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School stakeholders clash over math

Original post made on Apr 15, 2009

Palo Alto school board members Tuesday struggled to find common ground between district staff's enthusiastic support of a new K-5 math textbook and substantial parent opposition to the choice.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 15, 2009, 9:51 AM

Comments (142)

Posted by SW
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 15, 2009 at 10:31 am

I am not too familiar with either the existing math curriculum or Everyday Mathmatics. Could someone explain to me what is lacking in the current textbooks/curriculum/approach used in PA elementary schools?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 10:41 am

Here we have another situation where parents are organizing themselves together to put forward their ideas to the board. The infamous previous occasion brought us Mandarin Immersion which the vast majority - including the board members - were not in favor of adopting and the proof of the pudding is still not ready to eat.

Once again a group of parents (are they the same individuals?) are protesting a possible board decision. This time they may be right. I trust the board are listening.

Posted by Deb
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 15, 2009 at 10:52 am

I am a disinterested observer since my children are already in college, but I have some experience with Everyday Mathematics, which was foisted on my children when they were in Elementary School in Ann Arbor, MI. We were all frustrated with the program's "multi-approach" to solving math problems - there was no mastery and no solid foundation built. They were both saved by their 5th grade teacher, a stubborn, independent and gifted teacher who used his seniority to basically refuse to teach the program. He taught math his own way, using a combination of traditional methods and "mind-stretching problems" for kids who wanted to explore further, and as a result, both my children finally developed a solid competence with math. I encourage Palo Alto parents to reject Everyday Mathematics.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck School
on Apr 15, 2009 at 11:31 am

I am not sure what "substantial parent opposition to the choice" means in the article. I think there is a relatively small group of parents that opposes EDM specifically; another group of parents that is dissatisfied with the process and the lack of parent involvement, particularly in the early stages of the process. Within this group, there are parents willing to accept EDM for a variety of reasons, perhaps because they are confident that our teachers are up to the task of teaching math, using EDM as one tool in the toolkit and that our teachers know the range of children in their classroom best; then, there is the majority of PAUSD elementary parents who did not attend last night's meeting. My hypothesis is that most of them are content to rely on the teachers and the math adoption committee to make the best recommendation for the students.

I would propose:
1) that the district do its due diligence to understand fully how many districts use EDM, how long they have used it, and how EDM is doing (both quantitatively and qualitatively); and how many districts abandoned EDM, even if it was the second edition, and why. Particular care should be taken to understand how closely a particular district compares to ours.
2) assuming EDM is a reasonable choice after the district finishes its due diligence, then come up with guidelines to ensure that EDM is modified to fit our district and standards.
3) then, adopt EDM in a timely manner so teachers can do their professional development with sufficient time to roll-out the new curriculum to ensure it has the best chance of succeeding given there is not a perfect math textbook/curriculum, and there is not one that will please everyone all the time.

If the PAUSD board members aren't able to move forward so that EDM is introduced this fall in a timely, professional way, I urge them to revisit the entire process from the beginning to address the lack of parent involvement at the beginning of the process. I do not think that extending the pilot by adding another textbook/curriculum to test drive is a good choice. I think it would further alienate the teachers and probably cause a different set of parents to come forward with questions and concerns.

Posted by Lily
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 15, 2009 at 11:32 am

The Palo Alto parents should be given more time to evaluate this. From what I understand now, Everyday Math teaches a veriety of ways of doing addition, subtraction without the most simple and efficient ways of doing them. Besides, some of the method proposed by Everyday math is so confusing. In order to make our kids competence with math, we should teach them the most simple and tradition way.

Posted by Abe
a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2009 at 12:26 pm

What's wrong with the way things are being taught now? I thought this town was pretty good at teaching math? Why fix it if it ain't broke (or do the teachers want a new toy to play with)?

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 12:43 pm

I trust the Board will not cram Everyday Mathmatics through this limited process without giving more thought to all this. Why not at least take a step back to review the other options more seriously ? Not worth experimenting on 5,000 kids....

Posted by bothered
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2009 at 12:49 pm

I've gone to the three public meetings about this (at Nixon, Duveneck and last nights Board Meeting) to learn and observe. I'm actually completely neutral on which textbooks are adopted, trusting that our teachers will put in the time to learn this new system and that our board won't agree to it unless they feel we have the financial resources for the training required to sucessfully implement it.

I've become very bothered by the attitiude that the parents who have questions about this are being called "sqeaky wheels" and told that they're being "disrespectful" to our teachers. Some very good questions have been raised about this, and I haven't witnessed anyone who's presented their questions in a rude or disrespectful way. Since when does asking a question or sharing experience equate to disrespect? If people have questions and other information, doesn't this community want them to share it? I thought that was what being a responsible member of the community was. If EM is adopted and fails, then people would say "well why didn't you say something?"

Because of the questions raised by the community and the noted gap sited by the adoption committee between 5th and 6th grade.(the reason why 5th grade transistion will be 2 years to give them time to figure out how to remedy that hole in the program - which frankly I'd feel better if they know how before adoption rather than after) I asked for feedback from the San Francisco Unified School District community where EM was adoped last year. The feedback I've gotten from them is that they think there should have been more controvercy over the adoption there and that I should be questioning it's adoption here.

I don't think being told to just be quiet and go with the recomendaton because of how much time has already been put into this and to show our teachers respect is ok. I do respect our teacher greatly, and surely this isn't what they would teach our kids to do.

Posted by BP Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 15, 2009 at 12:58 pm

bothered - thank you for voicing your observation so eloquently. Several parents like me who are not happy with EDM have the same question. We are always shocked when we hear words like "disrespectful" etc. And, everyone on the Board and District agreed yesterday that indeed there was a breach of rules- the parents and community were not involved as they should have been. How then does the District expect parents to pitch in and help with math nights etc. They never brought us in for dialogue. They want to do this now - but hey that is after the decision is already recommended to the Board.

And lastly, as one Dad pointed out, why isn't the District concerned about the financial impact, and lack of contributions to the schools (PiE, auctions etc.) that will happen because we now will need money for tutoring

Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 1:05 pm

To those new to this topic, math programs need to be reviewed every 7 years and the current math program is not longer acceptable to CA math standards. Here is the original posting on the topic: Web Link

When we lived in another state, my child experienced several years of EDM. My son is earning A's in math now due to the help of Kumon supplementing EDM. Pulling ups stats on this past school district, of the students in high school who learned EDM, almost half cannot pass their state math exam. PAUSD should choose a math program which does not require so much supplementing.

We witnessed frustration in the teachers who taught EDM, the students who could not understand EDM, and as educated parents, there were math problems we could not help our child with due to the alternative math language and alternative algorithms. I remember some math problems being way beyond his reach (i.e. a problem involving multiplication when he had not been taught multiplication yet). Or the spiraling in which children are introduced to topics and before they can really learn it and understand it fully, EDM moves onto another topic. By the time the topic spirals back again, students oftentimes have forgotten since they never learned it well the first time. Math is easy for my son so he could remember but many children were frustrated and confused, especially the ones who had no help from home.

PAUSD claims they will have parent information nights and online classes for the parents to learn EDM so they can help their children at home. Should a math program be so off base that they need to teach parents with 4-year and graduate degrees a new system?

The flaws of EDM are not fully apparent by viewing the texts or piloting for a couple of months. When I went to the district office to fill out a comment card, I flipped through the EDM books. The books looked fine to me, but then I remembered the spiraling, the abstract questions, the frustrated teachers, parents, and children.

So the administraton and community needs to look at the data of failure rates of EDM rather than adopting EDM simply because other comparable districts have adopted it. Just because others have adopted it doesn't make it the right program for Palo Alto. That would be like jumping off the bridge with a friend and not knowing what lies below. Some will make it, some will not.

A phone call from a board member questioning EDM will likely receive a positive response because the school does not want to admit they made a mistake. Have their test scores improved? Where's the data other than an opinion that the administration is satisfied with it?

Why do people think EDM is the only program out there which encourages more analytical thinking? There are plenty of others which encourage analytical thinking but they are less confusing to students and taught without spiraling or new vocabulary.

Had it been communicated to the parents that EDM was being considered for adoption, there would have been an uproar then instead of now. Believe me, I would have stepped forward.

All the data available shows that parents do not like EDM and many districts have eliminated the program. Question why the districts dumped the program.

And for those who say the staff can fill in the gaps? There are so many flaws in EDM that they will basically have to rewrite the program, which is what many districts have done. Why not choose a program with proven success? No, there is not one program which will satisfy everyone, but EDM will surely upset the majority.

Let's give all our children a chance at succeeding in math, not only the children who have a lot of outside help. EDM will surely widen the achievement gap.

Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Here's a petition to sign for those interested. Every adult in a Palo Alto residence may sign it: Web Link

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Out of general curiosity, I tried to watch the BoE meeting last night on TV (huge presentation/discussion/then public comment on EDM. However, our power went out at the beginning of the meeting and twice during the meeting (had to just go to bed then...), so I hope this meeting is re-broadcast. The process works best when as many people as possible are informed and can consider contributing their thoughts towards the decision. I was quite interested to hear the speakers from the community - many had valuable input - but I did not hear them all.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 2:36 pm

My daughter's teacher was a part of the pilot, tried the new textbook, and has said privately that she thought it was terrible. However, she seemed to be bowing to unseen political pressure, as she refuses to oppose the decision in public. She said she stated her opinion, but obviously it was not listened to.

Posted by PA mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 15, 2009 at 3:02 pm

That is very interesting, since when did dissent become so unpopular in a democracy ?

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2009 at 3:05 pm

We should all take a deep breath and think about this objectively. Before we get all excited and all geared up for the fight, we should all acknowledge the good intentions as well as immense talents and capabilities of our teachers. In their professional judgment and given limited choices, they concluded that EDM is a better method. Let us remember that they are the ones that are using these tools everyday, not us (yes… I acknowledge that the burden on us as parents is not at all clear… and needs to be). Most of us should fully acknowledge that we are not qualified to judge but teachers also need to acknowledge that they might be overly optimistic.

I’m definitely a proponent of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But that’s not how Palo Alto became the epicenter of entrepreneurship and creativity. We thrive by innovation. Regardless of how well our schools have done in the past, we know that world competition is going to be more intense than anyone of us can imagine today. It just isn’t sufficient to be “as good as we have always been”. Let’s remember that the teachers certainly could have gone the easy way out and stuck with the old system and spare themselves of the extra work… they didn’t.

Knowing the mechanics of performing a task is ABSOLUTELY essential… but it is not sufficient in today’s world. I don’t believe that we can do away with “drill and kill” but I also feel strongly that we need to teach kids intuition. I’ve heard the EDM for Palo Alto has been tailored and tweaked. Is that the closest that we’ll get to the best of both world? I don’t know, but the teachers, the ones that will be using this tool day in and day out, think so. I know that if kids learn “drill and kill”, that’s all that they will know because that’s all that we, as parents of these kids, have ever experienced (and maybe that’s fine). But do we want to and do we need to arm our kids with differentiated thinking? They aren’t going to get that from home… at least not for math.

So perhaps what we need is a true education for the parents of the “tailored” EDM. I went to a thoroughly unproductive discussion the other night where both sides had their gloves on almost immediately. Let’s try to understand why the teachers overwhelmingly supported it. We owe it to our kids to know before we put up a fight that disenfranchise teachers and might leave everyone a loser. Let’s not forget… we are all on the same side.

A parting thought. There’s no doubt that most of us are already swamped with trying to keep up. We are working more than ever because the competition demands it. Sadly, that is also true for our kids. While hours worked have gone up dramatically over time, hours spent at school have not. From personal experience across a couple continents, I believe we have one of the fewest "hours in school" for K-12. We don’t want believe it, but the reality is that our kids probably need to learn even more things, and at an ever earlier age. That really translates to more hours schooling whether that is in school or via tutoring. I know this is an “inconvenient truth”, but so is working 12 hours a day just be make ends meet living in this great city. It is true that the philosophy of EDM might not work for most school districts. But remember… we are not the common denominator. We have better teachers and more involved parents. We want our kids to be the best. You can’t be the best by being the same. You can’t be the best with the same amount of effort.

Posted by PV Parent
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Apr 15, 2009 at 3:29 pm

My daughter's teacher piloted EDM and we didn't have any difficulty following what she was doing at all. The home links are clear and explain everything. She even learned the lattice method in the multiplication chapter and it didn't confuse her or make the standard algorithm harder - she thought lattice was easy and fun. I don't see why anyone would have to tutor more because of EDM - you have to practice math facts no matter what textbook the teacher uses. I didnt' see a need for any further supplementing.

Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 3:52 pm

PV Parent,

The publisher puts its best foot forward when sending out piloting materials. A few weeks of piloting is not enough to see the flaws of EDM. Nor is viewing a lesson being learned in a classroom. Nor is a quick view of the textbook. That's the beauty of EDM. No one knows just how bad it is until it is too late and everyone is miserable.


The teachers overwhelmingly supported EDM because they listened to the sales pitch. They are ignoring all the data about how the program has failed most school districts and parents are angry. I know a teacher on the committee in Menlo Park who said they all believed what EDM reps told them and the program sounded great and they were told their test scores would improve to be much like Palo Alto test scores.

Can anyone find any data about test scores improving by adopting EDM, other than what the reps say? It would have to be a district much like ours, not a district which already had very low test scores.

Again, there are other successful programs out there which teach the same analytical math as EDM but are much more user-friendly.

Posted by a parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 3:56 pm


"we need to teach kids intuition"

you can't.

Intuition happens as a result of a body of knowledge that you have either acquired, or already was wired into you. Intuition sort of bursts out of you.

