Friday, January 30, 2009

Differing Points Of View

There have been several readers posting comments in the last couple of days. There have been a couple that I thought I would post. In the event you do not keep up with the comments, I thought you might find these to be of interest.

iteachmath said...

Stacy- You say you want to see some research so I am providing it. I care about our students and want what is best for them so please post the following (sorry it is so lengthy):

Regardless of what math program is used, every school will be eventually listed as “needs improvement” by the state. This is because the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act requires that all students be at 100% by 2014. It does not take a brain surgeon to figure out that this is an impossible task. If you look at the DESE website, it shows what level each school has to be at as the years progress. The levels increase each year as it approaches that 100% for 2014.

All the research I have done indicates that children will learn what they are taught no matter what the math program is. The research also indicates that providing data with an inquiry-based series is difficult when teachers do not all use it in the way it was intended.
My proof: and (look under “Research Evidence for Effectiveness”). I am sure that this is due to the fact that all math series require some kind of supplementation and not all teachers use the same supplement.

When I found out that I was going to be teaching Investigations this year, I was petrified. The reason being is that I knew I was going to have to learn new approaches to math. Now that I am over half way through the school year, I am in awe at the math language and processes students are using. As long as the teacher monitors and follows the grade level expectations, your child will learn. Teaching Investigations has made me become a better math teacher, and I now know what I have to do to reach all children. Do I have to supplement? Yes, a little. Did I have to supplement with the traditional math series. Yes, a little. The big difference I see now is that students are taking charge of their learning and exploring more in-depth to develop an understanding as to why certain processes work. For teachers who dislike the program, I cannot speak for them. If they are having difficulty with the program, I would hope that they would seek out help from those teachers who are experiencing success with it.

The proof that inquiry-based math does work is on the U.S. Department of EducationInstitute of Education Sciences. The results of their research shows that Everyday Math does work. Everyday Math has been around for 25 years and has had 17 different research projects done on it. Investigations (also inquiry-based) is currently undergoing a 5 year study that will end in 2010. The description of the study can be seen at

Again research on Investigations thus far has been difficult due to inconsistent implementation of the program. True research on Investigations has not been completed or done from what I can find. If you have found true research on it, I would like to see it. I know there are schools that can provide data based on using the program. My question would still be: Was there consistent implementation practices within that school district?

My thoughts are that if parents are so unhappy with Investigations, why not consider going with an inquiry-based math program that has proven itself… Everyday Mathematics? With being an inquiry-based math program, I doubt it is much different in its practices than Investigations. Again, the research proves it works if you trust the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Services.
January 29, 2009 2:06 PM

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Stacy said...
Dear iteachmath,

I sincerely appreciate your commitment to our children and the fact that you do wholeheartedly believe in what you do. I can see that. I appreciate that you have research that you can offer to back up your beliefs and are willing to share that with us. I am familiar with most of your research. And I do have a response to most of it.

With reference to the WWC (What Works Clearinghouse). I do not find that research to be credible for several reasons. Please refer to the post "Their Silence Is Broken" it will go into depth as to why I believe that research to be outdated and unreliable.

As posted:
This is an archival copy of material that originally appeared at:
(And this information can be verified through the What Works Clearinghouse site as well.)

"Here’s what we know about the effectiveness of Everyday Math, based on the research reviewed by the What Works Clearinghouse:Sixty-six studies have been found to focus on the effectiveness of Elementary School Mathematics programs. Of these 66 studies, 57 did not meet basic “evidence screens,” meaning that the US Department of Education does not deem these studies to have merit because of flaws in their research design. So most of the so-called “research” is thrown out at the get-go because the studies are too small, too poorly constructed, or otherwise shoddy.Only one of the studies passed evidence standards. You got that right: only 1 of 66 studies was considered to be reliable. That’s a whopping 1.5%, for you mathematicians out there.

The government’s review of this article focused on Scott-Foresman Addison Wesley mathematics concluded that the program had “no discernable effect” on mathematics performance. So to repeat, the only decent study on elementary school mathematics curricula tells us that the curriculum under review has no effect one way or another on student achievement. So no Holy Grail here, folks.

Four of the 66 studies “meet evidence standards with reservations,” meaning that these studies may or may not have spotted the Holy Grail. In other words, these four studies have imperfections: tehy are not so bad as to force them out of consideration, but they contain flaws that may (or may not) undermine their conclusions.

