Misteaching math

Barry Garelick discusses the Washington, D.C. school board’s decision to adopt Everyday Math as an elementary curriculum despite considerable opposition. One key tactic is to “disparage testimony from those against the adoption as ideological and politically motivated arguments,” he writes. Another is to invite teachers from affluent districts to testify that EM works with their students, ignoring evidence that it doesn’t work as well for low-income students whose parents can’t tutor them at home or pay for tutoring.

The after-school tutoring offered to low-income students may be worthless, writes Instructivist, who quotes the pitch of a Chicago company advertising its program for sixth-graders who need math and reading help:

The curriculum is hands-on and utilizes multiple intelligences. Students love it! Students learn math and reading by solving mysteries, playing games, acting out plays, and doing art projects. The program makes learning and teaching fun!

Instructivist doubts students will play their way to math proficiency. It’s certainly not the kind of tutoring provided to students whose parents can pay the cost.

About Joanne


  1. Thanks, Joanne, for linking to my post. I find this phony “tutoring” pretty outrageous. It’s a costly hoax at taxpayers’ expense. The more publicity, the better. Maybe someone in government or the big media will take notice. The outfit from which I quoted is only the tip of the iceberg. There needs to be a major investigation.

    More on this particular case here: http://chicago.craigslist.org/chc/edu/219438211.html

  2. heuchera66 says:

    My child has the Investigations program at her school. I end up supplementing, and am in the process of ordering the Singapore Math curriculum. One wonders what the school board is thinking in that community.

  3. I haven’t been privy to any of these decisions, but I wonder if there is a good deal of math-phobia involved. However, that wouldn’t explain adoption of whole language reading curricula. Maybe they just hate our kids and want to make them suffer.

  4. Indigo Warrior says:

    The teaching methods promoted by Whole Language and multiple-intelligence math work best for students who have a strong innate proficiency in reading or math. In other words, they are useless for most remedial students.

  5. Indigo, according to what I’ve read (and what I’ve been told by relatives who are teachers), Whole Language instruction only “works” for kids that already know how to read. That is, everyone really reads phonetically (even speed readers subvocalize, if you measure carefully). My father was taught at a Dewey school, and even though he is a doctor with 3 graduate degrees, he’s never been able to spell. Since he’s 80 now, I think that we can assume that he’ll never learn.

    And I do know that “whole math” instruction doesn’t have anything to do with mathematics. I got a look at Everyday Math when my 15-year-old was in kindergarten, and it’s a big reason that we puller her out of public school. She’s upstairs right now studying math out of a text for “advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students”, and that wouldn’t be happening if we’d left her in that school…

  6. Our public schools switched to Everyday Math a few years ago. My 3rd grader isn’t learning any real math. One recent homework assignment was to cut numbers out of a magazine or newspaper and glue them onto a page. He SHOULD be learning his multiplication tables about now. “But that would be Drill and Kill.” That’s the answer I get from all the teachers (except the older, intelligent ones who whisper, “Yeah, I know, but my hands are tied.”)

    I’d pull him out in a heartbeat if my husband would let me.

  7. Laylo: Drill him on the math tables at home. That’s what my Dad did to me…

  8. Yesterday’s NY Daily News ran an editorial on Everyday Math, from Elizabeth Carson, Exec Director of NYC HOLD, an advocacy group. It is at http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ideas_opinions/story/462000p-388711c.html

    Those of you who have had experience with EM (and some of you have pulled your kids out of school or taught them at home to prevent damage), please send a letter to the editor in support of Ms Carson’s editorial to: [email protected]. It is important that the press realizes how widespread this problem is. School boards may turn a deaf ear to this problem, but once newspapers realize how much of the public has an interest in the math ed controversy and appreciates their coverage of same, they may do more stories on it.

    Barry Garelick

  9. MarkM, thanks, that’s exactly what I (and many other parents who opted to stay) are doing. I’m very frustrated because the best hours for learning are in the morning ore early afternoon and THEY have him searching catalogs for dollar signs then!

    And folks, the crazy methods they demonstrate (like the “Egytian” one)… They’re long, tedious, and ripe for making mistakes because of all the “steps” involved. But accuracy is not a priority; You might say it’s irrelevant. We’ve had to tell two teachers so far that they are NOT to mark my sons’ answers wrong if they are correct — even if he uses a traditional algorithm to arrive at his correct answer.

    I’m told by the board that Everyday Math is here to stay in our district. I’m online buying Singapore Math to supplement the best I can.

  10. Laylo,

    I used Singapore with my daughter while she had EM. A half hour per day is all your son will need. The idea is to stay ahead of the EM train wreck as best you can so that they’re already skilled at whatever it is that EM is trying to avoid teaching them to do. I wouldn’t look at Singapore as supplementing EM so much as supplanting it.

  11. Ahh, thanks Barry. I will definately take your advice. I really appreciate it.