What you call drill and kill is the basis for intuition.

There must be better reasons to like EDM, but this idea that it teaches intuition is part of what concerns me. It sounds like EDM has used every feature to sell itself, except for Math.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Addison School
on Apr 15, 2009 at 4:03 pm

All Board members agree that there was a breach in the process of selecting the decision committee where sufficient parents were not included and PTA Exec was not consulted, which was required by Board Policy.

Many parents are, in fact, not specifically opposed to EDM. They feel the district is not listening to the parents. Parents were not involved earlier in the process and NOW District wants their involvement -- not as participants in selecting a curriculum, but just as "silent listeners" to their views on why EDM is best decision (sounds like Bush PR with Iraq).

Although the Web is unreliable, I have a great respect for how it autocorrects views & opinions. Someone would refute a biased opinion and oppose an invalid claim soon. So, why should finding a positive EDM comment on be like searching for a needle in a haystack full of negative EDM comments. Where there is smoke, usually there is fire. I urge every reader of this comment to find something positive on EDM Math, that is not from McGrawHill or Univ of Chicago (they own EDM). After doing your research if you are shocked, then pls. sign the petition. That's the least you can do as a concerned parent.

Also, Since when did "not agreeing" with a decision, become dis-respecting the teachers & the community? I know for a fact, there are many teachers that opposed the Iraq War decision. I don't think they are unpatriotic or disrespecting the troops.

Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Here's the replay schedule of the PAUSD school board meeting on Tuesday, April 14, 6:30-Midnight. Slide show, board speaks, community input, board speaks. Community input didn't occur until 2 hrs., 45 min. into the program.

Airs On Channel 28

Thu, Apr 16th 6:00pm PAUSD MEETING REPLAY
Fri, Apr 17th 12:00am PAUSD MEETING REPLAY
Fri, Apr 17th 10:00am PAUSD MEETING REPLAY
Tue, Apr 21st 6:00pm PAUSD MEETING REPLAY
Wed, Apr 22nd 12:00am PAUSD MEETING REPLAY
Wed, Apr 22nd 10:00am PAUSD MEETING REPLAY
Thu, Apr 23rd 6:00pm PAUSD MEETING REPLAY
Fri, Apr 24th 12:00am PAUSD MEETING REPLAY
Fri, Apr 24th 10:00am PAUSD MEETING REPLAY

Posted by reality
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 15, 2009 at 4:40 pm

The required process was not followed. The committee gave up on SRA because the publisher allegedly wouldn't support it, but we now find that is not true. Skelly doesn't like EDM but would rather inflict it on the district's next full generation of elementary school kids than disagree with the committee and be called disrespectful and ungrateful. A piloting teacher didn't like EDM but won't stand up in public and say so. What do all these things tell us? This is such a familiar mess. Could we please just once follow the rules, get straight answers and stand up to the bullies? PLEASE? Board, if Skelly won't do the right thing, please rein in the insanity that pervades this district, so we can get back on track. The buck does stop with you. At this point, a vote to adopt EDM without further inquiry, piloting or consideration of SRA (which almost all unanimously wanted) is a vote for complete disregard of honesty, transparency, fiscal responsibility and process, and a vote to allow the bullies to continue to reign supreme in this district, running roughshod over everyone who disagrees with them under the flag of disrespect and ignorance. Jjust do the right thing. It's why we elected you.

Posted by Hoover Parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 15, 2009 at 5:26 pm

reality - you should eamil your exact comments to the board. Many parents feel the same way. And it is not a done deal yet - the Board was not unanimous on this, so comments like your will help them see the parents perspective.

Posted by David Theil
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 15, 2009 at 5:52 pm

This question is answered by considering the goals.

If the children are to be trained to do better on state exams and be skilled at rapid arithmetic, then the standard "drill and kill" textbook is likely the best approach.

If you want them to think and intuitively understand what a particular function really *means* rather than simply how to execute themitthis.

Neither approach is intrinsically better; they generate different benefits. Better test scores give you better school credentials down the road and for a professional employee is likely the best option.

In depth understanding generated by grasping multiple approaches stimulates creative thinking and is probably better training for future scientists, mathematicians and "go it alone" entrepreneurs, but then not every child will or even can be one of these.

The clear solution is to use drill books for children who find challenge in mastering the mechanics of arithmetic, while EDM would be better for the children that easily master basic operations and would benefit from exposure to creative approaches.

It is unfortunate that PAUSD **refuses** to use tracking in elementary school and relies on a one-size-fits-all approach with minor modifications to that approach for each child. Different children learn differently, and a multi-pronged approach enable more to live up to their potential.

I hope the district chooses both books and makes EDM based education available to children who already perform at reasonable competency levels and their parents choose.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Addison School
on Apr 15, 2009 at 5:52 pm

To the teachers & principals in this district:

I respect the teachers of PAUSD for your passion, involvement and willingness to be "innovative". I would definitely prefer you over teachers that are not willing to think outside-the-box. So, I applaud you.

With Math, tinkering with additional algorithms & new concepts like spiraling at higher grades is ok. But "Messing with them" at lower grades, carries a GREAT RISK of confusing kids and leaving their foundation weak for the rest of their lives. Do you *really* want to take that risk? Are you sure you are not getting influenced by the sales pitch?

Most of the parents are NOT asking for you to select strict memorization & roting methods that are taught in Kumon or other private schools. We are asking for a more "centrist" approach that strengthens the foundation, teaches concepts and at the same time encourages kids to arrive at results via different algorithms, besides the std. ones.

You still have the flexibility to be innovative in the classroom. You are the teacher, and you will, anyway and always, have the last word.

So, pls. use your individual judgement and not get influenced by bullies or herd mentality. Feel free to speak up if you have concerns. Parents and Board will respect you more.

Posted by to the teachers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 6:23 pm

I would add the following message,

To the teachers on the Math textbook selection committee:

Someone owes you an apology regarding the process. It was not your job to get the parent input, to find out only now that there were oversights obtaining it.

I agree with poster above about the timing for EM's innovative methods. In objecting to to it, parents are also saying we value what you are doing now.

The process has put everyone in this position.

Behind the specific objections, or support for EDM, we are all on the same side.

Posted by to the teachers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Referring to "timing" above, as in K-3 especially. Innovation is unnecessary for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Posted by joe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 15, 2009 at 6:57 pm

I found the discussion at the board meeting last night encouraging. It was an acknowledgment from many (board members, Skelly, parents) of the deficiencies in the process. Up to this point, I have been extremely dissapointed in the scheduled interactions between math committee members and the community. It has not been an open and interactive dialogue. Rather, the general tone from the committee and Dr Skelly has often been defensive, evasive, and, quite frankly, condescending on many occasions. First step is always to acknowledge that there is a problem and then the second step is identify ways to address the problem. The school board raised many good questions and it is clearly evident that a detailed layout of the evidence supporting EDM is necessary. Also, if implementation was considered, how would PAUSD interpret the materials and then execute the process. This white space in the process has clearly not been delineated and populated.

Posted by M. Presti
a resident of Stanford
on Apr 15, 2009 at 7:57 pm

While I have read a lot of negative reviews about EDM on these threads, I haven't seen a lot of positive. At the end of this post, I am attaching some comments I received in an email from Dana Tom, a school board member, today.

Having twins, now in 5th grade, I clearly see that each of my children learn differently. Therefore, I see the benefits of teaching kids multiple ways of learning the basics of addition, etc. There is no one perfect program for all our kids, but I echo those other posters in that we need to trust our teachers to identify what way each child learns best and provide that to them. For example, we found that while one of my children was able to learn his multiplication and division facts at school, the other one needed extensive drilling at home. Every child is different, and again, no one program will work perfectly for all.

Also, I do remember a reading a call for parents to be involved in this process. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to make sure that even if information is published in multiple places, that people will actually read it. I have found this to be true with information that is published in our school newsletter multiple times and still parents say they never knew about it. If anyone has a solution to this problem, it would be welcome!

Here are Dana Tom's comments:

I recently contacted board members in 9 comparable districts that use or have recently adopted Everyday Math to learn about their experiences with it. Some of them are in the Bay Area and two were benchmarked by our Partners in Education fundraising foundation
because they were similar to PAUSD in student achievement and demographics. My questions were open ended and I wanted to hear their thoughts, favorable or unfavorable.

The capsule summary is that they like Everyday Math (EDM), teachers support it, professional development (PD) for teachers is critical, takes significant teacher effort, and it's important to inform parents about the program. Here is the longer summary notes of what I learned from those board members:

Burlingame – implemented this year, viewed as significant positive
Visited many classrooms last couple months, almost uniformly teachers and principals think it’s an excellent curriculum, students learning
Takes more instructional time than previous mat’ls
Biggest obstacle was reluctance of parents – parent ed key to success
Suggested phased implementation for higher grades
Piedmont – implemented this year, adopted last year 3-2
Vocal group of parents opposed the adoption
Process challenged since staff brought to board in June and approved in June after school year ended. Spoke with one of the no votes and it was vote about the process.
Teachers unanimously preferred it, felt had plenty of mat’l on math facts, wanted text that teaches underlying math theory in way that works for kids
Needs a lot of PD, needs teachers on board who want to do it
Teachers said it’s a lot of work (their only complaint on it) so they need to be ready for it. More collaboration, which is good
Requiring more time on math per day, which board member saw as a plus
Teachers are good, know they’re under the magnifying glass, doing a good job
Teachers like it, supplement with other mat’ls for more practice (collecting, disseminating) . Purchasing grade level “algorithm” workbooks. Found they liked some algorithms but not others, e.g. threw out lattice multiplication
efforts with differentiated instruction
Set up multiple parent information and family math nights at each elementary school – positive parent feedback after them
Roll out has been pretty smooth
Pointed to article by math specialist “We are finding that the math lessons have many components which allow students with different learning styles (e.g. auditory, kinesthetic, visual) to access the material. The program is challenging and provides many built-in opportunities for teachers to differentiate instruction. Many teachers feel that their most capable students are being appropriately challenged. Many are also feeling inspired as their math program has been infused with new, dynamic lessons. Several teachers have expressed surprise at how successful their students are when working on material that is more difficult than what they had taught in previous years.”
Belmont-Redwood Shores – used for awhile, before 2003 at least
with program, students appear to do well in high school
San Mateo – Foster City – adopted to implement next year
Piloted in a couple classes, pretty consistent support on committee
Knows will take fair amount of PD, committed to provide it
Edina, MN (PiE benchmark district) – used for over 20 yrs
Director of Teaching and Learning: “We have had great success in using the materials and our most veteran teachers indicate they believe that the skill level of elementary students has continued to grow over the years due to the longitudinal implementation of the materials. As an example, our ‘standard’ placement for grade 8 students is algebra – however, we have about two sections of students at grade 6 who are ready and begin the course at that level.”
Have had parent math nights as long as they’ve had the program
Teacher training very important
Wilmette/New Trier (PiE benchmark district) – 2nd or 3rd yr, passed
Looked at top districts in their area in math, around 8 of top 10 used EDM
“Our performance in the area of Math at all grades continues to improve (which is difficult when most of the meet/exceed totals are already in the 90-something percentile).”
Administrator for curriculum and instruction thought it needed significant amount of PD, but support and PD provided by company was excellent
Greenwich, CT – seen improvement in standardized test scores since implementing the change
Menlo Park – adopted for next year
Teachers are fine with it, focused on how to enhance the adoption next year
From their website page on EDM, 5th grade teachers at two schools used EDM for past several years for accelerated math groups
Positive comments from 3 teachers, 2 principals on website
Principal: “An analysis of Menlo Park students’ mathematics testing data indicates very high levels of achievement. However, both the data and teacher experiences also point to relative weaknesses in our students’ problem solving abilities and conceptual understanding. Everyday Mathematics was chosen because of its strengths in these two areas. This series ensures that students understand the mathematics that support the use of standard algorithms. This conceptual understanding coupled with mastery of basic facts, enable students to solve complex mathematical problems and to move forward with complete understanding of the more abstract and algebraic representation of mathematics.”


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 15, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Hillsborough has been using EDM for eight years and their test scores are among the highest in the state. Their teachers and principals say that until the new middle school adoption this year, they couldn't use 6th grade text books -- went straight to 7th grade texts. Their fifth graders were too advanced after K-5 in EDM.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 15, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Union Public School District in Oklahoma showed a rise from 85% (in Advanced or Satisfacotry) to 92% after four years of using EDM.

In the Moriarty-Edgewood School District in NM, the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment (NMSBA) test showed the percentage of elementary students scoring Proficient and Above in mathematics increased by 16 percent since EDM was begun in 2006.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:04 pm

Does anyone have any more information on what Barbara Klausner said? As I recall, she was a GATE math specialist before she was on the board.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck School
on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Above Anonymous,

Thanks for getting some of the qualitative results of a mostly comparable district using EDM. Now, I wish the district would do its due diligence and get more quantitative and qualitative results from mostly comparable districts using EDM and districts that have abandoned EDM. Only with these, can we understand if we heard a "sales pitch" or a presentation about an innovative and value-add math textbook/curriculum. I hope the due diligence supports the latter....

Posted by BP Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Anon & M. Presti - there were 2 mothers in last nights meeting that brought a list of districts that did poorly with EDM and their scores suffered and so they had to abandon EDM. That list was much longer than Mr. Dana Tom's list. The district has not done their HW. they have not called and learned from these districts. Board asked them to do so before the next meeting. If Dana wanted to be so data driven he should have also looked at the other data.

M. Presti - you said your twins learn differently, how can you suggest then that EDM that everyone agrees is on the extreme left will be suitable for all kids.

