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Math in Oswego

      The following presentation was given to the District 308 school board in Oswego, on behalf of a parent's group asking that the controversial Everyday Math be removed from their children's classrooms. To protect privacy online, we have removed addresses, phone numbers, and names of schools where specific children attend.

    Presentation to District 308 School Board
    September 10, 2007

    Hello, my name is Laurie Pasteris. I live at [address], Oswego. I am here tonight to talk about the Everyday Mathematics curriculum that is currently in our elementary schools. I am representing all of the people who are currently standing and those who have signed our petitions. We have 300 signatures on petitions from concerned District 308 parents and taxpayers who want to see the Everyday Math curriculum removed.

    First I would like to tell you a little bit about myself. I have two girls, one in 7th grade at [public school], and one in 5th grade at [Catholic school]. Both girls struggled through the math curriculum in the elementary grades. My husband and I have been public educators our entire adult lives, and it was a difficult decision for us to pull our 5th grade daughter out of District 308 this year, but we realize it was in her best interest to be taught with a traditional math program. She has learned more over the past couple of months under the traditional system than she did in three years with the Everyday Math program! Furthermore, she has regained her confidence and overall love for school now that she has experienced success. Moreover, we have come in contact with numerous District 308 families who have, and are experiencing the same frustration with the Everyday Math program!

    Everyday Math is based on an educational philosophy called "constructivism". Two ideas from this philosophy are: The only way a child can truly learn math is to discover it for themselves (As a parent, I am still waiting for this moment.). The other idea being that the role of the teacher is not to instruct, but rather be a guide to the learner on the sidelines. These philosophers have chosen to ignore a huge federal grant called Project Follow Through (Google "project follow through"). What this investigation revealed was that "direct instruction" (a teacher in front of a class, instructing students) was superior to constructivist teachings, in reading and math, for all students in every economic level. Direct instruction would also be considered a traditional way of teaching.

    Everyday Math was developed by the Department of Education at the University of Chicago. The department no longer exists at that University. Everyday Mathematics was developed so that it would align with the National Council of Teaching Mathematics Standards. These standards correlated with "constructivism" teachings. All of this came about in the 1980's and has been in controversy ever since. The state of California became so upset with these ridiculous standards, that they developed their own, more clear and coherent standards. We are not asking you to do this, but we are wondering why our elementary grades have been following "constructivism" for at least 10 years and at Jr. High our district goes to a "traditional" style of teaching. Ten years ago, our Jr. High students, parents, and teachers became so outraged by Everyday Mathematics that they were able to dissolve it. Why can't our elementary grades pull away from this confusing, mastery lacking, spiraling program?

    Our group of concerned parents came up with many reasons for not wanting Everyday Mathematics and for wanting a traditional program instated:

    1. We would like a math program that concentrates on mastery of basic math concepts; addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

    2. The spiraling concept is not working. If our child did not pick up the math lesson on the day it was being taught or were even absent a day, waiting two months for it to spiral and attaching more to the concept only confuses the child more. We, as parents, are not able to teach the lesson because the workbook that might come home does not have the lesson present. Could I teach my daughter the Lattice Method?

    3. The average classroom child needs to learn one method when solving algorithms. We have learned that many schools are only using Everyday Mathematics as a supplement for their academically talented classes ( Lisle, Plainfield ). These children would enjoy learning these different algorithms and would not be confused by them.

    4. No transition between Everyday Math and Junior High curriculum. We are sending our children to Junior High unprepared. They are using their fingers when adding and subtracting. The Junior High teachers are reteaching the curriculum because of this lack of knowledge.

    5. Parents are tired of paying for tutoring. Huntington, Kumon, Sylvan -- where does it end?

    If you are a parent of "high end" math students, you may not be aware of these problems. High end or Academically Talented students can learn any way, which is one of the reasons that make them high end students. They understand the multiple ways of doing things, for the others, which is the vast majority of students, it just confuses them. They are not capable of learning multiple ways of doing the same thing, and figuring out the why and the how. For most students, this is a skill acquired at the high school level, not in grade school.

    It is our understanding that the Everyday Mathematics curriculum is currently up for review. We want our input to be heard. WE WANT A TRADITIONAL MATH CURRICULUM FOR OUR ELEMENTARY EDUCATION STUDENTS. We want our elementary education students to master the basics of math, to establish a good foundation so that higher level math learning will be possible. Without the basics, which are not emphasized enough with Everyday Math; higher level math becomes much more difficult.

    We want to make you as a board accountable to check into: 1. What programs are being reviewed? 2. Who gets to be on these committees? Some of us have called the district, but have received no information. 3. If there are four different math programs being evaluated, we would like two to be from the traditional method of teaching. 4. How are the programs being evaluated? Are we using the National Council of Teaching Mathematics goals? Who decides what program is eventually adopted? If it is this board, we want for you to hear us. If it is not you, we want you to tell them to listen to us. We are not going away. The Everyday Math curriculum is not benefiting the residents of School District 308.

    We want to be placed on the agenda next month to see what progress you have made. Talk to a Junior High math teacher and find out if children are entering sixth grade prepared. Many of those teachers shared information to us during Parent-Teacher Conferences about a pre-test on mastery of basic skills that is given to all students entering sixth grade. These test results were not good for my daughter's class!

    This program, Everyday Mathematics, was fine 10 years ago when we had no feed-back or information on this program. Now we have results from parents and children that it is not working, so to reimplement this program again would be neglect on the part of the school board.

    I will give you a copy of this letter and also a longer version letter that I wrote for the Ledger. It has many great Googles listed and it explains the new grading process that is being used for our elementary grade children's report cards. Please take the time to review this letter, and if you have any questions, please call me, [phone number].

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