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Parents give mixed reviews to new math textbook

Original post made on May 10, 2010

Palo Alto's new elementary school math curriculum gets mixed reviews from parents, according to results of a recent survey. The survey follows the adoption this school year of the controversial Everyday Mathematics textbook series in Palo Alto's 12 elementary schools.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, May 10, 2010, 9:51 AM

Comments (35)

Posted by They Must Think We're Dumb & Dumber
a resident of College Terrace
on May 10, 2010 at 11:00 am

> Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Virginia Davis said survey
> responses tend to be biased by "an over-representation of respondents
> who are specifically interested in the topic and/or issues surrounding
> the topic."

And what good is a survey response from a parent that has no interest in the material (in this case math)?

How stupid do the PAUSD Administrators think we are?

Or .. maybe we should ask .. has anyone in the PAUSD every had to use Math to make a living outside of teaching?

Posted by Math Matters
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 10, 2010 at 11:32 am

50% of survey respondents feel a need to supplement their kids' math instruction! Math education is a fundamental and basic part of what our schools should be doing. If that many families feel a need to spend parents'time, children's time, money and energy on teaching children math outside of school, we have a huge problem.

Posted by student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 10, 2010 at 12:02 pm

@mathmatters we have a huge problem from people like you. This is why we can't have nice things like decent textbooks.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 10, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Glad to see a student responding! I am guessing that Math Matters is not questioning the need for Palo Alto to continue having one of the best educational systems in the country with some of the best state adopted texts available.

I am in agreement with Math Matters's comments.
Homework should be a 'reinforcment, integration, and practicing of the skills/concepts taught in school. There should not be a need for supplementing the homework, if the adopted curriculum/texts and the teaching instruction is optimum. By in large, Palo Alto parents are aware of their students' abilities. To spend substantial time at home teaching these same skills/concepts reflects poorly on the schools.

Posted by Math Literate
a resident of Professorville
on May 10, 2010 at 12:30 pm

The Everyday Math curriculum should be renamed "Math for Poets." I don't see this curriculum as an avenue to mastery. We do supplement our kids' math by paying for an outside program. One of my kids considers the math homework to be busy-work. Another sibling sails through 90% of it without any need for help. If one of the Everyday Math objectives was to get parents more involved with math homework, it has not done that in our house.

Posted by math mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Math Matters,

There's an unwarranted nuance in your comment that 50% "feel a need" to supplement their child's math education. I completed the survey and am part of the 50% who supplement my child's math education. I don't do it because I "feel a need" to do so; I do it because I enjoy math. The "supplementing" that I do is entirely personal: we play math games, experiment with different ways of solving problems, and do other casaul math-related activities. The survey did not discriminate between "feeling the need" out of a concern that the classroom experience is insufficient, or simply doing math activities beyond the scope of school work. The survey caused me to pause and considered whether I should answer the question honestly, knowing full well that an honest answer was likely to be misinterpreted.

Posted by carlito ways
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 10, 2010 at 2:29 pm

This is one of the big reasons why the United States is falling way behind in math compared with other countries(South Korea, Japan, Germany etc,,,). But we always try to reinvent the wheel because God forbid we adopt other succesful ways of teaching Math from the leading countries. No wonder we see more and more brain power comming from overseas to do the work beacuse the failed US system could not provide the specialized work force, at the end we are going to be reduced to a nation of o workforce of burguer flippers. And you may think that being in an affluent town like Palo Alto would make a difference? well in our little world yes, sort of, but in the real world other countries kick our butts big time. So much for having plenty of economic resources and keep taxing on Palo Altans properties with the chimera of quality education.

Posted by No to the Survey
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2010 at 2:45 pm

How about the fact that there are probably people like me who said why bother answering the survey since they didn't listen to the parents in the first place.

We supplement because we care about our children's education and because EDM is a horrible program.

Posted by No EDM
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2010 at 3:43 pm

I think the district purposely added the EDM survey to a larger survey so less parents would respond due to the length of "20 minutes" to complete the survey. Elementary school parents don't have as much time on their hands and if the survey were solely for EDM feedback, many more would have touched the survey and the results would have been overwhelmingly negative. Tagging it on to a 20 minute survey leaves only the determined parents to respond.

Posted by Doesn't Matter
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 10, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Be glad it is not "SMSG". Talk about using PAUSD students as guinea pigs!