Posted by PV Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:19 pm

BP Mom -
Can someone post that list here so we can take a look at it?

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:22 pm

BP Mom -
Did the "data driven" moms call the districts that were successful with EDM? Or were they just cherry picking the data they wanted? Why are the people in favor of EDM held to a different standard than those who are against?

Posted by BP Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Anon - no those moms did not because the District received that as part of the Sales pitch. The people in favor are held to a a standard because they want to spend $500K and experiment on my kids (+ 5000 others). So, they better have some standard!

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:27 pm

BP Mom,

How is a math textbook on the left or right? McGraw-Hill isn't a particularly liberal corporation. Is there some socialist algorithm being taught?

Posted by BP Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:27 pm

PV Parent - maybe it was added as part of record in yesterday's meeting? I don't have it

Posted by onecloud
a resident of Meadow Park
on Apr 15, 2009 at 9:45 pm

check the following website for April 14th speech against the EDM and find out why 30-40 school districts drop the EDM program
Web Link

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 15, 2009 at 10:03 pm

When looking at the data on school districts that have rejected EDM, it is important to realize that those districts either outside California or who have been using EDM for several years were using a different edition than the one that we would use. Two significant changes - the CA edition conforms to the CA standards and uses the standard algorithms at all grade levels and the third edition was release two years ago. When Hillsborough received the training for the third edition, they said that there were big improvements based on teacher feedback ont eh second edition.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Okay, do any of you have, say, the number of districts total that have adopted EDM over a period of years and then the number of districts that have dropped it.

And then compare that to, say, the number of districts that have adopted other math programs and their comparative drop rate?

Over and over again we get a bunch of second-hand anecdotal information usually with anonymous people and are told to take *that* as gospel.

It's *math* for pete's sake--give me some real numbers and real ratios here.

Otherwise, you're not going to get around this ratio--average number of elementary-school children taught math by parent opposing EDM--zero to two. Average number of children taught math by teacher on committee with 10 years experience--200.

In fact, I'd say that's one thing I've seen missing here--elementary-school teacher turned parent fighting EDM based on *teaching* using EDM. If there is such a teacher/parent, I'd like to see what she or he has to say--non-anonymously if brave, or at least firsthand (not my FOAF in Poughkeepsie says . . .)

Posted by Chill!
a resident of Escondido School
on Apr 15, 2009 at 10:39 pm

To all posters . . . in the amount of time you have spent blogging, commenting, researching and complaining (mostly) you could have taught all your children, and the neighbor's children, their addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts -- by rote memorization, mind you -- AND, possibly sat down to a family dinner and had a conversation with your kids about, well . . . anything that interests them. They do have interests, right???

If you are still bored, unfulfilled or have extra time after that, why don't you volunteer in a neighboring community where many parents cannot participate in their children's schools due to working multiple jobs, language barriers, etc. You could also teach all those rote facts to those kids!

Selection of a math text should be blip on your radar screen. Dial it down, get some perspective, and most importantly set an example to your kids about what is really important in life. Has anyone stopped to think that the metrics used to measure success of all these programs (test scores) are really not metrics of a full, fulfilled, successful life at all??

Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 10:54 pm


So now you are looking for hard data when you have been arguing for everyone to "trust the teachers" who have no data besides what EDM has told them?

Check this website for some data: Web Link

Also, of the districts which Dana Tom noted, Burlingame and Piedmont implemented EDM this year (not enough time to see results)and Menlo Park, San Mateo, Foster City will implement this fall so their is no test data/feedback yet. Wilmette is only in its 2nd year of EDM. The fifth graders in Edina, MN have 85% math proficiency but the state of MN (which uses EDM) has only 66% math proficiency: Web Link Edina's grade 11 is 67.3% in math proficiency and the state is 34.3% in math proficiency as of 2008: Web Link

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 15, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Chill, I actually appreciate the time that many parents have contributed to help ensure a good outcome. That parental involvement is what makes districts and communities stronger. I don't doubt that many are doing the things you describe as well as this. Thank you parents.

This is an interesting one. Skelly, usually sure-footed, seems a little off balance, with his teacher committee pitted against a bunch of parents. My guess is that he doesn't think much of the committee choice, but is finding it hard to back away from it having let the committee reach this conclusion. On the other hand, he figures the schools are strong enough that can work with anything, and while EDM has some real problems, they can manage around it.

I still look for some artful compromise that tries to include rather than alienate either constituency and possibly delays the decision. But in general not a great process, more like something the previous regime might have done than what we've come to expect from Skelly.

Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2009 at 11:56 pm


There's a name for your posting: ad hominem argument, which is defined as attacking the person when you have lost the argument.

Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2009 at 12:19 am

It's very frustrating to see us in this battle because we've been funneled into a less than optimal end point after a flawed process.

I think this is like so many other things -- the board either doesn't want or know how to involve the parents when parents' input would be the most important.

I can see the same battles coming down the line over the the high school construction and Measure A funds -- but only when it's really clear that we're putting up (as opposed to just planning) campuses that exceed the size research warns will compromise educational quality (and widen the achievement gap, increase bullying, etc. etc). Parents really have no idea that the overriding concern in the planning right now is using the funds to crowd more students onto the campuses, with no discussion as to how this will affect educational quality. That battle promises, just like this math battle, only to happen when it is really clear to the public what is happening -- after tens of millions, possibly the hundreds of millions, of our tax dollars have been spent. The argument will then be that it is too late to change. I can really see how a few personal agendas have pushed the high school construction, with very little problem solving and weighing the facts (just as above with the math process).

Parents do need to be involved in these decisions that so significantly affect our children, but the processes have to be set up so that this same level of involvement is engendered early enough -- a much harder thing to accomplish. (With the high school construction, for example, elementary parents have not been invited to participate in planning at all, even though their kids' education will be affected -- according to the research, detrimentally -- by the way the funds we voted to IMPROVE our high schools are being spent now. The clash down the line promises to be much worse than this.)

The teachers did choose EDM, but the choices were funneled. They chose EDM over one other very flawed program. They didn't pilot all 9 selections, and the two they piloted were chosen for reasons other than that they were the most excellent math programs for Palo Alto.

Anyone who understands this district and the parents here should have seen this coming. Did someone have an agenda and just not care? It would be typical.

I don't just want the district to relook at this math selection (though they should), I want them to look at fixing the processes that got us here, so that our district runs the way of district of this caliber should.

Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2009 at 12:28 am

Why do you expect anything different from Skelly? Just curious.

Among other things, he has said that he doesn't think we can close the achievement gap, and doesn't seem to be planning any major effort to try. He was planning on making our two high schools ultra-large (at the likely detriment of educational quality, rather than considering opening Cubberly) before Measure A was even voted on. He quoted the letter of the law and did nothing about the extreme online bullying of that middle school student. (I'm sure the mothers' club had no more authority than the school district, but they cared enough to make the effort and got it taken down.) And those aren't the only examples.

I had high hopes, too, and I hope I see something to justify them soon, because I'm beginning to worry that our district has hired someone whose standards are far too low.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 16, 2009 at 2:25 am

Been There, Done That,

There's no contradiction. Look at what I wrote again--the data supplied by the anti-EDM crowd tends to be anecdotal, nonspecific and numbers that lack context.

The link you posted is to the same document that made me make the above post. I'm tired of the lack of hard evidence.

The district has a strong record in preparing kids in math. The teachers *have* taught more kids than the parents who've spoken up. That, by the way, is just plain hard fact. I need something solid if I'm going to brush that aside and tell people they don't know how to do their job.

Look at the link--look at it critically--look for answers to the questions I asked--such as the total number of districts using EDM and the number of districts that have dropped it. What does it mean that 30 to 40 districts dropped it? Is that 50 percent of the districts? 90 percent? 5 percent? Less than 1 percent? So what the hell does it mean then?

As for Minnesota--so how do those numbers compare to Minn's pre EDM scores and to similar socioeconomic groups using different programs in other states? Again, numbers given but without the context in which a meaningful comparison can be made.

All of what I've seen as "evidence" are things that would cause me to have questions, but not dismiss it. So it matters to me that the teachers seem to be aware of the shortcomings in the program.

I find the lack of critical thinking frustrating.

Give me some good reasons to discount the ability of experienced teachers to make a decent decision when it comes to choosing textbooks.

Me Too,

So you think Skelly doesn't respect his teachers? That he secretly agrees with the parents, but he's being bullied by the committee because they had a strong consensus?

That would be flattering, wouldn't it? I doubt it though. I know of very few people who love people coming in and telling them they know better. Thus the preponderance of mother-in-law jokes.


I think the issues with school size and use of Measure A funds are huge issues--and, unlike the textbook issue--ones that should involve a lot of community input.

I think, however, that as a community we don't prioritize. Garland and overcrowding was given very short shrift in part because of the time wasted on Mandarin Immersion at board meetings. I hope we don't spend the next year arguing over math textbooks when how Measure A money is spent and how the high school overcrowding issue is managed gets short shrift because it's too vague and far in the future.

The worst thing that can happen with the math textbooks is that EDM is dropped and another textbook brought in. Measure A and overcrowding are longterm issues and the decisions won't be easily redacted.

Posted by reality
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 16, 2009 at 7:02 am

The worst thing that can happen with the math textbooks is that EDM is dropped and another textbook brought in.

Really, OP? That is the *worst* thing that could happen? Even though the committee clearly stated their preference for SRA, SRA would be a completely reasonable compromise, and there was smoe mysterious misunderstanding that has since been cleared up with the publisher? I think you're wrong there.

OP, in the past I have thought you had some source inside the district but it is clear you do not if you think the portrait of Skelly as backing down to bullies is unflattering and unlikely. He was completely attacked at the adoption meeting and that's a fact too. A group that shouts down dissent and derides those who ask perfectly reasonable questions is dangerous. It flies in the face of democracy. It is the lack of transparency and the MO of the district in conducting these staged info meetings that have escalated the debate, not the parents. Perhaps you have not seen this in the district, ensconced at Ohlone as you are. But I have, a lot. Parents are not listened to, they persist, and suddenly *they* are labeled intransigent, unreasonable, life lacking, etc. etc.

Wouldn't it be more to the point for the committee to explain why they completely ignored the Math Panel report in concluding EDM was the best? Why they refuse to consider SRA given the misunderstandings? Oh, someone had an agenda here, make no mistake. It will come to light. Just because you don't personally know about it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

And why are you against SRA anyway, when the teachers on the committee ( who, as you say, know a LOT more than you about teaching math to elementary kids) voted overwhelmingly in favor of it before it was taken off the table?

Posted by Some facts
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 16, 2009 at 8:22 am

Ohlone Par -

The numbers you ask for do not exist so no need to keep asking for them. California State does not track which books are adopted and abandoned and as far as I know no one else in CA or anywhere does either. Publishers probably have this data for their own books, but doubtful they are handing out their former customer list to anyone who asks. All parents have to go on is what they can find by calling and Googling. That they've been able to find so many in with such inexact tools speaks volumes to me.


McGraw Hill may say in its sales materials that EDM is "balanced," but take a gander at how it describes EDM to its shareholders, calling it a "specialized niche" "reform" math product. In 2007, McGraw Hill was only able to highlight EDM market penetration in the state of New Mexico and did not mention any successful EDM markets in its 2008 annual report. Which would you trust?

Teacher support for EDM? The teachers in my family tell me that teachers don't speak out when they don't like something, but just take comfort in their classroom where they do what they want which sometimes is not what administrators tell them to do.

With that reluctance in mind, read these Pittsburg teachers' observations about Everyday Math. Pittsburg is hailed by EDM as one of its early "success stories." But after using EDM for 15 years, it abandoned the program to teachers' delight. The report out, conducted with the help of Carnegie Mellon, made the same points that parents here in Palo Alto are making such as EDM leaving students confused and frustrated because of its spiral and multiple algorithms. Web Link Last year Pittsburg adopted enVisions instead.

Posted by Light of Day
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 16, 2009 at 9:05 am


"give me some real numbers and real ratios here."

That's the problem. It is the district's job not merely to pick the best text but to do it transparently and for the right reasons. This is particularly true in the case of a text that more than one board member described as at the extreme end of the spectrum. In other words, it is the district's job to justify their choice in a way that doesn't cause the kind of problems we are seeing now.

If those numbers exist, the district should be showing them to us.

Since the district is proposing an extreme text (nothing wrong with that per se), it is duty-bound to explain and justify the underlying approach of this outlier text--either with statistics or if no stats are available then with their philosophy. The three main differences between Everyday Math and more mainstream texts are: spiraling, lack of algorithms, and use of calculators. The district needs to back up these three things.

The EDM spiraling stands in direct conflict with the National Math Panel recommendations. If the district favors the EDM spiraling, then it should give us statistics showing spiraling is tippy toppy, NMP notwithstanding. Failing that, it should explain why (pedagogical philosophy?) it rejects the a core recommendation of the math panel.

The de-emphasis and complete absence of efficient algorithms seems likely to leave children without the ability to perform calculations with automaticity. The district has replied that it will supplement the text and drill algorithms. This raises the question: why is the district selecting a text, when it will simply have to compensate for one of the text's main differentiators? Why not choose a text that, say, includes the algorithms?

Calculators: show us the statistics. Trot them out.

That's it. All of this opposition would go away if the district simply justified its decision, either statistically or by educating us as to its pedagogical philosophy.

This should be simple if the committee's decision was transparent and based on solid reasoning.

