

Review:
Scott Foresman Addison Wesley MATH: 4th Grade
A review by Kevin Killion (info@illinoisloop.org)
Original release: December 12, 1998
Last update of this webpage: December 2005
Your comments are warmly invited! I would like to collect more observations and
experiences from other parents and teachers about Scott Foresman Addison Wesley Math. I will add
notes to this page (with or without your name, if you wish), so that we can all profit
from our mutual experiences with this program.
Please write to me at info@illinoisloop.org
On a personal note, I'd also welcome comments regarding good math programs
in use in Chicago suburban schools, for use in illustrating alternatives.
Please also let me know about any typos that you spot in this document;
it's been through
a few format conversions and there may be some glitches remaining. Thanks!
Identification
This paper discusses a program named "Scott Foresman Addison Wesley Math".
The fourth grade worksheet book is the subject of
this review.
NOTE!
Nowadays most publishers sell multiple different series of textbooks.
Because this program just has the simple name "Math", be careful not to confuse this program with
Scott Foresman Addison Wesley "Mathematics" or
Scott Foresman Addison Wesley "enVisionMATH" or
or any of the other math programs released under the Scott Foresman or Addison Wesley imprints.

The layout of fourth grade Scott Foresman Addison Wesley "Math" is best described as "Tokyo By Night", a visual assault of MTV style, with literally thousands of cluttering photos, cheezy graphics, cartoons, splotches of bright colors, marginal notes and decorative slugs, adding nothing to the task of learning math. To the contrary, this fusillade of distractions can only impede your child's focus on learning math.
Speaking of distractions, your child's fourth grade math book will tell him or
her that "Abwenzi" is the word for "friends" in the Chichewa language of Malawi,
Africa, that small family farms in Massachusetts produce about half of the
world's cranberries, that bicycle racing began in France in 1869, and that Pong
was one of the first popular video games. He or she will read about cliff
climbers in Nepal retrieving honey, will learn an assortment of words for cowrie
shells in the Yoruba language of west Africa, and will be asked "Why do you think
the Anasazi chose to built on cliffs?" and "Why do you think they chose to build
dwellings with more than one story?" (despite a total lack of context).
Now, do you really think any of that will help your child to focus on learning math?
It's hot in education theory right now to talk about "integrated curricula",
where elements of one subject appear in another. Ever so trendy, Scott Foresman
Addison Wesley "Math" tries to do that, but the results are ludicrous. A group
of boaters wants to coax a Weddell seal to retrieve their anchor from a 1,500
foot depth, examples about the Apollo missions, Oz, and the formation of our
country get the facts wrong, and most of the other "integrated" examples are
merely isolated countsofthings, out of context of anything meaningful.
Diversity is a modern mantra as well. And diversity is a good thing, and certainly a refreshing change from the lilywhite textbooks we had as kids. But diversity shouldn't mean a vastly lopsided tilt. Scott Foresman Addison Wesley "Math" will give your child dozens and dozens and dozens of word problems involving preindustrial societies, countries of Asia and Africa (but only three references in the whole book to countries in continental Europe) and people with names like Chinonyerem, Karyms, Sahr, Divinity, Danikqua and Crisgeromie.
But the most crucial criteria for evaluating Scott Foresman Addison Wesley "Math" is this: what kind of job does it do in teaching math? And the answer is, lousy.
If you believe that your child is especially bright in math, prepare yourself to hear complaints of boredom (that's what I've heard from some current fourth grade parents). This book tells kids that it's OK to count using a number line (in fourth grade!) and are encouraged to use calculators if a problem looks like too much work (a character says, "I knew there would be a lot of regrouping, so I used a calculator"). Halfway through fourth grade, kids are given a long, politically correct story problem that boils down to solving 3 x 2. Near the end of fourth grade, they're asked to find "1920" on a timeline that is marked with every decade of this century. Hooboy, they'll be ready for the 21st century with challenges like those.
If your child is more average in math, prepare to spend a lot of time helping him or her with bewildering math homework. Practice and drill is drastically deemphasized by this text. Do you really want your child to learn to multiply by 7 by multiplying by 5 and then adding the double of the original? Do you want your child to be burdened to have to learn each new topic with multiple "ways" of doing things, some of which are truly bizarre? Are you prepared to spend lots of time together agonizing over mutant problems like "Can you show 12 x 15 using 1 hundred block and 8 tens? Explain." (Try it!)
Instead of learning math, do you want your child to use a book that encourages (in full page exercises!) such kindergarten activities as "Make your own funny drawings to show occasions when you might estimate", or making pinwheels and counting how many times they go around, or cutting out paper and folding it to make a box and then answering how many sides a box has?
And now, on to the gritty details...
My family is familiar with "Scott Foresman Addison Wesley Math".
In fact, we are veterans of SFAW Math. Purple Heart veterans.
We've been through the agony, tears, crying, tantrums, and endless everynight
battles. We saw our happy, sunshiny secondgrade kid become a miserable, sad
child awash in selfdefeating lack of confidence. We saw the worksheets that gave
our son two or three problems, not nearly enough to even provide a clue about
what's going on, and which then broadsided him with a demand to write about
the algorithm used, at a point when his class was barely beginning to master how
to string words into sentences.
We dealt with SFAW Math's nightly visual assault of colors, graphics,
fonts, and wildly irrelevant detail, a powerful set of distractors when all
our kid was trying to do was master subtraction. We helped him try to cram sentences
into tiny spaces, to "discuss" results that were patently obvious, even
at the second grade level.
The hell our family went through cannot be completely blamed on Scott Foresman Addison Wesley
Math; that awful year had other circumstances as well. But Scott Foresman Addison Wesley Math played
a significant role in a terrible second grade experience.
I was sensitized to what was going on with this math program by two discoveries.
 First, I found that other parents were also reporting odd, disturbing experiences
with these worksheets. Kids who had better writing skills at that point found many
of the topics illexplained and many of the problems inscrutable. Bright kids were
bored by the pace, insulted by the clutter, and disturbed by the strange sidebars
and makework tasks. Parents of kids with more average skills said that math was
a crisis in their households as well. All of this led me to the web, where I discovered
the nationwide battles over what educational theorists call "reform" math,
which many teachers and parents call "fuzzy math", "rainforest
math" or "MTV math". I also learned how the state board of education
of California, as well as communities all over the country, including some right
here in the Chicago area, have trashed fuzzy math and returned to contentbased
standards, drill and practice, and measurable goals.
 The second discovery was from an experiment at home: In June, I went to the teachers
store on Waukegan Road, and bought a halfdozen traditionalist math workbooks for
this grade level. I carefully selected pages to be ontopic and in correct sequence,
gave them to my son, one or two per day over the summer, and witnessed an amazing
event: My son, who went through a living nightmare with Scott Foresman Addison Wesley Math,
not only tackled and mastered these worksheets, but actually enjoyed them
and asked for more. He was now truly learning math, and feeling good
about himself and his accomplishments. We kept up and expanded on these worksheets,
and he was quite proud of the amount of work he had amassed by the start of school
in September.
The start of 3rd grade brought more delight: with a motivating, encouraging teacher
(thank you!) and a proven math curriculum that gives kids a chance to master
a topic without superfluous distractions, our son is doing much better. We're
thrilled with the progress he's made and the positive, successoriented attitude
that we see returning.
