PA Coalition for World Class Math

           Pelham math committee concerned about objectivity of evaluation (12/19/2011)

Pelham Math Committee Calls for Objective Evaluation of K-5 Math Curriculum

Newly Formed Group Seeks Substantial Parental Role in Any Study.

By Rich Zahradnik

Pelham Patch

PELHAM  -- The newly formed Pelham Math Committee urges the Pelham Union Free School District Board of Education to undertake an objective evaluation of the district’s K-5 math curriculum. The committee does not believe the Rutgers University math education group identified for the project will conduct an unbiased evaluation of the effectiveness of the program, Investigations, and asks the board to reconsider its plans to approve a contract with Rutgers.

If the school board does go ahead and hires Rutgers, the committee calls on the district to make parent and teacher views a significant component in the evaluation process. This would
include a detailed effort to understand parent and teacher perceptions about the the program’s capabilities to adequately teach arithmetic and prepare students for mathematics in middle school and high school. These views must be given meaningful weight in the overall report.

The Pelham Math Committee was founded earlier this month by Jennifer Slattery, Luba
Chernov, Angela Burton, Christine Rosskopf, Rich Zahradnik and other Pelham parents with the goal of working for the highest quality math education in Pelham schools.

“It’s crucial for parents to be able to share our concerns and observations about our children’s
progress in math using the Investigations program,” said Burton, mother of a second
grader. “We may not be curriculum gurus, but we are the ones who spend hours each week
filling in the gaps. Our teachers deserve credit for making the best of the resources they have,
but district officials need to understand that a substantial number of parents find it necessary to hire math tutors and purchase outside materials, even for kids in first grade and kindergarten.”

The committee started an online petition asking that the district replace Investigations,
the current elementary math curriculum, by the fall of 2012: pelhammath. The committee also launched the Pelham Math Facebook group and a website,, which will soon host news stories, reports, research and links about
Investigations and other curricula, and best practices in math education from Kindergarten
through the high school years. The committee plans to host a community math night in January featuring top university math professors who will detail what math skills are needed in K-5 and 6-12 to build a solid foundation for college-level math and science courses and related careers.

Details on the event will be announced soon.

The Pelham Math Committee’s concerns about the objectivity of Rutgers and its Robert
B. Davis Institute for Learning, which houses math education at the university, stem from
significant ties between Rutgers and funding sources that support “constructivist” math, the
controversial educational philosophy underpinning Investigations. Rutgers professors and staff have focused most of their research on such math, spoken on behalf of Investigation’s creator and written numerous articles in support of constructivist math.

“I am quite certain that this review will be a waste of time and of the district's money,” Thomas
Parker, a professor of mathematics at Michigan State University, told the Pelham Math

Committee. “If you read the descriptions of the (Institute’s) projects, you will see that they are
very much along the lines of Investigations.”

Committee members spent several months researching Investigations and have presented their findings to the Pelham Board of Education and Dr. Dennis Lauro, superintendent of schools, at several meetings this fall. All of this work will be available on the website.

“Teachers in our district have had to backfill for what Investigations lacks: fluency, algorithmic
learning and basic math skills our children need to succeed in the future,” said Jennifer Slattery, parent of a first grader and member of the Pelham Math Committee. “Our teachers in Pelham are great. They should have the best tools and math curriculum available.”

The Pelham Math Committee’s concerns about the inadequacies of Investigations are shared
by other school districts and hundreds of university professors. Schools across the country have abandoned the program—including more than 60 percent of the districts that Investigations’ publisher cited as “success stories” just four years ago. A report on these districts is available here. Several states no longer allow Investigations to be chosen as a math curriculum. In Pelham, many parents use tutoring services, workbooks and extra math classes to ensure their
children learn math.

It is clear why this is happening: Only three sessions out of 959 in all six years of the K-5
Investigations workbooks teach standard algorithms for addition, subtraction, multiplication
and division. Because of this, Investigations fails to meet the National Council of Teachers of
Mathematics (NCTM) focal points for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division or the
National Mathematics Advisory Panel 2008 Final Report requirements for fluency with standard algorithms.

The new website will aggregate the views of professors and other experts
around the country on the deep deficits in Investigations and textbooks like it. This is just a

"My personal view is that (Investigations) is the second most mathematically illiterate and
damaging program I have ever seen. The first, Mathland, was one of the main reasons I got
involved in the issues of mathematics education,” wrote R. James Milgram, a professor of
mathematics at Stanford University. “But Investigations is so little better than that horror that it
is scarcely possible to discern the difference between the results of the students subjected to
these programs.”

In public testimony before the Frederick County, MD, school board in June 2008, Dr. Stephen
Wilson, professor of mathematics at Johns Hopkins University, said, “I am not really here
today to talk to the Board, but to the parents. If your child goes to a school that uses TERC
Investigations, you should understand that it means your child’s school has abdicated its
responsibility to teach your child mathematics. By doing so, the responsibility now rests with the parents. Good luck.”