Excuses, Excuses

Sunday, March 25, 2007 | , , | 3 comments »

Okay, I'm over my previously mentioned addiction. For those of you who may suffer from the same addiction, here's a clue to get out of it - have kids and live in an area with nice weather (atleast the weather's starting to get nice). Our school district is also just wrapping up a Fitness Challenge put on by our Wellness Committee. I got a great deal on a temporary membership at a fitness club for the month of February and have actually be working out a little bit, taking up some of my blogging time since I've been going late at night instead of sitting on my butt typing away. Also, find something you like to do other than blog, and do a lot of of it. For me, that's been the NCAA Tournament. However, since my favorite team went down today, my interest in the Final Four is much less and my blogging just might increase. Those are my excuses for being a relative slacker over the past couple of weeks. I've taken time to read some of the posts my blog pals have written, but have failed miserably in blogging myself. So there, a bunch of excuses for my lack of blogging/laziness!

I'd also like to throw a question out regarding teacher effort in your schools. We are in the process of selecting a new elementary math series for our district. There is a committee (surprise-surprise) composed of teachers from all schools and each school has had the opportunity to take a look at the new books and materials, teach a couple of lessons, and give their feedback. There are three different options available, Everyday Math, something similar, but updated, to the series we have, and some other company - Houghton Mifflin, McDougal, etc. Now, I'm not involved in this decision because I'm not in the classroom anymore and I could care less what the final choice turns out to be. However, my big question is this - what's wrong with our current textbook? We've had it for a while and it must have been great when we chose it years ago. Did the book change to now make it suck? I don't think so. I guess the district feels we need to spend money on this instead of keeping more teachers or a program. Remember that question I'm going to toss out?? It's coming...

I've heard some of the teachers talking at lunch about the math committee meetings and why some teachers like one series over the other. Everyday Math was the first one tossed out. From what I've heard, this is a pretty good math series. The school and district my first grade daughter is in uses this and she's doing some pretty amazing stuff in first grade and seems to be well ahead of many of the second graders at my school (maybe it's the genes -haha). Anyway, one of the complaints I heard about this program is that it's a lot of work for the teachers and it's very different from what they've been doing for years. This made some of our teachers a little mad because some don't want to learn something new or work harder simply because the series is "different." They were very vocal about not moving in the direction of this series. They want to do the same thing they've been doing for years. They want to start at chapter 1 in the book in September and work their way to the end in June. WTF?? Let's do what's going to be best for the kids, not the teachers. It's our job to work hard and keep learning and if it means getting used to a new series, then that's what needs to be done.

So, here's my big question, have any of you experienced similar attitudes towards new textbook adoptions where you teach? Are these the attitudes of someone in just about every school across the board? Or, is this happening in my own little world.


  1. Pissed Off // March 26, 2007 at 8:05 PM  

    In the high schools our books are chosen for us. The last series we have been forced to use, Prentice Hall Math A is awful. It is not mathematically sound and goes from unit to unit without any rhyme or reason. We touch on a topic for a few days and then revisit it months later. When teachers objected to the book, we were told that we were lazy and did not want to rewrite lessons. That is so far from the truth, it is not even funny.

    I don't know anything about this new elementary school curriculum, but it might have similar problems. My feeling--if its not broken, don't fix it. If the old stuff works, why stop using it.

  2. Anonymous // April 10, 2007 at 3:00 AM  

    Big changes are hard to implement.

    When "new math" hit the US one of the problems was that it was so drastically different. When Kolmogorov was put in charge of revising the Soviet K12 math curriculum he intentionally did not make giant steps, but had a plan for small changes at a time.

    Even today high achieving Asian countries "tweek" their programs rather than throwing everything out and starting over. Their system relies on study groups of teachers to recommend changes to textbooks rather than relying on publishers.

    Ultimately, it doesn't matter how good your program is; if those teaching out of it aren't willing to give it a chance it's going to be a failure.

    I went through a round of text book adoptions at a small unversity that I worked in and it was a lot of work to convince others why one program is better than another. What really disappointed me the most is how other instructors would almost literally judge a book by its cover, or a single activity rather than carefully consider the entire program.

    With a program like Everyday Math you might just have more opposition than just other teachers. There are national organizations headed by research mathematicians that oppose this program.

  3. concernedCTparent // May 17, 2007 at 1:14 PM  

    You really might want to give teachers and parents a little more credit. We don't resist it because it's new, we're against it because it fails our children. It doesn't meet the National Council of Teacher's of Mathematics Focal Points. It's all over the place.

    As to being new and different, well,Everyday Math is only new if you think two decades of being in print is "new". It's not really as cutting edge as some people crack it up to be. It's been controversial from it's inception not because it is different and modern but because it lacks content and does not require math mastery.

    Everyday Math is inefficient in that it teaches multiple algorithms in place of mastering the traditional algortithms that consistently work at the highest levels of mathematics. Mathematicians hate it!

    It spirals rapidly from one topic to the next whether a student has mastered the concept or not because they'll eventually come back to it next year!

    It covers too may topics for any one to be understood profoundly and this is in the interest of selling more books. You see, every state has it's own standards and Everyday Math wants to meet all of them so it can sell as many books as possible.

    Districts that have been using it since it's introduction are abandoning it in droves because it causes a breakdown in the higher grades of mathematics. Students (with good grades in math on paper) are entering college and having to take remedial math. What do you expect from a program that doesn't teach long division (essential to algebra) and let's you make up your own algorithms?

    Do some research, try to find credible, unbiased evidence (not quasi-research with financial ties to the publisher). There isn't any out there because it's still considered an experiment. It sounds good on paper, the textbook artwork is really cool and flashy, but it doesn't teach our students what they need to know.

    Check out the US performance on the last two Trends in International Math and Science Study.... we keep losing ground. In the meantime, more students are doing math the 'constructivist' way while the high performing countries are more traditional in their approach to learning and teaching math. Coincidence? I think not.

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