The sheer bulk of "Scott Foresman Addison Wesley Math" pretty much shouts, "CLUTTER".
Its almost 600 pages are packed with an cacophony of graphics, photos, design devices,
fonts, colors, rules, cartoon characters and decorative borders. And this is only
one of a set of materials that are part of this math curriculum! (Presentation
photos of fuzzy math curricula, easily found on the web, tend to look like web pages
for Milton Bradley.)
Far from riveting attention, this visual and cognitive fusillade will defy a child
to keep focused on the task at hand. This complaint about clutter versus attention
appears in several online reviews of socalled "reform" curricula. How
can it be otherwise? All we expect the child to do is concentrate on learning, say,
the steps in how to regroup in addition: but competing for the child's attention
are Zoombini cartoons, lively photos of exotic topics, gratuitous splashes of primary
colors (expensively printed), margins packed to the gills with superfluous irrelevant
tidbits, and an apparent explosion from the font menu. The title page lists 18 authors
and 45 illustrators  and that doesn't include all the sources for photographs.
Like an MTV video or a Disney Channel selfpromotion break, Scott Foresman Addison Wesley Math
is awash in meaningless gibberish that adds little or no substance to the goal at
hand. It's exhausting, distracting and very disturbing.
Font Soup
The first rule of typography is to use fonts sparingly, to promote clarity and
visual impact. Designers allow maybe two font faces, with tasteful and very limited
use of styles. But in picking one page as a sample (page 88), I counted ten different
fonts and styles on that single page!
Superfluous Decoration
Every page has a prominent border using at least three colors, and a color
slug to show the page number. Horizontal rules are made of a series of shaded yellow
balls, sections are titled with brightred, 3D boxes with drop shadows, headlines
are in an assortment of colors. Virtually every page spread has at least one full
color photo. Geometrics (as design elements, not math problems) are everywhere.
Cartoony characters pop up with alarming frequency. I love the Zoombini with the
sign that says, "Stay sharp!", but whose very presence interferes with
that advice!
Example: Page 3 has a simple exercise in which students solve some simple arithmetic
problems, and use letter codes to fill in the answer to a riddle ("What is a
giraffe's favorite kind of math?") Great, except that it stumped me,
a college math major, before I figured out what it wanted me to do. There is a visual
assault of a cartoony graphic of animals playing some kind of irrelevant tokensincircles
game, and rodent faces occupying spaces where the answers should have fit. A dripping
irony is that the riddle answer is "long division", a subject that fuzzy
math textbooks no longer like to teach.
Words and More Words
This is math, right? But on some pages it's hard to see numerals in the wash of
the text.
If the sheer torrential count of words isn't enough, then consider the disparate
groupings in which this text appears: titles, sections, captions, bullet labels,
thematic blocks, thought balloons, and oh yeah, the problems.
There is a "team project" exercise on page 384 that asks kids to use paper
or posterboard, and markers or crayons to make an advertisement that asks for volunteers
for something like a treeplanting activity. (Yes, I know  a nice little ecopious
politically correct activity that has little to do with math.) At one point, the
text says,
"How can you attract people's attention? If your ad has too many words,
people will not read it."
Somehow, Scott Foresman forgot this sound advice when creating their 600page
eyepopping blockbuster.
Eye Relief
Every advertising designer is taught early on about the value of white space.
Amateur ads tend to fill every purchased column inch of space with ink of some
kind. Professional print advertisements measure page elements carefully, using lots
of blank, empty areas to draw the eye to desired targets and to focus attention.
Ad researchers then use eyetracking lab experiments to exactly measure how readers
eyes move across printed advertisements, to learn what elements work as part of the
whole and what elements merely distract.
So what do billiondollar ad agencies know that Scott Foresman does not? In 600 pages,
there is hardly a page that isn't burdened by colorladen, meaningless extras. And
I couldn't find even one example of a margin that was mercifully left alone,
uncluttered by cartoons, fortune cookie wisdom, or stock photos collected at random.
The educational theorists love to parrot the phrase, "Less is more".
Apparently they don't mean this to apply to clutter or bulk, for there's no shortage
of brainsoftening, expensivelyprinted graphics packed into this hefty 600page
mass. No, what they mean is to reduce the amount of meaningful content.
You can judge a book by its cover. The 4th grade edition of "Scott
Foresman Math has only the title and a closeup photo of a girl looking at
a goldfish bowl. The 2nd grade edition has the title and a closeup of a frog. Inyourface
graphics, but where's the math? Yup, that's Scott Foresman Addison Wesley Math.
I spoke with the mothers of two children who are currently in 4th grade using the
Scott Foresman Addison Wesley Math book. Both of these children are very bright and adept at mathematical
concepts. The moms report that their kids are bored with the tedious pace
of these books and the lack of challenge.
Not all kids are at that level. What is the effect on those other, more average,
kids when we present them with reduced expectations, confusing and unfocused delivery,
an assault of distracting elements, and a dearth of clearly measurable goals and
signs of progress?
Here's what I mean: On page 2, as an intro to their fourth grade, students are asked
to solve problems like 5+7 and 138, and are told, "You may use the [conveniently
printed] number line to help." This is fourth grade, yet kids are being told
it's OK to count on a number line to solve simple problems!
Earlier this week I was returning books at the Wilmette Library when I noticed an
Asian mother, possibly Japanese, working with her daughter on some papers. I'd estimate
that the girl was about seven or eight years old. I took a closer look, and was amazed
to see the girl working on division problems. Yup, the Asian first or second grader
was doing division, while fourth graders are using number lines in school to add
5+7.
The message that achievement is easy permeates this book, and in odd and distracting
ways:
The ability to make and use scatter plots and line charts is definitely desirable.
But after one early lesson (page 12) and a very a quick recap, they are never
seen again in the book, except for two tiny passing items in reviews. The same
is true for line charts, which will appear only twice more in brief mentions later
in this book. The only presentation graphic used to any significant extent is bar
charts.
There is a nice exercise (page 11) titled, "Exploring Algebra: What's The Rule"
in which a child makes up a rule involving addition and subtraction (such as add
5) and applies the rule to a list of numbers submitted by another child. The
latter child then has to try to figure out the rule. I guess the idea is to suggest
that a rule can be stated without reference to a specific number, and that a variable
can be used to stand for that number. Very nice, indeed, except this topic is totally
in isolation and disconnected from any other thread. It comes from nowhere and leads
nowhere. But parents can feel good about seeing the word algebra printed
in their fourth graders math book.
Under the pompous banner of "Geometry Readiness", the children are shown
(page 53) two jigsaw pieces and asked which of three other pieces will fit in between.
It's insultingly trivial. Frankly, I think my dog could solve this one.
Fully a hundred pages into this allegedly fourth grade book, a full four page
lesson (starting on page 104) is devoted to a simple problem in addition with regrouping!
Another two pages teaches these fourth graders how to add three numbers
in a column. Then, four more pages tell our fourth graders how to do basic subtraction
of three or four digits. We better start booking our kids' air tickets to Stockholm
for the Nobel ceremony!
There is a lesson entitled "Choosing a Calculation Method"
(page 122) which would be better titled "Using Calculators to Avoid Learning
How To Add". An addition problem is presented, and solved in two different ways.
