Bouncing math lessons

Everyday Math raises test scores, says Teacher Magazine, but many parents and teachers don’t like it. In New York City, all but the most successful schools are required to use the program.

Instead of teaching standard ways to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and long division and then drilling students with worksheets, teachers present several options for solving problems and encourage kids to use those that make sense to them. Rather than spend weeks or a single class on one subject, lessons bounce around, covering several areas in an hour. Computation is practiced by playing games, and students must continually explain why they’re solving problems in the ways they’ve chosen.

. . . Yet for many parents, the program, which refutes the back-to-basics approach that became popular in the 1970s, has been a hard sell. Despite his daughter’s aptitude for math, Dooley says that she’s confused. “They’re teaching all these different methods,” he explains, the anger rising in his voice. “Now when she does division or multiplication, she makes mistakes. She forgets to carry numbers over. She goes from left to right instead of from right to left. She’s forgetting her basic stuff.”

At the same time, computations are not difficult enough, he argues. “It’s back to 1st and 2nd grade math. I mean, ‘3 times 1’? ‘Two times 0’? What is that? She’s in the 4th grade.”

Everyday Math is harder for teachers — and most aren’t getting much training in making it work.

HOLD’s site challenges the claims made for Everyday Math; it includes an article by a New York City teacher who found the program didn’t work for his students.

About Joanne


  1. Laura (southernxyl) says:

    Sometimes there’s an easy way to solve easy problems, but when the problems get more complex, the easy way gives wrong answers or just falls apart. That’s the problem with letting kids find their own ways to do math. My kid’s seventh grade teacher, who was trying to introduce his class to algebra, had to struggle to get them to go through the correct problem-solving procedure on the easy problems that they started with. The smarter kids could work them out intuitively and so they didn’t want to bother with the procedure. He told them over and over that the idea right then wasn’t to get the answer, it was to learn how to do the work. “The process is the product,” he said. I can just imagine if the kids had been shown a, b, and c ways to do the work and then told to decide how they felt like they wanted to do it. Sometimes there is one best way.

    Granted, the Everyday Math curriculum appears to be for elementary school, but what is it supposed to be preparing the kids for?

  2. Mike McKeown says:

    My son has had Everyday (Chicago) math inflicted upon him.

    My wife is a math tutor. She sees Everyday victims. They don’t have great number sense, an Everyday goal, they don’t have effective personal methods to do computations (unless punching numbers in a calculator qualifies), they don’t have either conceptual understanding of what they are doing or real understanding, they are unprepared for preAlgebra, and thanks to a follow on program from Everyday, they aren’t ready for algebra either.

    I can’t access the article in the link, but I all of my experience chasing down these claims, plus seeing what happens to kids using these programs, tells me that the books are cooked.

  3. With everything, there are the rules and the exceptions. In art, literature, and some of the “soft” sciences, the exceptions lead to all sorts of interesting things. In the hard sciences and mathematics, the exceptions can lead to wrong answers and failures.

    I’ve tried to figure out a good way for my daughter to learn math. Doing worksheet after worksheet is hard on her and hard on my wife and me. Not doing worksheet after worksheet is even worse, since she lacks the basic underlying understanding of what math is and does. She wants to plug in formulas with no idea of what they represent (Pi times something is the circumference–whatever that is). I’ve come to learn that there is no “right” way for most things, but the boring–as in boring a hole into your head until you learn this–method is the best for basic math.

  4. My daughter’s school uses Everyday Math, and I am so glad that I came across an online mention of Singapore Math. The letters from parents dissatisfied with Everyday Math struck a chord with me, as I could have written them about my daughter. I suspect that rising test scores may be explained in part by a greater incidence of parental tutoring.

  5. As a math grad student and sometimes teacher of college-level math classes, I have to say that this program sounds kind of what I try to do with my students. There really are different methods of doing the same problem, and sometimes one method makes more sense to a student than another. I learned this myself in ninth grade geometry when someone did two-column proofs that were completely different from the teacher’s, and she had them present theirs to the class in addition to her solution manual’s explanation to show that they were both correct. I wonder if the fact that students and teachers seem adverse to learning multiple methods of solving a problem is why calculus gives so many of my students grief. You have to actually think your way through a problem and try several different methods to find a solution. There is no one-size-fits-all formula, which seems to be what lower-level teachers are most comfortable teaching. I guess this may also help explain there is such a disconnect between mathematics professors and mathematics education professors.

