Tag Archives: Math

Scandal in the USOE?

Utah State Office of Education

Dr. David Wright at BYU has posted information on a website (http://utahmath.org) alleging what appears to be shocking events inside the Utah State Office of Education and reaching into multiple Utah universities.

In the 2012 legislative session, a Math Materials Access Improvement Grant was passed (SB 217) which required the State Board of Education to select a content developer to develop new math textbooks for 7th and 8th graders, and an adaptive assessment program. The state office wrote the Request for Proposal (RFP) differently than the grant directed. Two proposals were submitted, one from Dr. Jeffrey Humpherys and the BYU math department, and one from Dr. Hugo Rossi at the University of Utah.

According to Dr. Wright’s documentation, there were irregularities in the U of U application including plagiarism of content and missing items that should have been included per the RFP. At least 4 USOE employees were aware of the plagiarism: Diana Suddreth, Brenda Hales, Sydnee Dickson, and Michael Rigby (who apparently found the plagiarism). Both Suddreth and Dickson were on the review committee to select a grant winner. Emails show Diana Suddreth dismissed this saying,

“It also appears that the U is unaware of the copyright violations since they pulled their materials from sources that were labeled as licensed under Creative Commons. Therefore, I do not think this invalidates their proposal.”

Two weeks later the USOE awarded the grant to the U of U and two days after awarding them the grant, Diana wrote Dr. Rossi stating,

“Before you dive in too quickly, we need to have a conversation on why the request for a response about plagiarism was required.”

Clearly people at the USOE knew plagiarism was a problem. In fact, in some circles, individuals would say this type of charge results in “academic death.”

Several other important factors also came up. During the review of the grants, Suddreth informed Rossi that he should add Dr. David Wiley in BYU’s education department to the grant. Suddreth was a co-principal investigator with Wiley on another sizeable grant.

During the RFP review, Rossi offered an honorarium to Suddreth on a project he was working on. In an email he states,

“All your expenses in connection with this project will be covered by the USHE, including an honorarium of $300/day for participation in the meetings, if you are able to accept such an honorarium given your professional role.”

This offer seems highly inappropriate given that Suddreth would evaluate the RFP’s and participate in awarding the grant.

Dr. James Cangelosi at Utah State was one of the 5 grant reviewers, and on the same day the grant was awarded to the U of U, Suddreth was able to secure another $70,000 for Cangelosi’s UMEP program at USU. That has a tainted smell to it.

Is it any surprise that on May 1st of this year, Tami Pyfer on the State Board of Education sent letters of Common Core support from Dr. Rossi and Dr. Cangelosi to state legislators? These two professors are in the back pocket of the USOE after having received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and apparent favoritism.

In Cangelosi’s letter to legislators, he concludes by emphasizing “Utah’s Mathematics Common Core is another in our string of efforts to supplant ‘schoolmath’ with research-based mathematical pedagogy.” He’s flat out wrong. He’s one of the top constructivists in the state and he’s misinterpreted the standards to be a call for pedagogical reform in the direction of constructivism.

Bill McCallum, one of the lead authors of Common Core math standards, was specifically asked about this misinterpretation of pedagogy some are espousing and stated,

I don’t see the standards as dictating any particular teaching method, but rather setting goals for student understanding. Different people have different ideas about what is the best method for achieving that understanding. That said, I think it’s pretty clear that classrooms implementing the standards should have some way of fostering understanding and reasoning, and classrooms where students are just sitting and listening are unlikely to achieve that.”

Dr. Wright has links to all the documents on his website (http://utahmath.org/) and concludes with 6 questions that the public deserves answers to.

1. Were any of the reviewers of the grant proposal conflicted? Were all of them qualified to review mathematics?
2. Did the U of U proposal contain plagiarized material?
3. Did Diana Suddreth direct the U of U to pick a principal investigator who was a co-principal investigator on a grant with Suddreth?
4. Did the sample lesson for the U of U contain “any text” (i.e., content exposition for the students) which was a requirement of the RFP?
5. Did the U of U grant proposal address “adaptive assessment” from the standard public education definition?
6. Did Hugo Rossi offer an honorarium to Diana Suddreth during the review period?

Each of those questions is hyperlinked to the relevant documents on Dr. Wright’s website (http://utahmath.org).

We expect public servants to use our tax dollars wisely. In this case, at a minimum, it would appear that the USOE violated the original instructions from the legislature. At the other extreme, they engaged in unethical and immoral behavior. The public deserves a full and thorough investigation to address these questions, perhaps in the education subcommittee of the legislature where the legislature can call on the USOE to account for their actions in going against the will of the legislature in the original grant.

I strongly encourage you to email State Superintendent Dr. Martell Menlove, point him to Dr. Wright’s website, and ask him to conduct a full and thorough public investigation of these questions. If true, everyone aware of the situation should be fired from the USOE, and all related parties outside the USOE who were involved in this should be forever banned from further grants and involvement with the state educational system.

Dr. Menlove can be emailed at Martell.Menlove@schools.utah.gov.

Please also copy your state school board member and legislators on that email as well. You can locate who your board member is and legislators at these urls.

http://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp (find your legislators by your address)

http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Board-Members/Find-Your-Board-Member.aspx (find your state board district here)

http://www.schools.utah.gov/board/Board-Members.aspx (look up your board member here)

You can also copy the 2 board of regents representatives on the state board to ensure they investigate and take action at the university level.

Teresa Theurer (teresatheurer1@gmail.com)

Marlin Jensen  (jensenmk@ldschurch.org)


What is the problem with Common Core math in Utah? What is the solution?

First, a teacher comment we received this week:

“It just seems like a lose-lose all the way around. 

It may interest you to know that all of us math teachers got an e-mail from Diana Suddreth (state math curriculum rep) about the attack that cc has come under in our state government. The e-mail was saying how concerned she was that the state reps are starting to listen to the parents and was asking for teachers state-wide to start speaking up for the core and defend it to our reps to let them know how great it is. 