As it happens, fully 61 of the 66 studies cited the What Works Clearinghouse focus on Everyday Math, at least in part. Fifty-seven (57) of them were thrown out because they did not meet the evidence screen. None fully meets the evidence standards. Four (the same four described above) meet the standards “with reservations.”Based on only these four studies, each of which passes Department of Education standards for evidence “with reservations,” the What Works Clearinghouse declares in its “Intervention Report” on Everyday Math that the University of Chicago program has “potentially positive effects.”by:

It is also widely known as documented in an email from Stanford University Math professor James Milgram that the Everyday Math findings for the WWC were "flawed".
See his email below:On Tue, Dec 23, 2008 at 9:17 AM, Jim Milgram wrote:

"I sent a request that they remove my name from their report. The people who did the original EM report were not renewed as contractors for the WWC web-site, and I believe a number of the studies are supposed to be redone. I think a key problem was the Everyday Math report, where they leaned heavily on the P. Noyce paper on EM in Massachusetts. But nobody reliable really believes it represents solid research, especially since Penny Noyce has refused to name the schools, and the results appear to be an isolated case."

With reference to Investigations there is NO conclusive evidence that it works when considered by our Department of Education. It is still "under review". After over 20 years of use in this country there is NO conclusive data to show that it works.

As well, I personally, have spoke to parents, administrators, and teachers from all over this country that can tell me what a huge disaster that it was for their children. Over and over and over again the stories are the same. It does not prepare children for Algebra. It does not give them the foundation to find success in true higher level mathematics. That fact is proven over and over again in talking to literally dozens and dozens of people who have been exposed first hand. Again, please refer to my post "Their Silence Is Broken" to see my rebuttal a little more in depth to this subject of the WWC.

The research is not enough to justify this method of teaching ESPECIALLY in light of the fact that our DOE has a new report out in March of 2008 called The Foundations For Success. It is a report handed out by the National Mathematics Advisory Panel mandated by our Department of Education. (All information was pulled directly from the "Foundations For Success Final Report 2008" the findings of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. My words follow each number in parenthesis)."

In all, the Panel reviewed more than 16,000 research publications and policy reports and received public testimony from 110 individuals of whom 69 appeared before the Panel on their own word and 41 others were invited on the basis of expertise to cover particular topics. In addition, the Panel reviewed written commentary from 160 organizations and individuals, and analyzed survey results from over 743 active teachers of algebra.

They found:
1. A focused, coherent progression of mathematics learning, with an emphasis on proficiency with key topics, should become the norm in elementary and middle school mathematics curricula. Any approach that continually revisits topics year after year without closure IS TO BE AVOIDED.(This condemns spiraling without mastery. Meaning that a child should learn to add before they subtract. They should learn to multiply before they can divide. Those subjects should be practiced and "mastered" before moving on to the next subject.)

2. By the term proficiency, the Panel means that students should understand concepts, achieve automaticity as appropriate, develop flexible, accurate, and AUTOMATIC execution of the STANDARD ALGORITHMS, and use these competencies to solve problems. (Most teachers will tell you that they have been preached at that memorization is a waste of brain power. Rote memorization is not part of Investigations and the teachers manuals for Investigations condemns memorizing. See earlier posts.Also encourages the standard algorithm which is not even introduced in some parts of Investigations until 5th grade. The standard algorithm is shown as one of many ways to solve a problem but never taught as the fastest most efficient way to solve a problem.)

3. The essence of the Panel's message is to "put first things first". Use should be made of what is clearly known from rigorous research about how children learn, especially by recognizing
a.)the advantages for children in having a strong start
b.)the mutually reinforcing benefits of conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and AUTOMATIC (i.e., quick and effortless)RECALL OF FACTS; and
c.)that effort, not just inherent talent, counts in mathematical achievement."(Again, the validity of memorizing key facts is essential...not allowed by Investigations.)see***

4.The Panel's survey of the nation's algebra teachers indicated that the use of calculators in prior grades was one of their concerns. "
(Remember that our 1st graders are using calculators as part of their math ALREADY. Right or wrong...this is not what our DOE is advocating. However if you read the teachers manual from Investigations/TERC recommends a text for teachers called "Beyond Arithmetic".
***In this book it says ...and I quote: traditional elementary math must be discarded because:
BA, Page 2• Requires that students "memorize many facts,procedures, definitions, and formulas."
BA, Page 2• "Focuses on learning a particular set of proceduresfor addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers, fractions, and decimals."
BA, Page 2• Results in "over practiced students."
BA, Page 3• Ignores the fact that "today's students have an important tool available to them: the calculator."
(Proves that Investigations does not approve of memorizing facts.)

Also, (this is a biggie)the National Mathematics Advisory Panel; Foundations For Success also says: "U.S. mathematic textbooks are extremely long. With study guides and answers, they sometimes exceed 1000 pages. Even elementary school textbooks sometimes exceed 700 pages. Mathematics textbooks were much shorter in previous decades and continue to be much shorter in many nations with higher mathematics achievement than in the United States. Thus, the great length is not needed for effective instruction. " (Our 3rd and 4th graders have 9 editions in their math curriculum this year. NINE teachers manuals. Of which the principal from Hawthorn acknowledged at the last board meeting that it would not be possible to get through all NINE of those texts completely this year..Wow. Then why are we using it?)