Posted by Chris
a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Having helped my younger sister on her Math homework, I sure can understand where these statistics come from. Many of the problems are poorly worded, or use odd and confusing scenarios. Some of the techniques that they use to answer their problems are also overly complicated, unlike the ones most of us learned on.

I hope that the district will make a wise choice on which text books to use.


Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.

Posted by Mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 10, 2010 at 6:06 pm

I have many years of elementary school classes in Palo Alto through my children, and my recollection is I saw the official math books of the time used in the classroom, or at home, at most for two of those 12 years.

Teachers seem very fond of saying that the books are bad and that they won't use them.

Just saying...

Posted by CA MOM
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 10, 2010 at 6:39 pm

My daughter's third grade teacher (pausd) held up the everyday math book and said "This is not enough math!" So, this year she is teaching her class last year's math AND Everyday math. I am so impressed she is taking matters into her own hands so my daughter gets the math education she needs.

Posted by math parent
a resident of Addison School
on May 10, 2010 at 8:12 pm

I wish the mistake of selecting EDM would just be admitted and we move on to a real math program that will increase our math expertise and enthusiasm for math. The EDM program just gets those students who say they don't like math or are not good at math to get the reinforcement that they are correct. Hey, can you just teach me about addition today and then time tomorrow and then measurement the next day! Maybe some reading up on the brain would help those in control to realize that the EDM program is contrary to every analysis of how the brain works to learn and master material.

Posted by new in town
a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Our first year of EDM has been a waste. My 1st grade son says the nightly worksheets are repetitive and a waste of time. Because he learns quickly, but cannot move ahead, he is losing interest in math. In 1st grade!

Teachers used to differentiate math homework for kids who were ahead (or maybe just ahead of the slow pace of EDM). Especially in lower elem grades, kids can be many years apart in ability and should have more opportunity for challenge and teachers should be able to provide it - as they did before EDM.

While EDM is too repetitive for quick learners, it overcomplicates math for kids with verbal challenges or ESL parents and has been a HUGE source of controversy and lawsuits in other cities.

In conjunction with feedback from University of Washington math and engineering faculty about the poor math ability of incoming freshmen, a Seattle group formed "" and has successfully sued the Seattle school district over reform math programs. Search the web for stories or read Cliff Mass's blog (notable seattle meterologist). btw - was set up by a publisher of reform math texts. Don't be confused by their misinformation.

Let's see PAUSD come to its senses and re-adopt a traditional computational math curriculum so all kids can really learn math.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Can someone explain to me why the district decided to spend millions of dollars in books, staff training, etc. to switch to Every Day Math? Are the students going to perform much better than they already are in Math? (We'll see how the STAR test results come out in August). And what is the risk in switching?

Did we just vote for a parcel tax because the district is running a deficit, yet they decided to spend all this money on a different math program which may not improve the math capabilities of students?

Posted by Concern Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 10, 2010 at 9:50 pm

The STAR tests wouldn't show the real picture, because a lot of parents supplement and a lot of kids go ahead and truly advanced. As a matter of fact, division with the traditional method was a 100% accurate for my child, but when EDM used with 10 different approaches that nobody use anymore - it was only 60% accurate?! Skip it and return to the traditional math. Let's re-vote!

Posted by math mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Common Sense asks for someone to explain why the district is updating its math textbooks. Sure, I'll give it a go.

Every 7 years California undergoes what's commonly referred to as "math adoption". The publishers trot out their new and improved textbooks, and the state narrows the selection down to a list of approved textbooks. The districts then have 2 years to evaluate the material from that list and choose a new set of textbooks.

The process is repeated for science and other subjects. You could say it's a way to keep the publishers in business.

So, no, this isn't a case of Palo Alto being fiscally irresponsible, or Palo Alto acting like it's 'special'. It's simply the way things work in California.

FWIW, my daughter has thrived this year in math. I suspect it's a winning combination of EDM and an excellent teacher. Your mileage may vary.

Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 11, 2010 at 9:42 am

We want to spend billions of dollars on 'HIGH SPEED RAIL' because we are falling behind other countries, but we do not care to spend one billion dollars on top, affordeble education . we are falling way behind in math and science . What is the future? We have to teach math and science such a way to our students that they will enjoy those subjects.Buying house in Palo Alto for good schools is not enough.First responsibility lies on teachers.They should be highly qualified and motiveted .That's why we send our children to schools. With that parents participation is important too.Our children and country's future is depended on what action we are going to take today and work hard to make it happen.Other wise it will be too late.