We here at ____________ got that e-mail and laughed out loud because it would seem a little funny to defend it when we’re on the side of the parents…

We have a storage room full of old Alg, Alg2, and Geometry textbooks that sit no longer in use because of cc.”

I want to be very clear about something right from the start. The anti-Common Core movement is not just about the standards. It’s about the entire nationalization/globalization agenda that goes along with it. However, this article serves to show the weakness of the Common Core math standards themselves and what it means for Utah students.

In 2007, Utah adopted new standards which were rated an A- by the Fordham Foundation. This was a big improvement over our prior standards which Fordham rated a D. They later rated the Common Core math standards an A- after receiving several hundred thousand dollars from the Gates Foundation to do a review. Money talks. The Gates Foundation is very interested in getting everyone on these standards, and so is the federal government. If you don’t know the connections, watch this video. In their analysis comparing Utah’s math standards and Common Core, they stated:

The Bottom Line

With some minor differences, Common Core and Utah both cover the essential content for a rigorous, K-12 mathematics program. Utah’s standards are briefly stated and usually clear, making them easier to read and follow than Common Core. In addition, the high school content is organized so that standards addressing specific topics, such as quadratic functions, are grouped together in a mathematically coherent way. The organization of the Common Core is more difficult to navigate, in part because standards dealing with related topics sometimes appear separately rather than together.

The chief weakness in Utah’s standards stems from the lack of specific content expectations in the development of arithmetic, and in the failure to make arithmetic a focus in the appropriate grades. Common Core provides admirable focus and explicitly requires standard methods and procedures, enhancements that would benefit Utah’s standards.

In other words, our 2007 standards were pretty good and could have used a little tweaking to make them stronger. If the USOE had actually implemented the external reviewer’s suggestions, we would probably have had some of the very best standards in America.  Dr. Hung-Hsi Wu, math professor at Berkeley and Utah’s external reviewer of the 2007 standards, was shocked months after reviewing the final draft of our standards, that the USOE had failed to implement any of his recommendations. Commenting to the USOE he wrote:

“Nicole [Paulson at the USOE], Thank you for your courteous note. I can understand your consternation upon reading the quote in Jim Milgam’s letter of my reaction to the revised standards (incidentally, he quoted me correctly), but if you realize that I had taken for granted that most of what I recommended would be implemented, then you would also understand why I was so shocked when I was reluctantly made to read the revision.”

What followed was a list of several critical items that should have been included but the USOE left out. Why did they leave them out? It’s unknown for certain, but it is known that they hated the fact that we succeeded in making them raise Utah’s then D-rated standards. Standards are not a priority for the USOE, getting federal money was the driving incentive for applying for Race to the Top money where we agreed to adopt new untested Common Core standards, sight-unseen.

Dr. David Wright in the math department at BYU, was one of the few mathematicians that worked on the Utah 2007 math standards. I recently corresponded with him comparing where Utah was at with those standards, and where we are now with Common Core.

Under the 2007 standards, most students would take the following schedule of classes:

7th grade: pre-algebra
8th grade: algebra 1
9th grade: geometry
10th grade: algebra 2
11th grade: pre-calculus
12th grade: calculus

Some students who are well prepared could take algebra in 7th grade allowing them to accelerate. Some students, myself included when I was younger, double up and take geometry and algebra 2 together in order to accelerate. That option is no longer possible under the new integrated approach to Common Core.

Under the new Common Core standards, students get an integrated approach to math meaning there are no longer discrete years of math, but a blend of subject matter.

Math 7 (7th grade): contains some pre-algebra/algebra
Math 8 (8th grade): contains some algebra
Secondary Math 1 (9th grade): Finish some of algebra 1 and some geometry
Secondary Math 2 (10th grade): Finish algebra 1 and some Geometry and some algebra 2
Secondary Math 3 (11th grade): Finish algebra 2, geometry and some Pre-Calculus
AP Calculus: It is the hope of the USOE that students will be prepared for AP calculus without a year of pre-calculus. In reality, many students will struggle without precalculus.

According to Dr. Wright: “If you are not in honors Math 1 by ninth grade, the USOE does not see you prepared for calculus.  Many students who take the honors Math 1, Math 2, and Math 3 would still be better off in pre-calculus instead of calculus because their algebra skills will not be good enough.”

Some students will be able to take Math 1 in 8th grade, if they accelerated early, but for most students they will either have to skip pre-calculus to take calculus in 12th grade, or take pre-calculus in 12th grade and wait till college for an authentic calculus course. Honors students get a little more content depth but no real acceleration to advance faster.

The problems of Common Core math in Utah are two-fold.

1) In spite of the Gates influenced Fordham grade of A-, Common Core sets the United States back from where we should be. The Common Core proponents used to tout how the standards were internationally benchmarked. That’s been proven false and those statements removed. Dr. Jim Milgram, Stanford math professor and the only professional mathematician on the validation committee, has written standards and worked with international standards for many years. Here are a couple of comments from him:

“The Common Core standards claim to be ‘benchmarked against the international standards’ but this phrase is meaningless. They are actually two or more years behind international expectations by eighth grade, and only fall further behind as they talk about grades 8-12. Indeed, they don’t even fully cover the material in a solid geometry course, or in the second year algebra course.

“While the difference between these standards and those of the top states at the end of eighth grade is perhaps somewhat more than one year, the difference is more like two years when compared to the expectations of the high-achieving countries — particularly most of the nations of East Asia.”

2) The USOE is constructivist oriented. They told Utahns that we would have portability of students with other states as a feature of Common Core, but then adopted a different schedule of learning which will not allow for it. They did this to implement constructivist math across the state. Trainings by the USOE for teachers have included the nonsense that students don’t need to learn their times tables. Good teachers will ignore that, but the fact is, the USOE actively looks to promote this philosophy in their teacher training.

Teacher comments from trainings

USOE constructivist curriculum on video: which do you want for your child?