"Theo", who apparently has somehow mastered addition by his fourth grade, says,
"I added using a paper and pencil", and his neat, careful work is shown. "Carly",
on the other hand, describes her way as, "I knew there would be a lot of regrouping,
so I used a calculator" and a pseudocomputer display shows she got her answer
quickly and efficiently. Boy, Carly sure makes Theo look like a geek! Just
in case some excessively motivated and bright kids haven't yet gotten the idea that
it's cool to take the path of least resistance, the class is asked, "When might
it be better to use a calculator?" and then, "Which calculation method
[sic] would you use to find the difference between 12,825 and 9,948?"
The next page challenges kids with this brain buster: "Geometry Readiness. Draw
a picture of a tortilla folded in half. What shape is it?" Hey, Mom, I know
geometry now  bring on Kindergarten!
Weirdly, in the middle of the lesson on multiplying by 6, 7 and 8, the book drops
in (page 155), out of thin air, this:
The product when both factors are the same is a square number. The product
of 8x8 is a square number. So, 64 is a square number.
This isn't shown connected to anything else, and it has no relevance to the lesson
title. It doesn't even get a title slug, a bullet graphic or a cartoon character.
This is the child's introduction to squaring! Weirdly, for a book that places graphics
above everything else, this highly visual fact is not accompanied by an illustration.
I still have a Golden book from my own childhood that illustrates the first 10 squares
in a graphic and a table that makes them seem magical. (Nasty thought: Did Scott
Foresman tuck this little gem discreetly outofsight somewhere, merely so they could
satisfy some state textbook authority somewhere that says squaring must be taught
in their book?)
Kids are supposed to break into teams and make their own labels for a brand of salsa
(very P.C., you know) using numbers supplied (page 290). So, this is basically an
art project. What a wasted opportunity! The children now know enough about numbers,
multiplication and division to be shown how to think analytically and critically
about real food labels, which I think they would find far more interesting
than yet another art project.
In a chapter about twodigit multiplication, a long word problem is given (page 262)
that boils down to a simple subtraction of 196  155. The very next problem asks,
"Use the map  Suppose Liesl flies from Saginaw to Flint, then to Lansing, and
then back to Saginaw. What would be the shape of her route?" For God's sakes,
kids shouldn't be asked to identify a triangle in fourth grade!
By the middle of the book (page 307), a child is asked, "The recipe for Rajit's
biryani in Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley calls for 3 cups of rice.
How much rice is needed to double the recipe?" Great. Halfway through fourth
grade we're asking a child how much is 3 x 2. We are politically correct, however.
A little later (page 336), after onedigit division and remainders are covered, we
get, "Solve. Use any strategy. ... Six eggs fit in a minicarton. How many minicartons
can be filled with 110 eggs?" By the middle of 4th grade, we should expect kids
to use the single appropriate strategy to solve 110 ÷ 6, namely, division.
Near the end of fourth grade (page 524), the student is shown a time line
marked by decades from 1900 to 1990, and asked, "Technicolor for movies was
invented in 1920. Where on the number line would you put Technicolor movies?"
Well, let me take a wild guess at it  is it 1920?
So, it adds up to this: 4th grade kids are being told it's a perfectly good
way to do simple arithmetic by using a calculator, or to do a simple subtraction
using a number line. Yet we do have time for a full page on a money system using
shells and African words. No wonder we see newspaper stories about fuzzy math like
this from the Washington Times (November 5, 1998): "Parents watched in horror
as their children whipped out calculators to determine 10 percent of 470".
If there is any one flashpoint in the battle over fuzzy math, it's the role to
be played by multiplication tables. Parents all over the United States have been
horrified to discover that their reformminded schools no longer insist
on memorization of these fundamental math facts. (I suspect  or hope  that our
school is not in this group.)
The educational theorists have gotten smarter lately  they are now too shrewd to
say out loud that memorization of the times table is no longer required. But it sticks
in their craw that practice and drill really do have a place in promoting
mathematical competence. They refuse to yield even on the times table, just like
overpious libertarians have trouble admitting that saving the national parks is
a pretty good idea.
So, Scott Foresman Addison Wesley never says that knowing the times table by heart is not necessary.
But they never give the slightest suggestion that it would be helpful, either, much
less vital.
But even worse, the texts emphasis on strategies (a reform buzzword)
and slighting of computation proficiency leads to encouragement of some dangerous
habits. I believe it is unquestionably vital that a child learn, by rote, that
4 times 7 equal 28. There's no getting around it  this is fundamental. But in this
book, to multiply by 4 (page 152), kids are shown that how they can turn this into
the doubling of a multiplication by 2, so that 4x7 becomes 2x7=14, and 14+14=28.
They are even explicitly required (question 6, page 153) to do a problem this
awkward and speedretarding way, even if they know the times table (which
the didn't learn from this book). Then, to demonstrate their skill in multiplying
by 4, the kids are asked to solve 13  count 'em  13 problems. That's it. Total.
Your child will get a measly thirteen problems from this book when learning how to
multiply by 4. Ever.
It's all like that! Multiplying by 3 is shown as a doubling and adding again. Multiplying
by 6 is shown as multiplying by 3 and then doubling. (Are kids supposed to double
and add again to get 3x, and then double the total?) Multiplying by 7 is taught as
multiplying by 5 and then adding 2 times the original number. Multiplying by 8 is
doubling of 4 times the number (are they supposed to double, add, double, add, and
double?) Aaaacccckk! The reform cult hates it, but the truth is plain:
kids must drill, practice and memorize multiplication tables.
Even Scott Foresman Addison Wesley recognizes this implicitly  but only implicitly  in the next
lesson, division (page 166). Although children are shown alternative ways
to think about division, the final assignments is solid and specific: "What
multiplication fact can help you find 36 ÷ 4?"
The stress on manipulatives, the temptation to fill the books bulk, and a passionate
emphasis on strategies rather than skill or results adds up to this:
Scott Foresman Addison Wesley Math sometimes takes a relatively simple, meaningful problem and makes
algorithmic chop suey out of it.
To subtract 148 from 2001 (page 114), the kids are shown  at length  how Philippa's
way to do this is to take the 2 thousands, and regroup them into 1 thousand, 199
tens and 1 more ten, the latter of which then is regrouped with the 1 unit to make
11. Philippa subtracts in the units column, and then suddenly writes down the rest
of the answer without benefit of any columnar alignment for clarity. After precious
class time is wasted on this method, it is not mentioned again. Perhaps the text's
author suddenly realized how bizarre this was getting, and decided to stop before
making matters worse.
Page 256 presents a problem in two digit multiplication, using an example about the
Pony Express. (Note: This excerpt skips the superfluous route map graphic, horse
and rider drawing, incomprehensible document reproduction, and historical intro,
so that we can focus on the problem at hand. Children using the book would not be
shown this mercy.)
Suppose a rider traveled 12 hours a day at a speed of 15 mi/hr. How many miles
could the rider travel in a day?
Even using manipulatives, the seemingly rational way to start this problem would
be to create 12 sets of 15 blocks. A student might then observe that this is 10 sets
of 15 (or 150) plus two more sets of 15 (30) for a total of 180. Quick, accurate,
and direct. That would also be a quick, oneforone, pointforpoint correspondence
to the common method for doing multiplication. And, following the trendy dictum of
realworld basing of problems, it directly relates to the example given.