Posted by Math Matters
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 16, 2009 at 9:12 am

Conejo school district in So California, which includes Thousand Oaks has been using Everyday Mathematics for several years. Parents started a group called "Save Our Children from Mediocre Math"

Web Link050510schoolboard.htm">Web Link
Web Link

These websites date back to 2005. Since then, Everyday Math managed to get approved by the state of California by adding standard algorithms into the program. However, all the other concerns about the program still apply.

Conejo stayed with Everyday Math. Elementary enrollment has been dropping despite growth in overall population. In 2008, Conejo had to close 2 elementary schools.

If you want better for Palo Alto, and if you are a Palo Alto voter, please sign the petition below, which urges the district to look at other options.

Web Link

Thank you

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2009 at 9:17 am

Why should only PA voters sign the petition? Shouldn't all residents and all those with kids in PA schools have their voice heard? Or, is this something more political?

Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2009 at 9:31 am

The whole thing is political, or we wouldn't be in this situation.

No, you don't have to be a registered voter to sign. Any adult who resides in Palo Alto may sign.

Posted by BP Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 16, 2009 at 9:35 am

correction to Math Matter's note - YES all PA residents and also parents that have kids in PA school can sign (e.g. LA Hills with PA school and VTP parents)

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2009 at 10:54 am

Concerned Parent,

I completely agree with you, the process needs to be addressed head on. It has been divisive in an unnecessary way.

this will get resolved, good people on both sides of the issue. But the process has to be dealt with, and the lessons learned from this round posted very clearly for the next adoption process.

Among the questions I have are why California forces this process on districts? Why 7 years? Was that set up by the textbook publishing lobby? None of the core subject areas change that much to warrant these trade-ins so often. Why did the California Math textbook get taken off the list? If we liked it, could we not get a waiver to still use it? Can't a district decide for itself when a new textbook is necessary? It's mind boggling that districts march to these orders without even a question. The only answer I've heard is "Its' California" - what does that mean?

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 16, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Some facts,

What do you mean they don't exist? McGraw-Hill surely has some numbers on its sales. Surely, there are some numbers on the numbers of school districts and what they use.

You want to convince people like me who think none of the textbooks are ideal and that the real math teaching depends on the teachers--then I need something more solid than anecdotes and unmoored numbers to buy that the district teachers can't figure out which textbook will be most useful to them.


I'm not anything other than what I claim to be--a parent at Ohlone school. What you call being "bullied" cuts both ways. Skelly's in the middle of the rock and the hard place. But, again, the crux of the issue here is one of backseat driving--the teacher's committee isn't able to choose math textbooks.

Did any of you really think they wouldn't be mad about this? It was totally obvious.

The general inability here to see how this looks from other points of view just kind of baffles me. I guess it shouldn't, but *wow*.

Or, for that matter, that they *won't* fight this? And you want to know why? Because they don't want to be told how to do their job every step of the way. It's one thing to establish district guidelines, establish programs and decide what kind of school expansion there should be--those are issues that are part of the public trust--but this kind of thing is getting into the nitty-gritty of teaching.

The teachers will fight it because they don't want to have to fight or give way on every single other textbook choice. They're perfectly aware of the battle science teachers have been fighting on teaching evolution--for decades. (When I was in school, we simply skipped the chapter on evolution because the textbook had some creationist nonsense in it--textbook manufacturers did it to appease certain states.)

Skelly is shrewd enough to understand that, yes, when you make that kind of claim it is essentially disrespectful--and, yes, there should be some good reasons for making it.

There's a presumption of rights here on both sides--teachers think they have the right to choose textbooks without undue interference. Parents think they have a right to have veto power and input on the decision.

My own take is that there should be good reasons for interference. That's why I'm asking questions to which no one seems to have the answer. I need those kind of answers to be swayed to the POV that the teachers aren't competent enough to choose textbook materials--that their collective teaching experience counts for naught.

Light of day, what you say sounds good on the surface, but it's also a way of adding more layers of second-guessing and bureaucracy to what's already a clunky process.

The parents have taken a far too adversarial position here--leaving no room for any real negotiation. That means one side or the other will be pissed off.

Skelly knows this--that's not a question of Skelly being bullied, but of Skelly knowing he's in a no-win situation.

Math Matters,

So, is enrollment dropping in Conejo because of EDM? Or other reasons? Correlation is not causation and there are plenty of other factors. Enrollment is also dropping in East Palo Alto. Is EDM the cause?

Posted by BP Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 16, 2009 at 1:54 pm

OP - at the meeting on Tues the Board pointed out that the District did not follow the process that is outlined for them when choosing new textbooks. They did not include the parents and community members as they should have. Skelly admitted this was an "oversight". One Board pointed out that she had pointed this out in Feb and suggested that the District reach out to parents - but they did not listen.

Parents are not "back seat driving" they were left out by the District. Skelly did not follow simple clear guidelines because he thought he can get way with it

Posted by numbers
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 16, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Web Link "In 2007, Everyday Mathematics, ..., was being used by more than three million children in nearly 185,000 classrooms." They don't break it out so this is probably worldwide.

Posted by Palo Alto Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 16, 2009 at 2:49 pm

First, I'd like to note that at the Board meeting, parents read from a list of Districts that have dropped EDM-a long list that was not complete. Moreover, in these Districts and many many others that still have EDM, there has been a huge parental outcry for change.

The parents are asking the District to SLOW down for some very rational reasons:

1. the national advisory panel advised strongly against curriculum that is based on advancement without mastery (this is at the heart of the structure of EDM);

2. ELL, challenged learners, and kids who have a tougher time with math often struggle with EDM;

3. There is no hard LT data that proves the benefits of EDM, but there is significant anecdotal data against it;

4. The District is planning a bridge curriculum for 5th grade (and possibly 4th grade based on the slides shown at the Board meeting);

5. The teachers are excited about the professional development, but professional development regarding constructivist math can occur with or without a new textbook;

6. Teachers are the key. EDM will demand significant teacher resources that could instead be used for math AND other topics and areas for our kids growth.

Slowing down is not a you lose, we win proposition. The kids need to be the winners-not the parents and not the teachers. It's all about the kids.

Posted by Some facts
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 16, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Ohlone Par

Echoing the posts above - what happens when the public's "district guidelines" are not followed? Should we just adopt what the committee decides anyway if teachers happen to sit on it?

You have to be knee-deep in the details here to see how the committee's outcome was based on a flawed process through no fault of its own. Spend some time with the board's textbook selection guidelines, the committee's minutes, the video of Tuesday's board meeting if you weren't there, and read the letter from SRA and you will see parent involvement in a different light.

The committee does not get to choose the textbook. They recommend. The board selects, based in part on the views of its electorate. I've never seen a dictionary that defines "recommend" as "rubber stamp" nor a democracy where voters are banned from participating.

That parents are bringing forward very sound information based on the National Math Advisory Panel's recommendations for example underscores the value parents' contributions have added to this discussion.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Addison School
on Apr 16, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Ohlone Par,

Ask yourself this question: "Why are parents in an uproar?". "What is in for them?". The answer is simple - They care about their kid's education .

Parents have NOT taken an adversial role. They are just looking for answers on WHY such a controversial book is selected. Do your research on ANY of the other 8 books that were on the short list besides EDM. None has these many negative comments from other parents

The results of EDM (or any math curriculum) are not seen in the jazzy materials used, nor in a 2 week pilot, nor in the answers provided by sales team. We all know how product demos can be vastly different from product implementations... So, Skelly & his TOSA have to stop "selling EDM".

We really want to hear from parents whose kids have used EDM for 2-3 years. Guess what, they cannot find those parents that would publicly praise EDM (while you will find a lot that praise SRA or SM). Meanwhile you can find those parents rejecting EDM.

Posted by pinetree
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 16, 2009 at 8:17 pm

I really don't understand why someone just don't get it that why so many parents are so concerned!!!!!!!!

Just like when sometimes your child get sick and then someone ask you to try a new drug. Since the drug will be used for five years, shall you do a research and see what is the side effect will be at least?

Posted by Questions
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 16, 2009 at 8:31 pm

Is it true that 14 years ago the same crowd that is now opposing EDM was in favor of it? Perhaps one of the historians can answer this. I thought I heard this from someone.

With respect to SRA, if the teachers loved it so much, why would they be "funneled" by the TOSA's and anyone else who conspired to make EDM the material of choice? The teachers at my school would never stand for this. It seems clear that SRA is not a winner.

What textbook out there is a winner?

There were comments about process. When I read the Board Policy, I can't see where there were violations on this, except for the PTA part, which I don't see as a big deal. What were the others?

Posted by reality
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 16, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Not sure where you got that information, but 14 years ago a large group of parents opposed Investigations and were told the same thing they are being told now, by the fuzzy math proponents: "you have no right to question us." As it turned out, Investigations was an early ancestor of EDM. It would be more accurate to say that the same (or some one the same) people who pushed Investigations on the district now support EDM.

Also, not sure what is leading you to conclude that the teachers rejected SRA. They were very interested in it as the sane choice but it got off the table because someone communicated that the publisher was not willing to support it (an odd conclusion, given that the publisher was required to promise the state to support it for at least 7 years). It has since come out that the publisher was told the committee wanted the niche EDM program, so it focused on pushing that. No surprise, it has come to light that the publisher DOES support SRTA and would be willing to provide free pilot materials to the district. SRA appears to be the closest thing to a winner out there -- this is based upon the fact that the teachers voted strongly in favor of it in the first instance before it disappeared as a choice (a disappearance that is not even mentionedi nthe notes of the meeting where that decision was allegedly made).

Process? How about the fact that even as late as February a Board member asked the committee to get public input, which the committee did not do. Instead, it put on a series of dog and pony shows in favor of EDM in which no one was allowed to question the wisdom of the recommendation of that text.

This whole thing is deja vu. Good for the Board for asking the hard questions are drilling down to find out whether EDM was really a choice (no actual explanations of why it is the best choice for the district, just smoke and mirrors) or whether the committee members ended up having to vote on the better of the 2nd and third choices.

And given that the teachers themselves preferred SRA, strange that they would dig in and refuse to consider recommending it even after the confusion over publisher support was cleared up. OP seems to find it natural that teachers would resist any "interference" from parents and just dogmatically stick with EDM. I don't call it natural. I call it unprofessional and narcissistic.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 16, 2009 at 9:14 pm

FYI to the editors:
I posted as anonymous/Duveneck/St. Francis - as I have been doing for a LONG time on TownSquare - and someone shortly thereafter also posted under that handle. We are two people - I am surprised this is permitted by your system.
I understand you don't permit one person to try to post under TWO names.
This can lead to confusion.
the original "anonymous Duveneck/St. Francis

Posted by parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 16, 2009 at 9:19 pm

I found this to be a very informative 2 way discussion on the topic. Please do all of us a favor and look at all three videos. The first one has been posted by others already so please look at the bottom two. The first one is against EDM and the second and third offer a different perspective.

Thank you.

Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

Posted by PA Mom
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 16, 2009 at 9:44 pm

I've heard that EDM requires one page of homework each day, and it is designed to be done at home with parents. How will Ohlone handle a math program that has homework (which is designed to be done at home) when they have a no homework policy?

Posted by Lou
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 16, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Still going at it I see.
Get over yourselves, please, and do something useful. Tutor a kid, find a cure, write to a soldier, write a curriculum draft, read the standards, teach a class, coach a soccer team, give blood, take a Spanish class, drive for Avenidas, sponsor a local college student. Anything that you do will be more useful in the long run than protesting a math text adoption that will surely run its' course. You know the old adage.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 16, 2009 at 10:38 pm

OP, yes I do think Superintendent Skelly wishes the committee had recommended differently. That doesn't mean he (or I) disrespect teachers - just that he wishes they'd done differently. I would guess he thinks it doesn't matter much which of the top 2-3 programs is chosen, so recommending one that creates friction with parents is unfortunate. And having to choose between listening to parent input or backing teacher committees is a position I'm sure he'd prefer to avoid.

The key to Super Skelly's job is to keep all the stakeholders engaged and relatively happy, and to keep the money flowing. So long as the district doesn't get distracted or alienate a lot of people, they can build the facilities they need, hire good teachers, and get good outcomes. Math wars are just bad for business.

I generally like his practical approach and focus on execution vs. ideology. It will be interesting to see how he wriggles out of this one.

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 17, 2009 at 12:27 am

Questions wrote:

"Is it true that 14 years ago the same crowd that is now opposing EDM was in favor of it? Perhaps one of the historians can answer this. I thought I heard this from someone."

As someone who belonged to that "crowd," allow me to try and clarify the record.

1. There are very few of us from 12-13 (not 14) years ago still interested in these issues. With a handful of exceptions, the faces I saw at the Board meeting this week were all new faces.

2. In 1996 California did not yet have Content Standards, and the 1994 textbook adoption was quite terrible in the quality of the adopted textbooks. Mathland was the biggest seller across the state and it was so full of deep mathematical errors that even Palo Alto educators, then on the bleeding edge of math reform, backed off it once the errors were shown in public. Dale Seymour (a.k.a. TERC) Investigations was their second choice. It had quite a few errors but they were less severe than Mathland's. Investigations' biggest problem was (and still is) large content holes in their program and almost no skills practice. Everyday Math was the best in terms of mathematical correctness, and was the only program that was judged to be even semi-decent by mathematicians. In other words, it was the best of a pile of bad programs. As there were no better choices and an adoption had to be made, EDM was recommended by us (the "crowd") as the best of the worst.

3. PAUSD decided to go with Investigations, arguing that EDM demands too much math understanding from our elementary teachers and the teacher training will be prohibitive.