The bottom line is, Common Core math is not internationally benchmarked, not going to prepare as many children for an authentic calculus class by the end of high school as our 2007 standards would, not allow for portability of students with other states because only Vermont adopted the integrated method with Utah, and the push for constructivism will further damage our children’s math skills and thinking. The best thing Utah could do is immediately go back to our 2007 standards, and implement the changes suggested by Dr. Wu, the external reviewer. Readopting those standards would be superior to Common Core and they would be honest Utah math standards.


STEM is Dead in Utah Courtesy of the USOE

dixiecupcalculusSeveral years ago I was involved in what has been called “The Math Wars”. Alpine School District had quit teaching the times tables, long division, and some other basic math skills, to children under the promise that a constructivist (ie. children need to construct their own knowledge) approach to math would deepen their skills. This was an abominable failure. Even at BYU where 2 math education professors got permission (by someone over the math department’s dead body) to teach a class of honors calculus to freshmen with this method. The result was a disaster. Honors calculus students measuring Dixie Cups with rulers while regular students were learning how to integrate. Predictably to everyone but those 2 professors teaching the constructivist class, their students scored below all 17 sections of non-honors calculus on the final exam. Their final defeat? Blame it on the test writer who had been creating the same test from the same objectives for years.

Unfortunately, with adoption of Common Core, the state of Utah took a bad idea that parents in Alpine School District hated, and decided to spread the love around the state. As parents slowly wake up to the horrors of constructivist math and wonder what happened to their child’s love of math, there will begin a new revolt that will bring tens of thousands of angry parents raining down on the heads of the state leadership.

Don’t believe me? Consider how upset a parent is when their child goes off to college with straight A’s in math and winds up in remedial math. At last look, UVU has a 70% remediation rate for incoming freshmen in math. In fact, it’s so bad, they don’t just have remedial math classes at UVU, they have a remedial math DEPARTMENT. SLCC has roughly the same percentage of remediation. That’s a pathetic waste of taxpayer dollars that when tens of thousands of students arrive they can’t do high school math and need remediation, and before someone suggests it’s because young people are arriving after serving LDS missions and have simply forgotten how to do math, that’s been examined and it’s a trivial reduction in the percentage.

Let me illustrate with a video. I recently sat down with an anonymous but very involved person in the Utah education arena, and reviewed a few books. Interactive math, Saxon math, and the Utah State Office of Education’s (USOE) own home grown math book. Watch the horror show demonstrating these textbooks and then read below.


Here’s what the state shows on their RIMS database for schools and districts to pick textbooks from. I’ll start with Saxon.

Saxon math-Recommended Limited

“Evaluation: Textbook review for Saxon Algebra I. Overall, the program matches the Utah Core Standards for Algebra 57.75%. The following is a breakdown of the evaluation by individual Utah Core Standards for Algebra I: …(removed specific line items for space…read it on the site) This program does not develop concepts for deep understanding. It provides few examples and the flow of the program is missing, very disjointed.

If you didn’t watch the video, you’re missing out. Saxon is full of examples while the other programs have NONE.

This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed a hit job on Saxon math (link 2). Saxon was developed by an Air Force Engineer turned educator and a few years ago when I evaluated the top 10 scoring schools in Utah for math on standardized exams, 7 of the 10 schools were using Saxon. It’s a great program that builds skills and depth of understanding. It’s the type of math most of us grew up on and that we can look in the textbook and remember how to do a problem and help our children. In short, it shows how to do a problem, explains the concept, and gives students an opportunity to practice what they learned so they can obtain mastery over the knowledge.

Contrasted with…

Interactive Math-Recommended Primary

This non-traditional text approaches the study of mathematics through student-centered exploration and meaningful tasks. Teachers would begin the lesson by presenting the task for the day, and students and teachers would work on the tasks together as they develop their mathematical understanding of the topics. The format of this text encourages active learning of mathematics. Each unit in this text has a central problem or theme and focuses on several branches of mathematics including algebra, geometry, probability, graphing, statistics, and trigonometry using an integrated approach.
This text covers more than 80% of the 2012 Utah State Core Standards for Secondary I or Secondary I Honors.
Lessons consist of single-page individual or group tasks without traditional mathematical instruction or explanations. Mathematics is learned through the culture and practice that is developed within the classroom as students work on the various tasks.
Although topics are not easily~recognized by lesson titles, this text includes an index of mathematical ideas which makes it easier to find particular ideas. Problem sets are minimal but build depth of understanding. A nice glossary is included at the end of the text.”

church-of-constructivismRemember from the video above, Interactive math has declared the most important purpose of their book is to make math fun!!!

There is no line-by-line evaluation of the shortcomings of Interactive Math as there is with Saxon. It’s pathetically obvious from looking through the book that it’s devoid of content and yet the reviewer, obviously a disciple of religious constructivism, announces this text will produce “depth of understanding” from minimal problem sets. This comic is worth 1,000 words.

Finally we come to the third book, the USOE’s own creation which is similar to Interactive Math and it’s constructivist approach.

Open Education Math – The Mathematics Vision Project- Recommended Primary

This “textbook,” and I use that term very loosely since there is no instruction or examples, was also given a rating of “Recommended Primary” by the USOE. Convenient that you can rate your own product… It was developed by 5 school teachers, who as far as I know have no prior experience in writing textbooks, at least 3 of which are known constructivists, 2 from Alpine School District.

“Evaluation: The OER Secondary I textbook is designed to be an online textbook that may or may not be printed. The textboook will allow for future updates and improvements as well as teacher customization. The first edition of this online text addresses the first third of the 2012 Utah Core Standards for Secondary I Mathematics. The content of the text is accurate and represents the current research in mathematics. Each lesson begins with a task to help students develop an understanding of the core concepts to be learned. Teachers may need professional development to teach using tasks. There are extensive instructions and teacher notes to guide the teacher to teach each task. Some of the tasks have a lot of reading which may be challenging for ESL students. ~ The homework has three sections. The Ready section has problems that will help the student for upcoming concepts. The Set section contains practice problems for what is being developed in the current lesson. The Go section has problems that help students review concepts learned previously. The homework sets are not long and tedious so students can focus on what is being taught. ~ The Getting Ready Unit reviews ideas from previous courses that begin to connect the content that will be taught in Secondary I. This section may help during the transition to the~new core. ~ Each lesson begins with a task to help students develop an understanding of the core concepts to be learned. Teachers may need professional development to teach using tasks. There are extensive instructions to guide the teacher to teach each task. Many of the tasks have a lot of reading which may be challenging for ESL students. There are no materials at this time to address special educaiton students and ESL students. ~ There is an extensive section for parents that includes online resources such as the Kahn Academy videos and worked out examples of procedural problems. ~ ~ This book would require that teachers allow time for students to think and have a lot of discussion in the classroom.

