Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Common Core Math Standards and Everyday Mathematics

By Pam Kenney

I spent much of last weekend reading and critiquing the new Common Core Math Standards (K-6 only) for the National Coalition for World Class Math. I must say I was surprised at and pleased with their thoroughness and rigor. My primary assignment was to analyze the standards’ sequence of skills. I had several suggestions to facilitate learning (teaching students to count by 5s and 10s, for example, before requiring them to count money), but for the most part the standards are presented with their delineated skills building on each other from grade to grade in a logical progression. I love the standards that require children to use mental math, the kindergarten one that ensures students are able to begin counting in the middle of a number sequence instead of always starting at 1, and the strong emphasis on understanding the “whys” of math. They require the memorization of math facts (although I’d like to see mastery at earlier grade levels than these standards mandate) and the use of the standard algorithm (again my preference would be for its introduction more quickly after understanding is achieved than it is now). The timetable for the mastery of concepts isn’t as clear as it could be, and I hope that need will be addressed as the comment period continues this month.

As I read the standards, I made an unexpected discovery. From the outset, I began noticing something interesting: Many of the skills and their attendant requirements reflect those taught within the Everyday Mathematics curriculum. At the fourth grade level, for example, standard #6 under “Number – Operations and the Problems They Solve,” states, “Compute products and whole number quotients of two-, three- or four-digit numbers and one-digit numbers, using strategies based on place value, the properties of operations, and/or the inverse relationships between multiplication and division; explain the reasoning used.” EDM is famous for, and often criticized for, the many methods (lattice, partial products, and partial quotients, e.g.) it expects children to learn to facilitate a thorough understanding of the “whys” of multiplication and division. This standard and many others like it throughout the standards document continue that emphasis. The new standards differ from EDM, though, because they include basic fact fluency requirements, the use of the standard algorithm, and at least an attempt to set mastery levels. What is not clear is how much of the spiraling that is peculiar to EDM will be eliminated if they’re adopted, and that is an important facet of the standards that needs to be analyzed.

I have been a critic of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum for years and have written about its shortcomings on this blog several times. However, I’ve amended my position somewhat after working with a fourth grader on her EDM assignments throughout this school year. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to fault EDM’s basic goal, which is to help students understand what they are doing when they solve problems and why their answers to problems are reasonable or make sense mathematically. EDM is very good at helping children develop math reasoning skills. I still have problems with its de-emphasis on basic facts, its delayed use or elimination of the standard algorithm, and its spiraling of concepts that doesn’t pinpoint mastery expectation points. It appears that the Common Core standards have addressed fairly well these problems, as well as the vocal criticism that has stemmed from them from parents and teachers, and have provided a more balanced approach than EDM does.

Questions still linger, though. Here are two: Why are these national standards so reflective of Everyday Mathematics? What input into the development process, if any, did the University of Chicago Mathematics Project or the EDM publisher, Wright Group (a division of McGraw-Hill), have? I have read comments from a variety of sources stating that classroom teachers should have had more say than they did in the creation of the Common Core Standards. My hope is that their input didn’t get squeezed out by that of textbook publishers.

Coming soon: Part II – Common Core Elementary Math Standards and Teacher Competence


Jim Burke said...

Pam, thanks for a balanced view on the Common Core State Standards. :)

An interesting McGraw-Hill connection is that Terry McGraw is the head of both McGraw-Hill and the Business Round Table. McGraw-Hill owns Business Week.

Let's look at one Achieve board member: Edward Rust: CEO State Farm Insurance; Chair, Education Task Force, Business Roundtable; Co-Chair Business Coalition for Excellence in Education; Chair, National Alliance of Business; Co Chair, Subcommittee on Education Policy, Committee for Economic Development; Member of board, Achieve; member of board, McGraw-Hill; member, President-Elect Bush (the younger)Transition Advisory Team Committee on Education; board of trustees American Enterprise Institute.

Working group member: David Coleman is the founder of the Grow Network, a part of McGraw-Hill Education.

Pam Kenney said...

You've obviously done your homework. I think I need to do a more thorough comparison of the new standards and EDM.

Jim Burke said...

I guess, Pam, but I just realized I am guilty of the "guilt by association" logical fallacy that I so abhor when people who disagree with me make their arguments. Dang . . . have to watch myself.

I do believe, however, that McGraw-Hill is one corporation that has a very powerful influence on educational policy. Not the only one, mind you.

Who SHOULD be in charge? People or corporations? Should corporations (limited liability structures) have citizenship rights?

Anonymous said...