4. Two years later (1997-8) California finally created its Content Standards, and shortly thereafter adopted a new set of textbooks based on those standards. EDM applied and was rejected; Investigations and Mathland didn't even bother to apply -- they knew they would fail because they missed much of the content standards and/or contained too many errors. In 2002 PAUSD adopted a mainstream textbook (Scott Foresman) and promised to continue to use Investigations mostly as supplementation (which, incidentally, does make sense to me; unfortunately some teachers still use Investigations to this day as their main text, which does not make sense to me.)

5. Currently California adoption list has mostly good quality programs that meet California Content Standards. Everyday Mathematics made some superficial changes, like slapping some teaching of traditional algorithms in the students' (but not teachers') textbooks and succeeded in being approved in 2007. Incidentally, the best program on the current list is--in my quite informed opinion--the Singapore math program, but the committee felt that it will ... demand too much math understanding from our elementary teachers and the teacher training will be prohibitive. Plus ca change.

This summarizes my take on the history. If 12 years ago EDM was the best of the worst, today it represents the worst of the best. For a clear-eyed analysis of problems with EDM, I attach here what Prof. Hung-Hsi Wu of UC Berkeley, one of the authors of Calif. Standards and a member of the National Math Panel, recently wrote:


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

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

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

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


Posted by tim
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 17, 2009 at 1:06 am


What does the stellar performance of our graduating students say about the influence of the materials adopted 14 years ago? They must have used them all through elementary school.

Frankly, I consider myself as informed as you and Dr. Wu. Since we won't win any arguments with our personal opinions, I defer to well done studies that analyze outcomes with thousands of students using EM vs outcomes of their peers with other textbooks. (See the Department of Education's WWC report, linked previously.) The data refute Dr. Wu's hypothesis. He should look at the evidence, form a new hypothesis, make a prediction and test it with well conducted research.

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 17, 2009 at 2:14 am


It is misleading to use the Department of Education WWC report to claim that EDM is "better" than "other textbooks." I wish you would stop repeating it over and over. You sound like the publisher.

WWC tried to evaluate over 70 elementary math programs. Unfortunately, it could evaluate only FIVE programs, as all other programs didn't have any quality research behind them. This does not say anything about whether they are better than EDM, worse than EDM, or the same. We simply don't know.

Of the five programs with at least some reasonable research support, none had a high quality research support. They all only had almost good enough quality ("with reservations") research supporting them.

EDM has 4 such almost good enough studies. Three of them found no significant effects for EDM, and one found positive effects, as measured against a mix of 15 different math programs. That's all that was found.

Based on this data, EDM got a "potentially positive" rating.

Based on this data, nobody steeped in research would claim that EDM is "better than other textbooks" (which? some undefined mix of 15 textbooks? what about the other 67 textbooks?) or that EDM "got the best rating from the U.S. Department of Education." It's like getting B- in a class of 72, with 4 more C, and 67 students not participating in the test. It is "best" only in the narrow sense of being better than the other 4, not that it is clearly the superior program in the field, or that it has a truly robust research base.

Posted by resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 17, 2009 at 5:51 am


How disappointing. Anyone that is positive is being coined as biased by the publisher. "I wish you would stop repeating it over and over". We aren't trying to be mindless idiots nor do we want to pick a fight. We are just trying to do what is right for our kids. I read what you and others say because I want to learn... from you and others. But if we end up with a different conclusion, we must be stupid.

Posted by Jill McArthur
a resident of another community
on Apr 17, 2009 at 8:21 am

We live in Lexington, KY and our schools use EDM. I do not like it at all!! My sister works in Palo Alto and after hearing me complain about the math program here over Christmas she returned home to find Palo Alto considering using the same program I complained about. I have had to teach my son (1st grade) his math at home because the basics are not being taught through EDM. His teacher even suggested that I supplement at home. Many parents here have had to get tutors for their elementary school children because they can't help them with their homework because the methods being taught are confusing and the parents don't have a clue how to help using the "new" methods. I say avoid this program at all costs. It will only cause problems.

Posted by BP Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 17, 2009 at 8:54 am

re: tim's "What does the stellar performance of our graduating students say about the influence of the materials adopted 14 years ago? They must have used them all through elementary school."

It says the Scott Foresman's CA Math which is a traditional textbook with decent rigor worked well for our students. And, so we look at a book that is similar in its philosophy and no consider a fuzzy math textbook like EDM

Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck School
on Apr 17, 2009 at 2:14 pm

I'm still confused about why we can't get more quantitative data on EDM. A work colleague of mine lives in Hillsborough, where they've used EDM for a fair number of years. She likes it, and it seems like Hillsborough is fine with it. A friend in Woodside said they've used it for 8 years. When it recently came up for re-adoption, only 6 parents showed, and it was easily re-adopted. These seem to be two reasonable data points.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 17, 2009 at 4:52 pm

So, did anyone see the Post article on the letter from the McGraw-Hill VP that steered PA away from SRA--a letter that apparently conflicts with California law.

Lou, I already work in the classrooms. Many parents volunteer around here. And while I disagree with various parents on this particular issue, I think they do get involved with the schools.


I am wearing my usual hat--I completely believe that parents are concerned, but what I'm also seeing in my contrarian way is a sort of closed loop and unexamined assumptions. I see a strong preference for the familiar--what we were taught as kids should be what's taught to our kids. If it's different, it's wrong. Then whatever data points fits that assumption are embraced.

That's why, in part, I asked some questions about EDM's success and failure rates. And I asked it of the posters who have claimed that EDM is a disaster.

I am, in fact, quite open to hearing that EDM doesn't work. But I'm not getting hard numbers or even good anecdotes. I am simply asking for the kind of numbers that would sway me and I'm not getting them. That, combined with the strong emotions expressed here, leaves a question mark in my mind.

Here's some of the things that are entering into my ongoing assessment:

I am interested, for instance, by Diana Diamond's article because there's something concrete there--i.e. the district may have had its choice violated in a way that violates California's codes. That it seems to be a less controversial choice makes it ironic.

I'm interested in both Dana Tom's and Residents comments that EDM is used around the Bay Area. Tom, in particular, seems to have tried to get some real answers. I liked that he did that.

I note an underlying irony in the debate between Ze'ev and Tim. One of the claims about EDM in this Forum is that it's too experimental. What's clear from the study discussed by Ze'ev and Tim is that it's actually one of the few textbooks for which there are halfway decent research studies. We wouldn't be "experimenting" on our children--as opposed to MI where project-based Mandarin Immersion is a hybrid that seems to exist nowhere outside of Ohlone. Now *that's* experimental.

As for homework at Ohlone--Ohlone kids have time in class to do what a lot of kids are given as homework. A teacher may give them, for example, a timetable for finishing a math chapter. For some kids, that means bringing the work home to get it done. Other kids whiz through it during work time in the classroom. Those kids are given enrichment material--i.e. math worksheets that introduce different concepts that aren't part of the core curriculum. In some cases, the kids simply do the work of the next grade, which is easy in a mixed-grade class. (More than you wanted to know)

Posted by reality
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 17, 2009 at 5:06 pm

As Board members continue to drill down and more information is revealed, I am confident that we will find out the order of things was:

Committee votes to consider SRA, Envision and EDM.

Someone with an agenda communicates to publisher that Palo Alto is interested in EDM, not SRA.

Publisher tries to steer committee to use EDM, the niche program, instead of pushing for the SRA materials. This is called listening to the customer and selling what the customer wants.

Committee is told that publisher will not support SRA.

Committee chooses to pilot EDM and Envision.

Committee chooses to recommend EDM over Envision (the only choice that is clear is that the committee preferred EDM to Envision. That is hardly an endorsement of EDM.

We shall see. I've gotten the inside scoop on a lot of district dealings over the years and trust me, it's not just a conspiracy theory. Time will tell.

Posted by reality
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 17, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Someone on one of these math threads said it would be useful to have input from a teacher who is also a parent and who also has experience with EDM. Guess what? Here it is! Now what say you?

I cut and pasted from a very interesting blog called "kitchen table math."

Web Link

Here is what this person had to say:

To me, the ignorant statements are the ones made by math committee members who suggested that parents obtained their information on the two math programs under consideration by "googling" it. An incredibly high number of parents in this district have graduate degrees; we might actually know something or have something to offer this process. While I appreciate that three parents (and more -- some teachers are also district parents) sat on the selection committee, no one put out a poll to the community to see who of us might have experience with these programs beyond a brief trial period. As a new member of the community, I couldn't have sat on the formal committee, but I have some feedback on Everyday Math that I'd like to feel was heard and respected.

I am an educator (my graduate degree is from Columbia's Teachers College) and a mother who suffered -- and I do mean to say suffered -- through Everyday Math with my daughter for three years prior to moving to Palo Alto. I chose where to live because of the excellence of the school districts, but I verified their excellence by making sure that they did not teach Everyday Math. Obviously, I feel strongly about this program in a negative way. I know that I will have to return to the days of homeschooling my very intelligent daughter in math -- something I have not had to do at all this year. Neither of us enjoyed that supplementation, but it was necessary -- as our teachers admit it will be necessary for our students. (That's a problem, don't you think -- the suggestion that "gaps will be filled" -- ?)

Our specific problems with Everyday Math far exceed the different language -- the whole "spiraling" approach to learning, where components of the curriculum are not mastered before moving on, is problematic; it has come under scrutiny in the education community for its inefficiency, especially because students need to re-learn concepts before advancing again on the spiral. I can't see how "mastery of concepts" is a high priority in Everyday Math, yet it was on many of the parents' priority lists at the community meeting. And that is just one example.

At the end of the day, not enough parents know enough about this program and just how funky it is -- and I think that if they did, there would be even greater concern. If parents can't make it to the PAUSD offices to review the materials like I did, what can they do? (Google it! Or nothing.) And for those of us who actually attended the meeting, what information did we get about the two programs? (Little.)

Look, all things considered, I am really happy with our teachers and the school district, but I think the superintendent is right on the money in expecting trouble over this decision. I know that our teachers will "fill in the gaps," but, quite frankly, I'd rather NEVER hear those words in terms of my kids' education. Shouldn't we be reaching rather than bending, here?

Posted by jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 17, 2009 at 6:33 pm


And that positive experience in Hillsborough came with the previous editions of EDM. I'd expect them to be even happier with the newly revised edition.

Anyone who is curious or concerned about "lattice multiplication", often held up as a scary “alternative algorithm” introduced along with the required “standard algorithm” in EDM might enjoy the short tutorial at It only takes a few minutes. It satisfied my curiosity, relieved anxiety about alternative algorithms, and was fun to boot.

I’m curious whether community members who learned math in other countries used the “standard algorithms” referred to in our textbook adoption debate. If not, do they feel there has been value in knowing more than one way of doing a calculation.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 17, 2009 at 10:22 pm


I believe that was me, but what I wanted was someone who had taught EDM--that's not what you offered. There are lots of "educators".

I did, however, find a teacher2teacher forum with discussions of Everyday and Chicago Math. Interesting--some hate it, some love it. Those who love it, love the depth with which it deals with mathematical concepts. Those who hate it generally feel that it doesn't teach math facts solidly.

One teacher who was very happy with it and said the kids in her district performed well did say the kids were also drilled in math facts. She thought that was key.

Posted by New to Palo Alto
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 17, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Recently moved here from Virginia and my kids have used Everyday Math for a couple of years - they love it! Sure, it took a little fancy footwork a few times when they asked me if they'd done something right and I had to play catch-up to learn a new procedure or something. But each of them had a textbook that explained everything. (I have never used the online tools so I can't comment on them.) But my kids are definitely not struggling to keep up in math here in Palo Alto.

What I'm most impressed with is their ability to estimate things when we're in the grocery store -- sales tax is a bit much to do in your head but they come pretty close to the final bill when they come with me. If they were every off by more than a dollar or two, my first assumption would be that the cashir had mis-rung something!

Posted by Some facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2009 at 7:00 am

Ten years after bringing Everyday Math into their classrooms, Pittsburg teachers convened at Carnegie Mellon Institute to share their mostly negative experiences. Pittsburg ended up abandoning Everyday Math in 2008.

Check these teachers comments out from Pittsburg Web Link as well as findings from an academic study about EDM conducted in Pittsburg Public Schools 6 or so years after implementation:
- "frustrating"
- "confuse the child instead of further their understanding"
- "[students] never have enough time and practice to master one method"
- "school officials are also suggesting math 'specialists' teach the program in third through fifth grade instead of the regular classroom teacher [since the specialist] at least [would] have the proper training to teach the program effectively"
- many teachers needed "substantial content preparation"
- "a need for considerable professional development for both administrators and teachers"
- "parents are not familiar with this 'new math' and therefore provide little assistance."
- [On the spiral] "What ever they may have grasped on the concept has surely been forgotten"
- "The spiral in the curriculum is too wide. The time that it takes to return to a specific skills and or concept provides students with the opportunity to forget what was already learned. Students, who did not catch the concept the first time, have difficulty remembering the base of information that was initially introduced."
- "they are first introduced to adding fractions . . . but do not revisit this concept until . . . almost one full calendar year [later], or one tenth of their entire life. What ever they may have grasped on the concept has surely been forgotten.""
- EDM's "focus is on things like calculators, blocks, guesswork, and group activities and they shun things like algorithms and repeated practice"
- "I quickly discovered a deficit in my students’ knowledge of basic math facts. Their inability to “automatically” know the answers to basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts, held them back from learning more complex concepts."
- "Students are introduced to calculators in kindergarten and use them throughout the curriculum. Students use the calculator to help them complete basic facts"
- "The use of calculators so early on in the curriculum seems to give students the illusion that knowing their basic skills is not important because they can use the calculator"
- "The frequent and inappropriate use of calculators is another weakness of the program. 'Calculators are an integral part of Kindergarten Everyday Mathematics' (Bell et al., Kindergarten Everyday Mathematics). Children use them to count by ones, twos, tens, and other numbers in kindergarten. ...At this age level, students may see a calculator as a reason not to learn their basic skills instead of a tool that makes computations faster. Too frequently last year my seventh and eighth grade students, most of which had gone through the Everyday Mathematics program, would reach for a calculator when performing basic operations such as one digit multiplication or two digit addition. Many of my students thought that it would be faster to multiply 8 times 6 on the calculator, while others just did not feel confident in their basic skills, such as times tables."