But NOOOOO, that's not what the book does. Instead, students are asked to work together,
probably thus consuming a full class period, in a truly bizarre strategy. First,
the kids are told to use cubes to make 1 ten and 5 ones [plus] 11 more rows
of 15. Say what??? Oddly, an accompanying illustration doesn't do that, but
instead shows an equally bizarre set of a 10x10 block, two 10unit blocks laid horizontally,
five 10unit blocks laid vertically, and 10 single unit blocks standing by themselves.
None of this appears to have any easy, vivid relationship to the problem given!
Next, we have one of those deadly talkaboutit landmines:
Can you show 12 x 15 using 1 hundred block and 8 tens? Explain.
Go ahead, try it. I dare you. This gives the teacher a choice: either spend a
precious class session debating this wildly distracting problem, or let the parents
have an evening screaming and wrangling with their kids over math homework that they
mutually find incomprehensible. Some choice.
Next, the text converts the manipulatives method into numbers (at last!) Inexplicably,
we're now going to illustrate that by switching to an entirely different problem,
13x23. (What happened to realworld relevance?) The child is shown this odd scheme:
23
x 13
9
60
30
200
299
The child then is required  required! 
to solve 18 problems using this freakish method.
Strange: a curriculum that despises giving kids much of a chance to practice
much of anything suddenly hits them with 18 problems when it comes to an oddball
way of doing things.
The mind numbing postscript to the problem is that in the very next lesson
the student learns the everyday, common method of multiplying. We've just suffered
through an agonizing and tortured stab at multiplication, only to immediately discard
it in favor of the timetested and sensible procedure!
When you have 600 pages to fill, what could be more natural than to take simple
ideas and make them complex?
In an early lesson (page 12), kids are given the definition that an ordered
pair is "a number pair that names a point on a coordinate grid".
Got that? You don't? Well, in the real world we'd say that as "a coordinate
gives the location of a point on a scatter chart". The kids are not taught the
correct terms, coordinate and scatter plot.
A marginal note on page 98 offers, "Remember  You can use a number line to
help you round numbers" and illustrates this with a line with two ticks at 100
and 200, and a dot roughly where 138 should go, and the label, 138 rounds to 100.
But how is this number line supposed to help? If a child knows that the dot for 138
should be closer to 100, then doesn't he or she already know the answer to the problem
before even getting to the number line? So, why complicate things with an extra step?
Children are introduced to primes and factors (page 184) using a timewasting team
project to color in cells on grid paper. It's confusingly written, and has minimal
examples. In contrast, that Golden book from my own childhood elegantly expressed
the same idea using checkers on a checkerboard, a much more compelling and realworld
example, and one that the student can try out much quicker. Moreover, the Golden
book also had an adjoining large, clever illustration of Eratosthenes Sieve, showing
several of the initial passes through the sieve. I can vividly remember even now
when I was a child and spent time in wonder of this exact chart. The Scott Foresman Addison Wesley
book inexplicably skips ten pages before getting to Eratosthenes, and the illustration
is tiny, hard to follow, and shows only the first pass of the sieve. (Why is it that
this book loves large meaningless decorations, but substantive charts are kept rare
and minimal?)
One of the most vital multiplication facts is that to multiply by ten, all we have
to do is suffix a number with a zero. 176 x 10 is 1,760. Guess what? When
the kids are first learning the times table, they aren't told that. The closest the
book gets is to mention that in multiples of 10, zero is in the ones place (page
159). In fact they won't see the addazero trick until 100 pages later!
A lesson supposedly on "Multiplying Tens" devotes a full page (page 200)
to a problem involving a girl trying to count soup labels for a school benefit. When
the text gets around the the actual problem, it says,
Julie stacks her labels in 5 groups of 20. She counts: 20, 40, 60, 80, 100
5 groups of 20 labels
5 x 2 tens = 10 tens
5 x 20 = 100
So, Julie's team has collected 100 labels.
Lordy, that's confusing! The kids are then asked, "Why is helpful to put things
into equal groups of 20?" I guess no one at Scott Foresman noticed that it's
not, and that groups of 10 would be much more helpful. Nonetheless, kids are
then expected to do problems with strange phrasings like, 4 x 2 tens = tens, 4 x 20 = . The kids had never been exposed
to the notion that multiplying by tens is as easy as suffixing a zero, and now we're
making matters worse by tacking on procedures that defy common sense.
In studying the metric system (page 506), kids are told, "Here are some ways
to think about meters and kilometers. ... 547 bicycles placed endtoend are about
1 km long." Oh, thanks, it's perfectly clear now.
A chapter on "Choosing a Calculation Method" (page 218) suggests that three kids do
3 x 1,094 in three different ways. Here's what John does:
1,094
x 3
12
270
3000
3,282
I suppose we're supposed to think that ol' John's method is perfectly kopa setic,
despite its involving a lot more writing, mental place shifting, and columnar addition
even for multiplying by a single digit. I can hardly wait to see John's papers when
he starts doing three digit multiplication. This wouldn't be so bad if John was a
real kid, and this was his own, private scheme for understanding multiplication.
But John is not real, and this odd algorithm is being shown to all of the
4th graders, who will have this thrust upon them, only to need to ignore it or unlearn
it if they're ever going to attain computational proficiency.
By the way, a second child's way is the standard, accepted method, and the third
child's "way" is to use a calculator. Perhaps there should be equity recognition for
a fourth child who copies the answer from a friend and a fifth child who counts out
3,282 unifix cubes.
While Japanese and German children are drilling and refining their computation
skill (and then applying it to rich, contentbased curricula in other
subjects), our kids can merrily spend long class periods whiling their time away
on math projects such as these:
 "Make your own funny drawings to show [occasions] when you might estimate."
This takes a full page. No really  I'm not kidding.
 "Find at least five numbers in the sports section of a newspaper or magazine.
Copy the numbers and write if each is even or odd." This is fourth grade? (page
181)
 A full page instructs the kids to divide into teams, and use squares of paper,
scissors, ruler, markers or crayons, and thumbtacks to make pinwheels and count how
many times they go around. (page 198)
 A team project called "inchworm traveler" uses a full page to ask the children
to imagine an inchworm moving across the classroom, and to then draw a map of classroom
landmarks and to measure distances. (page 248)
 The students are told to cut paper into a cross shape with six adjoining squares,
and then to fold this pattern into a box. (I guess the word cube
is too complicated for fourth grade.) They are asked tough questions like how many
faces the box has. This takes a full page, halfway through 4th grade. (page 342)
 Teams of kids are to make a scoreboard by drawing on a sheet and then writing
numbers into place on the drawing. Quite a challenge, huh? This takes a full page
(page 474), near the end of the year when the kids are about to be promoted to 5th
grade.
What's the point of diluting math by mixing in other subjects if the textbook
doesn't bother to be meaningful or even to get the facts right? If all we're doing
is throwing in isolated, offtopic, outofcontext cocktailparty facts, almost all
of which are merely mindless counts of things, then isn't that exactly what
trendy reformminded educrats complain about in contentbased curricula?