(part 1)

Hi Pam,
Thanks for spending the time to research EDM further. As a parent, I’ve done a lot of research to present the case for supplementing EDM in my district. I have friends all over the country with young children. We often compare what comes home in our kids backpacks. My first “red flag” with EDM arose when I realized that everything my child does in math class stays at school. This concerns me, as it disengages the parents. Schools want more parental involvement and yet they choose a curriculum that only give parents the opportunity to see their child’s math results via the “home links” and an occasional assessment.
A lot of what is done with EDM is done on “white boards” and in “groups”. This presents another problem. If a parent wants to see what % of problems their child answered correctly on the white board, there is simply no record or tracking of their child’s progress over time.
I decide to do my own little experiment and call several schools inside Maine (and outside of the state) using EDM. I only called those with high test scores. What I found was that ALL of these schools do not rely solely on EDM to ensure their students proficiency. They all supplement it. I have a daughter in 2nd grade, as does a close friend in Yarmouth. I asked her to save the math papers coming home from her daughter’s class over an approximate 8 week period. They use EDM in Yarmouth, but an ADDITIONAL 52-pages of non-EDM supplements came home over this timeframe. Yarmouth schools seem to realize that EDM doesn’t give kids enough practice to master what they have been taught. Orono schools also begin to supplement EDM in kindergarten via “technology”. There are many math programs that can be used in computer labs that allow kids individual time to practice math at their own level. These programs also give parents a snapshot of their child’s growth over time.
When we teach teens how to drive a car, we need to give them time behind the wheel of the car. EDM gives minimal time for students to be “in the driver’s seat”. To succeed in Mathematics, students need to process the problems by themselves. While it’s nice to sometimes do group activities, the child who is a “quick processer” will come out ahead in these activities. Children all learn at a different pace and this is why they need lots of pencil and paper “alone” time with math. Yes, this means that teachers still need to do a lot of correcting math papers (unless the district has the funds to purchase a technology program like Orono, which does the correcting via the computer). The “math boxes” that EDM offers for individual student practice simply falls short of what students need. I find that some schools even do the “math boxes” as a group activity. Once you present teachers with a curriculum at the elementary level that requires minimal correcting, it’s hard to ask them to do the amount that they do in districts like Yarmouth.
Maine has embraced the de-emphasis on individual pencil and paper math time. Did you know that in 1997, we were #1 in the state in 8th grade math results? In 2005, we dropped done to 24th. Over this same period, we’ve embraced curriculums that don’t give kids enough practice. To me, it’s all about balance. As a state, we’ve gone way too far in saying that students only need to “understand”. They need both…”understanding and mastery”.
(I'm going to continue this in a 2nd post - as my response is too long for one posting!)

Anonymous said...

(Part two)

Yet another concern that I have with EDM is the fact that many schools don’t follow the “pacing guide”. I feel that parents should be given this guide at the beginning of the school year. See below:
The first half of the pacing guide is mostly a repeat of the prior year. The 2nd half is the “new material”. If teachers don’t finish the pacing guide (and many don’t), this is a problem.
I’m not so sure that the writers of EDM are in agreement with the new “Common Core Standards”. See below:
It’s pretty clear, after reading this, that they are worried about schools choosing other curriculums after the new standards are released. Keep in mind, the “School of Education” at the University of Chicago has been dissolved. The University of Chicago has a huge financial interest in getting schools to purchase the EDM curriculum. It would be interesting to ask the Department of Mathematics at the University of Chicago how they feel about this “CEMSE Response to the Common Core Standards Initiative”.
With today’s tough economic times, schools in Maine need to spend money wisely. EDM is a “consumable” curriculum. Not only is it expensive, but it has to be purchased over and over again each year. There are now many text books available that do a good job explaining the “whys” of math (this is the where EDM does a good job), but are not consumable. They also don’t “spiral”, which is a questionable way to present mathematics and not a method used in the highest achieving countries. Parents should be given the opportunity to view their child’s math book, but there is no “text book” for parents to see with EDM. Many of the latest textbooks today area available for parents to view online. While not all parents in Maine have access to the Internet, I believe that there is value to giving parents access to their child’s textbooks.
I do concede that they latest edition of EDM is better that the previous, but how many schools in Maine have the $ to buy the latest EDM book AND all the supplements it requires? Also, how many schools have a strong enough curriculum team to decide what needs to be taught and cut from the EDM text to meet the new standards? The spiraling of this curriculum will make it very hard to make necessary adjustments once the new standards are released.
When making a decision to purchase this curriculum, schools need to be aware of the need to supplement EDM. There is also the question, how will schools currently teaching with the EDM curriculum address the teaching of the “standard algorithms”, which are avoided in EDM but required in the new standards? In a nutshell, EDM is being sold to schools as “one stop shopping”. I my view, it’s a hefty investment for schools to only “partially” meet the standards. It falls very short in giving kids the practice that they need to master mathematics. In some ways, I feel that curriculums like EDM are actually what caused the need for the common core standards to be written. Too many districts have taken the word of the textbook companies that EDM is a “complete packaged curriculum”. It takes as strong curriculum team to do the research necessary to address the shortfalls, but one needs to look no further than Massachusetts to learn that strong standards that require mastery can make a difference. In MA, they don’t give students calculators on state exams until the 7th grade. This alone makes a huge statement to all of the elementary teachers in the state. I’d like to see some schools in Maine approach the NECAP “calculator free” until 7th grade. The NECAP instructions do say that if you are a “calculator free” school, you should not give the students a calculator on the NECAP. I’d also like to see more curriculum directors studying the Massachusetts’ state standards and I really hope that Maine’s new standards will be more in line with the MA learning standards.