  6. Mad Scientist says:

    Different approaches are all well and good, but one cannot come up with a creative way to do a problem UNTIL one understands the basic theory.

    For example, solving ODEs can be done a number of ways, standard integration or Laplace transforms. Unless one knows the theory behind them, it will make NO sense.

  7. John Thacker says:

    I really dislike the way that “refutes” is used in the article above.

    “the program, which refutes the back-to-basics approach that became popular in the 1970s,” — I just don’t like that usage, though I have seen it in isolated places.

  8. PJ/Maryland says:

    Good catch on “refute”, John. I checked and found two definitions:

    1. To prove to be false or erroneous; overthrow by argument or proof: refute testimony.
    2. To deny the accuracy or truth of: refuted the results of the poll.

    I suppose one could argue that Teacher Mag’s use of “refute” sort of follows definition 2. But I think the primary definition is synonymous with “disprove”, and there’s obviously neither evidence nor proof involved here.

    On the other hand, I can’t think of a concise way to say what I expect they meant: that Everyday Math is based on principles opposed to the 1970s back-to-basics approach.

  9. Mad Scientist says:

    The how about:

    “the program, which is contrary to the back-to-basics approach that became popular in the 1970s,”

  10. I am especially skeptical of “new” techniques that require extensive teacher retraining. The reason that back to basics works so well, especially in places like China and Japan, is that it doesn’t require innovative or especially brilliant teachers. Indeed, it works even when implemented by bureaucratic drones.

    Like the new math, which could be well done, any new technique that requires extraordinary teaching is doomed to failure on a mass scale, especially in an age when our public school teachers are sometimes barely literate.

  11. Wacky Hermit says:

    I echo Laura’s sentiment on having to learn problem-solving algorithms; it never ceases to amaze me how often I have to explain just what she said to my college students. It used to be self-evident that the algorithm was preparing them to solve more abstract mathematical problems that they would never in a million years be able to get their heads around. (They may be able to do the two-dimensional case in their heads, but another year down the line and they’ll be doing the four-dimensional case.)

    While I also agree with KimJ about the existence of various methods of problem-solving, I would point out that it takes some mathematical training to distinguish two equivalent and equally applicable methods for solving a problem (e.g. completing the square vs. quadratic formula for solving quadratic equations, or “gelosia” multiplication vs. the standard algorithm) from two methods, one of which is applicable only in a subclass of problems (e.g. factoring vs. quadratic formula). It is, in my opinion, a lack of mathematical training among teachers that leads some of them to teach their students that any method that gets them to the correct answer is equally good, and leads others to teach that there must be only one right way, only one correct proof. If one has no means of discerning the mathematical essence of a problem solving method, one must needs take one of those two positions.

    I expend a good deal of effort trying to disabuse my students of the notion that I would be doing them a favor by giving them full credit for failing to learn a method that will help them solve future problems– problems that they will be supposed by others to be able to solve by virtue of their passing grade in calculus. I really wish this attitude had been instilled in them earlier in their education, as it was instilled in me.

  12. Walter Wallis says:

    How dreadful! Another innovative teaching technique slandered by demands for effectiveness.

  13. Steve LaBonne says:

    Everyday is not the worst of the new-new-math curricula, but it’s bad enough. There are detailed reviews of a number of these programs at

  14. How many ways does my daughter have to learn to add two numbers? Her teachers keep throwing more and more ways at her and talking rapturously about “understanding” the numbers at a deep, spiritual level.

    I’ve pointed out (repeatedly) that she’s perfectly capable of doing multi-digit addition and subtraction with borrowing and carrying and they refuse to let her advance with her math because they still have umpteen-thousand more “understanding” approaches for adding two numbers.

    Meanwhile, at home, we’ve moved on to multiplication with a little algebra thrown in.

    These kids need *drills*, not fifteen thousand ways to do the same problem.

  15. Insufficiently Sensitive says:

    Assume spiritually-correct, other-worldly fuzzy math curricula such as Everyday Math can be shown statistically to produce worse results than 3Rs drills at teaching kids the basics of the numerical operations of arithmetic and mathematics.

    Why should an interested party (such as a group of concerned parents) not have standing to sue the pants off of the marketers of Everyday Math et al in a class action suit? The damages to the kids are pretty obvious.

