlying success in school algebra. By the term coherent, the Panel means that the curriculum is marked by effective, logical progressions from earlier, less sophisticated topics into later, more sophisticated ones. Improvements like those suggested in this report promise immediate positive results with minimal additional cost.
By the term proficiency, the Panel means that students should understand key concepts, achieve automaticity as appropriate (e.g., with addition and related subtraction facts), develop flexible, accurate, and automatic execution of the standard algorithms, and use these competencies to solve problems."

And further:

"Recommendation 10) To prepare students for Algebra, the curriculum must simultaneously develop conceptual understanding, computational fluency, and problem solving skills. Debates regarding the relative importance of these aspects of mathematical knowledge are misguided. These capabilities are mutually supportive, each facilitating learning of the others. Teachers should emphasize these interrelations; taken together, conceptual understanding of mathematical operations, fluent execution of procedures, and fast access to number combinations jointly support effective and efficient problem solving.

Recommendation 11) Computational proficiency with whole number operations is dependent on sufficient and appropriate practice to develop automatic recall of addition and related subtraction facts, and of multiplication and related division facts. It also requires fluency with the standard algorithms for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Additionally it requires a solid understanding of core concepts, such as the commutative, distributive, and associative properties. Although the learning of concepts and algorithms reinforce one another, each is also dependent on different types of experiences, including practice."

This speaks for itself.

Posted by I second that
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Mar 10, 2009 at 11:30 am

The most comprehensive math committee report I've ever read echoes Ze'ev's post. After studying the Math Panel's recommendations, that committee, in a 200+ page report, rejected Everyday Math, the text book the district had been using for years.

It picked Harcourt School Publisher's Math instead because it met the Math Panel's recommendations and "represents the best of a content-oriented approach and the best of scientific constructivism."

Web Link

The report criticized Everyday Math because it did not have teachers work with students on basic fact drill/recall, it had students depend on calculators too early, it did not teach common math methods, and children using it were not able to master what they were taught.

Posted by concerned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2009 at 7:44 pm


I wonder what program Mary Pat O'Connell used at her last school?

I hope lots of the folks who are commenting can make it to the meeting tomorrow night.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2009 at 11:49 am

I'm hearing a lot of well-reasoned, serious concerns about Everyday Math, and some glib support from suspiciously generic sources.

What's the new term for a person who is hired to make seemingly grassroots or ordinary-person comments to web discussions to talk up a product? Is that a troll?

I'm disturbed that we have the kind of school board administration that makes decisions in such imperious and poorly-reasoned ways, then complains about resistance from parents who have legitimate and well-reasoned concerns. Admin makes decisions on their own, makes a sham show of opening their a priori decisions to public discussion, then goes with their preformed, often half-baked decisions anyway. It seems to be the way with every major decision of the board of late.

PAUSD board: this is an involved, intelligent parent community that wants to maintain excellence in our schools. Can you accept that the district might benefit from incorporating things learned from community members in decision-making? This math decision looks like just another sham show of involving the community, but you'll go with your a priori decision anyway.

Like some of the posters above, I am VERY concerned that we are even presented with these poor choices in this way.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2009 at 11:52 am

It sounds to me like a few administrators in the district (the usual suspects) who are particulary fond of FADS are going to shove this hoaky math down the throats of our kids and teachers. To what end?

A whole lot of extra work for teachers who are going to be scrambling around trying to put together their own mini curriculums to get the job done properly. Do we really have the resources or the bandwidth to put our teachers through these kinds of hoops?

I'm particularly not interested in PAUSD using my kids to experiment on. OK, fine. Use this program in a 'choice' program setting (if they'll even have it.) Allow the rest of the district to standardize on an everyday basic math program that makes sense, that parents can help with, that is the shortest route from point a to point b. It just doesn't have to be this complicated!

Kids need to master their math facts, and they need practice. They need to be taught the basic operations that will be the building blocks for harder math they'll see in 6-12. They need to be able to recognize, write and solve the math equations from word problems. Its just really not rocket science. Its basic math for god sakes.

I hope the PAUSD school board and Skelly PLEASE reign these people in and lets just get on a simple, basic math program. PLEASE.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2009 at 11:57 am

And, If I were the the teachers union, I'd be up in arms. Big time.

Because what comes next? When the districts standardized test scores start dropping in a few years, who's going to get blamed? The teachers! Of course.

Will anyone go look at this hippy dippy math curriculum and say - what the hell was the administration thinking?

Heck No., They'll start looking for teacher scapegoats, immediately.

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Whoa, Parent, study the program and this thread before you pop-off.

EDM has failed in many school districts but EDM does not advertise it. The only way EDM will raise test scores is if all the children are receiving supplemental work at home or at tutoring centers, in which case, it is not the EDM program which is raising the test scores anyway.

Why should a program without a large success rate be chosen in the first place?

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 11, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Does anyone have any information on the relative costs to the school district for the various math programs in quetion? It is my understanding, having gone through this in another school district that EDM is one of the cheapest.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Hmmm, did someone mention choice programs? Parent???

From what I can figure out, Ohlone gives a fair amount of latitude on how teachers teach math. They seem, in general, to use more than one source. One teacher was using a bit of Singapore math. Another is using California Math. Working in the classroom, I see a huge range of abilities. Also a large range--even at Ohlone--at how prepared the kids were in an earlier class.

And I think that extends to adults. In a sense, I think we're all favoring the math curriculum that would have worked best for us. Spiral approaches work well for me in a lot of areas, but I know that other people really need to progress in a more linear fashion and really want to have a concept down solid before moving to the next step.

I don't question that my child learns math from California math--but there's also a lot of impatience and chomping at the bit--wanting to learn more about what comes next. But there are other kids who are much more methodical and take each stage as it comes.

And, oh boy, does all of this depend on the skills of the teacher. Math strikes me after getting over the learning-to-read hump as the most "taught" subject--the one where a teacher really needs to be able to assess what a particular child does and does not know and what way will they understand.

Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Parent, you said it. We'll just keep tutoring our kids at home, thank you, after the district ignores all normal sources (eg those cited by Ze'ev Wurman) and relies exclusively on publisher hype and the dogmatic attitudes of the usual suspects and adopts one of these two medicore choices of text.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2009 at 5:37 pm

Eyes Rolling - that's what I said. This program is going to start increasing the failure rate (reducing test scores), because its confusing, inefficient, and frankly just plain wacko, and the teachers are going to be left holding the bag for student performance. Not fair.

OP - correct. If Ohlone wants to go off creative benders and experiments with kids education - that certainly up to Ohlone - and the parents who volunteer their kids as Ohlone guinee pigs. Meanwhile the rest of the district (which has not signed up for alternative lifestyles, should stick to the most efficient, effective, proven, vanilla route possible. HOw about curriculums that are working in PAUSD for the past 7 years for example.

Annonymous - 'cheapness' is a relative term I guess. Buying cheap shoes leads to holes in the soles, and wet socks. Buying cheap math curriculum leads to student, parent and teacher confusion, and causes a lot more problems than the few bucks its going to save. I'd rather see the district buy 20 year old textbooks in a proven method, than buy brand spanking new textbooks in a hoaky experimental FAD method, on the cheap.

And usually, there's a reason things are cheap. You get what you pay for.

Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2009 at 6:39 pm

Parent --

Ack! If you are referring to Investigations I have to disagree that it is working. I live to see that series discontinued in Palo Alto. I was hoping we'd move to something more proven. We don't all have to do Singapore Math, but there are alternaives to two terrible choices that we are being asked to discuss. Why not talk about the other choices that were rejected out of hand? They happen to be the ones that credible sources have validated.

Again, we'll just let our kids roll along doing whatever inane new math they are thrown in class, and having them learn the concepts for real outside school. We're tired of fighting the system, especially when it seems to reward administrative incompetence and poor judgment with additional opportunities to inflict lousy math curriculum choices on a new decade of Palo Alto elementary school children and their beleaguered teachers.

Boggles the mind, really, that this continues to be an issue. Plus ca change . . .

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Here's the summary of the "Parent/Community Information Night" on Wednesday, March 11.

1) The committee worked so long and hard on evaluating math programs.

2) The committee worked so long and hard on evaluating math programs.

3) The committee worked so long and hard on evaluating math programs.

4) Each group, please write down on your poster, what you expect of a math program.

5) Any comments, please write them on a Post-It note and leave it with your group leader.

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 11, 2009 at 10:53 pm

While there is a lot of truth in what Attendee reported above, it is not the whole truth.

- I think it was important that staff and committee members had a chance to get first-hand impression how many in the community feel about the proposed textbooks, even if much of it was done in small groups and/or after the meeting.

- I think that some parents eloquently expressed their frustration with what they felt can be done this late in the process.

- I think that some parents eloquently expressed their frustration with the district for not recruiting parent participation for the committee more aggressively last year.

- My mouth almost dropped open when the superintendent offered to have an open straw vote of the parents that were present. I have never seen such openness in my 16+ years of involvement with PAUSD. Unfortunately, half a dozen different people associated with the current process jumped up and made sure to "explain" to the superintendent that he was making a mistake calling for a show of hands. Sure enough, after so many "explanations", Mr. Skelly caved in. A pity. It would have been refreshing to have an uncontrolled discussion for a change.