Wait a minute…this book relies on the Khan Academy videos to teach procedures? That’s convenient. Lets write a textbook and say, “we just want depth of learning, you go somewhere else to learn HOW to do math.”

Require teachers to allow time for a lot of discussion? What if those students actually want to learn math and not have their peers discussing what they ate for lunch?

Now the big lie. Current research says there are NO studies that support constructivism. Dr. Jim Milgram, Stanford math professor who has been and may still currently be the only educator invited to serve on NASA’s advisory board, noted that if constructivist math were a success, NASA would be looking for students that went through that pedagogy. The fact is, BYU’s math education professors’ failure is typical of constructivist programs.

There is only one conclusion. Following the USOE’s math recommendations will kill STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) initiatives. All you business leaders and technology oriented professionals supporting Common Core are going to be in for a rude awakening as this machine destroys love of math, destroys math skills, and destroys any edge Utah has for technology…unless…

Utah must drop Common Core and restore local control. The USOE is hell-bent on constructivism and unless there is a major personnel change at the USOE, it’s going to rest on the shoulders of parents to take their children’s education into their own hands (literally), and leave those who can’t get the support at home to drown in fuzzy math.

In 2006 or so, Brett Moulding, state curriculum director at the USOE invited me to his office to ask a simple question. “Oak, you’re a parent who is very involved in your children’s education. How can we replicate that to other parents?”

“Easy,” I replied. “Just implement Investigations math statewide and you’ll have all the parental involvement you can handle.”

True story. I just had no idea they were going to take my suggestion literally. Parents, you may seriously want to consider The Great Escape…Homeschooling.

Dr. David Wright vs. USOE …(8-0 for Dr. Wright)

With permission, I am posting this letter that Dr. David Wright, math professor at BYU, and one of only a couple mathematicians that helped create the A- rated 2007 Utah math standards, wrote to legislators concerning the problems of Common Core implementation from the USOE. We have previously published several posts about significant problems with the USOE math texts.  You can read here about Dr. Jim Milgram’s statement on the low quality of Common Core math compared to high achieving states, and former Department of Education math expert Ze’ev Wurman commenting how Utah’s implementation plan outlined in our No Child Left Behind waiver application would actually hurt math in Utah. It matches up with exactly what Dr. Wright is saying in this letter. This letter is stunning because it also reveals a problem that may prove to be the dismissal of several USOE employees.


Dear Senators Osmond and Weiler,

I see that Diana Suddreth sent a “Your Action is Needed” email to defend the Utah Math Common Core.  She is encouraging letters of support for the Utah Common Core and is concerned that the Common Core is under a “vicious attack.”  She is inviting her supporters to send letters to both of you.

As a mathematics professor and someone who is very aware of the details of the Common Core, I would like to comment on what I feel is the awful way the Common Core Math Standards have been implemented by the USOE.

1.  The Core was implemented before there were textbooks.  In fact, some of those who favor the Utah Core do not even feel that textbooks are important.  When I hear Suddreth say,  “And teachers are empowered by creating units of study for students that go beyond anything their textbooks ever provided”  I know something is seriously wrong.

2.  The Core was implemented before there were assessments in place.

3.  The standards do not dictate any particular teaching method, but rather set goals for student understanding.  However, the USOE has used the implementation of the new Core to push a particular teaching method; i.e., the “Investigations” type teaching that was so controversial in Alpine School District.

4.  Evidence of the type of teaching promoted by USOE comes from the textbook used for the secondary academy, 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions (Margaret S. Smith and Mary Kay Stein) as one of the primary resources.  The book is about the kind of group learning envisioned by Investigations and Connected Math (the sequel to Investigations).

5.  The Mathematics Vision Project was created in partnership with the USOE.  It has developed  integrated secondary math material for the Utah Core. They openly admit that their “teaching cycle” is similar to the model of the Connected Mathematics Project.  Here is a statement about their teaching method:

As students’ ideas emerge, take form, and are shared, the teacher orchestrates the student discussions and explorations towards a focused mathematical goal. As conjectures are made and explored, they evolve into mathematical concepts that the community of learners begins to embrace as effective strategies for analyzing and solving problems. These strategies eventually solidify into a body of practices that belong to the students because they were developed by the students as an outcome of their own creative and logical thinking. This is how students learn mathematics. They learn by doing mathematics. They learn by needing mathematics. They learn by verbalizing the way they see the mathematical ideas connect and by listening to how their peers perceived the problem. Students then own the mathematics because it is a collective body of knowledge that they have developed over time through guided exploration. This process describes the Learning Cycle and it informs how teaching should be conducted within the classroom.

6.  The USOE does hold students back.  This is not the intent of the Common Core, but it is Utah’s implementation.  I regularly judge the state Sterling Scholar competition.  Almost all of the bright kids take AP calculus as a junior or even earlier because they were taking Algebra 1 by seventh grade.  Now it will be difficult to get that far ahead.  The National Math Panel made it clear that there was no problem with skipping prepared kids ahead.  The Common Core has a way for getting eighth graders into Algebra 1 which the USOE has ignored.

7.  The USOE chose the “uncommon” core when they picked secondary integrated math.  Hardly anyone else is doing this program.  So there are no integrated textbooks except the one that the USOE is developing.  I have been told that this is the “Asian” model, but I am very familiar with the textbooks in Hong Kong and Singapore.  The Mathematics Vision Project Material does not look like Asian material, it looks like Investigations/Connected Math.