  16. Wacky Hermit says:

    Insufficiently Sensitive, I would dearly love to sue the pants AND underpants off of some of these textbook companies. There is so little actual algebra in some of these algebra textbooks that to market it as an algebra book, in my opinion, constitutes fraud. You couldn’t get away with selling chicken pot pies that contained no chicken, but algebra books with no algebra seem to be a perfectly legal con.

  17. Walter Wallis says:

    Wacky, I love you. In th nicest, unsexual, gender neutral way, of course.

  18. My son is in second grade using EM. At least it is better than the MathLand they still use at the school he came from. Better, but not great. His new school supplements EM too – the same as other schools in our area. I see some multiplcation table worksheets coming home! I wonder how that skews test results. Does the article say anything about that. EM might be better, but better than what? MathLand? TERC. Ugh!

    I also work with my son on the Singapore books and I can already see a big difference in problem complexity in the two programs in second grade. By the way, he already had an assignment come back to redo because he did the adding with carrying and not EM’s typical left to right technique (partial sums). I like having him learn different ways of doing the same problem, but carrying and borrowing doesn’t seem to be on EM’s list. I also don’t like EM’s excessive spiraling and hopping around. It assumes that our kids have the attention spans of nervous chipmunks and need to be spoon fed. One of the things I want a school to do is to teach my son that many worthwhile goals require hard, individual work. Oh oh, I think I set off the “drill and kill” alarm.

  19. Steve LaBonne says:

    There is really no excuse for schools to use any of this expensive, useless garbage when the cheap, proven, straightforward-to-use Singapore books are readily available. Just thinking about this makes steam come out of my ears.

  20. “It assumes that our kids have the attention spans of nervous chipmunks and need to be spoon fed.”

    Oh! Very well put.

    (I think I’m off to check out Singapore Math…)

  21. Steve LaBonne says:
  22. OMG. My 9th grader was hit with EM all during elementary school. Now she does arithmetic (when it’s the background for harder problems) by filling the margins of her page with tally marks, hundreds of them. When she is done with that she has forgotten the context of the original problem, so she writes how many tally marks as the answer, and goes off to watch TV, and is determined to be a tatoo artist when she grows up, or at least, something that doesn’t involve math.

  23. Drills, drills, drills are the way to teach math at that age. 3×1 in Fourth Grade? Good Lord. I was learning the times tables up to 9×9 in the Fourth Grade.

    You need that reference chart in your head to make estimates, and sometimes accurate calculations on the fly. If you know automatically that 9×8=72, you don’t have to stand there and count on your fingers and toes to do 8% sales tax on something.

  24. I’ve been teaching at the college level for over 40 years, so I don’t know anything about teaching elementary school math.

    But I’m struck by several aspects of the discussion. One of the real challenges of elementary school teaching is that every parent is an expert. Since every parent went through second grade, every parent knows best. And every parent is out to see that THEIR kid gets the best teaching. Try designing a school environment that would please every commenter here and take account of every critique.

    No one has commented on the Matthew Clavel article. Here’s a 23-year old who did not train for teaching, who taught one year in the New York schools and now he’s writing a book about the experience. Really, what does someone who hasn’t learned how to teach have to offer?

    Our efforts to design teacher-proof texts and curricula is doomed to failure. You can do it at McDonald’s, but kids are burgers. The only way to improve quality is to spend the time and money to insure highly qualified and committed teachers in every classroom. That’s an obvious solution, but American technocrats prefer to believe they can engineer an answer with texts and technology.

  25. Yikes–kids are NOT burgers. Dropped my not.

  26. Mad Scientist says:


    I am not a teacher or a parent; just someone who has to deal with the results coming out of our schools every day. I am appalled with the level of math illiteracy that I see in job applicants.

    Any new fad that is out there is just a ploy to sell “new and improved” texts. The disservice these “authors” pay to kids is that the kids find math confusing and difficult because there does not seem to be one method (short of using a calculator) to do basic arithmetic.

    When I was taking MBA courses about 8 years ago, my peers were amazed at my ability to do some fairly complex math in my head (such as getting reasonable estimates of IRR calculations). When the professor asked the class to use a calculator for a problem, he always looked to me for confirmation of his answer. It never failed to amaze me how many people could not follow simple instructions to do “plug and chug” calcs.

    Maybe the answer at the lower grades (i.e. elementary and middle school) is the “brute force” rote method WITHOUT the use of calculators. Learn to get the right answer every time. Once the basics are mastered, then try the more creative approaches.