Pittsburg is still listed on EDM's website as one of its successes.

Posted by TheWiser
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 18, 2009 at 3:16 pm

You people are mean. EDM is perfect for Ohlone. Leave it alone.

Posted by Sarah Palin
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Palo Alto parents once again trying to micro-manage the school district, thinking they always know more than the teachers.

Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2009 at 11:10 am

The Wiser, Sarah Palin,

It's your children who will lose out by a program such as EDM. All the other parents will be supplementing their children so they will be fine.

Ohlone's test scores are second to last in this district.

The teachers did not consider outside research. They only believed what the salesperson told them. We trust our teachers, but not when they are not supplied with all the research to make a decision.

Posted by Nancy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 19, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Do you know why the district is so defensive of EDM program against all teh public outcry? Follow the money. There is a form of kick back involved.

Posted by MathConcernedParent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 19, 2009 at 2:15 pm

I plan on having my son take supplemental math tutoring through his entire PAUSD public school education, no matter which textbook series is chosen. And, no matter how well he is doing in school. So, perhaps I have less of a sense of urgency about this program than some other parents.

I don't think of this as elitist or systemically unfair, but as practical. It's about our family's values and priorities. To me, math is too important to rely on the public school system to get the job done right, with no back-up/support plan in place. I also anticipate spending plenty of time helping with homework.

Based on what people are writing in this forum, I can't tell if EDM is a good program, or not. What I am hearing about it doesn't scare me, by itself. In general, I am more concerned about how well the math teachers can understand, teach, and inspire/communicate the value of math concepts. In the absence of a good, committed math teacher, all text books are just dead trees on a desk.

Posted by Bob
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 19, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Back in the mid-60's, the PAUSD threw out traditional math and started a new math program designed by some Stanford professors. It was an absolute disaster, and along with new other ideas e.g. English and Social Studies, it started the movement for a Back to Basics School - now Hoover. Students of that generation really suffered from the New Math until the PAUSD finally dumped it, went back to basics, and 'got the message'. Our country sent into space men and women who got their start in the traditional time-honored math and received many Nobel and other prizes. As a engineer, if a new hire came into our company without the basics and was doing math with diagrams as it is explained by this new program, they'd be out the door. I also noticed that every time we get a thank you note from PAUSD students or grads now, it is printed. I guess handwriting is too old fashioned now - along with spelling. And then there is the slanted curriculum in Social Studies. Appalling.

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Never chalk up to malice what can be explained by sheer ignorance or incompetence (and poor leadership).

Posted by reality
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 19, 2009 at 7:16 pm

A question to all those community members who say we should just trust the teachers and that questioning the choice of EDM is questioning the competence and integrity of those on the committee.

We know the committee preferred SRA from the get go as they thought it met the district needs and content standards comfortably.

We know the teachers got the impression that they could only choose between Envision and EDM. Given that choice, they chose EDM.

We now know, thanks to Diana Diamond and Melissa Caswell, that the publisher sent an email saying it would only support EDM, and not SRA (or something to that effect). If true, this was illegal. More will come to light, no doubt, but at least we know that the publisher (same one that publishes EDM) is in fact prepared at this time to support piloting of SRA in this district.

Given this set of facts, I do not understand why we need to even go further in the analysis. No decision should be determined by the illegal act of the publisher. To allow a publisher to dictate which program we use is an abdication of our collective responsibility.

If you are a parent who, even in light of these recently released facts, says we should go with EDM whatever the circumstances because the committee recommended it, I truly want to know the rationale behind just moving on. Is it because you are cynical or apathetic? Is it because you feel the teachers will teach fine with whatever text so even if the district adopts EDM the kids will learn with that as ONE resource (if so, why do you think it is fiscally sound policy to choose the most expensive of three interchangeable programs?) Do you think that children will in fact learn better with EDM than SRA (in which case, are you prepared to stand on a position that is inconsistent with your "let the teachers decide" line, since the teachers did not in fact decide between SRA and EDM and Envision -- the publisher did?) Are there other reasons underlying
your position?

I can think of a lot of reasons why pushing EDM would appeal to a publisher -- huge revenue from support and supplementation programs, teacher training etc.; huge credibility boost from being able to advertise that Palo Alto (great test scores already) chose this boutique program. I can also imagine that the publisher had some PAUSD help in deciding to withhold SRA and, if that is the case, I hope the Board can bring that to light.

I for one am not prepared to let a publisher dictate which state approved curriculum Palo Alto will use without at least raising my voice against illegal racketeering at the expense of my district and my children. I just don't get the position, under the circumstances in which the EDM recommendation was made, that we should rush to adopt EDM next week.

Posted by Teachers want the same as us
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 19, 2009 at 9:54 pm


[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Teachers get into teaching because they care about kids. They have the same interests as you in terms of seeing kids achieve as much as they can. The choice of EDM may be wrong, but it isn't malevolent on anyone's part.

Somehow a decision will be made. I think the material will be approved. If it is, I sure hope that those parents who have kids in the elementary school support this path. Otherwise their kids will never respect teachers. Having respect for one's teachers is a bedrock of Asian countries' success in math -- way more important than the choice of materials. Do we think that the mindless study and memorization found in many countries leads to higher achievement than we have here? No. The difference, I wager, is because they respect teachers and learning more than we do. As Pogo said, "we have met the enemy and he is us." Mindset matters. Way more than anything else in this discussion. The mindset of the teachers and the mindset of the parents and the mindset of the students.

Posted by BP Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 19, 2009 at 11:25 pm

to Teachers want the same as us - What?? the SRA person at the Board meeting was rude?? OMG - I was at the meeting and did not see a hint of rudeness. What are you talking about? Please keep this an honest conversation and don't muddy it up by false acusations. And the point about SRA - the teachers wanted to pilot it. But, did they get to pilot it? NO! Why?? see Diana Diamond's article in Daily Post and you will know - the district was supposed to get SRA for the teachers since (like you said) they wanted to pilot but SRA was not given a chance

And, how can you be so sure the material will be approved?

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Teachers want the same as us,

It was enough that the teachers were interested in piloting SRA.

The publisher killed that interest.

If Palo Alto adopts EDM, it will result be the biggest endorsement for EDM (more profitable than SRA for the publisher). This may not be corrupt or malevolent, but it is at least convenient. This sort of adds insult to injury for the people opposed to EDM for its radical and controversial approach.

If passing on EDM means saving money, AND still getting a good textbook with SRA, why would the teachers oppose that? Why would teachers now oppose piloting SRA if they were interested in piloting it in the first place?

As for your snarky comment about working with SRA or EDM people, you can't judge the curriculum or the textbook based on the salesman.

ALso, why does everything but EDM have to be considered "mindless"? Is what we currently do in Palo ALto rote, memory and mindless?

PAUSD does not currently use EDM, and can you actually say this district does mindless Math?

Posted by Give SRA a try
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2009 at 11:35 pm

A few things about SRA:

1. The Q&A and the math committee minutes are clear that the committee continued to like SRA, so much so that it rebuffed staff's attempts to limit the pilot to 2 books and selected SRA to be the third book piloted because of its reservations about EDM and enVisions. Web Link

2. There is no way the committee would have issued a "hue and cry" if they were told that SRA wasn't selling in California. They had no reason not to trust staff's claim and so just moved on.

3. The man who spoke about SRA at the board meeting made it clear that he wasn't from SRA but just happened to be sitting next to the SRA Real Math author who my guess is couldn't stay after having waited for 2 hours and could see that the meeting was going to go another 2 hours at least -- it ended up going 6. He kindly read her comments for her. He went off script at the end, but before he did he stated that the next comments would be his own.

The SRA misunderstanding probably was just that, but it is clear that the process was broken and that break substantively changed the outcome. The question now is how to pilot SRA so late in the school year and how to get a group of teachers to help who will give SRA a fair shake given all the anger and frustration that they have had since the vote. It also will be hard to erase the committee's EDM-bias if staff encouraged it to adopt EDM as some have speculated.

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2009 at 11:52 pm

Teachers want the same as us,

EDM has to be adopted "...Otherwise their kids will never respect teachers." ????

this is way too much drama

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 20, 2009 at 10:37 am

I sent the following message to a polite and welcome inquiry from the petition organizers inquiring why I had asked that my name be removed from the petition. I can't say I'm right about everything, but I have been learning more as I've followed the debate over the past several weeks. I have not included the message I'm responding to.

"I understand that there are a lot of issues that have been raised, and I expect the staff will address them at the next board meeting as requested by the board.

The concerns about spiraling are not new, and at least some of them appear to have been addressed since I first heard the argument against spiraling in US textbook publishers. At that time, spiraling carried over from year to year, adding every year to the burden of standards not brought to closure, at the same time that the publishers were including an overabundance of new topics each year.

Since then, California has adopted a set of math standards that publishers have heeded in putting together their California offerings, and the second grade teacher who spoke to the board about piloting EDM said that spiraling is done in a fashion that aims at mastery of a standard during a single school year. So maybe there’s good spiraling and bad spiraling.

Non-standard algorithms don’t represent a significant drawback, in my opinion, in the context of a Palo Alto curriculum that demands mastery of basic math facts and standard algorithms. I think they can bring greater understanding of mathematics, beyond rote application of a single way of setting up a problem.

Calculators can have good uses as well as possible abuses. The teachers who looked at the materials weren’t concerned about their modest use and aren’t likely to let calculators distract them from the primary objectives of the PA math program.

Andy Isaacs’s call for 75 minutes a day on mathematics (I’ll assume PA classes would be ok with the lower number of minutes) doesn’t seem out of line for someone who feels that learning math well is desperately important. Who knows? Maybe the district will move in that direction as it implements the program. Or they’ll find ways to make do with less time.

The parent selection process was open to anyone. The district didn’t fish around for applicants who could be counted on to toe a particular line. But they didn’t follow the particular step of involving the PTA Council Exec. Board as called for in the rule you cite. This acknowledged flaw has been taken note of and should be addressed in future adoptions.

To fault the district committee and board for not threatening legal action or some other measure to coerce an unwilling publisher to cough up some loaner materials and staff time to have its materials considered seems unreasonable to me. I’d probably feel differently if I strongly felt that SRA Real Math offered an indispensible resource unavailable anywhere else. But I don’t. And neither do you, if I understand correctly.

I agree that there is room for fine-tuning the program to address concerns about implementation of EDM, but I don’t see how the district could walk away from the staff recommendation of EDM without significant damage. Some of the speakers last week warned darkly of damage to the district in the form of reduced PIE donations, less volunteer time, and so on if EDM was accepted by the board. I hope that doesn’t happen. It would needlessly harm all of us."

Posted by Ted
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Apr 20, 2009 at 11:22 am

Singapore Math
Great texts

Whats the problem?

Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2009 at 11:31 am


The name, Singapore Math somehow makes people think it is too rigid and kill & drill, which it is definitely NOT. It teaches the same analytical concept thinking which is what the committee liked about EDM.

Singapore Math is so easy to follow and successful that parents in Palo Alto use it to supplement at home with ease and the afterschool programs in elementaries teach Singapore Math.

Posted by Light of Day
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 20, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Yes, why not Singapore math? It's mainstream and ought to united the reformers and traditionalists.

And it's proven.

Posted by parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2009 at 12:10 pm

EDM can't possibly be that important. This district ALREADY teaches Math in a meaningful way. It was supposed to be about a textbook, and it has become about politics.

Posted by Marina
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2009 at 3:48 pm

While EDM can be a better fit for alternative programs of Ohlone school in PA or Crista McAuliff school in Cupertino, you would be surprised to know how many parents hire private tutors to supplement math and other subjects taught in these alternative programs! Which means they do not work even there!

Posted by Ada
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2009 at 3:53 pm

If PAUSD continues to snub the parents' outcry, I will indeed consider cutting my donations to PiE.

Posted by Alternate solution
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 21, 2009 at 12:29 am

If the district adopts EDM, the only real way to demonstrate the efficacy of the quality of instruction and the program is for parents to band together and for the first academic year agree NOT to provide outside tutoring.

This would provide the district with more realistic data about how much learning is actually taking place in the classroom versus outside. Of course, it would be on the honor system with parents--but many would agree if it would only mean one experimental academic year.

Parents could do whatever tutoring/supplementation they wanted to during the following summer--AFTER the STAR tests took place. Then, there would be real data and results to discuss between parents, teachers and administrators.

Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2009 at 9:51 am

If we cannot convince parents to band together and write to our School Board to avoid EDM, there is no way we can convince all parents to stop tutoring. There is too much at stake for the parents and students when the kids have fallen way behind and need to catch up due to EDM. PAUSD cannot dictate what people do on their own time.

The School Board has asked for feedback. Please write to them so they have all feedback and can make an informed decision:

Dana Tom, [email protected]
Barb Mitchell, [email protected]
Barb Klausner, [email protected]
Melissa Baten Caswell, [email protected]
Camille Townsend, [email protected]

Posted by Light of Day
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 21, 2009 at 10:03 am

Ada and Alternate,

Seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face--no one wants to reduce resources or sacrifice a year of learning just to make a point with the district. I just don't see it happening in this district.

