Productive Discussion and Debate

Parent Math Meetings have been scheduled for Monday, October 10th. When it comes to our children’s education, discussion can become quite heated when differing pedagogical methods and content are being discussed. We here at BlaineParents.org encourage everybody able to attend Monday’s meetings, to do so in the spirit of gleaning information, professional discussion, and cooperatively seeking solutions.  We plan to attend with the following objectives in mind:  

  1. Learn the School District’s reasons for choosing TERC Investigations.
  2. Request that teachers have an anonymous forum for stating and discussing their views on TERC Investigations.
  3. Work with the District Administration to ensure that our students are receiving a complete mathematics curriculum.

We want to know your thoughts.  What has been the experience for you and your child(ren) with the new math curriculum?  What has been good about the new curriculum?  What has been challenging?  What questions and/or concerns are you hoping to have addressed at the Parent Math Meetings?

6 Comments

Filed under Education

6 responses to “Productive Discussion and Debate

  1. Lara Stone

    As a math major in college and someone who uses math daily in my profession, I feel that we are extremely lucky to have a school district and teachers who are willing to make the necessary changes to help prepare our kids to compete in the global economy. I am thrilled to have my kids participating in a math program that emphasizes creative problem solving skills, and understanding the meaning behind the math. I am even more thrilled with the dedication of the teachers and school district to follow through on this program and make it a success. We are very fortunate to live in an environment that embraces change and challenge. I think the offer to teach parents how to help their kids with the homework will go a long way toward making this program an all around success. Great job, BCSD! We’re behind you 100%!

  2. Linda K

    Well said, Lara. I also think it is key that kids understand the meaning behind the math and learn how to creatively problem solve rather than just learn how to memorize well. And the teachers and administrators who are trying to improve the system for our children deserve only our thanks. Differences of opinion are inevitable and should be discussed in a constructive environment, not a confrontational one.

  3. Erik Ruggeri

    “My personal view is that TERC is the second most mathematically illiterate and damaging program I have ever seen. This curriculum generally encourage the overuse of calculators, do not give students sufficient support to achieve automatic recall of basic number facts, do not teach algorithms properly, and pay insufficient attention to the arithmetic of fractions. We regard the K-5 program, Investigations in Number, Data, and Space –TERC as especially deficient.” – From a joint statement- R. James Milgram, Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University, and Wilfried Schmid, Professor of Mathematics at Harvard.

    Please parents, I would urge you to explore this more objectively before supporting this new and highly controversial curricula called Investigations in Number, Data, and Space also referred to as TERC (the team that developed it). I have an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Physics as well as a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering, and I can say with certainty that this format for teaching math is not conducive to the development of the scientific thought process. Please don’t confuse ‘memorizing’ with critical thinking. We all agree that we want the absolute best education for our children, but I firmly believe this TERC curriculum is not the solution. Please read this page from the Parents for Quality Math Education (PQME) that sums up my objections to TERC quite nicely: http://pqme.org/page/12/

    As far as the implementation of TERC/Investigations into the BCSD, I believe it was done in a suspicious and sneaky manner. That parents would be informed of this change one month into the school year is inexcusable. I was at the meeting at Hemingway on Monday and found it nothing but frustrating. The meeting was consumed with irrelevant information. Nothing substantial about the K-5 TERC/Investigations curriculum or why it was implemented was provided to the parents. Further, when I asked Patty McLean to provide me with even one success story that supports TERC she couldn’t! She promised to provide me with some positive data via e-mail but so far I’ve heard nothing. In the meantime, I have extensively researched this curriculum and have found it has been dropped or is being dropped all over the country. In the districts that are using it, parents are up in arms trying to get it dropped. The state of California dropped it a decade ago after students test scores plummeted. I have found Professors of Mathematics from Stanford, Harvard, Pennsylvania State University, Johns Hopkins, Rochester and many more on record about how damaging Investigations is to a child’s math education. I have not found one quote from any professor of an accredited school that supports Investigations.
    I ask you to look at one other thing. Go to http://pqme.org/files/ and read the Investigations “Success Stories” article. It is an independent review of the school districts that were highlighted by TERC in their publication “Evidence of Success” article.
    Of the 62 school districts across the country that TERC itself sites as “evidence for success” in 2007 only 2 districts are still using Investigations without supplementation today. And 36 districts (that’s well over half) have dropped it altogether. 17 of these districts are Title 1 (schools/districts) and receive NSF funding for continued implementation of the curricula. I wish I had this information at Monday’s meeting and believe every parent should be armed with this info. If nothing else, read the summary of Findings on page 4.

