PA Coalition for World Class Math

                                       Math Controversy in Haverford (11/4/2011)

Haverford HS Students, Parents Debate Pros and Cons of Math Program


Several Haverford High School parents and students went before the Haverford Township Board of School Directors on Thursday night, with some of them asking the board to replace the school district’s College Preparatory Math (CPM) program with a more “traditional” math program, and others praising the CPM program.

The parents and students went before the school board during the public comment portion of the board meeting.

Parents and students who were opposed to CPM said they do not think the program is effective because CPM’s group learning approach (in which students in the classroom work in groups to solve math problems) does not meet all students’ learning styles.

Robin Naser said she had four high school students in her home during the 2007-2008 school year, when Haverford School District replaced its high school math program, Integrated Math and Geometry (IAG), with the CPM program.

Naser said two of the students attended private schools with traditional math programs and “had great test scores,” while the other two students are attending Haverford High School and “both are struggling” in math with the CPM program.

“This math curriculum did not meet my students’ learning styles … Haverford High School students deserve a traditional math choice,” Naser said.

Later in the meeting, Superintendent William Keilbaugh said that CPM has more “traditional elements,” than the district’s old program, IAG.

Two high school students that spoke said the needs of their different learning styles are not met through CPM’s group learning.

Haverford High School student Courtney Naser said she and other students find CPM “unfit and a complete struggle.”

Parents opposed to the program also said they do not think CPM has raised standardized test scores, a statement which was refuted by school district officials.

Assistant Superintendent Nicholas Rotoli said in 2010-2011, the number of district eight graders who scored advanced and proficient on the PSSA increased 5.7 percent, and the number of 11th graders who scored advanced and proficient increased 12 percent.

Rotoli said “most telling about the strengths of the CPM” is that when 59 Haverford School District eighth graders took the pilot Keystone Algebra 1 test last year, 100 percent of the students scored advanced and proficient, while the state average on the test was about 40 percent.

Other students and parents spoke in favor of CPM.

Chris Donnay, a sophomore at Haverford High School, said the group work used in the CPM program “hasn’t held me back,” and instead, it allows students to help one another when they are working on match problems in groups.

“Everyone really benefits from it and no one’s really at a loss,” said Donnay, who said he is a straight-A student who scored in the 99th percentile on the math portion of the PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) test.

Robert Styer, the father of an 11th grader at Haverford High school and a mathematics professor at Villanova University, said it is important for students “to have the ability to think creatively and outside the box” and CPM allows for that.

Michelle Francl, who is a professor of chemistry at Bryn Mawr College and the mother of two Haverford High School students, said she supports CPM because it provides students with a “solid basis.”

Francl said she understands that group work used in the CPM program is an issue of contention among some parents, but research shows group learning is effective for most students.

School Board member Philip Hopkins said he was “struck by the fact” that parents who are college professors and mathematicians “are the ones that have said tonight that this is an effective program.”

“I haven’t heard anything that we made a bad choice and we should change the program,” Hopkins said.

School Board member Larry Feinberg agreed with Hopkins that the program should not be changed.

Some parents said students should be offered a choice between CPM and another math program.

In response, Feinberg said, “I understand not all programs work for all kids … We don’t have the luxury of having multiple programs right now …”

Hopkins said it is not only a question of resources but that offering a choice of math programs “is educationally unsound.”

Reader Comments:


3:47pm on Friday, November 4, 2011

So why not offer a traditional math program for the students who want it and a fuzzy math for those who want the fuzz?? I'd then suggest comparing scores to see who's doing better. By the way, how many students need remedial classes upon entering college?? That would be a question for your School Board. If any student is receiving tutoring outside the school, the first thing the parents need to do is REFUSE to allow their child to sit for the standardized test. Why let the school take credit for what you are doing outside the school?

For those who think fuzzy math is good because scores go up ...I'd read this:

Huck Finn

3:08pm on Saturday, November 5, 2011

I am a student teacher currently. The school I am in uses CPM for 8th grade algebra--one of the classes I teach. The book uses a discovery-based approach which means that students are given problems that supposedly lead them to the underlying principle. Eventually students get it, but the time could be better spent by providing the information up front--it is not evident that the discovery process results in "connections" that result in a "deep conceptual understanding". The book insists on having students do guess and check word problems that could be solved much more easily by using algebra, which is, after all, the purpose of the course. The guess and check approach supposedly gets students to figure out how to organize the information in the problem in order to solve it. Which is fine, but once they have organized the information to define the quantities symbolically, then why not use algebra to solve it? Guess and check is like pushing a heavy motorcycle up a hill when they could be riding it up the hill.

Michael Plasmeier

12:12am on Sunday, November 6, 2011

I am currently a junior at MIT; I attended Haverford High when they had the IAG program. Haverford prepared me very poorly for math at MIT.