Posted by Mandy Lowell
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 11, 2009 at 11:51 pm


At the meeting, someone raised the issue of early calculator use and purportedly was told that calculators were not as emphasized in this version of Everyday Math; it was an issue with the first edition, not the third (current) edition. I do not know about the first edition, but the third edition explicitly advocates calculators to avoid “dull repetitive and unproductive tasks.” Here is an example of Everyday Math’s language:

“Everyday Mathematics encourages students to think about developing algorithms as they solve problems. To foster this habit of mind, students need to study particular paper-and-pencil algorithms, but once the algorithms are understood, repeated use becomes tedious. One reason that calculators are so helpful in the mathematics curriculum is that they free both students and teachers from having to spend so much time on dull, repetitive, and unproductive tasks. Calculators also allow students to solve interesting, everyday problems requiring computations that might otherwise be too difficult for them to perform, including problems that arise outside of mathematics class. There is no evidence to suggest that this will cause students to become dependent on calculators or make them unable to solve problems mentally or with paper and pencil.”
Before the availability of inexpensive calculators, the elementary school mathematics curriculum was designed primarily so that students would become skilled at carrying out paper-and-pencil algorithms. Thus, there was little time left for students to learn to think mathematically and solve problems. Calculators enable students to think about the problems themselves rather than focus on carrying out algorithms without mistakes” (Teacher’s manual, page 30, grades 4-6.)

Whatever one’s opinions on the merits of calculators in early grades, make no mistake about the facts—The current version of Everyday Math repeatedly encourages calculator use.
Again, people can go examine the lessons to see how Everyday Math is structured.

Posted by me too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Attendee, you sure got that right.

Parents' needs at the meeting were pretty simple; they just wanted to know ABOUT the two books being considered.

Instead they were taken on an hour journey about details that they could have gleaned from spending a few minutes on the district website.

One parent kindly suggested that she and other parents whose children have used the textbooks in other districts share their observations with the room. Her offer was met with staff silence.

It got worse when we broke up in small groups. When people in my group expressed their concerns (that was the point of the small sessions wasn't it?), the committee member debated them telling them they were wrong, ill informed, not to worry themselves, or, surprisingly, that their point actually wasn't that important. She told another who wanted to talk about Singapore Math that this meeting was not the place for that discussion. Go figure.

There were only two take-aways from this meeting. The district wants parents to leave them alone and really doesn't want to know which book they think would be best for kids.

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2009 at 12:17 am

Kevin Skelly did say that legally we could wait another year before adopting a program.

The school board votes on the recommendation on April 14.

Everyone, please write to our school board with your feedback: Web Link

and to Virginia Davis and Kevin Skelly

Posted by Jaded
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2009 at 12:35 am

Eyes Rolling,
I've had it with writing the school board and skelly with feedback. What is it but a waste of time? Mine in writing my opinions, and skelly's in defending his opinion that will not change from anything I have to say.

So, Eyes Rolling, I will waste my time voicing my objections to this idiotic math program if you will please waste some of your time voicing objections to growing Gunn High school beyond 1500 students. (Oops, too late. But please voice your objection to growing it to 2500 students.) Deal?

Posted by Math Dad
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2009 at 1:02 am

I attended tonight's meeting and saw things differently:

Thirty seven teachers are on the adoption committee - it doesn't seem like anything is getting shoved down anyone's throat by a couple of administrators.

In our small group I found out that Hillsborough has used Everyday Math for a number of years, having applied for a waiver from the state to use it before it was approved. Their math scores and matriculation into competitive middle schools both are higher than PAUSD.

Also in our small group, I heard the argument that Singapore Math's limitations had a lot to do with the teacher resources, which makes sense when you read that Singapore's teachers are more highly trained in math than most US teachers -- they wouldn't need the same support. (For what it's worth, Wikipedia also sites the high level of private tutoring in Singapore to prepare for the 6th grade exams there - seems this isn't a Palo Alto phenomenon!)

Posted by Palo Alto Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2009 at 1:41 am

I also attended tonight's meeting, and I was very disappointed. The meeting was advertised as a forum for discussion about the textbooks. I heard no such discussion. Rather I heard about the process, which I had already read about on the District website on which the meeting minutes were posted. Then, I participated in a well-moderated discussion of what I wanted for my kids.

But, if someone from the District is reading, here's what I wanted to hear:

1. Why the research I have read is wrong about Everyday Math?

I have spent many hours reading articles and trying to educate myself. Hillsborough may be one positive example. But, families in the room had very different FIRST HAND opinions to offer. Moreover, the published researched weighs heavily against Everyday Math. One data point isn't enough to prove the worth of a textbook.

2. Why the District doesn't want to wait one year?

The math textbooks must cost a tremendous amount of money--who knows? $300K, $500K, $1000K. In this economy, we shouldn't rush an expensive decision. What is the hurry?

3. If we can't wait one year, why not at least consider running a pilot of one other program?

Many parents feel like we have reached a lowest common denominator solution. Calculators? Discovering Math? Once again, remember that the State is woefully short on dollars. If parents are spending on math supplementing (Kumon, Score, F4E), how much is going to be left to give to the District? The Parents are an important constituency. The District needs to listen.

Posted by not such a good night
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2009 at 2:07 am

You might imagine a district like Hillsborough's with less than 2% English language learners and economically disadvantaged students might test better than one with 10 times that number.

Hillsborough's matriculation into competitive middle schools should be higher than Palo Alto's too. Without a Paly or Gunn to call their own, more apply to private schools. And if you were walking around with a median household income of $225,000 you can afford $30k plus a year in private school tuition. Palo Alto's is half that.

What is on point is what I know from several friends whose kids went through Hillsborough elementary. Even though their kids got into private middle schools, they lament that none placed into those schools' higher math lanes. Could Everyday Math have had something to do with that?

I recognize the considerable contribution teachers on the committee have made but if I were them I'd feel pretty duped by the administrators. Teachers were told to use criteria that were not updated to include the National Math Panel's recommendations and were lead to believe that parents had been informed along the way so the process would run smoothly.

How upsetting it must be for them to find out tonight that their review process was flawed and parents were boxed out, which will make whatever book they select forever suspect.

Posted by Experienced Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2009 at 6:51 am

Had 2 kids go through completely different math approaches. One through the Singapore Math type approach ( a math series of books, one year building on the other, drill drill drill practice practice practice k-4, then started diversifying) and the other through PAUSD ( manipulatives, strategies, a little bit of everything every year, no structure on mastering math facts like multiplication tables, calculator ok so he isn't bored, no structured math books every year, just whatever the teacher did in the classroom).

One came here 2 years ahead of his peers in 7th grade, unable to find a math class in PAUSD challenging enough for him. The other and his friends now in 7th grade are still struggling to do "mental additions" to 180 for such math as figuring out the remaining angle in a triangle, for example. Not surprisingly, a lot of the kids "laned" higher were tutored in elementary school or came from private schools. Stupid me, I didn't realize that there really was a huge difference in outcome between the old fashioned "drill baby drill" and the new fashioned "strategies, thinking skills" approach.

In our case, honestly I doubt it has made much difference in the choices available to our second child in the future given the whole package of our child, but I feel sorry for some of his friends who I can see have been shortchanged and will have to now play "catch up", and I am very grateful that we didn't handicap our eldest in this way.

Just use some common the use of calculators in elementary school to avoid practicing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division really such a good idea when the purpose of elementary school math is to learn to the point of reflex all the above?

Of course, maybe that is the argument, what is the purpose of elem. math? After our experiences, I would come down on the side of FACT MASTERY. The comprehension and understanding can come down the path later, at different ages for different kids, or maybe not at all for some, but at least if they have the basics mastered, they aren't handicapped by having to count on their fingers or do simple math on paper instead of their heads once they hit middle school.

Quit with the fuzzy "strategies" and give these kids the practice..the DRILLING...they need so that once they get to 6th grade they can begin applying their facts to learning the math.Do you really think our greatest NASA engineers learned math any other way in elementary school?

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2009 at 9:27 am

Ze'ev - you wrote:
"My mouth almost dropped open when the superintendent offered to have an open straw vote of the parents that were present. I have never seen such openness in my 16+ years of involvement with PAUSD. Unfortunately, half a dozen different people associated with the current process jumped up and made sure to "explain" to the superintendent that he was making a mistake calling for a show of hands. Sure enough, after so many "explanations", Mr. Skelly caved in. A pity. It would have been refreshing to have an uncontrolled discussion for a change."

Well, my mouth almost dropped open, too. For a totally different reason. What an inappropriate thing to do! Straw vote of the parents to what end? If most of them had not liked EDM, would the work of the committee and the 37 pilot teachers be out the window because some majority of the dozens of parents there don't want that to be the adopted curriculum? It made no sense to me at all and I think the suggestion of it was insulting to the entire process. Why not just put the entire process to a straw poll and our adoption will depend on who was able to get a babysitter that night.
Of course it makes sense to ask the parents and see how they are feeling and what their concerns are - they should do that. But the purpose of a poll just seemed strange. This isn't a popularity contest! It's our kids futures! The conversation should be about what we want for our kids in math. And there should be room for push back and questions and airing of concerns, which I think there was. A poll would have made no sense to me.
Having attended the meeting, I think it did two of the three things a community meeting about an adoption should do
1) It made the process transparent and communicated to parents how the committee got where it is, how much work has gone into the selection and what the pilot teachers think so far
2) It posed to parents and community members the question of what they want for their kids in math. They didn't ask "which curriculum do you want?" because the choice isn't up to a sampling of parents. Its up to the educators and parents who have been studying and piloting this for the past year.