The sudden, outofnowhere telling a kid that Mercury is 36,000,000 miles from the
sun is exactly the kind of minddeadening fact that the educational theorists bemoan
when they're talking about science class. Why do we want to weigh down our math
curriculum with this stuff?
Worse, many of these irrelevancies are inexact or just plain wrong!
Critical Thinking. Suppose a boat loses its anchor. The ocean
floor is about 1,500 feet below the boat. [Using a chart of the diving depths of
various sea mammals,] which animals might the crew use to get the anchor? (page 113)
On the chart, the only animal to reach that depth is the Weddell seal. Now, lean
back and visualize a group of marine biologists laughing themselves silly over the
notion of a lost boat coaxing a passing Weddell seal into retrieving their anchor
for them. What we need is textbook authors who have some capacity for critical thinking!
Science. There are about 7,688 giant redwood seeds in 1 oz
of seeds. About how many seeds are there in half a pound? (page 219)
"About?" The word about simply doesn't go with the number 7,688: the specificity
of the number implies four significant digits; the word "about" denies that. And where
does this isolated, offthewall number come from? This isn't science, this is a
hunt for random, meaningless factoids.
Science. There are 136,800 kinds of butterflies and crickets.
(page 71)
Science. There are about 6,500 kinds of dragonflies and 2,000 kinds of praying
mantis. How many more kinds of dragonflies are there than praying mantis? (page 229)
If they're going to fantasize that they are helping to teach science in the process,
why not use the correct word species rather than kinds?
History. The Apollo 11 spacecraft carried the first humans
to walk on the moon. Each Apollo flight held 3 astronauts. There were 13 Apollo space
flights. How many astronauts were there on Apollo flights? (page 258)
Presumably, the student is expected to multiply 3 and 13 to come up with 39 Apollo
astronauts. In fact, that would be the wrong answer. There were 13 Apollo
flights, but two of them were unmanned. On the 11 manned flights, four astronauts
(Cernan, Young, Lovell, Scott) each flew on two missions. Thus, there were 29 astronauts
on Apollo flights, not 39. Shame on you, Scott Foresman.
Time. A 190minute movie is made up of 8 segments. Estimate
the length of each segment. (page 295)
How is a child of 1998 supposed to know what a segment means? For that
matter, what are we adults supposed to assume it means? Reels? In reality, almost
all theaters today show feature films in one, large reel.
Literature. L. Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and 13 other
books about the Land of Oz. Ruth P. Thompson wrote 19 Oz books. Other authors wrote
7 more books about Oz. How many Oz books were written? (page 295)
A quick web search finds that more than a hundred, not seven, Oz books have been
written beyond those by Baum and Thompson. And why is a child halfway through 4th
grade being asked to add 1 + 13 + 19 + 7 anyway?
Science. Look closely at a strawberry plant, and you'll see
4 stages of growth: white flowers, buds, green berries, and ripe berries. That's
why plants are picked twice a week. (page 314)
I've stared at this paragraph, and scoured the rest of the page, and I'll be doggoned
if I can divine any kind of logical connection between the first sentence and the
second "that's why" sentence.
Social Studies. Illinois and Indiana are known for growing
soybeans. In 1994, Illinois farmers harvested 9,530,000 acres of soybeans [and] Indiana
harvested 8,770,000 acres of soybeans. How many acres of soybeans did these two states
harvest? (page 314)
Uh, so why is this in a chapter on division with zeroes in the quotient? I thought
the idea of socalled integrated content was to relate math to the real
world, not to throw in distracting, offtopic stuff that has nothing to do with what
the child is trying to learn.
Social Studies. When Minnesota became a state, there were
eight times as many states as there were when Georgia became a state. Oregon, the
33rd state, was the next state after Minnesota to become a state. How many states
were there when Georgia became a state? (page 333)
Do 4th graders have any reference at all to understand this? Do they have any
idea of how states enter the union? Even if kids do know this, one of the
first facts they'd learn would be about the 13 original states, and taking that and
the eight times reference in this question would imply that Minnesota
must be the 104th state in the union. I looked this up, and this paradox hinges on
the rather esoteric quibble that Georgia was the fourth colony to ratify the Constitution.
However, it was not technically a state until the constitution officially went into
effect after nine colonies approved it. So, the correct answer to the question is
nine, although students are expected to say four.
Again, if we are trying to say something meaningful about these offtopic, nonmath
sidebars, then we should get it correct; if these distractions are not to be taken
seriously, then all they are doing is distracting kids from the topic at hand and
should be jettisoned.
Language Arts. If you turn a lower case b, you get a q. Find
letters that look like other letters after they are flipped or turned. (page 353)
Find the perimeter of each polygon. ...
One of these perimeter problems shows the state of Colorado, with a height of
270 miles and a width across its southern border of 390 miles. I guess we're just
suppose to ignore the fact that the east and west borders of Colorado are drawn on
lines of longitude, and so the distance between them decreases significantly as you
go north. Hey, don't blame me: I'm not the one trying to force illfitting examples
where they don't belong.
Science. It takes a beam of light about 500 seconds to travel
from the sun to the earth. The sun is 93,000,000 miles from earth. How far does light
travel in 1 second? (Page 556)
I thought the idea in trendy reform curricula was to avoid "stuffing
kids' heads" with isolated factoids but that's just what we have here. The example
is presented as if this odd fact that light takes 500 seconds to get from the sun
to the earth is some kind of natural starting point. We can pretty well assume that
no real scientist ever did a similar calculation. A more sciencebased phrasing would
give the distance to the sun and the speed of light (186,282 mi/sec)  both of which
are more fundamental measures  and then ask how many seconds light takes to get
from the sun to the earth. A more mathcentered math curriculum would leave
science to science.
Muybridge used a toy called a zeotrope to project the pictures. (page 556)
In the movies today, 24 still pictures, or frames, are projected in every
second of film. Our eyes fill in the spaces between the still pictures. (Page 556)
No, they don't! Persistence of vision is a brain process, not an optical one.
The text is chockfull of isolated bits of data that have no context to anything,
say little that's meaningful, and have little relevance to the subject matter at
hand. The net effect is less like math and more like Trivial Pursuit. Some
examples:
 Abwenzi is the word for friends in the Chichewa language of Malawi, Africa.
 Small family farms in Massachusetts produce about half of the worlds cranberries.
 XuChong Wei was the winner of the world's largest musical chairs game, which
was played at the AngloChinese School in Singapore. The game started with 8,238
people.
 In 1988, 90 teenagers in Japan used a single jump rope to make 163 jumps
in a row
 Children in the United States laugh about 400 times a day.
 Machines can make about 66,000 corn tortillas (torTEEyah) and about 28,800
flour tortillas in an hour.
 Bicycle racing began in France in 1869.
 A typical chicken lays about 18 eggs a month.
 One of the first popular video games was Pong, which was developed in the
1970s. A winning score was 21.
But Scott Foresman Addison Wesley Math doesn't settle for irrelevant oneliners: there are plenty
of longer irrelevancies as well.
On page 338 a child is hit with three photos, eight font styles, a punchy title graphic,
and a zigzag border, all to frame an article about bees and honey. There is a lowcontent
introduction (it basically says honey is sweet and people have collected it for thousands
of years), then a mention and a photo of honey collectors climbing cliffs in Nepal,
and some other outofcontext facts unrelated to anything else.