    You wouldn’t try to teach someone how to play Mozart if they did not know how to play some simple scales, would you?

    Unfortunately, we have a math phobia in this country. It is a hard (in the sense of “there is a definite right and wrong answer”) subject. Too many people of all stripes prefer to equivocate because they want to consider all sides of an issue.

  27. Rita C. says:

    Everyday Math uses borrowing — it is just renamed trades. It doesn’t use carrying, though. Actually, it mimics very closely the technique I made up for myself back in the dark ages instead of carrying (which I always messed up). I’m not sure you want to use an English teacher’s methods of doing math, though :). My daughter has math homework every night and they do minute races. I think the combo of EM and drills has been OK.

  28. “One of the real challenges of elementary school teaching is that every parent is an expert. ”

    I disagree.

    The challenge is that every parent is a critic, constantly assessing the progress of their child. Parent’s don’t give a hoot which method is used so long as it works. When the method breaks down, we criticize.

    As to filling the classroom with highly qualified and committed teachers? Get rid of the unions.

  29. Mad Scientist says:

    Way to go e!

  30. Mad Scientist says:

    So who remembers Tom Lerher and his ditty about new math (from back in the late 50’s or early 60’s)?

    You can’t take 3 from 2
    2 is less than 3
    so you look at the 4 in the tens place
    now that’s really 4 tens
    so you make it 3 tens
    and you change the 10 to 10 ones
    and add the 10 to the 2 to make twelve
    and you take away 3 to get 9

    Probably just as confusing for the parents of that era.

    Difference is that the method WORKS.

  31. John wrote:
    “Try designing a school environment that would please every commenter here and take account of every critique.”

    That is not the problem here. The problem is that practicing mathematicians, scientists and engineers are raising specific and critical questions about the teaching of math in K-12. Actually, most schools know quite well how to do exactly what they want regardless of what parents and others think. I have seen it in action. In our neck of the woods many parents keep quiet and make up the difference at home. Others send their kids to private school and wash their hands of the public school problems. The remaining openly critical parents might make it seem like all parents are complaining, but it isn’t the case.

    John wrote:
    “The only way to improve quality is to spend the time and money to insure highly qualified and committed teachers in every classroom. ”

    The “only way”? Better teachers are always welcome, but curriculum doesn’t matter? Well, well, well, then our school won’t mind if I change them over to Singapore. Do you really think there is little difference between math programs like TERC and EM and a program like Singapore? Besides, I don’t really think it is possible with the now popular child-centered, full inclusion, discovery, teacher-as-facilitator type of education. I have heard this “better teacher” argument before usually in the context of trying to downplay specific curriculum complaints.

  32. D. Cooper says:

    e (not the ‘e’ of mathematics fame?) …In my 55 years as a student and/or teacher and member of NYSUT I’d have to say that your pot shot at the unions is a little off the mark. The biggest change in education in the last 25 or so years has been the ‘student’ as opposed to teacher quality or commitment. No one likes to admit this, because then they’d be a a loss as to what to do about it.

    Schools are facing ever increasing numbers of children you do not speak English, children from broken homes and disfunctional familites, and of course our ever popular menu of TV sleeze. Here on LI when the list of high school valedictorians and salutatorians was listed in Newsday it was always very interesting to note the large number of asian-americans…. given their rather low population numbers here on LI . How is it that they not only survive, but prosper in our system? Could it be different values. Perish that thought!!

    Depending upon your age of course, can you recall some kid actually telling a teacher to f— off? Not all that uncommon these days, and forget about punishment. You should spend a day in a high school in late May and see the outfits the girls are wearing. How’d they get out of the house looking like that? The job we are asking teachers to do today is a different animal that it was 25 or 30 years ago. Do you think a pimple faced sixteen year old boy is going to want to listen to me derive the quadratic formula or oogle suzie-q hanging out of her halter top. Yikes!!

    I’m don’t mean to paint a horrible picture, and there are plenty of great kids, but it ain’t like it used to be.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Rita say..”Everyday Math uses borrowing — it is just renamed trades. It doesn’t use carrying..” I’m curious…is there a benefit in calling it trades, or is it only change for the sake of change? Also, what would be the theory as to why one would use borrowing but not carrying?