What it didn't do was to explain the differences among the curricula and explain why Singapore math was eliminated. They did touch on the lack of differentiation but didn't go further. Many parents want to know why that isn't on the table and I think the committee has a right to take it off the table, but it seems reasonable that it is communicated to the community why it was eliminated.

Posted by Bewildered
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2009 at 9:37 am

What was the criteria used in deciding whether to change the current math program? The PAUSD will spend lots of money on a new program and nothing will change--I'll continue to supplement my children's education with outside programs and homeschooling (as many parents in our school must do).

Kudos to the parents who would like to see Singapore Math as an option. Perhaps the Singapore Math movement will need to take a similar route as other specialty programs (Spanish, Mandarin Immersion) in order to be adopted by the PAUSD, which sounds like a ridiculus, albeit very Palo Altoan thing to do.

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2009 at 10:07 am


Skelly has to please the teachers too.

The school board was present at the meeting. They keep poker faces. Do you know how they are going to vote on April 14? If not, don't roll over and take it.

Those teachers who piloted the program didn't pilot long enough for EDM to spiral around again, where they would see how the spiraling fails.

Fighting against Gunn overcrowding is not equal to this issue.

Posted by Mani Varadarajan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2009 at 10:57 am

I was an active participant in Wednesday's meeting. My reactions:

* The person who came off best and secured a great deal of respect from me was Superintendent Skelly. He calmly presented PAUSD's tradition of mathematics education and emphasized the value of the teacher over and above any textbook. He also respectfully listened and responded to parents' concerns. Three cheers for him.

* The Math Committee was by far the *worst* advocate for their work, and for the textbooks they chose. They spent an inordinately long amount of time detailing how much time they spent without getting into *any* details about why some textbooks were better than others, other than repeatedly just referring to "the criteria". The Committee member in my breakout group was obstinate and rude and kept interrupting others in the team. *None* of them spent any time educating parents on what either choice would actually mean to children and parents, and instead chose to insult parents as ignorant of how to teach and just resorting "to Google" for information. Their point (almost to the word) was, "Don't you trust us?"

* The non-Committee members of our breakout group were extremely respectful and were a joy to talk to. I learnt quite a bit by listening to a very experienced 3rd grade teacher from Walter Hays. They also appreciated parent concerns.

* There was a very strong consensus that K-5 math education should focus on both fundamentals (to the exclusion of calculators) as well as problem solving. The latter should not trump the former, nor should the former force mere rote memorization and nothing else.

* The Committee just wanted parents to share their desires for mathematics education on Post-It Notes (!!). Many parents, including myself, expected a presentation on the two final choices, but there was absolutely NONE of that. It seems to me that most parental desires could be shoehorned, should the Committee desire, into any textbook choice.

* Here's the irony of it all. I was among the few parents who went down at the end of it all to actually examine the Everyday Math and EnVision textbooks. Much to my surprise, they actually aren't all that bad, even the former! I have strong criticism of Everyday Math's approach: calculators, sometimes confusing algorithms (to me, at least), way too glitzy, glossy, always trying to tell a "story", but if this were chosen, I would not be crestfallen, provided a judicious teacher used their experience and was not just guided by the Teacher's Guide. Everyday Math does encourage fundamentals, so parents should not be worried there. That having been said, I definitely did prefer EnVision, and strongly desire that to be chosen.

A lot of the hullabaloo could have been avoided if the Committee had just chosen to allay parents' sincere concerns that Everyday Math was part of the "new math" that would just confuse both parent and child. They also should have discussed how they would recommend implementation in the district.

A couple other points. The Committee repeatedly refused to discuss anything about Singapore Math, and indeed the Committee member on my panel seemed to be totally ignorant of its style and method. Many, many parents were dismayed at this, even though parents' concerns could easily have been allayed.

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2009 at 11:09 am


I think you approach the Skelly's idea in context of the formal part of the adoption process, while I--and hopefully Skelly--are looking at it as part of the community process. I think you are correct in saying that the straw poll wouldn't be the right one for making the adoption decision, but it wasn't intended as such. What I think the superintended wanted is to understand the depth of emotions, and the reasoning, of those present. Sure, that wouldn't be representative of the whole community, but neither are the three parents that are on the adoption committee. Both reflect only the more mathematically-engaged parts of the community, and therefore both are important for this part of the political process. Eventually, whether you like it or not, this is not only a decision of the professionals, but of the public as represented by the board.

Posted by Mandy Lowell
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2009 at 11:45 am

To claim that the community members have insufficient knowledge to object to a particular math book depends on the nature of the objections. Everyday Math, and the Investigations series that is also sought, lie at the far end of a spectrum of math materials, which naturally generates questions as to why they rose to the top of the district list. No one questions the teachers’ diligence or devotion to our students’ interest. Parents instead want to know if core aspects of Everyday Math, which are heavily criticized by math professors, were ever considered by the committee, or if the committee disagreed with the criticisms.
Take one example—use of standard algorithms. Both the National Math Panel and the California Math Framework call for students to learn those. Everyday Math is not alone in teaching multiple ways to solve problems, the mainstream texts recommend and do that; but Everyday Math is distinct from mainstream texts in never even having a lesson on the standard operation algorithms, instead declaring that students should use whichever they prefer. For example, Everyday Math states that the standard algorithm for addition is “more efficient but harder to learn than some of the others.” (Teacher’s Manual page 122.) On the other hand, mathematicians have explained the advantages through which this algorithm became “standard.” It is reasonable to ask about whether there was discussion of the benefits mathematicians and the National Math panel and the California Math Framework see in the standard algorithms, and whether our teachers indeed found them harder for our students to learn.
Moreover, discussing the standard algorithm along with many other ways to mentally compute the sum is not to enable students to select a preferred method, but rather to reveal “the concept underlying the procedure” by “comparing and contrasting the various ways.” (Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics, pages 14-5.) The concern is not so much about the details of which algorithm to use, but about comprehensive learning in math, and the nagging question of why Everyday Math shuns the standard algorithms, when it has plenty of time and chapters for the lattice method.
Finally, community members, especially people who work with math or parents who have taken calculus, are fully capable of discussing the goals of a math program. One school of thought among education administrators advocates that because fewer than 1 in 5 students ever take calculus, attention should not be on what lays a foundation for calculus, but what prepares the majority of students for “upper high school math.” Advocates debate what is the best preparation for “higher order mathematical thinking,” but leaving that aside, what is the math level for which Everyday Math is configured to prepare students? Community members in PAUSD are certainly entitled to know whether the proposed program has been evaluated as to whether it will, or even intends to, prepare students for calculus, which a majority of our students do eventually take. Everyday Math is geared to the notion that complex calculations are most likely to be done with calculators, so heavy emphasis should be on various ways to determine whether the calculator result is reasonable, that a wrong key was not hit. However practical that is, it may not lay the best foundation for the upper level math that PAUSD students will take.

Posted by Outdated criteria?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Interesting point about whether the Palo Alto math textbook selection committee took the National Math Panel's recommendations into consideration.

Looks like not.

The Committee's Adoption Criteria check list, compiled 6 months after the National Math Panel's report was published, does not include many of the Panel's recommendations. It mentions that textbooks have to meet the district's standards, but those standards were last updated in 2006 so don't reflect the National Math Panel's work.

Maybe TOSA's thought the state did this job for them by only approving books that the National Math Panel would have been happy with, but those dates don't mesh either. California came up with its approved text book list almost a year before the Panel's report was published.

Others have posted the link to the Panel's work but it is important enough to post again.

Web Link

This Federal Government sponsored panel undertook an unprecedented endeavor, intended to provide guidance to school districts in situations just like the one we are going through right now. It took the Panel two years to complete its work reviewing all the studies, gathering testimony from experts, and getting public input at sessions across America. On its panel were 24 of the US' most well respected math experts.

Posted by ELL issues?????
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2009 at 12:46 pm

I've just read this article, and all I can say is OH PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! don't say you are rejecting Singapore Math because of English Language Learner issues.

1) There is a pittance of ELLs in this district, if you were a business and you were looking at your market, why in the world would you decide on something based on less than 10% of your population? Devise OTHER ways to deal with the ELL issue, not by selecting a district wide program, to cater to the smallest fraction of your customers!

2) ELL's and their parents will likely understand universal Math, not funky approaches - whether Chinese or Hispanic, or whatever. How are they supposed to help them with homework if the system is so nouveau?

3) Why is Everyday Math particularly better for ELLs? Are there no word problems in it? Is it in different languages so teachers can translate to their ELLs? Is the English different than the English in Singapore Math?

The ELL issue needs to get out of this equation, and dealt with separately and more appropriately.

Posted by ELL issues?????
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2009 at 1:02 pm

PS I am referring to the front page article in today's Palo Alto Daily News - Parents frustrated over Math texts

Posted by Mandy Lowell
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2009 at 1:05 pm

What shocks me is that "weak on problem solving and mathematical reasoning" was a reason given by a district curriculum person for Singapore Math not being within the top 4 programs. "Singapore Math is weak on problem solving and mathematical reasoning," was one of the disadvantages.

Wow. I have never heard that about Singapore before. Problem solving and reasoning, along with good visual modeling and deep conceptual learning as well as robust computation have usually been considered its strengths.