8.  There is substantial information that Diana Suddreth, Syd Dickson, Brenda Hales, and Michael Rigby of the USOE participated in unethical behavior in the awarding of the Math Materials Improvement Grant.  The USOE chose reviewers (including Suddreth and Dickson) who were conflicted.  Suddreth helped the University of Utah choose a principal investigator who was her own co-principal investigator on a $125 K  grant .  According to the USOE internal email messages, the required sample lesson of the winning proposal contained “plagiarized material.” The sample lesson had “no text” instead it contained 79 pages of “sample materials” (some of which was plagiarized) for a teacher study guide including problems for discussion and homework.  The adaptive performance assessment program for the winning proposal was non-existent.  The principal investigators redefined “adaptive assessment” to be something that was never intended.


David G. Wright

I am a Professor of Math at BYU, but this letter is written as an educator, parent, and concerned citizen and does not represent an official opinion from BYU.

Brigham Young University has a policy of academic freedom that supports the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge and ideas. The university does not endorse assertions made by individual faculty.


This comment from Michele Alder was recently made and ties right into this: “My kids are in a charter school that teaches an advanced curriculum, and the school is being pressured to change their methods and curriculum which would be a big step back.  My neighbors from France have their kids go to the same school as my kids and they found this advanced curriculum a year behind where they were in France.  This means that the (Utah Core) Public School Math is now two or more years behind Europe, a fact that the presenters to this SAGE/AIR meeting contended saying, ‘these new standards will help us keep catch up with Europe.'”

Jordan SD Rips Out “Unsolvable” Math Problems

It appears Jordan School District may have lied to teachers telling them to pull problems out of student math books that were unsolvable. Early this week, 9th grade teachers using the homegrown Secondary Math 1 book that we exposed last week (article 1)(article 2) for having propagandizing problems in them, told students they needed to rip out 12 pages from their books and pass them forward to the teacher to be shredded because some problems in the book were unsolvable. One quick thinking teen stuffed the pages in his/her backpack and took them home and the parent sent them to me.

Now I haven’t attempted to work these problems to see if any are unsolvable, but don’t you think if that was the case, teachers would have just had students cross out a handful of problems instead of tearing out pages that actually contained legitimate problems on them?

So what’s on these pages you ask… Some of them contain clear propaganda. Others appear to have been axed for pretty minor infractions such as one page where the only thing I see is a war game scenario of Battleship and you have to plot enemy shipping lanes (ie. equations) on a graph and find the intersections where you lay your mines where they are likely to find an enemy ship. Probably overboard to rip that out.

However, try this one on for size.

 14. A polling organization reports that 52% of registered voters preferred candidate W. The polling technique used has a margin of error of 3%. (The results are considered to be accurate within a range of 3% on either side of the reported figure.)
a. What are the upper and lower boundaries for the actual percent of voters who support candidate W?
b. Represent the upper and lower boundaries using an absolute-value equation.
c. Is it possible that candidate W is not actually preferred by the majority of voters? Explain.

A perfect opening for a teacher to say, “interestingly, candidate “Dubya” did become president with a minority of votes because of the flawed electoral system in our country.”

They ripped out a pretty fun looking “Ohio Jones” problem (Indiana Jones’ lesser-known younger brother) for no apparent reason unless it really was unsolvable, but again, why not just cross it out? It ends with “Follow these words and the temple will reveal its secrets to you. Fail, and you will fall to your doom.” Pretty harmless considering the context and parallel to Indiana Jones movies. The other side of this page was straight math problems.

There is a problem set on another page to determine if relationships are functions. One was “The national debt with respect to time.” I think that should be a required problem for every student at every grade level.

Page 118 is a full page fraudulent scheme math problem where you have to calculate how much money you’ll get back at the end of each week of sending out letters and getting friends to write letters requesting money. The thing about this problem is one of the questions says, “Ploys like this are illegal. Can you see why? (Explain)”  I actually don’t mind this problem too much because it does point out that it’s illegal and helps children to understand why. Though, in today’s society, I suppose this could fill some young entrepreneurial mind with an idea… :)

Here’s one on page 125 that is a bad idea:

Bingham Rumors
At Bingham High, Savannah, a 10th grader, decides to start a rumor. On the first day of school, she tells 3 students the rumor and gives them instructions to repeat the rumor (and instructions) to 3 more students the next day, etc.
a. Create a table (Days, Students )
b. Create a graph
c. Is the function discrete or continuous?
d. Write the domain and range using appropriate notation.
e. Why is the equation y = 3x?
f. If each student follows these instructions, how many students will hear the rumor on day 6? On what day will all 2400 students hear or rehear the rumor?

No need to give students reason to try this experiment and see how far and fast a rumor will spread.

Page 156

22. Strapped for cash, you decide to borrow money from a local crime lord. This turns out to be yet another instance of poor judgment on your part. At 22% interest per year, how much will you owe on a loan of %5,000 after one year? What about after three years?

Borrowing from a crime lord? Creating a home grown math textbook was yet another instance of poor judgment on Jordan and Granite School District’s parts.

Page 165 contains a problem labeled “Medicine” where you are an Olympic athlete who is considering taking cold medicine and you have to calculate the half-life of it to make sure it’s out of your system before drug testing at a certain time. They could have just renamed this one “How to pass a drug test.”

Page 181

Population and Food Supply
(from illustrativemathematics.org)
The population of a country is initially 2 million people and is increasing at 4% per year. The country’s annual food supply is adequate for 4 million people (now) and is increasing at a constant rate adequate for an additional 0.5 million people per year.
1. Based on these assumptions, in approximately what year will this country first experience shortages of food?
2. If the country doubled its initial food supply and maintained a constant rate of increase in the supply adequate for an additional 0.5 million people per year, would shortages still occur? In approximately which year?
3. If the country doubled the rate at which its food supply increases, in addition to doubling its initial food supply, would shortages still occur?