    I have nothing but the utmost respect for my sons’ teachers and their efforts, but I feel like I was bamboozled by the School Board and Patty McLean.

  4. mickey

    So if I understand you correctly, parents will have to go back to school in order to help our children do the homework??? I don’t know about all of you, but my husband and I struggle enough finding time to help my highschool and elementary kids with our schedules. That doesn’t mean that we don’t care about their education. However, we certainly don’t have time to go back to school. Show me a sucsess story about this new math and how those parents have adapted to helping each child…

  5. Just Google It!

    Lara Stone wrote:

    “I am thrilled to have my kids participating in a math program that emphasizes creative problem solving skills, and understanding the meaning behind the math.
    skip…
    Great job, BCSD! We’re behind you 100%!”
    ********************************

    I don’t think anyone is against developing creative problem solving skills and understanding the meaning behind the math to enhance a persons ability to better solve real world and abstract problems where math can be utilized as an efficient tool.

    I believe what has involved parents of Blaine County Students concerned is the lack of “balance” of teaching methodologies and content that the new curriculum (TERC Investigations/ Connected Mathematics 2) utilizes and the almost complete lack of introducing and developing the fluent use of the Standard Algorithms that most parents use in everyday life and are stated standards of the upcoming Common Core State Standards Initiative. I don’t see how these programs can come close to satisfying even 50% of the Common Core State Standards which appear to be based on traditional math.

    Common Core State Standards (CCSS):

    4.NBT.4. Fluently add and subtract multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.

    5.NBT.5. Fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.

    6.NS.2. Fluently divide multi-digit numbers using the standard algorithm.

    URL Link to the upcoming Common Core Standards for anyone interested in reading what their children should know:

    http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/mathematics/grade-6/the-number-system/

    Math is still going to require the development and fluent use of the standard algorithms. Yes, this is repetitive work and how most high level skills are developed, whether it be sport, music, work, or education. I consider the fluent use of the standard algorithms as basic building blocks of math. I just don’t see how adopting and implementing a CORE math curriculum that is basically VOID of the development and practice of the standard algorithms is going to propel our children into the future, yet alone prepare them to post high scores when the demanding and well defined Common Core Standard requirements are implemented.

    What Blaine County Schools have done by shifting to this discovery based CORE curriculum is not a slight adjustment or minor tweak to a traditional based, stable and successful CORE curriculum. It is a radical, unbalanced shift to a constructivist / reform based math curriculum that is VERY controversial and denounced by mathematicians, teachers, parents and students from coast to coast. It appears private Kumon learning centers thrive where these programs are implemented.

    I don’t see how anyone involved in choosing and purchasing our new CORE curriculum (TERC/CMP2) did their due diligence. According to Patty McClean at the Haily meeting, they accepted, which must have been very positive, the research on TERC Investigations and Connected Mathematics 2 (CMP2/formerly Connected Mathematics Project) that was published by the company selling them the books, Pearson. How convenient is that? They must have a great brochure.

    If anyone involved, including elected Blaine County School Board Members, in this decision took the time to do a 10 minute Google search on TERC reviews or Connected Mathematics 2 reviews, they would be OVERWHELMED at the controversy, red flags, frustration, failure and rejection surrounding these CORE curriculum’s across the country.

    The thorough independent reviews of TERC and CMP2 found online are scathing and frankly discouraging to read. Here’s an example of what you are likely to find as the author reviews the Connected Mathematics 2 booklet series:

    http://hu1st.blogspot.com/2008/02/cmp2-notes-1252008-by-arthur-hu-grade.html

    Then there are comments like this that are typical!
    ****************************************************

    Dr. Wilfred Schmid at Harvard said of the TERC program (Investigations Math):

    “A TERC teacher doesn’t explain, and a TERC teacher doesn’t teach! I don’t want to be misunderstood: group learning and discovery learning are parts of the tool chest of every accomplished teacher, but it is folly to turn these techniques into an ideology. If we mathematicians had to re-discover mathematics on our own, we would not get very far! And indeed, TERC does not get very far. By the end of fifth grade, TERC students have fallen roughly two years behind where they should be.”