  34. Daniel Newby says:

    Fads of this sort aren’t confined to primary education. The Math Department at Oklahoma State University switched to “Harvard Calculus”, which I was shocked to learn didn’t cover L’Hôpital’s Rule. It can turn indeterminate forms, like infinity divided by infinity, into actual numbers. IMHO if you don’t know it, you don’t know calculus.

  35. Joe in NM says:

    Insufficiently Sensitive asks:
    Why should an interested party (such as a group of concerned parents) not have standing to sue the pants off of the marketers of Everyday Math et al in a class action suit? The damages to the kids are pretty obvious.

    Great question, but it can’t happen.
    No damages, because there is no duty owed by the texbook purveyors, except that the textbook exists and is delivered. There is no duty owed by the school, the public school does not guarantee any outcome to you the parent, or to your children.

    We have agreed to accept the books, to be used by teachers who offer no warranty. No merchantability. No fitness for a particular purpose. blah blah.

    No duty owed, no damages, no lawsuit. Think about it. No-one in this vast chain of educational commerce owes you, the payer of taxes and fees, the trusting parent, anything other than a general duty to refrain from hurting your child physically (and to some degree, mentally). The same duty owed by some random bicycle rider on the sidewalk to an equally random pedestrian. That all there is, for all of us virtually concerned parents.

  36. D. Cooper …

    So, once again, the curriculum doesn’t matter? It’s either poor teacher training or the students are the problem. Gee, if only we had better teachers and students, then there would be no problems. Oops, we forgot parents.

    When I was growing up it was sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Well, maybe today the music has changed.

    I know there are lots of issues, (and don’t assume that I disagree with the comments) but this commentary was about the effectiveness of EM.

  37. Daniel Newby says:

    Apparently I’m not alone in thinking Harvard Calculus sucks. That page says “The mathematics reform movement has watered down not only K-12 mathematics, but has made significant inroads at the college level. Chief among these is the so-called ‘Harvard Calculus’ approach which has replaced traditional treatments.” It specifically mentions the absence of L’Hôpital’s Rule and other useful concepts.

  38. “You wouldn’t try to teach someone how to play Mozart if they did not know how to play some simple scales, would you?’
    –Posted by Mad Scientist

    Actually, I would. Music scales are incredibly boring, and only a few aural masochists would become musicians if that’s where it all had to start. Beginning students need to play both songs and scales, and so do professional musicians.

    Math is taught with drills (akin to musical scales) and word problems/skills (which can be considered songs: the scales come in handy, but it’s up to the musician to put the notes in the right places). The difference between good musicians and amateurs is their mastery of the scales. Mathematics isn’t that different.

  39. Well, it seems as if society will head into a divided path, those who have a quality education, can problem solve, think critically and independently, and those who lack those skills.

    Of course, the ones who can think will control the ones who cannot…

  40. D. Cooper says:

    Steve…As well it should be … remember Darwin !!!

  41. D. Cooper says:

    Sorry Steve, I meant Bill..but Steve I was just doing a quick defense of the teacher/union bash … as far as EM goes, I’m not that familar with it and I agree that these ‘new’ methods are flown out of the hanger for test flights way too often. Me, drill…drill … and then drill some more. When I get a 9th grader going for his calculator to divide 780 by 10, I cringe. They need a base … and a calculator is not a base, it becomes a shaky foundation at best.

  42. Mad Scientist says:


    Your attitude – to not have a good foundation in the basics – is precisely why almost everything that is produced today is crap. Watering down because it is “boring” is never a substitute for mastery of the basics.

    Sure you need both kinds of problems. But if you don’t know the NOTES or how to hit them, or how they relate to one another, any song is going to sound like garbage.

    Watch American Idol to see the culmination of this theory taken to the extreme. People who only think they know how to sing can’t keep in tune. They are told they are fantastic by their close relations. They get a wake up call when facing the judges.

  43. I took Calc 3 using a Harvard Calc book, but the teacher had us go to the library and look at a book on reserve for a good portion of the homework problems. I wondered why, until I took linear algebra from him the following semester, and our project one afternoon was to decode the following phrase using a Hamming code: “HARVARD CALC BOOKS SUCK”. He was absolutely right.

  44. I agree with Steve’s post yesterday. People, we are paying for these textbooks and the next “hot new text” that will be bought in 3 years. Children’s lives are being experimented upon but for 90% of the kids, we already know what works in math or reading. And in many of the posts, parents mentioned tutoring their kids at home in addition to math at school. This math program is already a travesty but when you consider the impact on impoverished kids, it is truly a criminal situation.