Gee, I wonder what kind of discussions this would generate???

Granite School District should follow suit and also pull these page.

If you’ve never seen Radical Math (http://www.radicalmath.org/), it’s social justice propaganda mixed into math problems just like these.

Where did these problems come from? How did they get in children’s textbooks? Who reviewed these problems and gave the OK? What can we expect in the future?

Not all cost savings are worth the savings as Jordan and Granite have both clearly shown.

More Math Propaganda

If you missed the propagandizing group-think Groundhog problem from a couple days ago, click here to see the first “math” problem in Granite and Jordan school district’s new homegrown Common Core math book for 9th graders (Secondary math 1 book). I strongly encourage you to read it first and understand that the critiquing and reviewing of peer’s answers are all through the textbook.

Below are a few other problems from the book which are further examples of indoctrination. This first one has the potential to intrude into the home and 2nd amendment rights.

Pg. 156

23. A serial killer is stalking the residents of Gloomy Falls, Mass., population 937. Every year the population
diminishes by 4.5%. How many residents are left after the killer’s three-year rampage? HOW WILL YOU

Are you kidding me? What if a child answers “I’d get our shotgun and kill him”? What happens to that child? How will he/she be treated? What will be noted by that teacher? “Oh, this child has violent tendencies. I’d better note that in his personal record or send him/her to the principal for a talking to.” Who wrote and reviewed this nonsense? Thank you Common Core and USOE for opening the door to the dumbing down of our children AND the propagandizing of them. Parents take note. You will need to be more vigilant than ever with what your children are learning in school.

Pg. 209

5.2e (apply)—Crude Oil and Gas Mileage
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a barrel of crude oil
produces approximately 20 gallons of gasoline. EPA mileage estimates indicate a
2011 Ford Focus averages 28 miles per gallon of gasoline.
1. Write an expression for g(x) , the number of gallons of gasoline produced by
x barrels of crude oil.
2. Write an expression for m(x) , the number of miles on average that a 2011
Ford Focus can drive on x gallons of gasoline.
3. Write an expression for m(g(x)) . What does represent in terms of the context?
4. One estimate (from www.oilvoice.com) claimed that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of
Mexico spilled 4.9 million barrels of crude oil. How many miles of Ford Focus driving would this spilled
oil fuel?
5. Research how many Ford Focuses were sold in 2010. How many trips across the U.S. could every Ford
Focus purchased have made on the spilled oil fuel?

Nice hit job on “big oil.”

Pg. 181

Population and Food Supply
(from illustrativemathematics.org)
The population of a country is initially 2 million people and is increasing at 4% per year. The country’s annual
food supply is adequate for 4 million people (now) and is increasing at a constant rate adequate for an additional
0.5 million people per year.
1. Based on these assumptions, in approximately what year will this country first experience shortages of
2. If the country doubled its initial food supply and maintained a constant rate of increase in the supply
adequate for an additional 0.5 million people per year, would shortages still occur? In approximately
which year?
3. If the country doubled the rate at which its food supply increases, in addition to doubling its initial food
supply, would shortages still occur?

Having problems like these are troubling. Depending on the political bend of the teacher, it is easy for them to indoctrinate the class with a couple of quick comments or even a full blown discussion. Math is no longer math under such circumstances.


USOE + Common Core = Death of Math

There is a very good reason that there are so many charter schools in Alpine School District that use Saxon math. Thousands of parents fled the district starting around 2001 when the district wouldn’t listen to them that Investigations math was a disaster. The district’s mantra was “all the studies show this is the best way to teach math” but when GRAMA requests were filed, they couldn’t produce a single peer-reviewed study, and in fact studies that do exist show constructivist math programs to be utter failures (link 1)(link 2) and those that support them intellectually dishonest. It took 7 years for ASD to drop the program while children were either supplemented, tutored, or unknowingly falling behind their peers. Common Core now gives the states the opportunity to make sure nobody falls behind their peers by dumbing all of them down at the same time.

Constructivism emphasizes group work, discovering math strategies for yourself instead of having tried and true standard algorithms given to you and learning why they work so well, and a lot of writing, all in the name of acquiring a “deeper understanding” of math. (Example of an epic fail in a BYU Calculus class taught by math education professors)

Jordan and Granite math specialists sent their new Secondary Math 1 textbook to the USOE which sent it out to others on June 4, 2012. The book is a recipe for disaster. It starts off like a self-help book of “I Can” statements for each chapter that students should read (and probably repeat over and over for 21 days to convince themselves they can be confident in their math skills).

“I Can” Statements

1.1 I can solve equations and inequalities.
1.2 I can justify steps in solving equations.
1.3 I can solve absolute-value equations and inequalities.
1.4 I can solve compound inequalities. I can use set and interval notation to describe
solutions to compound inequalities.

There are no math examples in the book for students to learn from. It’s all up to the teacher to teach so well that when a student goes home the parents don’t need to help them with their homework (thus de-emphasizing the role of parents in the lives of their children and making teachers out to be the smart ones children go to for learning as this article points out)

After many of the “math” problems in the book, you’ll find this set of writing and presentation instructions.

1. In your notebook, record your solutions. Explain your thinking with writing, pictures, equations, etc.
2. PRESENTATION of thinking and work: Be prepared to explain your group’s solution and the process
you used to arrive at the solution. Think about how to present your results so the class can see and
understand your work.
3. CRITIQUE and COMPARISON: Observe the other group presentations. In your notebook, write a
short critique; a) write specifically about what is good, b) write questions and suggestions, c) note
differences and similarities among presentations.

Here’s the very first problem in the book. Nothing like jumping in full force to teach children what they’re in for.