Thanks! Beth

Beth said...

Below are a few article links from large school districts outside of Maine. Each district is addressing the math standards. One district (Scottsdale) has chosen to dump EDM. The other (Seattle) will supplement EDM to meet the new standards and evaluate it again when it’s time to review the elementary math program.

I like the transparency of these districts in regard to the curriculum decision process. Parents can follow (and participate) in math curriculum decisions.

First example: 6/8/10 Scottsdale, AZ district scrambles to enact new math program

"Scottsdale schools delayed adopting a new math program this spring to make sure it would align with the just-released Common Core State Standards"

"The committee decided to switch from Everyday Mathematics, which the district adopted in 2003, to the 2009 edition of Math Connects, published by Glencoe/McGraw Hill, for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade"

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/community/scottsdale/articles/2010/06/08/20100608scottsdale-schools-math-program.html#ixzz0qfivL1C9

Second: Frequently ask questions about Everyday Mathematics (Seattle Public Schools)


Supplementing EDM at Seattle Public Schools:


The new Common Core Standards require that the standard algorithms be mastered. I wonder if districts using EDM will add yet another algorithm to the EDM mix or consider dropping a few (such as the lattice method). My district hasn't taught the standard algorithms for many years.

Beth said...

WA State district drops EDM:

June 18th: Central Kitsap schools hope new curriculum, strategies will equal higher math scores (WA State)

"Both school districts have used Everyday Mathematics as their curriculum of choice in their elementary schools for nearly 15 years.

The books met criticism from teachers and parents who claimed that they didn’t spend enough time on individual topics and were too difficult to understand without a teacher’s explanation, making it nearly impossible for parents to help their children with homework. The books used in the both the districts’ secondary schools had the same problem."

Read the entire article to see what they say about the text meeting WA state standards:


Beth said...

July 14, 2010 Nashua, NH Telegraph: District seeking ideas from public (Math concerns w/EDM Curriculum)


A steering committee is doing an analysis of the issues, including re-examining the curriculum the district uses. Nashua uses Everyday Math in its schools, which has drawn some criticism in the education community.

Beth said...

Questions linger about learning initiative
July 25, 2010 Nashua Telegraph


From the article (regarding Common Core Standards and EDM):

Leather said one of the issues that would have to be addressed with adoption of the new standards are conflicts with the popular Everyday Math curriculum, which Nashua and Milford use.
Leather couldn’t provide specific examples of what those conflicts are, but in March, the University of Chicago’s Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education, the maker of Everyday Math, made it clear it wasn’t happy with the proposed new standards.
In a statement, the university said: “We believe that the proposed CCS standards for mathematics in grades K-6 would promote a back-to-basics curriculum that ignores the profound changes that have taken place in the last 50 years. CCS’s largely paper-and-pencil approach to mathematics in K-6 is obsolete.”
The statement listed several shortcomings within the then-proposed standards, including “inadequate exposure to concepts of data and probability,” “an overemphasis on teaching by telling,” and a “disregard of existing and emerging technology.”
It isn’t clear whether those concerns raised were ever addressed or led to any changes, but Leather said now that so many states are signing on, the makers of Everyday Math are working to adjust their curriculum.

Anonymous said...

As a parent with a minor in Biology and dad who works remotely as an IT Security Consultant (and who sees many Asians blow our kids out of the water when it comes to mastering computer programming which uses not only math but "logic"). Both of us cannot comprehend Everyday Math.

I can't help my son with his 6th grade homework because I do not understand half of it and neither does my husband.

We learned math the old school way and are very proficient ~ I have even passed college level Calculus 2 and Statistics.

My son is in 6th grade and I fear that he has never learned the basics. We are going to talk to the Principal of my son't school and beg for him to learn "Singapore Math". We pay enough in our property taxes and they should help us out here.

Everyday math is fine if you want a nation of liberal arts degrees rather than science, computers and engineers.

Kind regards,

Violet J. Willis