PA Coalition for World Class Math

                     Everyday Math doesn't add up (Courier Times Op-Ed) (11/18/2011)

New math program doesn't add up

By PETER R. WAITZE Calkins Media, Inc. | 3 comments


Posted: Friday, November 18, 2011 6:00 am | Updated: 8:30 am, Fri Nov 18, 2011.

An important pillar leading to our innovative preeminence in the world was our early and strong commitment to a quality public educational system, one we’ve enjoyed since Colonial days. An informed citizenry was recognized as necessary for a representative form of government to succeed, so the education of many citizens was deemed essential. Because everyone benefited from an educated citizenry, everyone had an obligation to support its cost, even when the individual had no children of his or her own in the system.

Because it was a public school system open to all, we had a greater percentage of well educated people than other countries. This concept gave our country an edge that other countries have just recently recognized as fundamental to their future. Because other countries are now providing quality public educational opportunities to their children, our children will be facing stronger competition to succeed than previous generations had to endure. This competition is especially true in the related fields of mathematics and the sciences.

<SCRIPT language='JavaScript1.1' SRC=";abr=!ie;sz=300x250;ord=1321671344.33123?"> </SCRIPT> <NOSCRIPT> <A HREF="*;abr=!ie4;abr=!ie5;sz=300x250;ord=1321671344.33123?"> <IMG SRC=";abr=!ie4;abr=!ie5;sz=300x250;ord=1321671344.33123?" BORDER=0 WIDTH=300 HEIGHT=250 ALT="Advertisement"></A> </NOSCRIPT>

Lisa Hudson Stump in her recent guest opinion expressed frustration with a letter sent to her home from the elementary school saying she needs to teach math to her child. As she wrote: “I can’t teach so I pay school taxes so educators can teach. Why aren’t they given enough time to teach basic math?”

She wrote: “Who designed the math curriculum? I want to speak to this math Einstein about the choices he made for my kids. Why isn’t intensive focus on addition, subtraction and multiplication early in elementary school Arithmetic Priority One?”

Here’s the answer. Her child’s teachers, like teachers everywhere, don’t get to choose what books they need to use to teach our children. The books using new math are selected for them and the new math books are a hoax, an expensive hoax because they are chaotic and they don’t teach the basics that our children need to learn, and a hoax because the teachers get blamed for the poor results. Simply stated, we are holding teachers responsible for things over which they have no control and by themselves the teachers can’t fix. That is our job, as parents and as taxpayers, and we can do it by insisting that the school administrators go back to what has worked so well for us in the past: teaching basics and getting rid of the new math. If enough of us speak up, the change will be made. If we stay mute, our children and our country will suffer dearly.

A lot of communities use new math books. The results everywhere it is used are dismal and we are losing ground to other countries. Our children are not competing well in mathematics against children from other countries and we will continue to falter and fall behind unless we make an informed change.

After years of trying the new math it should be obvious to all that it is the wrong program, but the mandates and the money behind the mandates insist on their continued use.

In the world at large, we are around 25th in our ability to teach this to our children. This is unacceptable. For our national safety, we have to correct this. For our nation, for our future, this is a serious problem and a significant part of that blame for this sad situation is the Everyday Mathematics program we use. We have to recognize that the Everyday Mathematics program is failing us and our children and if we don’t replace it with a better program, and if we don’t do it sooner rather than later, our children and grandchildren will live in a world where they will have a hard time competing for jobs.

We have an obligation to give our children the best education we can. We have an obligation to spend our tax dollars on systems that give us the best possibility of getting us the results we want and need. If this means cutting our loss on what we have purchased, then the sooner we do it the better and we have to accept that loss and move on. I’m not happy using a cliché, but staying the course is throwing good money after bad.

Peter R. Waitze, Bensalem, is a retired businessman and former chairman of the Bensalem Democratic Party. He served six years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force, with highest rank being a captain.

Reader Comments:

PennsburyMOM posted at 6:35 pm on Fri, Nov 18, 2011.

Social studies I just saw today in my son's textbook has the same pro-islam and anti-christian bias as last year. So clearly it is not an accident.
Mohammad it says spoke to God and those beliefs are written as fact whereas Jesus and Christian beliefs are written as "according to" and "Christians believe."

PennsburyMOM posted at 6:33 pm on Fri, Nov 18, 2011.

So why aren't the teachers weighing in on this? You have a union. What are they and you doing about it? Maybe if test scores affect your salaries then you will become better advocates for improved curriculum?
I have noticed that there is not enough repetition to learn math facts and then they move too fast from addition and subtraction facts to multiplication and kids get confused.

newspaper lover posted at 4:59 pm on Fri, Nov 18, 2011.

I am so glad to see that there is at least one person out there who understood Ms. Stump's original opinion piece. Well said, Mr. Waitze!