  45. “The biggest change in education in the last 25 or so years has been the ‘student’ as opposed to teacher quality or commitment.”

    This may be true, but…reminds me of a comment Peter Drucker made about marketing executives who complain about “irrational customers.” He said that comment made about as much sense as a medical researcher complaining about “irrational bacteria.”

    The customers, the bacteria, the students are what they are. They have to be dealt with that way. The idea that we can’t improve the schools unless we somehow change the whole culture to get a better class of student is simply a plan to fail.

  46. “You wouldn’t try to teach someone how to play Mozart if they did not know how to play some simple scales, would you?’
    –Posted by Mad Scientist

    Jon Replied:
    “Actually, I would. Music scales are incredibly boring, and only a few aural masochists would become musicians if that’s where it all had to start.”

    Who said that scales are where it all HAD TO start? And, it depends on which Mozart piece you were talking about, which key and which arrangement, but that wasn’t the point. Even the most aggressive piano teachers don’t start with scales. And, “traditional” math isn’t just boring, rote, drill and kill and lacking in problem solving skills. In the algorithmic justification of EM, the author goes out of his way to paint the traditional approach to math as incredibly awful. They have to do it because that is the best way to justify doing something completely different. By the way, they admit that EM is not for the “elite”, but fail to mention who these kids are or what content and skills are missing.

    I had just this sort of discussion with a concert pianist about my son’s piano lessons. Of course nobody starts with scales, but the devil is in the details. He was raised with a very strict, “traditional”, skill-based approach in Japan, so he is sensitive to the problems of motivation and developing the whole, creative person. We spent quite a while talking about balance and how skills can be mastered in a rigorous fashion. The problem isn’t so much balance but what exactly is the balance and how do you try to achieve the balance – bottom up using basic skills as a foundation, or top down, trying to develop skills by playing the music. Guess which approach he supported.

    The new, reform math tries to achieve the balance top down through problem solving. What I see missing, however, is a lack of desire to bite the bullet and do more than just a half-hearted attempt to enforce the devlopment and mastery of skills. EM specifically talks about spiraling and how it isn’t necessary for the student to master skills because they will see the material over and over and year to year. (hence the criticism that EM jumps around too much) With this fuzzy idea of mastery, there is the big possiblity that students will slide grade to grade and never master the basics. That is why I find EM (and other reform math programs) supplemented with skill mastery worksheets. I consider this just a stop-gap measure.

    The other problem I see with a top down approach is that it asks the students to solve problems without having the needed skills. In many reform math programs, this is called discovery and is considered good. I think it is very wasteful of time, can be very frustrating to the student, and doesn’t teach the student that math is all about applying previously learned knowledge and skills to more and more difficult problems. One example of this I have seen is the desire of reform math to have the students solve what are simple one or two equation problems using guess and check. No development of equations, little discussion of variables (I have seen problems that use question marks rather than traditional variables like x, y, and z.), and no talk of getting enough equations to match the number of unknowns. (Forget about any talk of linear independence.)

    Perhaps it is possible to develop rigorous mastery of basic skills using a top down, in-context approach, but I doubt it. (You also have to WANT to do it.) Again, the devil is in the details. Pick up the Singapore books and compare them side by side with anything else. At the very least, you will see a significant difference in content.

  47. D. Cooper says:

    “The customers, the bacteria, the students are what they are. They have to be dealt with that way. The idea that we can’t improve the schools unless we somehow change the whole culture to get a better class of student is simply a plan to fail.” … David, I agree they have to be dealt with that way, and that to somehow change the whole culture is doomed to fail is partialy true, it is a change in the culture however that has led to ‘some’ of the problems. To change the whole educational system to conform to the culture change is no minor task. And, to maintain some of the values and goals of education ain’t gonna be any easier!! (ain’t and gonna for emphasis, lest any of you grammar freaks throw a hissy fit ). Maybe we shouln’t be giving in to ‘irrational’ customers. Maybe there is no way to deal with ‘irrational bacteria’, but I don’t equate ‘irrational bacteria’ with ‘irrational students’. And, if culture can change for the worse, and certainly seems it can change for the better. Given the ‘crapola’ I’ve seen on the ‘airways’ (ie. Howard Stern) and in other media, I’d say it’s taken a turn for the worse and needs a new direction (as in a turn for the better) … no easy job to be sure.