But it is extremely frustrating that the district seems intent on pushing this through without addressing widespread parental concern.

A more workable alternate solution for this district is to start a charter school. There has been huge support (more than 600 signatures!) for the petition. It should be easy to consolidate support for a centrist textbook that teaches both concepts and computation (Singapore). I wonder what other focus the school would have? Charter is definitely the next step.

I suggest that the people who organized the petition, especially those with younger kids, start planning now, because the district is showing no sign of addressing concerns. It will take some time to organize, but with hard work you could be up and running in 2010. Good luck.

Posted by reality
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 21, 2009 at 10:17 am

Perhaps such a charter school could consider being a gifted school, and/or teach real phonics, literature and writing instead of the whole word idiocy that pervaded my own children's PAUSD elementary education.

Posted by BP Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 21, 2009 at 10:40 am

Alternate solution - no, as a mother of 2 kids this does not sound feasible. 1 full year of academic year wasted while the district experiments on my kids! Skelly and the board have to step up! We have high hopes for them. How can PAUSD implement a program that needs so much parent support without bringing parents on board?

Here is the petition if you have'nt signed already
Web Link

Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2009 at 10:58 am

BP Mom,

The School Board has asked for email feedback. Anyone can sign a petition. They want to hear reasons and people's feelings, not just see signatures.

Emails can be as simple as:

"Please wait a year and pilot other programs"

"I don't think my children should have to invent their own algorithms as EDM curriculum asks them to do"

"They shouldn't spend so much time learning alternate algorithms when the standard algorithm is the fastest and easiest and is what they will need to know to progress past elementary math"

"I want my child prepared for middle school math and EDM will not prepare him without supplementation."

"Calculators are not needed in elementary school. We didn't need them."

"The teachers will all be teaching differently because they will be adding to the EDM curriculum. This will be inconsistent teaching."

"Our children should learn concepts once and master it instead of moving on and repeating the subject later (spiraling). Some students who mastered it the first time will be bored the next time it spirals."

"Other districts which have adopted the program have recently adopted them so they do not have enough feedback yet regarding its success rate."

Dana Tom, [email protected]

Barb Mitchell, [email protected]

Barb Klausner, [email protected]

Melissa Baten Caswell, [email protected]

Camille Townsend, [email protected]

Posted by goCharter
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2009 at 11:16 am

If you are that bothered by the text, start a math-centric charter school. If you have over 300 signatures already, you have enough for a school.
You've also seen how the board responds to the threat of a charter.....

Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2009 at 11:31 am

Here's another issue which was raised, Sales Rep May Have Picked PA Math Text: Web Link

Posted by Compromise
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2009 at 11:40 am

It's kind of galling that our schools are influenced by publisher marketing ploys. Though I think that aside from the gloss and controversy, the textbook committee must see other good things in EDM, or else, why the rancor against parent objections?

All the same, what about compromise?

EDM textbooks complying with a PAUSD curriculum focused on MASTERY. NO SPIRALING

A National Math panel, tasked to recommend on curriculum, specifically recommends against spiraling at the expense of mastery. This panel had the advantage to study lots of data points, their guidelines ned to count.

EDM textbooks with absolutely NO CALCULATORS until after 4th grade.

EDM textbooks in K-3 using standard Math approaches, maybe multiple algorthms after 4ht grade. Don't we already have lattice multiplication in the higher elementary grades already anyway?

Main idea, what is currently maligned as "drill and kill" becomes "MASTERY"

Whether it's music, rap, or marching around the playgrounds reciting the multiplication tables - mastery should rule!

The real deal in Math is to teach kids how to LOVE it, and motivate them. FUN stuff, not the hocus pocus in the pedagogy of Math.

If EDM wants PAUSD business, they need to adapt to the customer. Figure out a way to make their materials work without spiraling, or calculators in K-3, and leave the fancy stuff for later grades. If it's their way or the highway, thanks but no thanks.

Posted by Compromise
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2009 at 11:51 am

I think of charter schools as a way to experiment on something, try it in smaller scale, or to serve a very specific population.

not a bad idea to get all the gifted and talented into a separate pool so we can focus on the majority of the population and get on with business.

as for experimenting, it appears the district already is willing to try unusual things, a charter school to go back to traditions? what's next?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 21, 2009 at 1:05 pm


The problem with Everyday math is that you can't just repurpose the materials you way you suggest. The spiraling is really baked into it. Each lesson is a brief foray into a topic. There are not enough questions or material on a particular topic that you could get mastery. You would be trying to throw things together from the 1st grade, 2nd grade and third grade books. The parent's guide would make no sense.

It's a system - you can add to it but you can't really pick and choose from its core features.

My issues are thus:

1) The veteran teachers I've spoken to don't really like it. There are some parts (some of the games) they like but they are already doing them in their classrooms. They are simply going to ignore it for the most part and continue using the hodgepodge of materials that they have put together over the years. While we are not much worse off than before, we don't get an opportunity to go from good to great which can happen if everyone is on the same page. Each classroom will continue to be an island.

2) Everyday Math is not the curriculm you would want to center on. The spiraling as mentioned before is a problem. True understanding requires a comfort and fluency to then be able to connect across concepts. This happens MUCH later on - high school, college, even later.

3) The books themselves have way too many words. This makes math hard for both kids who have problems with math and kids who have problems with reading. This has been mentioned but I think it should alone disqualify EDM.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2009 at 1:31 pm

We have a real problem of leadership in this district. "We need to trust the experts" seems to be a mantra -- so our math curriculum get determined by the economic needs of the publisher, our high school sizes get determined by the economic desires of the architects, etc. etc.

The parents need to be involved very, very early on in the decisions, because what's happening is that a lot of work goes into these processes that have already been predetermined by our "experts" -- who should really not be making these decisions. The trouble is that parents have a limited amount of time -- we are involved, and that's a good thing, but we are paying all this money to live here so that we have a district where our time can go to good educational use and not dealing with one quality crisis after another.

It's time we started seriously questioning the leadership we have brought in. He seems determined to direct us into mediocrity, regardless of how much time we spend protesting (which we shouldn't have to be doing in the first place).

Posted by Light of Day
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 21, 2009 at 2:10 pm


Don't know if there is enough support for a gifted charter school, though I hear those parents feel they are given short shrift. On the other hand, that would close off a good math curriculum to the non-gifted....

Posted by Compromise = different text
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2009 at 2:14 pm


Tell me, how do you get around the spiraling and keep the book? As Parent mentions, the spiral defines the program and is apparent on every page of the text.

Do you suggest that teachers map out their own curriculum for the year and then just find the pages in EDM that teach it? That kind of work and inconsistency was exactly what the district was trying to get away from with this textbook adoption.

Posted by goCharter
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 21, 2009 at 2:27 pm

The charter's charter does not need to target gifted students. Stick with the standard curriculum but make it more math-centric and choose your own text.
From all the posts, it's fairly obvious how important parents consider math. If such a charter was considered it would be more viable than the last immersion based charter that was proposed.

Posted by how many
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2009 at 4:41 pm

How many individual parents have responded on this blog. I see lots of repeats.

How many parents have signed the petition because they have actually taken the time to look into the different textbook options.

How many parents have signed the petition because a friend asked them to.

How many parents are totally unaware of this discussion about the math textbook. Most of the parents at my school are basically not concerned as they trust the process and the professionals making the decision. I don't think any teacher in Palo Alto wants to see our children fail. Please note that I am not identifying my school as I am afraid of the possible responses such as: Well the parents at that school don't care about their kids, etc.

How many parents are in the district?

Please don't say that a majority of parents are concerned about this decision unless you can actually give a clear number.

Posted by Compromise
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2009 at 5:03 pm

how many,

you're probably right, most Elementary parents trust the system.

The situation in Middle and High School is every person out for themselves, very different deal.

The parents with kids in Middle and High School largely don't have the time or reason to get involved in Elementary Math textbook adoption debates. And if they have younger kids, they know the ins and outs of getting through the system, so they won't be bothering with dealing with neophytes.

It would be great to do a quick survey of the Middle and High School parents and see what THEY would advise the Elementary parents.

Trusting the system, at any rate, is not a good policy for anything - it breeds complacency or power games that result in poor decisions.

It's not unhealthy to debate, it's unhealthy to suppress serious well meaning challenges to the powers that be. The petition may not have every Elementary school parent, it may not be the majority, and that would be a good thing.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 21, 2009 at 5:04 pm

I don't see that as an argument. How many people vote in general or in midterm elections?! Some people don't care to post comments, some like to do this...
The fact that there ARE caring people here is a good thing even if some others are apathetic or undecided or trust that things will sort themselves out...
I write from the perspective of a parent of older teens - I don't have a horse in this race BUT I DO care about Math curriculum and believe it IS important. I have been through the elementary years. I am also worried as a homeowner if the reputation of this district should go down.

I don't like the marketing/sales process as described.

Whoever gets to cite PAUSD as a customer gets a big boost.
I think PAUSD should be extremely thoughtful and deliberate quite carefully in the process of picking a Math curriculum! Therefore generating a lot of ideas should be helpful!

Posted by charter is the way to go
a resident of Los Altos
on Apr 21, 2009 at 9:15 pm

I am a parent of a Bullis Charter School Student. BCS is a terrific school that offers a completely different curriculum than the other LASD schools. I think the parents that have been posting on this site could create a fantastic charter. You can probably come up with several different schools. The continued popularity and success of BCS proves that charters are not just for failing districts.

Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2009 at 8:41 am

Here are some sample problems of the many algorithms EDM teaches. How are parents supposed to help their children when they have never been taught these? They also take longer to solve than the standard algorithm that parents know: Web Link

Posted by PointOfView
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 22, 2009 at 11:18 am

Thanks for providing examples of what they're doing here.

The partial sums method for adding needs no explanation; it's obvious at a glance what they're doing.

When I tried it, I found it is faster, easier to mentally check any particular step to be sure I made no mistake, and more intuitive than the algorithm I learned (carrying).

With carrying, I can't really check one column to see if I got the right number under that column; I have to start over and check every column I'd done before that in order to check a column. With partial sums, I can check any piece of my work and find an error quickly.

But I don't think this has much bearing on a textbook decision. It's the chemistry between teachers and students that a textbook's use promotes that matters more than anything else.

I never read my math textbooks in grade school or high school(except for the assigned problems), not even as an undergraduate. I paid attention in class. Maybe textbooks matter more to non-native English speakers or kids with problems that impact their ability to pay attention to the teacher.

True, when I hadn't mastered the material the teacher was building on, I didn't get much out of the teacher's efforts. But even then the textbook rarely came in handy.

Posted by Compromise
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2009 at 11:52 am

if the teachers like EDM so much, and it's worth going out to bat for it, how about saying

EDM, as long there is a mid-3rd grade Mastery assessment. And Math grades are given to children, with an opportunity to correct any weaknesses in their mastery of basic Math skills, early enough.

Accountability needs to be part of the choice, for each child.

Posted by Numbers guy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2009 at 11:29 pm

According to information submitted by Poway and other districts to California Dept of Education, consumables (workbooks, etc) for EDM cost $26/year and according to the publisher pricelist SRA consumables would cost $10.69/year. Given there are ~5,000 students in the district. That translates to $910,000 versus $374,150 over the 7-year adoption period. That is $130,000 per year for EDM versus $53,450 per year for SRA. For a salesperson's compensation calculation, it means that the total contract value would be $535,150 less if we selected SRA over EDM!! Why would any sales person in recommend SRA? They clearly have an incentive to push EDM.

This is why California Education Code 60061 and its subsections require that the publisher not make these decisions for any school district. But, here McGraw Hill Sales VP, Sharon Lane clearly made the decision for PAUSD. And, now the PAUSD staff and the Committee are busy defending the decision. Why?

Something is does not make sense.

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 24, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Numbers Guy,

I think the sales department was just trying to trim costs by not committing thousands of dollars and hours of sales staff and subject matter support time in pursuit of what they saw as a highly unlikely sale.

If I'm not mistaken, high end performance school districts in California have not chosen SRA Real Math. Few districts have even chosen to pilot it so it's been a weak performer in the state.

If I had limited resources for sales promotion and it looked as if the mother ship (McGraw Hill) already had a strong candidate in the mix, I'd be tempted to save the company money by not incurring the costs of competing if I felt, based on experience, that a district like Palo Alto was highly unlikely to choose SRA Real Math.

Needless to say, I disagree with the company's response to PAUSD's request for support to pilot SRA Real Math. They should have done it even if they were certain that there was no chance that in a head to head competition, carried out in Palo Alto classrooms with Palo Alto teachers and students, they would emerge victorious.

My impression is that the "anything but EDM" opposition views the SRA Real Math fiasco (on the company's part) as a fortuitous tool to stall EDM adoption while leaving an opening for some other mathematics program to emerge as "the people's choice" in the upcoming year.

Posted by Been There, Done That
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2009 at 1:56 pm


"High end performance schools?" Many have NOT chosen EDM.

But you're right: "Anything but EDM" would be better. SRA/Real Math is actually a compromise the opponents can at least bear. It is much like EDM but would not have to be completely rewritten like EDM would need to be. Opponents favor Singapore Math and Saxon Math.

Posted by math concerned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Jerry - the point is that PAUSD is considering textbooks that were provided for "business" reasons. Parents and teachers want the best decision for kids. CA education code was violated when the publisher decided which textbooks we will pilot. Until SRA is piloted how do we know if it is or it is not a good choice for us?

And the "Sales Dept" would also make lot more in commissions as pointed out if PAUSD chose EDM, conflict of interest, eh?