Posted by Sure wish they had waited
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2010 at 11:04 am

Math Mom

Because of the state budget crisis, in March 2009 CA extended the deadline for purchasing new math textbooks to the 2010-2011 school year, BEFORE our school board's April 2009 EDM vote. (The state has since extended the extension to 2013.)

The school district staff and school board were well aware of the suspension. In fact, Melissa Caswell suggested taking advantage of the extra year the state gave us to do a more comprehensive pilot before the district spent the $1 million on something so controversial. She voted no (along with Camille Townsend), but the other three school board members (Klausner, Tom and Mitchell) voted to go forward with EDM, in large part because Klausner said that if they waited a year the district would lose the momentum (aka teachers wouldn't be as excited about EDM if they took another year to evaluate it more thoroughly).

The funny thing is that the enthusiasm they thought they'd tap into with a yes vote hasn't materialized. The teacher math survey results mentioned in today's board packet shows 52% teachers find EDM hard to implement. 45% say it is not an improvement from what we had before. Almost 1 in 3 flat out say that EDM is not a good program. Those are exceptionally low approval ratings for a program that PAUSD reported had the resounding approval, after what they claimed was a comprehensive pilot, of teachers throughout the district.

Parents math survey comments refer to PAUSD teachers who have already thrown the EDM book out after earnestly trying to make it work and others who never even picked it up, at the same time other district teachers use EDM despite student frustration, confusion and boredom. Several parents mention children who used to love math now "hating" it.

What a (predictable) mess.

Posted by Joanne
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 11, 2010 at 11:50 am

I agree with "Math Matters"!

Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 11, 2010 at 4:06 pm

EDM is a Quixotic attempt to add value to elementary math. It's a sad and failed experiment. Our "educators" refused to do their homework talking to other districts that went down this road. What our children need more of in elementary math is to master the basic algorithms. Messing with the algorithms isn't the answer.

Math is a hard science. At the elementary level there's no debate, or changes in thinking. We've had this stuffed nailed for hundreds of years.

Palo Alto fell into a trap of wanting to be "special" and innovative. It's very prdictable. Silicon Valley's wanna be elite, thinks that they can solve every problem with innovation and hugs. Sorry, but it doesn't work that way. Gird your loins and march through the muck with these little guys and girls that need to learn basic math the same way that we learned it. There aren't any short cuts.

Posted by Math Matters
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 11, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Dear Palo Alto parents,

Would you like to find out how your elementary-aged kids are really doing in math? Here is what you can do:

- Go to the Singapore Math website. Here is the link
Web Link

- Print out the placement test for your child's grade level (for example, 4a is first half of 4th grade, 4b is second half). You want to use the Primary Standards Edition, which is aligned with California Standards). And yes, Singapore Math is a California-approved elementary math program.
- Look at the placement test. Compare to Every Day Math materials. What do you think?
- Let you kid take the placement test, no time limit. See how they do. If they get over 80%, go up to the next level, if less than 80%, go down a level or two.

You can buy Singapore Math books online for $10 to $15.

Good luck. And let the district know how it goes.

Posted by interested mom
a resident of another community
on May 11, 2010 at 7:28 pm

My son attended Bullis Charter school in Los Altos and used EDM; my daughter uses it still. He felt the same boredom and frustration in 5th grade described above by the mom of the 1st grader. He is now working at the top level for his middle school and loves math again! However I urge parents not to let EDM allow their children to lose interest in math, and to demand that they be challeneged above and beyond the "average" curriculum offered by the program! The kids virtually cannot move ahead because of the "spiraling" method used by EDM. It involves every child in the class being on the same page at the same time. Ouch. My daughter, however, who is an average math student, is fine with it and never complains. She neither loves nor hates math, but is mastering it, it seems. I believe it's aimed squarely at "the middle". The biggest challenge I would forsee for a large district like P.A. is to supplement or even replace the curriculum for the high-performing students who just don't need the repetition and excess verbiage offered in the program. Overall, my kids and I have about 4 years' experience with it and I don't hate it so much anymore but I would have preferred another program having a kid at the higher end of the spectrum who was not offered enrichment.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 11, 2010 at 9:23 pm


My kid's math teacher also uses two textbooks--EDM and last year's math text. Main problem is that it's way too much math with neither text being as taught as well as it could be as a result. I also feel that other important subjects are getting short shrift as a result (yes, there are other subjects besides math--even in Palo Alto)

However, I'm amused that in a discussion of math that Math Matters omits some basic survey results--namely the difference (or lack thereof) between last year's results and this years. Yes, 52 percent of the respondants are helping their kids with math this year--but that's only an 6 percent increase from last year. Not a real meaningful difference in my opinion--particularly since there's been a 7 percent drop from 57 percent to 50 percent of parents who give their kids outside math support.