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Mandy, they had to give the audience some excuse for not piloting Singapore Math. They sure did a good job of shushing the audience so the board members could not hear all the feedback on the program. They kept claiming "trust us". Well, we did, and they have chosen a program doomed to fail.

EDM would not only hurt the students but also hurt the PAUSD elementary school teachers who will have to take a lot of heat from parents if the program were adopted. The teachers cannot argue against the teachers on the adoption committee due to political factors.

A review of past minutes on the PAUSD website shows that 4th and 5th grade teachers on the adoption committee were not convinced that EDM adequately prepares the children for middle school math.

Posted by Mani Varadarajan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Re: Singapore Math and problem solving

I have used Singapore Math for over two and a half years with my child. I was also astonished when the criticism of Singapore Math expressed by the Committee was (a) weak on problem solving, (b) appealed to the middle, neither gifted, nor deficient students, and (c) too much rote learning, and (d) boring to students (!!) [apparently observed at Keys School one day].

This demonstrates a high degree of ignorance about the Singapore Math curriculum. Anyone who has seriously used the books knows that it is *weak* in rote drills, and teachers are strongly advised to supplement with outside drilling. Rather, the curriculum is geared towards teaching *concepts*, from concrete to abstract -- visual representations, analogies to everyday objects, etc., to semi-concrete, finally to abstract word problems. The student masters (if sufficient drills are given) based on concrete teaching methods, and then gradually moves to word problems. I have seen this work extremely successfully with several children, including my daughter, but, as always, it requires strong instructor involvement.

I also noticed a huge increase in enthusiasm once I started using the textbooks and workbooks, so the boredom point escapes me. Anecdotally, any class can get bored with any textbook, so I don't really know what that means. Not everything can be fun all the time.

The last point is that gifted students and deficient students always require extra teacher involvement. Singapore Math suggests using extra challenging problems worksheets/exercises/projects for kids who are up to it, for example. And the method they use is extremely systematic, so if anything it is highly beneficial for deficient students.

I would like to know what the real reasons were for the Committee's decision.

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Warning: Long post.

Yesterday superintendent Skelly asked for a straw poll about the math textbooks, which eventually never took place. Today I want to provide Mr. Skelly with what would have been my vote on that poll and, because the medium allows it, with some of my key reasons for it.

A fist: Everyday Mathematics. (EDM)

Why? The program has three major issues.

(a) It spirals, never teaching to mastery. It does not provide sufficient practice, and it assumes mastery will mostly happen through osmosis. The belief in spiraling forces EDM to have a fractured and incoherent flow of topics day by day and week by week. The National Math Panel clearly said that this doesn’t work, and recommended a “focused, coherent progression of mathematic learning, with an emphasis on proficiency on key topics” and that “[a]ny approach that continually revisits topics year after year without closure is to be avoided.” Everyday Mathematics is anything but.

(b) It avoids teaching standard algorithms. The California version is essentially identical to the national version, with few additional pages slapped on in student reference book, to satisfy Calif. demand for teaching standard algorithms. The teacher edition focuses exclusively on EDMs idiosyncratic algorithms, never addressing the standard algorithms except through a sidebar “balloon” mentioning only that they exist, and that “Some students may prefer to use this method [standard algorithms].” Teaching the four arithmetic operations is a major topic in elementary mathematics, and EDM will need major supplementation if selected.

(c) It has no real student textbook that can be used to help students and parents at home. What is has is a disjoint collection of topics, which the publisher himself calls a “Student Reference” rather than a textbook. It may help with extra practice, but it doesn’t really help a parent to understand what is going on in the classroom, what has been taught last week, or what will be taught next. The need for a textbook that allows parents to help their children came up strongly in yesterday’s meeting.

Two fingers: envision Math (EVM)

Why? The program is quite decent, but it is not great. It has an OK mathematical progression, even if not too cohesive, and it has a much better practice. The major reason it gets at least two fingers is because it represents what we already have and perfected over the last 6-7 years. So we know we can handle it without major disasters, even if our mathematics achievement in elementary schools could be much better, particularly for children from challenging background.

Five fingers: Singapore Mathematics (SGM)

Why? It is unquestionably mathematically the strongest and the most cohesive program, with effectiveness proven in variety of situations: rich schools and districts, private schools, demographically diverse schools and districts, and even home schools. It is praised by traditionalists and reformers alike, and both sides agree that it develops skills as well as exceedingly strong conceptual understanding and problems solving.

If this is the case, it may help to consider why SGM was not considered as one of the top contenders in Palo Alto. From my discussions I believe the concerns turned around (a) “only one style of teaching,” lack of opportunities for differentiation, and lack of support for English Language Learners (ELLs), and (b) requires stronger math preparation of elementary teachers.

(a) SGM is a program that works well for a broad spectrum of abilities in the classroom. With SGM the teacher typically does not need to worry about bright kids being bored, or about weak kids being left behind. Consequently, it does not need the abundance of tips and suggestions that average US textbook offers to teachers to deal with “struggling kids”, “kinesthetic learners” or “high achievers.” Most of those tips are generic and worthless in any case, but many teachers came to expect them and interpret their absence (incorrectly) as lack of differentiation, or lack of support. Similarly, lack of SGM support for ELLs is sometimes cited, but SGM is much less language-based and more mathematics based, and it does not need special “ELL interventions.” I happened to follow piloting of SGM in two schools in DC over the last two years. One was a majority Hispanic minority black school, the other was a Spanish immersion school, and the issue never rose. On the contrary, the teachers were complimentary about how accessible the program was for kids with limited language skills.

(b) SGM is made up of longer topical units than is customary with typical US textbook. In SGM the topics are bundled into cohesive units that take few days to few weeks to teach. This promotes focus and cohesion as recommended by the National Math Panel, and is in stark contrast to other textbooks that jump from topic to topic. However, this is often misinterpreted by many teachers that are used to the jumpy style as “boring” and “one way of teaching.”
SGM does require stronger mathematics understanding from teachers. With SGM the focus is on mathematics, and teachers are expected to prepare much more of the lesson plans than they are with regular textbooks. This turns off some teachers that expect predigested plans for every day. What they often miss is that preparing the lesson plans causes teachers to understand in-depth the material they are teaching, and become ready for any question they may face in the class. This does not happen when the lesson plans are predigested. I also don’t think this concern should apply to Palo Alto anyway, as we always have been proud that we hire above average teachers. If teachers in Los Angeles or D.C. can handle this knowledge, surely our teachers can too.

In summary, I think that the committee may have been turned off by the unfamiliar look of the Singapore program. I believe that if we were to seriously pilot it for few months—ideally at one elementary school for a full year—we would all become convinced of its advantages, and the math issue would finally be gone from Palo Alto.

Turns out that we do not have to adopt this year—because of the budget crunch, the state just allowed anyone to extend the adoption for another two years. So now we have a chance to adopt the best program around that is praised by all sides of the issue, and save ourselves a chunk of money in the process by delaying the adoption for two years. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Posted by question
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Is the BOE forced to accept Everyday or Envisions?

Why can't they choose to have Singapore Math piloted?

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2009 at 2:10 pm

BoE can adopt any program approved for California. This includes enVision, Everyday math, Singapore math, as well as handful of other programs.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Interesting thread. A committee of teachers has its own plusses and minuses - educators are an insular group, and can get carried away with their own BS (e.g., new math, self-esteem, etc.), just like any other group. Since parents are ultimately the consumers of what educators offer, it is good and right for parents to get involved and have their say.

This is a good issue to see how "Super Skelly" handles. He has a talent for cutting through the BS while still working within the framework of his profession. He certainly understands that teachers, while important, are not the final authority on how children should be educated. I would not be surprised if he finds an artful compromise on this one...

Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2009 at 6:49 pm

And Skelly should also find out who were the rude and disrespectful members of the Committee who were running small groups, and get them the heck out of the way because no one, however marvelous a teacher or administrator, should feel free to be overtly rude and dismissive to parents who are taking their own time to come and attempt to understand the situation and collaborate by giving input. There should be penalties and consequences for such behavior (like maybe getting kicked off the Commitee). There should be no place in Palo Alto for this type of behavior from PAUSD staff, but unfortunately it goes on all the time.

Posted by Palo Alto parent
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 12, 2009 at 6:56 pm

The math lesson I came away with from last night's discussion was, simply put, the least common denominator. The selection committee, who clearly put a lot of work into their selection, seems to have prioriized teaching to the lowest performing students in the district. Put another way, the different criteria used to select the book, did not seem to be equally weighted, but was skewed toward finding a book that supports students struggling with math whether because of language or other challenges.
What about the other 80% of the student body? What about advanced learners? Why not get a more traditional book that offers supplemental and varied lessons for students struggling to understand curriculum. Let's not let PAUSD follow the CA education path: first to worst.

Posted by Mandy Lowell
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 12, 2009 at 7:05 pm

We can probably all agree that it is unacceptable for anyone to be rude to anyone, whether staff to parent or parent to teachers.
I have been dismayed at the comments that some (a small minority) of parents make to teachers, who often cannot defend themselves. Rude and disrespectful behavior is not the norm in PAUSD, and we should all do our part to make sure it does not become so. In general, our population can disagree without being disagreeable.

Posted by BP Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2009 at 8:57 pm

to Ze'ev Wurman - you have done a wonderful analysis and provided a good fist/five fort the 3 programs. I suggest you please email this to the board and particularly Skelly. There is so much good feedback/views on this discussion and I hope the "comittee" sees this in their email. Unfortunately yesterday's meeting format did not allow for parents to provide such feedback.