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 24, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Been There, Done That,

Do you think that opponents would be likely to push for SRA Real Math over the coming year. Apart from expressing a desire to examine the program, at the beginning of the adoption process, I haven't picked up support from teachers, staff, or parents (except insofar as it is held out as the last hope to derail adoption of Everyday Math.

Would parents who really want Singapore Math or Saxon Math settle for piloting SRA Real Math if they felt that the process might still result in Everyday Math's selection. Wouldn't they want the district to pilot these others as well, setting up a battle between opponents of adopting Everyday Mathematics over which one they truly favor? And why only these? There are about a dozen approved textbook series. Should we pilot them all?

Meanwhile, the teachers and staff would be marking time, having already expressed their readiness to move into the next seven years with fully implemented and supported Everyday Mathematics instruction.

Posted by reality
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 24, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Jerry, do you want a guarantee that if the board agrees SRA should be piloted everyone will then rubber stamp EDM after a year? That would be ridiculous. SRA should be piloted because the committee felt -- at the time they first voted on which materials to pilot -- that the SRA materials looks like they most closely met the goals of PAUSD for elementary math education.

More to the point, what is the hurry? If EDM is just head and shoulders above the others, that should still be true a year from now. This would give the committee time to develop materials to fill the gaps they acknowledge exist in EDM. Not clear why we have to rush into this, particularly as the publisher pulled quite a little stunt refusing to provide materials for the program that, again, before piloting looked like it best met Palo Alto's needs. Do you really feel it is prudent to rush pell mell into adopting the most expensive curriculum on the block?

Posted by The text does matter
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 24, 2009 at 7:38 pm

"Maybe textbooks matter more to non-native English speakers or kids with problems that impact their ability to pay attention to the teacher."

This is facile and false. The curriculum and the text do matter, and the curricular choices made in this country are undermining math learning year after year. See Web Link

Posted by math concerned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 24, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Jerry - here is a simple version for you:
1. committee wanted to pilot SRA (top choice)
2. publisher makes more money if they sell EDM vs. SRA
3. So they don't provide SRA to our poor district
4. smart parents find out and insist district take up publishers offer and pilot SRA
5. if we pilot SRA we all know for sure that complete due diligence was done for such a strategic decision
6. but the committee is dug in and people like you who don't have kids in the district and other potential conflicts of interest don't see clearly

what part of this did you not get?

Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 24, 2009 at 11:26 pm

Math Concerned,

Do you mean which part of this do you have questions about or disagree with?

Here's a question: why do you consider the committee's early interest in looking at SRA Real Math equivalent to an endorsement of its superior suitability for PAUSD, while dismissing the same committee's specific endorsement of EDM for PAUSD at the end of the examination period as the work of dupes or hacks?

Here's another money based scenario. Is it any less likely than yours?

We (SRA McGraw Hill) are losing money trying to sell a math series that California districts don't want to buy. The more money we put into promoting SRA Real Math the more we lose. The market is speaking--high performance districts, even if they express an initial interest in piloting our series, do not buy it. There's something missing that they find elsewhere.

We have no reason to believe that we'll do anything but lose money if we participate in the Palo Alto process so let's not do it. Besides (and here's where your scenario comes in, Math Concerned) Everyday Math looks like it has a very good shot in Palo Alto because it's the kind of program a district like PAUSD is likely to support and the district is able to pay for it. True, it's sold by Wright/McGraw Hill, not SRA/McGraw Hill and none of us will get a commission for it, but it still helps the parent company.

What a surprise, then, that there's an organized group of parents in Palo
Alto who insist that SRA /McGraw Hill was wrong in believing that their product could not compete here. Not only that, they insist on giving SRA Real Math a privileged position, based on a straw vote months ago, in making a piloting pitch next year. That should be money in the bank eventually for SRA Real Math, even if they still lose out in Palo Alto. The very fact of being called back to display their wares after having snubbed the district should provide valuable cachet somewhere in the USA.

Finally, to point 6 above, I'm trying to see this process clearly, but I don't follow your point about not having kids in the district and other potential conflicts of interest. Do people with kids in the district have fewer potential conflicts of interest and see more clearly?

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2009 at 2:55 am


Charters are bad news for a basic-aid district that has a shortage of space.

Since people move here for the schools, I don't see the point of moving here and then trying to upend the school system, but that's what we get on these boards.

300 signatures doesn't mean 300 families who want a charter--or even 300 kids. The only mention I've seen of this petition is online. It's sure not at the school.

And we have, in fact, a nuts-and-bolts choice school in Hoover. It's popular, not as popular as project-based Ohlone, but the families at Hoover are happy with it.


You don't like PAUSD schools--given how much extra it costs to live here because of the schools I have to wonder, why on earth are you living here? Move over the border and use the difference to send your kids to the private school of your choice.

I don't understand paying a premium if you're unhappy with the schools. This is a liberal university town and that does affect the schools. That's not really going to change.

Been There,

I was taught the standard curriculum, but migrated to partial sums ages ago for any mental math. As others have pointed out, it's easier to check as you go. Partly, I think, because going from large to small is the direction we say numbers--so, more intuitive.


I appreciate your thinking about this and sharing your thought process here.

Posted by reality
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 25, 2009 at 7:53 am

I grew up in Palo Alto and my kids attended elementary school here. Their math education was sub-par some years and great others, depending on the teacher. My kids are in middle school now and we are very pleased with it, thank you. I happened to be able to work with them myself in elementary school to ensure they were on track; I saw a lot of kids who started out perfectly capable only to be left in the dust because they had huge holes in their education by fifth grade. Those kids are suffering in middle school.

I happen to care about the entire community of kids, not just my own who will be fine and unaffected by EDM. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The *fact* is that the committee members felt at the outset that SRA best met its goals.
The *fact* is that we do not know whether the committee would have liked SRA after piloting because SRA was not piloted. (Nor, in point of fact, was Singapore, which had as many votes as EnVision, but I care more about not letting the publisher get away with illegal activity and about holding the committee to making informed decisions than about bringing Singapore Math to the district. Others, however, certainly differ about the value of Singapore Math.)
The *fact* is that the publisher illegally withheld materials.
The *fact* is that you do not know who has signed the peiition, but the Board will since the signatures will not be anonymous in the version presented to them.
The *fact* is that Grace Mah did not write the petition but she obviously supports it since she signed it. So do a lot of other people.

If you don't like people arguing passionately for what they believe in when their point of view differs from yours, maybe it is you who should move.

Posted by PointOfView
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 25, 2009 at 11:22 am

I read the report pointed to by the posting from "the text does matter." Thanks, this is an interesting report.

This report basically says that what is taught when in math is the most important predictor of math teaching success.

This is in contrast to how it's taught, family demographics, etc.

Specifically, the report says that teaching too many topics, especially teaching too many topics early, is bad for math learning. Students don't get the depth they need to build on the topics, and don't gain a feeling of momentum or critical mass that is essential for motivating further learning.

The report bases this position on an analysis of 1995 TIMSS data, and treats California specially for various reasons.

There is also in this report a good list of math topics, and a brief discussion on the relationship between how the topics fit together and teaching (specifically the importance of focus and coherence).

The report does not directly indicate in any way that the textbooks used matter, but it does show an implicit belief by the author that they do when he quotes in the appendix to make a point about focus, "...eighth grade math textbooks in Japan have around 10 topics, but U.S. eighth grade textbooks have over 30 topics."

(I would point out that Japan's education ministry is now looking at the US to determine how to increase the creativity of its graduates. Teaching is not always a straight forward endeavor with predictable consequences).

I agree the curriculum in math matters. I can see that if teachers tend to loose focus using a text with an abundance of topics, that's a bad characteristic of the text. Yet according to this report, the California standards now address this problem better than the best countries in the world.

Does EDM provide coverage of more topics than competing texts to the to the extent that it would encourage our teachers to loose focus on their curriculum?

Also, according to this report, "whole number meaning" is addressed in grades 1-5; "whole number operations" in grades 1-6. I cannot reconcile this with an avoidance of "spiraling" given that other topics have been introduced during these periods, and that different kids learn different aspects of "whole number meaning" and "whole number operations" at different speeds.

Posted by reality
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Apr 25, 2009 at 11:58 am

"spiraling" is a term of art specific to EDM, I think. Certainly it is a term of art speicifc to EDM in the way EDM defines it. This philosophy is not differentiation, which allows different children to learn at their own pace within the context of a given school year. As an analogy, we do not introduce the concept of short vowels in first grade but tell kids it's ok if you don't get this until fifth grade, or some undefined point, at their own pace. That's completely bogus. Why is it seen as less bogus to introduce math concepts but not expect mastery until some undefined point between the ages of 5 and 11? Where will the buck stop for the kids who don't master these skills, if there is no concrete expectation or milestone for assessing mastery?

And why are we frantically rushing to adopt THE most expensive curriculum and planning to overhaul it into something completely different that throws out the concept of spiraling in favor of timely mastery? Do we buy a whole word based curriculum and turn it into a phonics text?

Posted by Ze'ev Wurman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 25, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Couple of quick comments, and an observation.

Regarding charter schools, OP asks a reasonable question: "Since people move here for the schools, I don't see the point of moving here and then trying to upend the school system." For those who would like to think more deeply about this topic, it will be instructive to read Chiara Nappi's "Why Charter Schools? The Princeton Story" at Web Link . Princeton, demographically not unlike Palo Alto, experienced some very similar issues. A fascinating read.

POV mentions in an aside that "Japan's education ministry is now looking at the US to determine how to increase the creativity of its graduates. Teaching is not always a straight forward endeavor with predictable consequences." This is somewhat inaccurate. In late 1990s Japan was indeed concerned with its growing school discipline and youth suicide problems. Around 1999(?) Japan implemented a new math curriculum that borrowed rather heavily from the reform movement, stressing the affective domain and loosening the academic rigor. In the 10 years since then the discipline problems have been acerbated, while Japan's universities experienced rapid decline in the math readiness of their incoming students. As a consequence, Japan revisited its 1999 curriculum and in January of 2008, just a year ago, Japan announced a new curriculum that reflects mostly going back on the 1999 reform. [source: personal communication with the Japanese Ministry of Education Representative to APEC HRG, January 2008)

Finally, a statement rather than a comment. What baffles me in this whole discussion is the fact that PAUSD Board and Admin. seem to treat this issue as one of "explaining away" why EDM decision is reasonable and can be implemented, even if it implies a lot of efforts and contortions (teaching to mastery on top of spiral curriculum, teaching arithmetic fluency on top of EDM's heavy use of calculators, etc.) At the same time they effectively seem to ignore that there is a large chunk of their constituents (petition signers, perhaps 20% of elementary students’ households) that is not on-board with this decision. Instead of grabbing the opportunity to extend the adoption process for a year and use that year to bring the WHOLE community on-board with whatever decision, the board and the administration seem to be busy trying to "explain" to that large and rather educated community why it is "wrong."

Basically the admin. seem to be back to the patronizing "let's re-educate the parents" rather than "let's spend the time and improve the process to get everyone, both teachers and the community, buy-in to something." Disappointing.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2009 at 2:15 pm


You've complained about far more than the math curriculum. "whole word idiocy"--okay there goes readin' and writin'. Along with 'rithmatic, there go the three 'Rs.

My point is that we're in a district that performs well compared to others, but you are expressing strong dissatisfaction with it. I do wonder why you're here. Of course, you can express yourself however you wish--and I'm not trying to censor you. But it's an honest question.

Again, Palo Alto's a liberal town with a long history of a liberal view of education--if you look at the voting record in this town and the strong influence of Stanford you'll see that that's unlikely to change. So why are you here? Why not be in a district where the views more align more closely to your own? Others are right when they say the district is trending constructivist.

I'm here, in part, because I do think the schools do a good job and I appreciate the commitment to education. I'm more than happy to put up with differing views--doesn't mean, though, that I won't make my views known and ask questions.

Your *facts* are suppositions--some of which are wrong. The petition is public as are many of its signatures. Go to the link and click--you'll see who signed it publicly.

Ohlone kids get the same curriculum as everybody else in the district--the adequate, if poorly written, California Math. I've mentioned this several times--but the *facts* didn't fit your worldview so you forgot them.

The publisher didn't illegally withhold materials--but made a recommendation. Very different things. Careful when you make those kind of charges.

Mah wrote about her involvment with the petition online--she used her name and influence to bring it to people's attention here. Ze'ev Wurman simply signed it (and there would be nothing wrong with his more strongly advocating it, frankly), Mah did more and it was inappropriate. I've explained why I think this on another thread.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 25, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Back to math,

"Spiraling" is not a term unique to EDM. It's been around as an educational concept for a number of decades. I suspect there's no one right answer--a lot depends on teaching skill and the abilities and temperment of a given student. I think there's a time element as well--spiralng may work well if there's enough time given to math that math facts are grounded sufficiently. Spiraling at its best, I think, tuns into the ability of children to absorb a wide variety of information, store it up and come back to it later. But it can be done badly--this is my main concern with constructivist education--the teachers have to be good for it to work well. It's an approach that requires quite a bit of teaching skill.


Thanks for the link. Let me start out by saying that I think charters can be a good choice in various circumstances. However, since the district already offers choice and because of the basic-aid situation, charters in Palo Alto are problematic. We *all* pay for the benefit of the few. New Jersey schools, in contrast, are some of the best-funded in the country.

As someone who's not anti-charter, however, I really disliked the "article"--it was an advocacy piece, filled with loaded words to describe those who opposed the charter. It didn't take much to imagine a very, very different take on the debate.

Again, what's clear to me is that this about something bigger than the selection of a math textbook and that there's an agenda that's not just about math facts coming into play.

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