Unchanged is the percentage of parents who think their kids need extra help (27 percent).

Sorry, most of the differences read more like noise than anything--particularly with a self-selected 10 percent response rate.

I think we'll get a lot more out of the standardized test scores over the next couple of years.

Posted by new in town
a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2010 at 10:14 pm

OhlonePar notes that the YOY survey differences seem more like noise. I totally agree, yet this is being spun in the local media (including mercnews) as a "positive" change. Seriously, perhaps outside tutoring slightly decreased due to the economy. It bothers me to see this PR.

Did anyone attend the PAUSD Board meeting last night where the results were presented? One only has to read the 200+ comments to understand that the majority of parents aware of the change are not pleased. The mtg was mentioned in the Mercnews article, but I only learned of it this morning.

This is a "race to the middle" for our children that will have long term negative consequences. People should educate themselves on this important issue and not just politely trust that PAUSD has it all figured out.

Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Professorville
on May 11, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Thank you Math Matters for providing the 'Web Link' .
Singapore is excellant. Great proficiency pre/post tests!
It would be nice for all schools' principals to have a copy.

Posted by Collateral Damage
a resident of Barron Park
on May 11, 2010 at 10:52 pm

"45% say it is not an improvement from what we had before."

Yeah, and check out the teachers' disturbing comments in the survey. Time and time again they point out that EDM just doesn't cut it for kids who are not in the middle: advanced and behind.

Posted by Parent
a resident of College Terrace
on May 11, 2010 at 11:13 pm

To Collateral Damage:

We should appreciate and respect the professional knowledge that our town's teachers, past and present, provide us --- not make snide comments about them.

The only teacher's comment I have read, in these comments, is certainly not "disturbing". This person is only pointing out an excellant proficiency test. Teachers often use tests from other sources versus only the adopted text's.

Posted by aghast at the cost
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2010 at 11:17 pm

so much money!

what was the incremental improvement expected to justify this outrageous expense?

Posted by Collateral Damage
a resident of Barron Park
on May 12, 2010 at 12:55 am


You missed the point entirely. Read more carefully before you post.

I referred to teachers' comments in the pausd survey of teachers (not PAOnline). Their comments ARE disturbing because they reveal a sentiment apparently held by a number (many?) teachers that EDM fails to address the low end kids and high end kids. That should disturb everyone who "appreciates and respects the professional knowledge that our town's teachers provide us."

Posted by new in town
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2010 at 8:06 am

A key example of how EDM fails to address the needs of kids is that every child across the district is supposed to receive the exact same homework worksheet at the same time.

My pediatrician's daughter had the same homework as my son the same night - at a different school.

Does anyone believe that all 1st graders are at the same level, pace and speed? Race to the middle. That's EDM.

Kudos to Singapore Math suggestion. That is what my son had before we moved here. Guess what we're doing this summer.

Posted by No EDM
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2010 at 10:04 am

I get so tired of all these PA parents thinking their children are so gifted and expect the schools to pacify their child's curiosity for math. Schools always have to teach to the middle. If your child is so gifted, it is upon you to seek more for them. If a child is falling behind, the parent is responsible for supplementing them also.

EDM's flaws are these: spiraling so children do no completely learn the area before moving onto another area - then they forget and have to relearn again later, funky calculation methods so parents cannot assist their children at home (and these calculations are no longer present in middle school or high school), lack of drills so children don't fully memorize their addition/sub/mult/div tables and they become more confused by EDM.

A teacher's union is affiliated with EDM - that's why it was adopted.

Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 12, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Math, smath. No one is the last concerned about the death of anything like a reasonable command of grammar, syntax, vocabulary, spelling, idiom and usage, for gosh sakes, or a reasonable approximation of handwriting. tappeta, tappeta, tappeta do not a writer, reader or thinker make. And math is not the only or the most important pathway to reeasonable thinking.

There, I got it out!

Posted by Midtown dad/tutor
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Interesting comments from TED
Web Link

Addresses impatient problem solving. Definitely a problem in the households I tutor. The current curriculum doesn't help kids overcome the challenges and problem solving basics. I'm not positive but it looks as if Dan Meyer is using the Holt math books as his example of what not to do.

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