Page 470 is mostly devoted to a discussion of Anasazi dwellings in the southwest.
We are told they are examples of apartments, which are thus not a modern idea. We
learn where and when the Anasazi lived, and that they built their homes under steep
cliffs. Our kids
are asked, "Why do you think the Anasazi chose to built on cliffs?" (despite
a total lack of context from which to make such a guess) and "Why do you think
they chose to build dwellings with more than one story?" (Again, with no context.)
Now, let's take a deep breath, and then scream, WHAT DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO
WITH LEARNING MATH???
I have a radical, bizarre idea:
Why don't we use sidebars in math class to talk about interesting topics in math?
Wow!
 how the Pythagoreans held their meetings in secret since they felt their math
discoveries were so vital
 how a slipped decimal point led to the destruction of a space probe to Venus
 how Newton struggled to work out the math of curves
 how a computer does everything, even drawing and writing, using numbers
 how artists can enhance and sharpen photographs with programs that are intensely
mathematical
 how marketers collect data and find imaginative ways to visualize it in order
to bring products to market
 how advertisers collect and use television ratings to learn what programs kids
are watching
 how early navigators developed whole new specialties of math in order to continue
their explorations.
We could even talk about how the Arabs gave algebra its name and invented zero
as a placeholder, how the Aztecs had a complex mathematical foundation in their calendar
and astronomical systems, and how Ada Lovelace, a woman, invented computer programming
 wonderful stories that are even politicallycorrect.
Also, hundreds of books exist offering meaningful math puzzles for
kids; why not use some of those instead of agonized, forced examples?
NonStandard Usage?
The rules of good writing say that small numbers should be spelled out. (We write,
"Share jelly beans with three friends", not "Share jelly beans with
3 friends".) But I won't quibble too much about this. Frankly, using the numerals
is much clearer, even if it does look a little odd to a reader taught the
formal way.
But I suspect that most experts still want abbreviations to have a period, no? Not
in this book.
And what's the status of "standard" or "English" measurements, which this text now calls
"customary" measurements?
When I was in grade school, we seldom saw a black face in our textbooks. We've
moved away from those shameful days, but now have we gone to the opposite extreme?
Political correctness completely overwhelms this text.
Here are descriptions of the persons used to introduce the sections of the book.
(Sections not included in this list have photos that either portray no people, or
a large group of people.)
1A A blind woman
1B A Cuban woman
3A A white male (a Hollywood makeup artist)
3B A Hispanic woman
3C A black woman
4A A girl with leg braces and crutches
4B Two black girls and two white girls
4C A black girl
5A A black girl
5B Three black girls
6A White woman
6B A girl in a wheelchair
6C Senior white male
7A White woman
7B Asian man
7C Hispanic girl
9A A black girl and a Hispanic boy. The girl, Danikqua, is shown again later with
her friend, Crisgeromie.
9B A white or Hispanic girl
9C An Israeli boy and girl
10A Chinonyerem, Karyms and Nicole: Two black girls, and one who may be black or
perhaps Indian
10B A black girl, a black boy, and a white girl (Sahr, Divinity and Jada)
10C A white male (huh?!)
11A A white male from Belarus
11B White woman (Bonnie Blair)
11C Twins in the Special Olympics
12A A brother and sister (white?). I found it satisfyingly ironic that the kids are
shown rehearsing piano and violin using the Suzuki method, a successful teaching
protocol that is founded on the virtues of practice and repetition. You know, the
same way that the Japanese teach math.
12B A black boy
While there are plenty of wheelchairs, a rainbow of skin shades and zillions of references
to South American and African countries (no objection to any of those), I was hard
pressed to find any references at all to countries of continental Europe (there was
a margin factoid about bicycle racing starting in France, a photo of a girl with
her collection of dolls from around the word included one from Germany, and a onepage,
very confusing discussion of Roman numerals). But a page on a monetary system
based on cowrie shells (what they are is left unexplained), described using words
from the African Yoruba language, gets the same amount of coverage as Roman numerals.
When talking about how bees make honey, we don't see a commercial beehive in the
U.S., we see a Nepalese cliff climber. When there is an example about a community
project, it's about newage causes like planting trees or collecting recyclables
(good projects, but there are plenty of other worthwhile social, charitable, junior
achievement and church activities, too).
In our own school, the failure of Scott Foresman Addison Wesley Math is all too obvious: high
achievement kids are bored silly and insulted by the lack of meat, while more
average students are given limited chance to practice and are confused to tears
(literally) by the lousy explanations and constant distractions.
Would there be any point in moving from one fuzzy math program to another? Hardly!
In fact, a number of fuzzy math programs (e.g., UCSMP Everyday Mathematics,
MathLand, Math Trailblazers) are frighteningly worse, with plenty of
horror stories reported from all over the country.
Wouldn't it be best to acknowledge that basic math facts and skills are indeed basic,
and to use a curriculum that starts from that premise? Selected reform
notions that actually do work should be supplemental to a basic program, not the
other way around.
An older Scott Foresman series, Invitation
to Mathematics does a fine job in teaching math skills and competency,
and its success has been welldemonstrated in our own public school over the years. It uses
a warm, uncluttered delivery and offers lots of room for practice, but it also provides
plenty of opportunities for solid, handson activities to conceptualize about math
strategies and applications.
Other large publishers still have their serious, proven math programs available
as well. New programs such as Saxon Math mix traditional topics and practice with
the best in uptodate materials and manipulatives.
We don't need to handicap our kids with Scott Foresman Addison Wesley Math 
there are plenty of good options out there!
California Textbook Adoptions
Other Reviews
John Sikora looked at SFAW and two other math programs
(from Houghton Mifflin and McGraw Hill)
that were under consideration in his school district. About SFAW, he concluded,
"The Scott ForsemanAddison Wesley text has some ... serious problems.
The presentation was cluttered by all sorts of cartoon characters and
sidebars that would only serve to distract the student." Click to see his
reviews of these math texts.
Comments From Readers Of This Page
A number of people have written to me to comment on the above review
and to offer their own reports and experiences.
Here are some of those comments.
A concerned Mom writes,
My sons are in the 2nd grade and 3rd grade. Man, I thought I was losing my
mind, and my sons are doing poorly in math .... so I decided maybe I should
purchase the SFAW math textbook to help them out. By chance, I came across your
site and read the comments given by numerous parents. Thank you, my sons and I
are not 'stupid'.
A Dad in upstate New York said,
I have a 9 year old who is struggling with math. I believe it is at least
partially due to the Scott Foresman Addison Wesley curriculum at his school. I have
noticed your review of the same, and I was hoping to gather some ammunition ...
I have read his math textbook, and I couldn't understand the estimation process or the mental
math, and I am a 44 year old business owner, and my company does over a half a
million dollars a year. I understand math. This stuff is goofy.
A former teacher and current Mom told us,
Kevin,
"a Jackson Pollockesque cornucopia of abstraction"

I have just breathed a HUGE sigh of relief!! Your review of SFAW has made me feel
"normal" again and has restored my confidence in what I had always believed to be
my daughter's above average math abilities. I could produce a litany of examples
from her 4th grade experience in math, but, really, I would just be repeating
what other readers have said already. My child, too, turned against math last
year ... and boy, did it show on her Terra Nova test score this past March!!!!! I
thought I was looking at some other child's score, which had been put in my
child's folder by mistake.