0.1 (task)—Lonely Groundhog
(Adapted from Interactive Mathematics Program)

Far, far away, in a land where grassy green hills abound, live small little creatures known as groundhogs. These groundhogs roam the land looking for their shadow to see when winter will end. Once winter is over they live in fancy houses that are decorated with the most beautiful shapes. Since groundhogs aren’t very creative, they live in houses that look just like the house of at least one other groundhog. Groundhogs that live in identical houses always play together. However, one groundhog has a house different from all the rest. Sometimes this groundhog is left all alone. If you can help find the lonely groundhog, perhaps you could introduce it to all the other groundhogs.

The Cards

Your group will receive a set of 40 cards. Without looking at the cards, evenly distribute them amongst the members of your group. Place them face down. Each card in the set will have a picture of a ground hog’s house. One card in the set is a singleton, meaning that there are no other cards with a house exactly like it. Every card other than this singleton has at least one duplicate.

The Task

Your group’s task is to discover the singleton card of the lonely groundhog. When your group thinks they have located the house of the lonely groundhog the task is ended, whether or not you are correct. Therefore, you must be sure that everyone is confident of your answer before you announce that you are done.

The Rules
1. You may not show any of your cards to another member in your group.
2. You may not trade or pass your cards to another member in your group.
3. You may not look at other member’s cards.
4. You may not draw pictures or diagrams of the houses.
5. You may not put cards in a common pile once you have found duplicate houses.
6. You may set your cards face down in front of you once you think you have found a match.

Aside from these rules, you may work in any way you choose. You may begin!

Post Game Discussion (possible questions)

What problems did you have in playing this game?

What were your group’s strengths and weaknesses?

How can you help your group work together better and improve your individual participation? How did you know when you were done?
How confident were you in knowing you had solved the problem?
Why were you so confident?

0.1 (homework)Lonely Groundhog

As you can tell from the activity Lonely Groundhog, people play a variety of roles when they work in groups. This assignment is an opportunity for you to reflect upon the way you participate in groups within a math classroom and outside of a math classroom. Be as thoughtful as possible when you answer these questions because they are designed to help you.

Note: This homework will not be shared with other students if you do not want it to be.

1. a. Think of a time when you or someone in your group was left out of the discussion. Describe the situation. Did anyone try to include that person? If not, why not? If yes, then how?

b. What might you have done to help with the situation?

2. a. What has been your experience when someone in your group has made a mistake?

b. How do you think a group should handle mistakes by other group members?

3. a. Think of a time when you wanted to say something, or you did not understand something, but were too afraid to say something. Describe the situation and why you did not say what you wanted to.

b. How do you wish you would have had handled the situation?

4. Do you participate more or less than other group members? Why do you think you do so?

5. Discuss how the amount of homework preparation you do for class affects your participation in group discussions and how your preparation affects the grade your group receives?

Welcome to touchy-feeley math 101. If you feel like this comic expresses, you are not alone (even if your district math specialist tells you that you are the only one that’s ever complained about the math program, which really happened to multiple parents in ASD).


Constructivist Intolerant


Is the USOE lying about ACT results?

For many years the USOE has touted how great Utah is for standardized test scores.  This past year they ran a pilot program paying for most of Utah’s students to take the ACT as an assessment test. It appears that about 97% of students took the test, and as expected, our state’s scores dropped with all the people taking the exam who normally wouldn’t.

Judy Park, Associate Superintendent at the Utah State Office of Education was quoted as saying in a KSL article, “We’re thrilled and pleased that the decrease is as small as it is and compared to other states we’ve done very well,” she said.

The USOE then proceeds to tell how we’re ahead of almost all comparable states that have more than 95% of their students take the ACT.

What’s amazing is that for several years the USOE has been very well aware of a fact that they don’t report.  At least since February 2006 and a few big reminders since then, they have known that these aggregated scores don’t represent reality. Utah’s population is over 80% Caucasian. Minorities typically score less on standardized tests. When you take a weighted average score of 80% of the population outscoring the minorities, it’s going to tend to skew the figures toward a higher average. Comparing our weighted average to other states with sometimes significantly higher minority populations is an unfair comparison and puts us above national average, when the reality is that Utah is much lower than national average when just comparing each group demographically. The Deseret News blew the lid on this in 2007 where they told the truth that Utah was dead last in rankings.

The USOE’s recent report caused the media to report this concerning our overall scores:

“Utah’s scores ranked second behind Illinois and tied with North Dakota when compared to the 10 states where more than 95 percent of students took the test, according to the report.”

The truth is not quite so pretty. Dr. David Wright at BYU provided this table to me after he compared just math scores. Overall with math, Utah ranks 4th, but that doesn’t portray the sad picture that our minorities are falling way behind. Hispanics/Latinos in Utah scored at the bottom of the 10 states, and most other minority groups performed very poorly as well. Clearly Utah has work to do and we are not doing as well as the USOE likes to tout.

Black/African American17.517.317.616.916.316.516.716.417.017.55
American Indian/Alaska Native18.018.918.917.517.816.817.217.817.017.59
White21.822.721.019.720.919.621.419.921.020.6tied for 4th
Native Hawaiian/Other Pac. Isl.19.821.318.918.319.418.219.819.217.717.69
Two or more races20.821.319.819.219.318.420.319.420.020.0
Prefer not/No Response19.819.920.118.719.518.720.218.519.419.5
All Students20.521.019.919.420.118.321.019.120.320.24

Utah Math is not accelerated under Common Core

Ze’ev Wurman is a former senior policy official in the US Dept. of Education under George W. Bush, and served on the California Academic Content Standards Commission which reviewed the Common Core standards for California. He was recently sent a couple pages from Utah’s No Child Left Behind waiver application which talked about how Utah was going to accelerate math under their new integrated approach to Common Core. Those of you that missed reading the article on how the integrated approach is going to hurt math in Utah, please read Reigniting the Math Wars over the Death of Calculus.

Ze’ev generously responded with the following analysis.

Comments on Utah Waiver Application, Pages 24-25.

Ze’ev Wurman, Palo Alto, Calif.

July 2012

(Blue italics are direct quotes from the Waiver Application)

Myth: The structure of the new math standards are in line with that of countries with high mathematics achievement.