    Schmid, Wilfried. “Remarks on Investigations in Number, Data and Space (TERC).” opening remarks delivered at the NYC HOLD Math Forum. Are our school’s math programs adequate? Experimental mathematics programs and their consequences. New York University Law School, NYC, June 6,

    2001.http://www.nychold.com/forum01-schmid.html
    *********************************************************

    An Evaluation of CMP

    by Professor R. James Milgram, Stanford University

    The philosophy used throughout the program is that the students should entirely construct their own knowledge and that calculators are to always be available for calculation. This means that standard algorithms are never introduced, not even for adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions precise definitions are never given repetitive practice for developing skills, such as basic manipulative skills is never given. Consequently, in the seventh and eighth grade booklets on algebra, there is no development of the standard skills needed to solve linear equations, no practice with simplifying polynomials or quotients of polynomials, no discussion of things as basic as the standard exponent rules “…..the program does not do an adequate job of developing basic skills necessary for students to continue with more advanced work in mathematics, leading to possible careers in technical areas.

    ftp://math.stanford.edu/pub/papers/milgram/report-on-cmp.html
    ***************************************************

    What are the school administrators thinking jumping into constructivist reform math with both feet? Did they fully brief School Board Members on the Constructivist methodology and explain why the 3 programs considered for K-5 were ALL based on reform math and were not even considering a traditional curriculum? Did they think no one would notice? Why have they introduced “Math Wars” to Blaine County?

    If it wasn’t so alarming it would be considered comical. If anyone at BCSD bothered to take the time to contact the school district of Prince William County, VA., which is listed on the BCSD website as a TERC/CMP2 success example I guess, would find out they are TERMINATING the curriculum after this year. I find this very disturbing. These programs are a failure and a HUGE waste of taxpayers $$’s, valuable teacher’s time/effort, parents effort/support and our children’s education and future.

    IMO, these “constructivist/Exploratory/Discovery new new math” programs have a place as supplemental classroom resource, but simply don’t have enough MATH to even be considered as a CORE curriculum and should be placed on the resource/supplemental shelf as soon as possible. There must be a more highly recommended, widely accepted and “balanced” offering available. A logical start would be to look into the “highly recommended” curriculum’s that the Idaho State Department of Education lists on their website.

    http://www.sde.idaho.gov/site/math/curriculum.htm

  6. No Child Gets Ahead

    If every student had to rediscover the Three Laws of Motion, pioneered by Sir Isaac Newton, do you think we would have progressed where we are today? Would we have jet engines, combustion engines and rockets? Even Sir Isaac Newton himself acknowledged his work was based on basic mechanics produced by the likes of such mathematicians as Galileo and Aristotle.

    If Henry Ford had to reinvent the wheel, do you think he would have progressed to developing the first automobile?

    If every research scientist had to start from scratch and discover penicillin, do you think we would have the medication and cures for disease that we have today?

    If Bill Gates had to reinvent the main frame computer, do you think he would have progressed to a personal computer?

    Where would we be today, if everyone had to reinvent what is already known? We would probably be trying to figure out how to build a fire.

    Why is the BSCD making our children reinvent math? Math is a science which builds upon laws and theorems that have already been discovered and proven. If our children are not given the basic tools already known, how can we expect them to move on and be leaders in our world? Perhaps one of our students could be a pioneer to discovering something completely profound that could help our world. To stunt their intellectual growth by making them explain why 2 x 2 =4 in three different ways is absurd. Teach them the standard algorithms already discovered by earlier mathematicians and build from there.

    I am shocked that our school district has endangered our children in this fashion. Research has shown that Terc and Connected Mathematics 2 puts children 2 years behind in math curriculum. School districts around the country from coast to coast have thrown this curriculum out of their systems because they found out the hard way that these programs are detrimental. Do we have to waste our taxpayer’s money, our student’s and teacher’s valuable time to prove this again?????

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