Also...the National Mathematics Advisory Panel says pg.22: "The curricula of high achieving nations in the TIMSS study do not follow the single-subject sequence of Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II, but they also differ from the approach used in most U.S. integrated curricula. Instead Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry are divided into blocks. The teaching of each block typically extends over several months and aims for mathematical closure. As a result, these curricula avoid the need to revisit essentially the same material over several years, often referred to as "spiraling."(Mathematical closure...AVOID SPIRALING!!! Need I say more?)

Please read mathematician, Bill Quirk's article: 2008 TERC Math vs. 2008 National Math Panel Recommendations
TERC 2008 Math Fails to Provide the Foundations of Algebra

Bill Quirk (
For a brief analysis of TERC 2008 math, click on
TERC 2008 Math vs. NMP 2008 Math: A Snapshot View.

With reference to your comment:"why not consider going with an inquiry-based math program that has proven itself… Everyday Mathematics? "
First of all...we do not believe that EM is proven. See the research with reference to the WWC and the what the National Mathematics Advisory Panel says about those fundamental beliefs of must know that our elementary schools have used the inquiry based curricula only since 1994 as their core. EM has been around in the Camdenton Schools for over 15 years. If our math has not been working maybe we should go to a traditional approach for the first time in 15 long years and maybe try something that just may work. I think change is long overdue. Our children have weak skills because EM is weak. Our school recongnizes Investigations as being similar to EM (see note: the research section under math.) why not try something new? A more traditional approach may just work, why not give it a try?

I, too, apologize for my lengthy response. There is just so much to respond with.

I do appreciate your offering your research. I do not believe that it is strong enough to merit use on our children. Being that I have spent countless hours speaking with people who have had first hand experience with this type of math and confirm over and over what a disaster it has been for thier children along with the abundance of strong research that rejects this way of teaching...I cannot say that the research you have used is terribly convincing.Even though we may not agree I appreciate the dialogue on this matter. I think productive debate brings to light both perspectives and why we feel as strongly as we do. Again, thank you for offering your research. I appreciate your taking the time to present your argument.

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Also from an anonymous math teacher in response to the initial research done by iteachmath:

iteachmathtoo said...
The commenter sortof conveys a mixed message. On the one hand he/she says that the programs must be implemented properly, but on the other hand he/she says they do supplement.

SO what is it?

Does the program contain appropriate content or not??

This passage, "Now that I am over half way through the school year, I am in awe at the math language and processes students are using. As long as the teacher monitors and follows the grade level expectations, your child will learn."
leads me to believe that maybe this teacher might be learning more than her students. She thinks the GLEs are good? Your child will learn. Learn WHAT is really the question, isn't it? What content is supplemented? And WHY buy a program that needs to be supplemented if you believe that it must be implemented "with fidelity"??

It makes no sense.

Another comment was "The results of their research shows that Everyday Math does work. Everyday Math has been around for 25 years and has had 17 different research projects done on it."
The findings in this topic report summarize the first wave of WWC elementary school math intervention reports produced in 2006–07. "We looked at 340 studies. Of these, 237 were assessments of interventions that qualified for our review; the other 103 could not be categorized by intervention. 3 Of the 237 studies, 9 studies of 5 curricula met our evidence standards, 2 without reservations and 7 with reservations. Altogether, the WWC looked at 73 interventions: 5 had studies that met WWC standards with or without reservations, 67 had studies that did not meet WWC evidence screens, and 1 had a single-case study, which is still under review. (The identification of eligible programs ended in September 2005, and that of eligible studies, in July 2006.) In looking at the one outcome domain for the five elementary school math curricula: Everyday Mathematics had potentially positive effects on math achievement "
I'm sorry, but I hardly call that evidence when it has been reported : ( )that "Everyday Mathematics is a 25-year-old prekindergarten through sixth grade mathematics curriculum developed by the University of Chicago School of Mathematics Project and published by Wright Group/McGraw-Hill. According to that university's website, it is being used in more than 185,000 classrooms by almost 3 million students." Affecting 3 million students? So why did so few of their studies meet WWC evidence standards or screens?

Another comment was "Again research on Investigations thus far has been difficult due to inconsistent implementation of the program. True research on Investigations has not been completed or done from what I can find. If you have found true research on it, I would like to see it. I know there are schools that can provide data based on using the program. My question would still be: Was there consistent implementation practices within that school district?

"And if you read this one closely:
it will definitely answer the question about whether or not your children are being experimented on...
January 29, 2009 8:56 PM

If you are not reading the "comments" I encourage you to take a look. There is productive insight that comes from some of those dialogues.