Fact: CCSS are not any closer to high achieving countries than Utah’s 2007 standards. CCSS stopped claiming that they reflect what high achieving countries are doing and now they only claim that the standards are “informed by top-performing countries,” whatever it may mean. In particular, the high school programs of the high achieving countries closely resemble the 2007 Utah traditional sequence (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II) and are completely different from the CCSS integrated Math-I, Math-II, Math-III sequence that Utah recently adopted.

Myth: The rigor and complexity of the new standards begins in Kindergarten and continues to accelerate through high school using an integrated approach. For example, students in ninth grade will be studying topics formerly common in Algebra, Geometry and Algebra 2.

Fact: It is true the CCSS are quite demanding in the early primary grades, but they significantly slow down by the third grade, and by grade eight they are one to two years behind what top-achieving countries expect of their students. The only mathematician on the CCSS Validation Committee refused to certify the Standards writing: “…large number of the arithmetic and operations, as well as the place value standards are one, two or even more years behind the corresponding standards for many if not all the high achieving countries.” (Appendix B, http://www.pioneerinstitute.org/pdf/common_core_standards.pdf )

Myth: The new core’s structure allows more flexibility to accelerate learning for students as they progress through their secondary education.

Fact: The new high school core is, if at all, less flexible and less demanding than the previous one. It is composed of loosely defined “integrated” courses in contrast to previous traditional coherent curricular courses of Algebra I and II, and Geometry. Further, these integrated courses exclude chunks of content that was traditionally taught in Geometry and Algebra II such as logarithmic and trigonometric functions and identities, complex number arithmetic, conic sections, infinite geometric sequences, mathematical induction, and more. As the result, it is expected that with this curriculum students will have more difficulty to take Concurrent Enrollment courses, or Advance Placement Calculus, in their senior year.

MythThe new core includes Honors courses beginning in seventh grade and provides higher level math courses such as Calculus or AP Statistics for students who are ready to accelerate.

Fact: The accelerated (“Honors”) program in the seventh and eighth grade that is newly offered by Utah is a poor replacement for the honest pre-Algebra and Algebra courses that Utah offers today. The proposed seventh and eighth honor program adds content about history and uses of mathematics, and about set theory and different counting bases, that are poor preparation for acceleration of algebra, geometry, and pre-calculus that are key to STEM education.

Myth: In seventh and eighth grade, Honors courses contain extra topics not included in the former core. These topics include elements from discrete mathematics, non-traditional geometries, different counting systems, and other mathematics that would be interesting to advanced middle school students. … These courses have increased rigor and advanced content that will challenge the minds of high-ability students.

Fact: The seventh and eighth grade Utah’s Honors curriculum touches on discrete mathematics and different counting system and in that reminds us of the original 1960s failed “new math.” It also includes elements of graph theory that students are unequipped to handle at that point yet which it grandly calls “non-traditional geometries.” This assemblage of quirky bits and pieces of applied mathematics does not support accelerated and/or deeper acquisition of algebra, pre-calculus, and calculus. Consequently the promise to productively challenge high ability students rings hollow.

Myth: Courses for all students are much more advanced than in previous class work. Students on the regular pathway will be prepared for Pre-Calculus, AP Statistics, or CE in their senior year. In the accelerated pathway to high school (AP), calculus is a compacted version of Secondary I, II, III and Pre-Calculus and will begin in ninth grade. This pathway allows students successfully completing the three high school Honors courses to be ready for AP Calculus as seniors.

Fact: As already mentioned before, the new CCSS high school core has eliminated significant content in comparison to the 2007 core and, contrary to the claim above, are not “much more advanced”. In fact, just the opposite is true – the regular three CCSS integrated courses are at significantly lower level than the current core. Consequently, students taking the regular program will not be able to access AP calculus at they are now, using the 2007 core.

The suggested Honors program does, in fact, in theory prepare students for AP Calculus in their senior year. But it should be compared with the current sequence that potentially prepared all students, rather than only Honors students, for AP Calculus as Seniors. In fact, the current core also prepared accelerated students for AP Calculus already as Juniors.

But the new proposed Honors program is highly ambitions and untested, and faces significant challenges. Rather than use grades seven and eight for deeper preparation of Honor students in algebra and geometry, it spent those grades on inessential activities of counting in different bases and games-related bits and pieces. Consequently, it now needs to push a lot of content, including content that CCSS forgot like parametric equations, infinite series, polar coordinates, etc., into three heavily packed years. Time will tell how many students will be able to scale this steep three-year HS challenge, all to end up where the current core already gets them in much more relaxed rate starting with pre-Algebra in grade 7: to be ready to for AP Calculus as Seniors.


Given the abundance of lofty claims unsupported by the actual new Utah core, one should treat the picture on p.24 that pretends to summarize the differences in rigor between the old (2007) Utah Core and the newly adopted CCSS Core as a work of fiction. The implication that old core’s 12th grade is equivalent to the new core’s 10th is beyond ridiculous. Anyone with more than a bit of understanding of actual mathematics rather than of educational mumbo-jumbo can easily satisfy himself that just the opposite is true for the regular CCSS Core, and that they are effectively equivalent in case of the Honors Core.

Drafter says Math Standards were for Social Justice

I was at a Meet the Candidates event last night and someone told me that Phil Daro, one of the writers of the math standards, said they wrote Common Core specifically for social justice. For those that don’t know, social justice is a buzz word that means redistribution of wealth or helping the poor at the expense of the wealthy. I did a couple of web searches and found a teacher’s website (who seems to get it) with this video where Phil says it right at the end.

Common Core set minimum standards for all students which means minimal learning for those who could accelerate. Thus social justice is achieved by holding down the achievers to the level of the lowest common denominator and by forcing them to learn what you want them to learn instead of letting them become individualized and accelerating their education as they can. Nowhere is this going to happen more than in Utah where we adopted math standards in an integrated fashion instead of discrete years. If you’ve not read about that problem yet please click that link. Otherwise watch Phil’s video clip. I’m not sure who he’s speaking to but they are an easily entertained bunch. :)