Posted by concerned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2009 at 9:52 pm

Yesterday's meeting was a standard issue PAUSD adminstrative meeting. One way to get around the lack of opportunity for open comment is to write to Skelly, Davis and the school board. Town Square is another good way to exchange ideas. Go to your School Site Council and ask lots of questions during the Open Forum. There are similar opportunities at some School Board meetings. We need to keep watching because the math and reading steering committees will continue to choose programs which benefit and protect teachers and are not as effective for the children. I don't think it is possible to be promoted to TOSA in PAUSD if you believe in structured or even balanced math and reading programs.

Posted by concerned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2009 at 9:58 pm

By the way, EDM is not necessarily recommended for low performing students because it does not have enough structure. I don't see how it could be better for ELL students either. A language based math program brings lots of reading and writing into the math. For kids who are behind in English, a program which relies on the language of mathematics, a universal language, might be even better.

Posted by Palo Alto Mom
a resident of Duveneck School
on Mar 12, 2009 at 10:26 pm

I'm curious as to whether SRA's Real Math could have a place in this discussion. It was the number one choice of the teachers, has strong press and seems to use standard algorithms. Does anyone have a positive or negative experience with SRA's Real Math or have research that does or does not support it. I am told that it is very strong.

Posted by EDM data
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2009 at 8:11 am

There isn't much data on EDM in California because up to a year or so ago the book couldn't get past the State review board. Almost all the districts on the "adopter" list the district handed out at Wednesday's meeting haven't had it long enough to know if it works.

But some California school districts did bring it in despite it not having had the state's blessings. One is Glendale, a district EDM lauds as one of its "successes," that adopted EDM in 1998. The 3rd grade cohort EDM featured did not have improved STAR scores by 6th grade, though. And in the 10 years Glendale has used EDM, 6th grade scores showed no notable improvement overall and declined for African Americans and Latinos/Hispanics.

There is lots out there on EDM in the rest of the country, from:

- states that have rejected it (Texas) and school districts that tried it but since abandoned it (recently Pittsburg Public Schools, another EDM success that pulled out after 10 years of trying, and Bridgewater-Raritan in New Jersey which published a very comprehensive report about why it switched),

Web Link


- news stories about thriving private math tutoring businesses in communities that use it,


- districts that not only have to train teachers how to use it but must run parent training sessions to show parents how to help their children with it at home.

You can find them all with a quick google search.

Most notable is the federal government review of all 60+ studies that arguably say EDM supports student learning. It found almost all those studies were not sound with the exception of less than a handful. One study that had some rigor showed EDM didn't work and another said it did. The report's conclusion: the verdict is still out on whether EDM works but, even if it does, student improvement under it would be nominal. Web Link

Lest you think Palo Alto parents are the only opinionated ones, they are not. School districts across the US are having the same heated discussions about math committee selected books. Not in communities that selected Singapore Math or other middle of the road texts, but in communities that selected Palo Alto's two finalists -- Everyday Math and Investigations...from Seattle, Beaverton, OR, Palos Verdes, Piedmont on the West Coast to Newton, MA, Fairfax County, VA, Montgomery County, MD, PA, NJ and NC on the other side and Utah, Missouri and Ohio in between, just to name a few recent ones.

Posted by Mani Varadarajan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2009 at 10:29 am

Re: SRA Real Math

The Committee said that SRA did not want to market Real Math this year in California due to budget cuts. They (the Committee) felt that they could not get support from the publisher.

I'm new to all this, but I don't see why once a textbook gets published and purchased we would need support. It's not computer software.

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 13, 2009 at 10:50 am

Mani is essentially correct about SRA in terms of later support. Initially we need the publisher to sell us the books, and possibly assist with professional development. Later on, we do not need the publisher anymore, except for selling us reusable student material, and replacements due to wear and tear. Since all publishers of books that were adopted for California committed before the adoption to support their material for the duration of the adoption (7 years), this would not really be an issue.

However, if a publisher is not interested in pushing his materials, he will not make an effort to give us a good financial deal up front, or support us with pre-sales activity. This may be what has happened here.

Posted by Mom - elem kids
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2009 at 1:45 pm

it is interesting to note that some of the well regarded private schools in the neighborhood with strong math focus use Singapore Math (Keys) or Saxon math (Challenger). They don't experiment with EDM - I still don't understand why we don't have one of these program on the short list. BTW calculators in elementary school is happening even now. I was shocked to hear my 3rd grader is allowed to use one for tests and quizes!

Does nay one have any experince with Saxon math?

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Stratford also uses Saxon math. I've heard really positive feedback about Saxon.

The elementaries currently use Investigations, which is only one step above EDM.

Posted by Mom - elem kids
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Ze'ev - I came across a website HOLD from a long time back when PAUSD had similar debate and parents were not happy (I beleive in '97)? You probably have some experience from that time math wars. Any advise on how to work with the district so that parents comments are heard and we find a productive wayt to work with the district and hopefully find a solution?

Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Mom, If you came across the websites and articles from the last round of math wars then you know that Cathy Howard, currently the principal of Barron Park, was the 25 Churchill admin staff member leading that charge. That's right, the woman who brought us Investigations, the one who insisted that she was not required to use anything BUT Investigations at Barron Park, is on the current committee. No surprise, then, that we are seeing a big push for the same sort of fuzzy math dreck that she inflicted on the district children last go around. But pointing out what should be intitutional knowledge is like whistling in the wind.

Re: Saxon math -- it's very popular with homeschooling parents which means that -- gasp --they can actually follow the incredibly clear teaching and help their kids. Lots of info out there about the program, but here are two links to start you off:

Web Link

(The info from publishers)

Web Link

A comparative analysis done in Illinois that showed a rapid and dramati rise in test scores when they switched from .... EDM (shocker) to Saxon.

Is it perfect? No. Will it do what we need and educate the vast mahjority of PAUSD kids with a decrease in required parental involvement and outside tutoring, likely yes.

Really, I'm so glad the Board and Skelly were there to witness the lunacy on Wednesday. Also I really hope they will put this off for a year and revisit the selection, considering seriously the programs that are shown to work and asking tough questions of the committee members who said Singapore wasn't good enough at teaching the basics and trumpted the alleged virtures of EDM and TERC. I mean, let's at least require some rational answers. I feel like Professor Hill is in town selling us EDM.

Could we puhleeeeeze stop experimenting with our kids? Each year's class is just another statistical cohort to the schools, but it is each child's one life and one education.

Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2009 at 4:05 pm

For those woh are wondering about the process the last time around, here are some links to articles about the final decision, as well as an article about the joys of TERC.

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 13, 2009 at 6:58 pm

The best way to assure that your opinion counts is to email the school board members, and the superintendent. From my experience with public officials, both in Palo Alto and elsewhere:

- Don't make your email too long. Try to be focused and concise.
- Make your point as specific as you can, and explain why it is important for YOUR child; try not to presume how it will affect others.
- Don't write about other problems with the district that are not germane to this issue.
- Be complimentary when you can. Be rational and polite when you cannot.
- Write individually to each person, rather than emailing many people together. Email is cheap.

Email, call, and email again. The board is representing you vis-a-vis the school district and not the other way around. Board members know it. At the same time, you are not the only one they need to think about.

If you still feel you are not listened to, come to the school board meeting when the issue is discussed. Numbers count, and don't assume other people will be there for you.

If all this fails...nah, it won't.

Posted by Experienced Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 14, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Maybe there should be a poll of all the kids in the highest lane math at Gunn and Paly, ..say taking any AP math class by Junior year, ..and see how many of those kids went to our PAUSD throughout elementary/middle school.

In other words, if most of the kids in the Math APs in Junior year went to private elementary/middle school, or even went to our schools but had after school and summer math tutoring, maybe there is a clue that we are not serving our kids well.

But if most of the kids in the AP Math Junior year are "native" PAUSD kids (without math tutoring all year), then we are doing fine.

Check results, and see what is actually happening. The way I see it, we do a lot of conjecture, but not much outcome measures.

Posted by Eyes Rolling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2009 at 9:03 pm

This was posted on other thread and it is worth noting:

"As I have said elsewhere, from all the math textbook series adopted for California, only the Singapore mathematics present a cohesive, focused, and complete mathematics program. It has been characterized by all that had real experience with it as one that fosters deep understanding of mathematics by both teachers and students. This is also consistent with my own experience observing its piloting in two schools in Washington, D.C., over the last couple of years. It has been successfully used by both high achieving schools like the NEST+m public New York City school for gifted and talented, as well as for challenged schools like Ramona Elementary in Los Angeles Unified, with its 80% Latino students and its more than 90% families participating in free and reduced-price lunch program."