  48. Mr(s). D. Cooper:

    In re the unions: Sol Stern makes an eloquent argument as to why unions are bad for schools in his recent book (I hope I got Joanne’s ref in there properly.)

    As for “e”, yes it refers to Euler’s constant.

  49. Mad Scientist says:

    Sheesh! I am a classical music illiterate, and I use a musical reference only as a demonstration that basics are important.

    The whole debate stikes me a lot like Professor Harold Hill in “The Music Man”, using the “Think Method” to teach young’uns how to play instruments. That is “think of what you want to come out of the instrument and it WILL come out as you hear it”.

    Totally RIDICULOUS!

  50. I’m kind of baffled about this whole idea that memorizing facts is inherently boring…

    I’m currently working with my 2 1/4 year old to learn letters and counting… Being the boring old fart that I am, we use flash cards… In addition to her learning well, she enjoys it… She actually bugs me to “play flashcards” with her…

    I understand that things that entertain kids when they are two may not be so entertaining when they are ten… But I also understand that if you repeatedly tell kids that a learning activity is no fun, kids won’t want to do it…

  51. Rita C. says:

    anonymous … I have no idea what the theory behind EM is. I’m just a parent when it comes to math. Personally, breaking the problems down into 10’s and 1’s, etc. makes more sense to me than carrying ever did, but that’s just me.

  52. D. Cooper says:

    e….. I’m sure that Sol can conjure up an eloquent argument against teacher unions as well as there are others who’ll do just the opposite. And, there is the NEA and there is NYSUT. NYSUT is an enormous force in NY in improving schools, teachers and education. I’ll stand on their record, and you can stand on some critics book. Bet I can see further than you … and I’m not that tall!!

    And for my money … flash card ’em until they get it, and don’t give up.

  53. Richard Brandshaft says:

    Yet again, I saw the term “fuzzy math” misused in commentary about math teaching. Am I quibbling when I point that out? That isn’t a rhetorical question; “I know that (or can do that) so anyone with half a brain should know that (or be able to do that)” is a frequent comment. It’s easy to call it unjustified when it refers to something you can’t do; when it refers to a something you know, it’s harder to judge — which doesn’t stop some people.

    Speaking of different methods, Richard Feynman was once on a California curriculum commission. He said counting on your figures was an acceptable way to do some problem. Others in the meeting protested. He asked when the next meeting was. Someone told him. He asked, “In how many days is that?” People counted on their fingers.

  54. Insufficiently Sensitive says:

    Joe apparently thinks EM publishers are immune to my nifty lawsuit, claiming “No damages, because there is no duty owed by the texbook purveyors, except that the textbook exists and is delivered.”

    There certainly IS a duty owed by those purveyors, and that is to ensure that the textbood functions as advertised. Failure to do so is fraud.

    If other texts or methods can be shown to be superior, or heaven forbid actually successful at imparting mathematical knowledge instead of psychobabble, then the advertising claims of the EM salesmen (which can hardly be anything but claims of superiority for their product) are worthless or misleading and have cost the consumers real value.

    If the consumers are the textbook purchasers, the defendent is properly the authors; if the consumers are the students or parents, the defendent is the textbook purchasers – who should immediately turn around and sue the purveyors.

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  60. It'sabouthekids says:

    I am parent who just went through an awful experience with the Everyday Math program. As a parent I believe we all try to do what’s best for our kids. My childs school is not supplimenting at all. The children are missing very basic facts. I work nightly at home with my kids – so they are okay – but many kids don’t have a parent to help them. I went to the school board to let them know about what the kids are missing out on. They did not want to listen. The superintendent lied to the board and said we do suppliment! Sorry I have children in the school and their is no supplimenting! They are driven by the power of the school board seat – not the interest of the kids. Our district has risen ten percent in five years – but still 50% of the kids are not even at basic – but they think that this is good! After five years of EM should we not be seeing more of an improvement? I am truly worried about this particular group of kids. I believe that since I notified my school board in a public meeting – and they did nothing – I believe I do have legal action later on if my child fails in math.

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  1. Change

    A Joanne Jacobs post describes the sort of turmoil that goes on when a math curriculum is changed to one that is learner oriented. She voices a strong point when she says “Everyday Math is harder for teachers — and

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