As a former teacher of highschool level, I too almost succumbed to homeschooling
last year. Had it not been for my child's perseverance to plod on, I would have.
SFAW's text is unclear, misleading and chock full of errors. What ever happened
to the old adage, "The shortest distance between two points is a straight line"?
Those who compiled this text, instead, takes us on a circuitous route to nowhere.
The biggest objection I had to the 4th grade math text is that the "geniuses" who
wrote the book have managed to take a very factbased, blackorwhite discipline
and turn in into a Jackson Pollockesque cornucopia of abstraction. Math is
math  it IS the exact science of numbers, like it or not. Strategies are simply
the icing on the Pi (er,cake). I found all of this 4th grade approach to math
concepts completely ridiculous. My daughter was very confused and frustrated, as
were 90% of her class. My child learned virtually nothing in last year's math
class. I had to supplement and review all summer. This series of books should be
burned at the stake.
A Mom wrote to us,
Well, you wrote this in 1998, but boy, did you get it right!
This stuff sucks ... and I'm an MIT grad.
A third grade teacher in Utah told us:
I am so glad to hear that I am not the only one who is frustrated with this math
program. I hate using it. This is the only math program our district will allow
us to use and I can't see the point. I spend so much time trying to find
"supplemental sources" to help me teach the lessons. I might as well write my
own math text book. There is not enough information or practice for each concept.
They fly through multiplication in no time. How are the students supposed to
learn multiplication in one chapter? There is so much left out of the book...yet
our district told us that if we taught one lesson every day we would never get
through the whole book. The whole program is a mess. We are going to be looking
for a new program for our district, but not for a couple more years. You can bet
that I will be on that committee.
Thanks for your site...
A selfdeclared "frustrated Math Mom in New York" wrote,
Thank you so much for your site  I thought I was loosing my mind!
It is hard to fathom that you posted your review in 1998, and YET here I am
writing 7 years later to say that I am completely at a loss as to why New York is
using the Scott Foresman Addison Wesley text for 4th grade.
The amount of "additional" math work that I need to teach my son boggles my
mind. On our own, we have memorized the multiplication table. Memorizing
the table works. Hands down. That has been only a minor battle.
I have been battling my son's 4th grade teacher for months  and I am EXHAUSTED!
I thought I had hit my peak with the unit on estimating (I have been trying to
teach my son the precision of the language of math and yet still teach him the
value of estimating), yet the SFAW method of estimating is so far afield as to
be useless in any circumstance.
Today we are working with the section on Logical reasoning. Oh, IF ONLY!
The text does not TEACH....INFORM...HELP...or GUIDE! It offers a (very
colorful) example  that is absolutely useless for the remaining problems.
Worse  it has taken the joy away from learning Math that my son once had.
I am not a teacher. I do not want to be a teacher. Yet, I have spent so much
time doing the work of my son's fourth grade math teacher that I believe the
school district owes me compensation.
Thank you for your website. I am definitely a thorn in the side of NY State Regents!
Linda, a Mom in New Jersey, wrote to us:
I too, have a child that has been robbed of a basic math education in the public
school system. The Scott Foresman "MATH" program has got to be one of the most
confusing, conceptually inept math curriculums available to children today. Why
does one have to go around a problem 10 miles to reach the destination of it's
answer is beyond me. Why can we not stick to the basics? The basics were not
broke, why did they feel the need to fix them?
If it were up to me, the school board would be held accoutable for the years of
frustration and the loss of my son's eagerness for learning math.
Virginia teacher Chris wrote to us:
I teach 4th and 5th grade out east here in northern Virginia. I
couldn't agree more with your observations of the distracting clutter
that is this math book. I do not use it, nor, thankfully does our
school (they use Silver Burdett). I work mainly from my own curriculum
to achieve the necessary goals and standards.
I also thought you might be interested to know that I include Ada
Lovelace and many other mathematicians in my instruction: Thales,
Hypatia, Banneker, Ramanujan, Gauss (a student favorite), Pascal,
Dogson, Descartes, and Fibonnaci. In fact I spend the better part of
the year following a thread that traces a study of structure from
Fibonacci's "little" sequence into the Greeks Golden Ratio and
eventually our own DNA.
Thanks for your well thought out comments about not only the
textbook, but the state of math, in general, in this country.
Donna, a Mom and a former teacher said:
I'm so glad I found your website, as your comments about the Scott
Foresman "Math" series mirror my experiences exactly. I'm a former teacher
and also sold textbooks for McGraw Hill and other publishers, so I've
reviewed lots of text series in my time. My youngest child was in fourth
grade this year, using the 5th grade math text as he's in an accelerated
program. He's always been very bright, and loved math. Until this year
at least, when the school district adopted this new textbook series. He
has been totally distracted by all the MTVlike graphics, and often
confused by the lack of clear directions. The bottom line is, my son now
feels like he is stupid in Math. Yet when I would give him worksheets
or something fun online with the same skills, he would ace it and start
feeling more confident. Then he'd go back to school, and the cycle
would start all over again. I actually considered teaching him at home,
as I felt this textbook was the worst I'd ever seen.
It's a real crime, when a textbook is so bad that it takes away
even one child's confidence. Yet sadly, it seems that many children
have been adversely affected by using this text and they may be in
trouble for years to come!
Lisa, a Mom in New York, said:
My husband and I just read your review of Scott Foresman
on the Mathematically Correct website.
What a howler! I had reviewed this one time in my search for
math curricula. I am a homeschooler of 2 daughters.
I showed the 4th grade text to my husband and he told me the
book gave him ADD. We both agreed that there was very little
in the way of basic math teaching going on.
I found it to be horrible & did not use it. I did not like how they tried
to make simple algorithms huge "thinktank" projects.
I appreciate your thoroughness and humor.
Angela, a 4th grade teacher, said:
Dear Kevin:
I am a fourth grade teacher, and my district uses Scott Foreman Addison
Wesley Math. My students couldn't do the independent practice independently
from day one. The book starts out with graphing skills. It goes into such
complicated subjects as a stem and leaf plot. When I saw that I couldn't
believe it. The first time I had ever seen a stem and leaf plot was in a
college statistics class! Maybe I'm just oldfashioned, but does a fourth
grade child really need to understand stem and leaf plots? Have most adults
even heard of this?
Barbara, a 5th grade teacher, said:
Kevin,
I teach fifth grade and am using the new Scott ForesmanAddision Wesley
text titled  "MATH". My students find it hard. You are very fortunate to
have students whose only concern is the cartoons. Wow  My students have
great difficulty with many of the lessons. I agree that the examples and
methods of instruction are not of the best quality. Purchasing this new
text has cause many hours of extra work on my part to modify instruction and
create student help sheets. I spend a lot of my time making up assignment
that meet my students at a more basic level. I am finding that I primarily
rely on the ANOTHER LOOK and PRACTICE pages for assignments rather than the
text. I do like most of the examples on the ANOTHER LOOK worksheets.
Are you using any of their CDs that go along with the text? I am using
the planner and I find it very frustrating. They sold it and mailed it out
to the public while they were still working out the bugs. Have you heard
anything about the other CDs and resources?