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman

Posted by Experienced Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2009 at 6:58 am

I actually agree, Eyes, which is why I think we should check who is successfully completing the AP math classes and what they had in math training in elementary/middle school. I suspect we will find a high correlation with Singapore Math or a similar structured program

Posted by Mandy Lowell
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2009 at 4:28 pm

ust got home from the committee meeting.
The most striking feature of which was how “disrespected” the teachers felt by comments on this blog. I cannot overstate this. I felt terrible. Just after lunch, the superintendent spoke briefly to say that he understands that most of the committee would prefer Everyday Math, but for a variety of reasons including thecommunity reaction, he would lean toward picking the EnVisions/Investigations suggestion. Just to give you and impression, which it is hard for me to convey the strength of, here are some near quotes—and there was applause seconding these-- “I feel disheartened” “I feel very bad” “After we have worked hard, devoted many hours to this, to finding what is best for students, now the decision is going to be made around politics” “Consider the years of accumulated experience in this room” “To make this decision other than on what the committee recommends would be to dishonor the work of this committee.” “I am very dedicated to the power of teaching math in this way.” “How could parents believe that a committee composed of 30 teachers would pick a program that would be harmful to children’s math education.” “This is very discouraging.” This decision should not be taken away from the committee.” Over and over again, committee members reiterated how disrespected they felt. “Palo Alto is supposed to be a district where we can do bold things.” “Everyday Math is the exciting option.” “When my child’s doctor looks in my child’s ear and says that there is no infection, I do not question his judgment; I do not say that I know better. I trust the doctor.” Teachers’ noted that they had agreed to abide by a consensus, and at their sites, the other teachers trusted the committee and would go with whichever book was picked. These teachers are passionate, committed, and dedicated to the best interests of students.
Then the ultimate vote, on a secret written ballot, was 32 to 6 for Everyday Math in first place. You could place a second vote if you were supportive of either, and that garnered 12 votes for the ENV choice, which means that 2/3 of the teachers really strongly supported Everyday Math. Many teachers commented that over the past few years as part of the Math Network they had gotten excited about this type of math teaching--- To stay with what they were doing, or to use EnVisions/Investigations, would neglect all that good work. It is much easier to be enthusiastic about Everyday Math. A new teacher commented about how well Everyday Math flowed with what had been taught in the district’s new teacher training about how to teach math.
Some teacher’s noted that not all parents disapprove. “All the parents who did not show up at that meeting are the ones who did trust the committee.” If teachers get a chance to explain the program, then parents are quite accepting. “1-5% always think that they know better.”
They also validly pointed out that who would want to serve on committee’s if their hard work went for naught. In future adoptions, such as the upcoming Language Arts, the district should not be encouraging naysayers to come out and upset the process.
Before all this, the committee in subgroups did look through the materials to answer the questions posed in the agenda, and again gave thoughtful summaries. That will be on in the notes. I just wanted to report on the disheartened message that the committee received in hearing that Everyday Math might not be recommended due to community reaction. There was also some discussion of using one set of materials for K-3, and another for 4-5 (due to most of the concerns about EDM being at 4-5), but that was not supported
Whatever one thinks of the conclusion, one cannot doubt the professionalism, commitment, and passion of these teachers, or their hard work on this issue.

Posted by Mandy Lowell
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Other comments made during the meeting (my notes are not in any way complete or entirely accurate because I was listening and digesting but this gives you an idea)
On Singapore Math— Many times it shows only one way to do a problem; lot of instruction to the entire class; lots of multiple choice; not sufficient space for students to explain their thinking; the manual says that it spirals but not clearly see how done during their review. “It does not provide for the type of sophisticated instruction and inquiry that we want from our students.”
On SRA- SRA did not want to do Palo Alto. Yes, if the district called the regional office or the CEO, they would send someone, but not really a good way. It would be very bad for products to not show up until Oct or Nov, so it is important to get this decided now and to have support from Publisher.
(From other parent comments, it appears that SRA and Everyday Math are offered by the same publisher, so perhaps they did not want options competing against one another. On pricing, the publishers apparently agree with the State that they will not offer different prices to different districts—they agree to a price with the entire State and to hold that (perhaps with some cpi increase) for the seven years of the adoption— but some companies do offer sets of one material if the district buys another, which is what EnVision is doing with Investigations, but I have not heard the prices.)
On Envisions/Investigations—some teachers commented on the difficulty of using two programs, it would be better to have a single program. That was a big hit on the EnV selection. One parent commented that in her class, the teacher with 23 years of experience just used the text California Mathematics, not Investigations at all. Thus if EnVsions were to be picked, then kids might not get the rich sort of math. Other teachers noted that a goal of the process was to try to get the district on one page, which using two programs would not do.
One parent suggested that the district collect information on the number of students receiving outside tutoring or supplementation at home. If the Professional Development and implementation were successful, there should be a decrease in the supplementation. He noted that it would be useful data to collect.

Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 16, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Thank you for the report back! It pains me to see the teachers hurting like that. We trust them to teach our children but for some it's never good enough.

This comment is so true: “All the parents who did not show up at that meeting are the ones who did trust the committee.” It is a common theme in all decisions made in the district as I know you are aware. It's rare to ever have anyone say anything positive here.

Mandy - is there an option to purchase both EDM and a partial set of Singapore Math. I have not gotten heavily involved in this yet but it sounds very much like EDM will really work best to teach to all students, primarily those who are being left behind and who do not have help at home. Those parents who seem to have the biggest concern with EDM make it sound like it won't challenge their children enough but those are the children who do have access to supplemental learning at home. Is it possible to have a few sets of Singapore Math for those kids who really do need more of a challenge? I understand there is a budget but I'm sure there is a way to get creative here if people think that's a viable option. I'm merely asking your opinion as someone who knows the ins and outs of the district and the way the board can make decisions. Thanks!

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 16, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Mandy is right on target when she reports that many teachers spoke about feeling "disrespected" and "discouraged" as professionals by the community questioning their choices. At the same time I can't help but think of the irony that while trumping their professionalism, no teacher seemed to realize that they are being disrespectful of the parents' concerns about the education of their own children. Using the doctor analogy that one of the teachers used, it is as if your doctor told you that he would be insulted if you asked for a second opinion. Doesn't seem very professional to me.

Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 16, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Except that this is like getting involved at the 11th hour. No one pays attention when these things are brought up until it's almost too late and then they claim they never got a say.

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2009 at 5:25 pm


We didn't have a say. Why were only 3 parents selected for the committee to represent the entire district? Because it was not publicized enough. The district could have notified all elementary school parents via email but it didn't.

Moreover, all parents were not nofified that EM was being piloted. Had parents known beforehand that the committee was considering EM, there would have been an uproar then, before the commmittee put in all its hours of work.

The parents cannot be blamed; there was a huge lack of publicity and the committee purposely witheld communications so they could decide on their own without community input.

Posted by Let's Get It Right
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2009 at 7:28 pm

"Whatever one thinks of the conclusion, one cannot doubt the professionalism, commitment, and passion of these teachers, or their hard work on this issue."


However, let us, parents and teachers, set aside pride and wounded feelings, and stick to the issue: We need to adopt a textbook.

Several serious theoretical objections (spirals, no algorithms, etc.) have been raised about the leading contender text, EDM, and there seems to be a dearth of statistical evidence for its efficacy. The district has not provided information that would allow us to discount these objections.

Another program, Singapore Math, has been suggested by a variety of people, and the district's reasons for not pursuing this text seem oddly off the mark.

Let's back up and do this right. It's great that we have CA and district curriculum standards, but let's aim higher. Why not also adopt the recommendations of the National Math Panel, and see where that takes us?

This is not about politics. This is about adopting the right text.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2009 at 7:41 pm

It is too bad that the teachers feel disrespected and that the input is coming late in the process. But the problem isn't the parents, right? It is the PROCESS, which was set by the district (pre- or post- Skelly?). The process failed to get sufficient parent input and awareness early on, and instead asked parents to accept (rubber stamp?) the recommendation of a teacher-led committee - or risk "disrespecting" them. That's a bad process, with predictable rancor and recrimination. If Skelly devised it, or signed off on it, then it is uncharacteristic mis-step.

I do think the better approach is to start again, at or near the beginning, and with more parent involvement. The parents clearly want to be heard and directly involved; they will not just accept the recommendation of a teacher committee, especially where the recommendation goes against many of their beliefs/preconceptions of the right answer. Including the doubters is standard procedure for gaining buy-in as well as building credibility with the community.

So, Dr. Skelly, feeling bold? Admit the mistake, acknowledge the dissenters, educate the teachers on the importance of parent/community support, and run the process over. Kudos in advance for making the right move.

Posted by Mandy Lowell
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Reply to Erin's inquiry Could we purchase both Singapore and Everyday Math? Sure, one can purchase two programs. That, however, is not what the committee would recommend. One thing they did not like about the EnVisions INvestigations alternative was having two programs-- some teachers emphasized that it is easier to work with one. Right now, some teachers do not use one text, some do not use the other, which results in lack of consistency.

And it seems many of the committee member teachers are part of a Math Network in the district. For at least a year, they had been discussing in general how best to teach math, and coalesced on the type of approach taken in Everyday Math.

You mentioned kids who do not have support at home-- I think that there is a difference in views as to whether Everyday Math is best for those students. Not among the committee, which supports the EDM approach. I do not see this discussion as simply parents of math high-achievers saying that the program is not enhancing for them. To the contrary, there are a variety of concerns about the program, including lack of sufficent practice to reinforce skills for kids who are not doing extra at home. The teachers on the committee noted that no program is perfect.

On the general debate, here is a summary from Oregon-- not that I vouch for accuracy of this stuff, but it gives you an impression of the broader debate.

Web Link

Posted by Mandy Lowell
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2009 at 8:23 pm

Reply to Erin's inquiry Could we purchase both Singapore and Everyday Math? Sure, one can purchase two programs. That, however, is not what the committee would recommend. One thing they did not like about the EnVisions INvestigations alternative was having two programs-- some teachers emphasized that it is easier to work with one. Right now, some teachers do not use one text, some do not use the other, which results in lack of consistency.

