PA Coalition for World Class Math

                        Letter to the editor: Everyday Math in Sycamore (10/28/2011)

October 18.2011

To the Editor:

I applaud Ms. Winters’ recent field trip to Jewel-Osco with her third-grade class.
The glowing reviews certainly are heartwarming. Asking her students to determine cost on a price-per-pound basis would be admirable if they could do it without the aid of calculators. The picture that accompanied the article, of those eager students holding their calculators up for approval, is silent testimony to the argument my wife, members of the community and I have been making: Everyday Math fails to develop proficiency in basic math skills.

Everyday Math is one of the most controversial math texts in the U.S. for good reason. It fails to adequately teach students math facts, the foundation of all math skills; it confuses students by using a technique called “spiraling,” which jumps between concepts without mastering them; it emphasizes entertaining children rather than demanding proficiency; its lessons neglect numeracy by emphasizing pictures and the written word while failing to develop proficiency with numbers; and it uses techniques unfamiliar to parents and often avoids mastering traditional ones. These are specific concerns that are not addressed by a field trip to Jewel.

Another recent article might illuminate the position our community finds itself in. It made the point that only 25 percent of Sycamore students who took the ACT last year are prepared for college.

That’s a depressing statistic.

If numbers confuse you Everyday Math might describe the percentage as having only one bar of battery power left on your calculator. That would be cause for panic in Sycamore grade schools today. Although the ACT numbers are not a result of Everyday Math, we believe that a more rigorous traditional approach will better prepare students for the demands they will face in the future.

Stefan Kristen