Strange New Math Textbooks – Curriculum = ??

By Ellen Mandeville

District violated policy with new math texts – link to Mt. Express opinion piece

The new mathematics textbooks implementation by the Blaine County School District (BCSD) Administration is perplexing at best and illegal at worst. It’s not a “new Mathematics Curriculum” implementation because – according to Patty McLean, BCSD Director of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning – there is no new mathematics curriculum written and approved by the BCSD Board of Trustees.  

According to BCSD Policy, first a curriculum is written and then textbooks are chosen “to contribute toward continuity, integration and articulation of the curriculum.” (BCSD Policy Number 602.3) This Policy also addresses textbook selection committees stating, “Membership on such committees shall include representation of teachers who will use the texts, administrators, other staff members, community members, parents and students.” On the recent committee, there were no community members, parents or students. BCSD Policy Number 602.3 references Idaho Legal Codes 33-512A and 33-118A.  If the current BCSD Administration has indeed violated School District Policy, then it has also violated Idaho Legal Code.   Approximately fifteen parents of BCSD students attended last Tuesday’s BCSD Board of Trustees Meeting; the request was made for the Trustees to obtain independent legal review of the BCSD Administration’s compliance with this BCSD Policy, and these Idaho Legal Codes.

Regardless of the legality of the textbook committee, the new textbooks with their drastically different mathematics pedagogy have caused much confusion for students and parents alike. Many parents appreciate that the BCSD Administration brought Dr. Jon Brendefur, Director of the Idaho Mathematics Initiative, to speak about developing Mathematical Thinking. He gave great insight into the spectrum of mathematics teaching. He emphasized the point that math must not be taught at one end of the spectrum or the other. Rather, students need a comprehensive mathematics curriculum that teaches concepts, processes and facts with plenty of practical application. “Sounds great!” many have said.

In a morning meeting with Dr. Brendefur, he stated that a School District needs three main accomplishments for a reformed mathematics curriculum to be successfully implemented. Has BCSD fulfilled these needs?

Brendefur: Well-trained teachers

BCSD: Teachers are being trained in conceptual math teaching through professional development provided by the District Administration, which does a great job hiring excellent teachers.

Brendefur: Informed, educated parents

BCSD: Carla Scanlon, BCSD Math Coordinator, spoke of new textbooks purchased, without mention of their drastically different math teaching, at Hailey Elementary’s Open House and a Bellevue PTA meeting – hardly a comprehensive attempt to inform most parents about the significant changes in math teaching.  Parents uneducated in conceptual mathematics are stumped and frustrated by their children’s homework. BlaineParents.org has been created to discuss concerns.

Brendefur: Comprehensive materials that teach math concepts along with facts and processes. Dr. Brendefur stressed that students need plenty of practical application to become fluent in what they are learning.

BCSD: The new textbooks are not comprehensive as they mainly teach math concepts. Dr. Brendefur hasn’t found any single series of math textbooks that teach a good, comprehensive math education. Any textbook will need complimentary material. The old math textbooks, which taught understanding of standard math algorithms, math facts and procedures, have been boxed for storage.

The BCSD Administration has not written a new mathematics curriculum, did not provide comprehensive math textbooks (only this past week have they spoken publically about supplementation), and did not attempt to educate parents or gain their support. Had the Administration followed District Policies and informed parents better, much of the current frustration could have prevented. Perhaps the best of the old and new textbooks will be used to write a comprehensive Mathematics Curriculum. Like us on Facebook to express your interest in these matters.


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