And it seems many of the committee member teachers are part of a Math Network in the district. For at least a year, they had been discussing in general how best to teach math, and coalesced on the type of approach taken in Everyday Math.

You mentioned kids who do not have support at home-- I think that there is a difference in views as to whether Everyday Math is best for those students. Not among the committee, which supports the EDM approach. I do not see this discussion as simply parents of math high-achievers saying that the program is not enhancing for them. To the contrary, there are a variety of concerns about the program, including lack of sufficent practice to reinforce skills for kids who are not doing extra at home. The teachers on the committee noted that no program is perfect.

On the general debate, here is a summary from Oregon-- not that I vouch for accuracy of this stuff, but it gives you an impression of the broader debate.

Web Link

Posted by PointOfView
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2009 at 9:37 pm

I think edm is right based on the descriptions given and referred to here.

Spiraling is right because it allows more depth and broad connections with each topic. Furthermore, on any given day or week, a kid may not be ready for any number of reasons to "master' a topic. Once missed in these linear curricula, it appears there would be trouble catching up, or a delay of the whole class.

And if teachers feel they can teach to this plan, they will likely be successful at it. Studies show that teachers who believe they are using a good program generally succeed.

Posted by Let's Get It Right
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Thanks for the link, Mandy.

Nail on the head: "In many districts teachers simply do not follow the Everyday Math and similar programs as closely as the designers would have preferred. These teachers mix in traditional methods. They leave out or minimize troublesome features.... In short, they do their own thing."

This is exactly what would happen in our district. (Many) teachers would find a hole in the EDM text and fill it as they saw fit. This might or might not succeed, and would in any case lead to a hodgepodge across the district.

That being the case, we should be looking for a text that combines the best of the traditional and reformist approaches. Mathematicians on both sides of the divide say Singapore math teaches both basics and conceptual understanding.

In fact, the recommendations of the National Math Panel mirror Singapore math.

Posted by Experienced Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2009 at 6:43 am

Yes, Singapore Math and any of its "peers" usually teach one way, maybe two, to approach a problem. Yes there is little room for "explaining strategies". Yes, these programs DON'T spiral..on purpose.

There is a reason so many of the high end private schools and tutors use a regimented program such as Singapore Math. Math is learned and processsed in a different way from language based subjects. Except for the brightest, or the kids who are quite good in expressive language ( for example, elementary school girls), math that isn't taught in this way simply confuses them, and fails to mortar in the bricks needed for the foundation that LATER, around 7th or 8th grade, a kid can begin to build on for the language based expresssion of strategies, and the learning multiple paths to the same end, and the "connecting the dots" spiraling that are,indeed, critical to higher math. For example, about the time boys begin to develop their expressive language abilities and their "connecting the dots" abilities.

In the meantime, we have kids who are good at the numerical portion of math classes in elementary and 6th grade who are struggling because of the language-based requirements in homework and exams ( explain how you arrived at your conclusion? is different from "show your work mathematically"), not nailing down the basics of math basics, and developing an aversion to math since it is a constant struggle for non-high language skilled learners.

I suspect part of the problem is that we have highly skilled language based people ( teachers, volunteer moms ...sorry, not to be sexist, but women in general are much more verbal, and also do better as girls with these language based circular thinking math programs, PhDs in Education, Marketing, Attorneys etc)trying to make decisions based perhaps on what they wish they had had in school,or what makes sense to them, not based on statistical results, and not on what works for the future mathmeticians of the nation.

What is the goal of math teaching? Those who will not go past high school or past a year or so of math in college..need a strong basis in math for everyday functioning and good citizenry. So, making it to a solid micro-macro Economics class for example in high school would be a good outcome, and provide enough math for financial transactions, life planning, wise voting etc.

For those who catch on fire in math and want it to be an integral part of their careers, they need a great basis so that they can catch on fire before Junior year or so, so they can apply to the math based programs in Universities that can provide them the kind of math education they want.

In either case, circular, language based, strategic but non-"math fact" memorization, elementary school math programs do not serve either of these groups well, based on outcome measures, but if we really think our kids are different, why don't we find out?

Let's find out how many of our kids who successfully completed a Junior year Math AP had ONLY our elementary/middle school programs in math. If most of them did, then there is something about our programs that works. If most of them had tutors or went to a private school through 6th or 7th grade..well..that is good information to have.

As for "disrespected teachers"..I think that whoever is feeling "disrespected" is going to have to realize that this isn't about any teacher or group of teachers, and any sensitivities in that direction have to be re-directed toward what this is abouut.

This is about MATERIALS and consistency. This is about giving our kids the best tools possible to achieve their goals, and giving teachers the best tools possible to achieve their goal, which is presumably to give the kids the best tools possible to achieve THEIR goals.

This is about looking at outcome measures and applying logical thinking to a decision about which materials work best for the most kids.

This is about elementary school teachers, educated and perhaps even gifted in methods of education for the young person, listening to those who have become highly educated in math fields, such as engineers, mathmeticians, physicists, statisticians, physicians ( who aren't normally in the "math" group of professions, but who had to get through AT LEAST a year of college calculus to continue to med school, so I include them) and others who have gone much further than college algebra and know what our kids need to master in order to keep their choices open to them later in their lives.

We, as parents, have seen what happens with "laning" to the kids, and see how by 7th grade they are separated out, rightly so in my opinion, into the "higher" lane and the "lower lane" the basics for math must be acquired before 7th grade to keep our kids' doors open.

Obviously it isn't the end of the world to be in a "lower lane" math option, and obviously a kid could still conceivably catch on fire and "catch up" by Junior year so that his post-high school options open again, but it certainly makes it more difficult for a kid in the lower lane to end up becoming an astrophysicist if that is what he would have really been happy doing.

So please, don't get caught up in the defensive, turf-ishness of this stuff, keep focus on what we ALL want, which is OUTCOMES.

Posted by EDM-not a good choice
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:14 am

New article on Palo Alto Online...
"Teacher committee recommends new math text
Teachers passionate about 'Everyday Mathematics' despite parent complaints" Web Link

As parents who disagree with this you can still do something. Write emails to the board members or talk to them. Show them the facts/your specific concerns. Also, remember to NOT make this personal against the committee. I agree with many poster here - the committee had put in al lot of effort. WE may not agree with their choice but we have to let the board know and still be respectful of the work that has gone in.

In summary - please write to the board if you feel strongly on this issue. And educate other parents who care but may not have paid attention. The board member emails / phone numbers are at Web Link

Posted by Mom - elem kids
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2009 at 10:22 am

I am concerned that programs like Saxon were just dropped from the evaluation without any good reasons. If singapore math was not "right" the committee should have at the least piloted another more "traditional" program such as Saxon, SRA...

This is a SAD day for Palo Alto kids - just imagine the amount of money and time parents will spend at home turoing (money that can be spent in other ways/donated to PiE)

PLEASE - all let's do something, let's talk to the board. I will send my emails to board members today!

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 17, 2009 at 12:00 pm

When I attended yesterday the last full day of the adoption committee deliberations, I was struck by the limited knowledge that teachers have of research findings. The agenda actually suggested reading the Executive Summary of the National Math Panel report—handed out at the meeting—and considering its implications for the committee’s work. The NMP’s first recommendation speaks directly against spiraling, yet when the grade-level groups reported out at least two of them praised Everyday Mathematics for … its spiraling. Some went on to discuss the strength of the Everyday Mathematics, based on “new brain research findings” that they heard about at a recent professional conference. Finally, the needs of “different learners” was also thrown into the mix, and justified by the “multiple intelligences” theory of Howard Gardner.

I was confused. Surely the teachers know what the math panel said about spiraling after long and careful study of all existing empirical research. Surely they know that even Howard Gardner himself does not argue that his “multiple intelligences” theory—even if true—has any direct impact on how teachers should deliver their instruction. Surely they know that brain research and brain scans, as fascinating and helpful as they are to cognitive scientists, have as yet no implications on how children learn in the classroom. Those misconceptions have been explained and debunked in many places over the years, not least of them the pages of The American Educator, the official research magazine of the American Federation of Teachers.

Later in the day I tried to discuss this with one of the principals on the committee, and it became clear that in her mind it was simply my *opinion* against her *opinion*. When I stressed that this is what the leading cognitive psychologists in the world say, she countered that there also was a cognitive psychologist at her professional education conference that discussed “recent brain research findings.” In other words, it became “my researcher” versus “her researcher.” I dropped the subject. I realize that if this is how the leaders think—and recalling that at a previous meeting the committee leadership distributed a page that included in their description of mathematically strong students idiocies such as “Understanding [that] mathematics is a language”, which is something akin to saying that a good doctor is one who understands that medicine is the art of writing prescriptions—attitudes of people in the trenches become much more understandable.

I have no doubts that our teachers are dedicated and have the best interests of our children in their hearts. Yet, intellectually, education as a profession still seems to be where medicine was hundred or more years ago: somewhere between practicing mesmerism and dispensing patent medicine.

Interestingly enough, this is also an explanation for the raise of charter schools and alternative teacher certification. If a profession is not evidence-based, there is no reason to erect obstacles to entry for the "non-professionals."