Although I was there during the IAG days, my friends at Haverford show me examples of the "figuring stuff out" you are supposed to do in the CPM program. Personally, I do not like it. (MIT has group-problem-solving sessions which supposedly improve test scores, but I don't like them either.)

At MIT, you need to be able to do math correctly and quickly. You also need an understanding of what is going on. I believe that you should show kids what is going on and then have them develop an intuition as to what is going on. You can test this by asking question types they haven't seen before - like word problems. I think this is far better then having kids "struggle" to figure it out.

If I was in a CPM class, I would read an alternate/"classical" textbook to learn the material and then practice in class.


6:45am on Sunday, November 6, 2011

Michael are you familiar with Khan Academy?? Google search the name and you can watch Khan TEACH you the concept. It's called "direct instruction" and because the schools are failing miserably because they are determined to ruin math with Constructivism, Khan does what the Progressives refuse to do....TEACH MATH.

Michael Plasmeier

11:14am on Sunday, November 6, 2011

@MOMwithAbrain I am familiar with Khan Academy (an MIT grad, actually). I like the direct way he teaches.


4:48pm on Monday, November 7, 2011

The old math program (IAG) used examples for each practical math concept. If you were going to study how to do speed and velocity changes through math the unit might have been on race cars. Basically IAG was trying to relate math concepts to real life. Although I did not like the IAG program, I do think that it is important for our students to learn the theory behind what they are doing.

With the new math program students are given both team time to figure out assigned problems as well as individual time. This is great for some students that do not like to answer questions but are motivated...this style of math is BAD for the unmotivated students that simply sit in their group and copy or let the smart kids do all of the work.

After concepts are taught students take group tests (still the smart kid answers all of the questions) and then an individual test to monitor progress and concept understanding.

Perhaps a hybrid of both math programs would be beneficial. It's great to see the WHY behind what you are's great to get some direct instruction...and it's great to be able to get help from your peers and your teacher...

Yes I do think that we are seeing many students go off to college needing to pay for remedial courses....


6:22pm on Monday, November 7, 2011

Sounds to me like we need to question why we pay the teacher?

Servants heart

9:24am on Thursday, November 10, 2011

When motivated students have a problem...individual test scores prove lack of understanding...wake up Haverford! Anyone want to talk about the individual tests? Were we actually taught or did we discover anything on the unit tests? Do the tests look completely foriegn in comparison to our homework and group work?


10:54pm on Thursday, November 10, 2011

I was horrifed after watching the Haverford School Board Meeting from November 4th. It is clear that we need change here at Haverford. My children are not yet in the high school, but if parents are paying for tutors to educate their child because the math program is not working, then there is something wrong. If students are passing group tests and failing individual tests there is something wrong. As an educator I know the importance of evaluation. Students spoke on behalf of both sides of CPM, clearly the side of students who are not doing well are smart students with even smarter parents for obtaining a tutor. However, when my child is taught by a peer, not by their teacher, then I know it is time for me to stop paying my school district taxes. CPM clearly needs to go!!!!!!! Any program, traditional math, Alegbra I, Geometry, Algebra II and Trig/Calculas uses the methodologies of direct instruction, chuncking, having an opener, an essential question, and mini-quizzes to ensure students are getting the information. CPM sells that but it does not deliver. If students are not getting it, the teacher should be teaching it, not a peer or a tutor. Parents, the math program should be transparent. Are you getting your quizzes or going in to see the tests? If not, you need to question the teacher and address the school board. This is where I am. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Traditional math does not include IAG or CPM.


7:13am on Friday, November 11, 2011

Any parent who has to hire a tutor should refuse to allow their child to sit for the State Standardized assessment. The School should not take credit for what a tutor teaches the students.


9:36pm on Friday, November 11, 2011

This sounds like another we are the 99% but in a
Good way. Many students may not have the skill set to make discoveries and experience the Eureka moment that CPM strives for. The CPM assumes falsely that all of us can find our own way and develope the learning process. This is a laudable goal and no doubt benefit students who have rudimentary skills in self discovery. The fact is not all students are at the same level and sometimes direct teaching maybe the ticket to give them a kickstart. It
must be very frustrating when you are thrown into the deep end and you cannot learn to breath and tread water


9:40pm on Friday, November 11, 2011

Oh by the way, who gives a crap about state test scores. Students should worry about themselves to get the best SATscores for college. Proficiency tests are so dumbed down it seems to be an oxymoron


9:44pm on Friday, November 11, 2011

Philip Hopkins sounds like he has selective hearing. He
states that the experts agree that CPM is effective. These people are math experts, why wouldn't they like CPM? The problem which Hopkins fail to appreciate are the 99% who don't get it. These people are not stupid, they need to be shown an alternate way. It's called teaching