Jerry, who started a charter school in response to SFAW Math and other issues, said:
Kevin, I just read your Scott Foresman Addison Wesley evaluation,
and it brought back bad memories. This text is in use in our
school district. I too, had wondered what happened to memorizing our
multiplication tables. Was it a lost art? It had worked for my generation.
When I drew up a memorization table and sent it to school with my
daughter 45 years ago, the teacher remarked "What a novel idea!"
Further investigation into local school practices led me to
research the term "whole language." What I discovered were
obvious reasons why our district was near the very bottom in
state testing. What were they doing to our children? After
joining a parents group to improve education in our local
district, we learned that as parents "we didn't know how best to teach
today's global learners." (As was told to us by the Superintendent)
Well, after a couple of years of rejection (or just plain ignoring us),
we formed a charter school and implemented a researched curriculum.
Thanks to Core Knowledge, Saxon Math, and Reading Mastery, the
children in the community that attend will get the education they
deserve."
Mary, a teacher in Massachusetts, said:
I don't like the program. It's my first year using it. I want to
keep just sending the pages home for
homework. Right now, I'm doing my own real life integrated unit
in the classroom and trying to avoid the text.
You can see what I'm doing if you go to my
website and look at
the lessons on the Trek Across America section.
The beginning of the year was very frustrating for my kids and
you're right. It can be confusing for the lower kids and
boring for the brighter kids. I wouldn't mind using some of
the zillions of worksheets as supplementary but.....the
program is just too much.
Martha Schwartz (a cofounder of
Mathematically Correct)
said:
I printed your math book review for reading on my way home tonight. Thanks for
the laughs  but it never ceases to amaze me when we get one news of one more
awful situation from one more geographic region. After all these years ...
Good luck trying to stop this thing.
Ann, a teacher in Washington State, said:
Yes, the new math books have definitely been dumbed down since I began
teaching in 1970. Much much glitz, color, pictures, almost "literature"
sections explaining the use of math and mathematicians, and far, far less
room to have a whole page of problems.
Fay, a parent in California, said:
I could have placed my daughter in [another]
school district. They are using Scott Foresman math while
my own is using Quest 2000. However, when I looked at the
1st, 2nd, 3rd grade textbooks I saw little difference
between them and Quest.
I think my gut evaluation was
correct when I later heard my friends's constant complaints
about the lack of math learning. She sent her daughter to
Korean Kumon (which is even more intensive than Japanese
version and supposedly better) during the summer where they
had 4 pages of math problems each night. She learned about
Korean Kumon from her daughter's friends who had been going
there all during the school year. ...
No wonder that socioeconomics matter more than anything else
in educational success. Those who can afford it, pay for
the tutoring, the special books, etc. so their kids can
learn what they are supposed to learn.
Shelley said:
I just came across your article on the web while looking for information on
Foresman's math. I am a homeschool mom that switched one child to
Foresman's math last year (4th grade.) I picked up a used text at a book
fair. My son is a very handson learner and I needed something different
then I have with my other two children. After researching last year I
"thought" Foresman's math was the way I wanted to go. I made the mistake,
however, of purchasing a public school math book. It was not at all similar
to what I had seen in my research. It was exactly as you put it in your
article. It was too distracting with all the hoopla. I found it very
difficult to teach simple principles because of all the contortionist math
they used. It was definitely dumbed down. I lost a year of teaching with
my son not to mention the toll it took on my son's interest in math.
This is hastily written and just a reply to your article. Thank you for
your time putting it out there. I sometimes wondered if it was just me.
Linda said:
Kevin
Just had to tell you how much I appreciated your article about Scott
Foresman Addison Wesley Math. I am a foster parent, and my foster son is
struggling with this fourth grade math program. I knew it would be a bad
year when we had to contest right at the beginning of the book with how
many times faster one slug crawled in a minute than another. As if we
cared. We worked about fifteen minutes on that one question. Next day,
he came back and told me that he was the only one in the class who "got"
that one.
Cathie said:
Just read your review of Scott Foresman math. Wowthank you for
such a careful and thoughtful analysis. My daughter just
finished 5th grade in public school, and used the SF program.
... I found myself surprised and puzzled
by some of the wording of both explanations and problems.
A Pennsylvania mom said:
My daughter's math program is failing her and she is frustrated and confused as I
am. The school is currently using Scott Foresman Addison Wesley Mathematics and
I am very disappointed in the textbook. ... I find my daughter's math textbook
not challenging but confusing and cluttered with all extemporaneous trivia. My
daughter hates math. I will be purchasing a homeschool edition of the Saxon Math
program to get my daughter back up to speed.
A Dad wrote:
We are struggling mightily with this program with our 4th grade son. ...
I'm trying to line up some ammunition to take to our school administrators.
A 4th grade teacher wrote:
Wow!! Great article on ScottForesman Addision Wesley Math. I ...
taught 4th Grade last year using this ... I hated it from the
get go, remembering how I and other teachers had to constantly scrounge around
for clean, crisp worksheets for kids to work on, as we sure couldn't get any from
the series. And those dreaded "explain" problems you describe as "landmines"  I
sort of suspected they were stupid but who was I to argue with the geniuses who
put the book together. Same thing with "Phillipa's way" of doing twodigit math
problems. Gee, I said to myself, I guess there really are seven different ways
to multiply a couple numbers. I sure wouldn't want to stunt children's
mathematical thinking by teaching them that there was only "one way."
Thanks again for the
article. It was very, very helpful to me.
A Texas Mom wrote:
I am happy to have located your site. I have read some of the other feedback and
can relate 100%.
I am a mother of a fourth grader in Texas. After noticing that she was having
difficulty in school, I asked her to bring home her textbook. Now, I know why
she's having such a hard time. In my opinion, the SFAW Math book has too much
frivolous information and not enough basic instructions on general arithmetic.
For example, I went to the chapter that introduces fractions (at least, the title
of the chapter was "Fractions"). The first two pages had examples of statistical
data in a table. There was no correlation of the data in the tables to any type
of fraction, pie chart, or any other means of representing data in fractional
format. The next page discussed ways of getting involved in a local community
project. It talked about making an ad to ask people to volunteer for a cause,
further mentioning that too many words in the ad would be distracting. There was
a question asking what fraction of the ad would be words. Finally  the word
"fraction" is at least mentioned.
I do not know if they are simply trying to "expose" the children to other math
concepts at an early age. It seems as if they are trying to introduce algebra
and geometry. However, the SFAW book fails to provide sufficient repetitive
practice work with the basics. In a nutshell, I am not at all impressed. As a
result, I have been looking for old math textbooks and other supplemental
materials.
Your comments are warmly invited! I would like to collect more
observations and experiences from other parents and teachers about Scott Foresman Addison Wesley
Math. I will add these notes to this page (with or without your name, if you wish),
so that we can all profit from our mutual experiences. Please write to me at info@illinoisloop.org
The Illinois Loop is an informal group of educators, parents, school board members
and other concerned Illinois citizens, all interested in the restoring
academic substance and researchbased methods to Illinois schools.
For much more information on other math programs, and the nationwide battles
over fuzzy math, whole math, and rainforest math, please visit the
website of the Illinois Loop.