Note: Those who want to gain an easy insight into summaries of research findings on the spiral issue may visit the National Math Panel report site: Web Link and read about recommendation #1 in the final report. For insights on (mis)application of brain research and multiple intelligences in the classroom, visit the American Federation of Teachers journal at Web Link and read the “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” section, or watch couple of u-tube clips here: Web Link and here: Web Link

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2009 at 1:47 pm

The idea that this is being pitched as "support the teachers" or not is real demagoguery - that's just not right. Teachers have something to contribute, but they are not final authority - as Ze'ev's post points out. Parents have a right and obligation to review the committee's recommendation and speak up if they disagree. This was easily anticipated, and the district should have run a better process.

I hope Skelly does the right thing and does at least some remedial work to include dissenters in the process, to get a result that all (or at least most) can stand behind.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 17, 2009 at 2:20 pm


What is your experience as an educator and a mathematician?

I respect your approach to this issue and the research you've done, but what are you bringing to the table here that your opinion should outweigh those of a very large majority of a large textbook committee?

Singapore math requires a lot of teaching because the materials are deliberately sparse in what's presented. This works in Singapore, in part, because education in Singapore is very top-down.

Having looked at some Singapore texts, it doesn't scream out better-for-gifted. But if someone wants to explain why it would be better, I'm listening.

A lot of this dialogue has been about how EDM doesn't measure up. What I'm not hearing is a good analysis pro and con of the competing programs. It's easy to make one program sound more flawed if it's the only one being truly scrutinized.

Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2009 at 2:39 pm

"What I'm not hearing is a good analysis pro and con of the competing programs. It's easy to make one program sound more flawed if it's the only one being truly scrutinized"

OP, that is in fact Ze'ev's point. How did the Committee first decide to narrow the choices to EDM and EnVision, and on what did they base that decision? How did the copious analyses of National Math Panel and the American Federation of Teachers journal and other reputable sources come into that decision? Did they? If not, why?

It's interesting that we live in an area with a lot of engineers and scientists etc. whose whol work requires them to state a hypothesis, prove or disprove it, and back up their conclusions with data including rebutting negative results. This is not a radical thing to suggest the committee should do the same. Let's have a clear, factual and data-driven analysis.

If the committee based its conclusions and choices on such an analysis, why the defensiveness about "your opinion vs. my opinion" then? It shouldn't be an opinion at all, frankly, at this stage, other than the data-supported conclusion that one meets the needs the most closely of all the others.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2009 at 2:56 pm

When the Economist studied the worlds best schools they found that Finland had the best.

They then asked the Finns how they did it.

Simple they replied, we fired the administrators and put the teachers in charge.

In a similar theme the once US secretary of education, Rod Paige,

stated, accurately, that "the teachers union is a terrorist organization"

Posted by Let's Get It Right
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2009 at 3:04 pm

"It shouldn't be an opinion at all"

Correct. Let's not personalize this. It's not about whether we should agree with Ze'ev's opinion or the committee's opinion.

We have some facts (some provided by Ze'ev) that argue against EDM (and for Singapore Math), and it is irrelevant who put these facts in front of us.

Let's look at the research. If we do, we have to ask: WHY are we headed in the exact opposite direction from what the National Math Panel recommended??

Posted by Experienced Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Well said, above.

I particularly like the "evidence based" comment by ..Zev, I think it as. That is what this is. This is about choosing a program that results in the most kids being able to hit the "high lane", if you wish to use that as a measurement tool, of math..or the most kids getting "above Basic" on the Math portion of the State exams throughout elementary school, or..well, you get the idea.

Let's not experiment on our kids based on feelings and attitudes toward whatever one speaker said at a conference, or an article in one journal or another. Let's use sound logic, analysis, other words, a mathematical approach to choosing our materials in order to give the teachers the best tools possible to teach from.

By the way, I have been thinking about the "different learners" comment. One thing all learners, "different" or not, have in common is the need for clear expectations, clear directions, and structure. The highest level learners in many ways are the ones who will do the best regardless of the materials we select. The "different learners" or average kids are in many ways are the ones who would be best served by having a clear, concise, sequential, building block ( not spiral) approach to learning math in the earlier years. Thinking about most of the math programs that exist for the special needs population, such as Touch Math, for example, they all hold in common an emphasis on learning one basic method of math before moving on to "concepts" and different strategies for achieving results. They avoid completely mixing a language ability with a math ability, in order to keep clear what the kid is learning and being tested on. There is no "explain 3 different strategies for breaking down the number 144 into factors", simply a method for achieving it so that a kid can learn at least one way well. What this does is allow the kid who can't learn any more than this to at least learn one "recipe", if you will, while other kids who are more capable of being multi-pronged can have expanded materials to help them stretch. But at least if gives ALL kids a firm foundation from which to start.

Posted by Attendee
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2009 at 3:27 pm

New thread: Teacher committee recommends new math: Web Link

Posted by Perla Ni
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 19, 2009 at 5:05 pm

Me and my husband went to see the Everyday Math textbook today so that we could make up our minds. It does indeed very frequently instruct kids to estimate or use a calculator instead of doing the actual math themselves. It almost completely ignores the traditional mulitiplication/long division method and puts a heavy emphasis on the partial products method, "lattice method" and even more weirdly the "Egyption method". Want to see for yourself? I've uploaded several pages from the Grade 3 and 4 textbook here:

Web Link

Posted by teacher mom
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2009 at 10:53 pm

There is a 4000 pound elephant in the room (just an estimate) that has been mostly ignored. It has been my experience, as a high school science teacher, that the vast majority of elementary teachers, even those in Palo Alto, have a very poor understanding of most mathematical concepts. Yet, they are the 'professionals' that were chosen to select this program . Most of them have not taken any math beyond one or two required courses. Quite a few of them are math phobic. Many of them had to take the mathematics portion of the CBEST (California Basic Education Skills Test) over and over again. The CBEST is a very easy test ---the most advanced problems are at the Algebra One level. I am not at all surprised that they like this program- its post modern, and rich in Ed School lingo. No real knowledge of mathematics is required.

Posted by EDM-not a good choice
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 30, 2009 at 10:55 pm

A few Palo Alto residents have started a petition to present to the PAUSD superintendent and school board members regarding the Math Textbook Adoption. Here is the online petition to express your views on this subject:
Web Link

Your name can be kept anonymous online if you wish but will be turned in to the school district when the petition closes (on April 11).

I like the idea of this petition because it is very respectful of the time and efforts put in by the committee but also points out that more textbooks should be piloted and decision should be revisited.

If you are concerned about the Every Day Math Textbooks, PLEASE do the following –
1. Sign the petition AND

2. Send emails to Board members before they vote on this issue stating your concerns about Every Day Math. The board members are: Melissa Baten Caswell, Barbara Klausner, Barb Mitchell, Dana Tom and Camille Townsend (cc Sup. Skelly). Their emails are - ,,,,,

Posted by Math Matters
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 3, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Thank you to Perla Ni for sharing the Egyptian Multiplication Algorithm from Everyday Mathematics. I am repeating the link below for your convenience, pages 2 and 3.

Web Link

There is nothing wrong with teaching kids alternative algorithms as long as the standard algorithm is mastered and all the basics covered. And of course, it has to be done well. Let's take a look at EDM's Egyptian Multiplication, Lesson 9-12 in 3rd grade.

If you look at the method carefully, you will see that it depends on representing one of the two factors as the sum of powers of 2. In this example of 13x28, 13 is represented as a sum of 8,4 and 1. It is an important concept in mathematics that any integer can be represented as a sum of powers of 2, or in binary form, or in Base 2. Our entire computer industry is based on this; it took humans thousands of years to develop this level of understanding. This relates to such important concepts in elementary curriculum as place value. I wonder whether it is appropriate to introduce this concept to third graders, but if it is introduced, it has to be done well and with care. Sadly, EDM makes no mention of this important connection.

Let's see how EDM teaches the method:

It says: "With a partner, carefully study the Egyptian multiplication algorithm below. Then solve a problem using this method." Wow. Poor third graders! They are on their own.

The method depends on representing one of the factors in binary form. This means figuring out which lines to add up in the second column (See steps 2 and steps 3). There is a method for doing it. Let's see how it is explained to our third graders: Please see Step 3: "Starting with the greatest number in column 1, circle the numbers that add up to 13." Wow -- the method is not explained at all; instead our 3rd graders are left to do this by trial and error! This will be time-consuming and frustrating. Our third graders are led to believe that it is easy -- just "circle the numbers", but it is not really so easy, and they will start to question themselves. They may figure it out for 2 digit numbers. It becomes much harder for larger numbers without a structured approach, which is not shown. This is just not fair to the kids. Should they just use a calculator for larger numbers?

Egyptian Multiplication and EDM will leave your kids confused, frustrated, without confidence and with little understanding of underlying mathematics.

Posted by Anonymous 78
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 5, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Typical of snooty high school teachers! The real 4000 pound elephant of which the secondary science teacher above speaks is actually not as heavy as one would think because it is just full of HOT AIR and actually represents any secondary teacher who maintains such a faulty and crass opinion of their colleagues in the elementary schools. It is very easy to pass judgment from such a lofty position without understanding early child development. I just hope you don't ever have to step down from that fluffy, unsubstantial cloud you believe you reside on. It is a long way down. I am ashamed that this teacher actually works in PA. I bet he/she poorly regards any curricula taught outside of his/her department.

Success in the Palo Alto K-12 system depends on teamwork and respect for ALL players.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Hoover School

on Jun 5, 2017 at 10:31 pm

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