Tag Archives: Math

Reigniting the Math Wars over the Death of Calculus

When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, I was always very good in math, but I was lazy about it. It came naturally to me but I disliked homework so I avoided doing it. When I hit Junior High, I hit a brick wall that really threw me. Algebra was confusing. I wound up needing tutoring one summer and in the end took algebra 1 in 9th grade. By this point I’d been thinking about careers and thought it would be my desire to be an aerospace engineer and a pilot in the Air Force (the dreams we have… :) ). I knew I needed calculus by 12th grade but I would not be able to do it taking algebra 1 in 9th grade. So in 10th grade I doubled up and took geometry and algebra 2 to get back on track and I was able to take calculus in 12th grade.

In Utah, this would have also been possible in the past, but now with the way Utah adopted Common Core it will be extremely difficult for students who are late bloomers or late to get serious about school. Since Common Core, as adopted by Utah, completes algebra 1 in 9th grade, most students will wind up needing pre-calculus in 12th grade after completing Math 3 in 11th grade. Junior high placement in an honors track would be the path to calculus and most children don’t fall into that category. So much for the tech community needs in Utah.

When Utah adopted the Common Core standards, there were two methods for adopting math. Option one was as discrete years of study where algebra, geometry, etc… were taken as individual courses. Option 2 was an integrated approach where these courses weave and blend together each year and students get a little of each subject as they might relate to each other. Utah and Vermont were the only two states in the country to choose the integrated approach in spite of the fact that the public was told one of the great things about Common Core was portability of students between states.

Utah’s educrats at the USOE were warned by BYU math professor David Wright, that in choosing this integrated approach there would be no textbooks available that would provide for this integrated sequencing. USOE brushed his concerns aside and said they would develop the materials themselves. So they hired some of the biggest constructivist-leaning math educators* in the state to produce what has turned out to be utter garbage. I don’t believe any of these people are PhD’s and I recognize a couple of the names as junior high and high school teachers in Alpine School District. These people should NOT be writing curriculum. Imagine 9th graders (especially boys) being excited about math when they get these assignments:

Lesson Titles from Module 1 on systems of equations and inequalities:

Pet Sitters

Too Big or Not Too Big, That is the Question

Some of One, None of the Other

Pampering and Feeding Time

All for One, One for All

Get to the Point

Shopping for Cats and Dogs

Can You Get to the Point, Too?

Food for Fido and Fluffy

Taken Out of Context

Pet Sitters Revisited

These sound like titles for 2nd graders, not 9th graders. You can check it out here: http://www.mathematicsvisionproject.org/

I asked some people from around the country who have worked on standards and curriculum for their review comments on this “curriculum” and this one summed up the situation pretty well.

Sorry. Wanted to help, but there is not enough here to criticize. It isn’t a text or a curriculum.

For starters, you can’t learn anything by reading it.

Dr. Stephen Wilson, Johns Hopkins University Math Professor

Susan Holladay in Idaho commented:

This just makes me want to cry. I hope the State Department increases the I90’s so that we can have plenty of foreigners who can fill our needs in math related industries. What a sad joke!

The constructivist educators are constantly espousing they want children to have a deeper understanding of math and deal with real world problems, yet they give children no instruction or examples to learn or study with. By the time children are done with this math program, these titles may truly reflect real world math problems students are capable of. I don’t imagine we’ll see any titles like “Building the Brooklyn Bridge” (which appears now to have been sold to Utahns).

Parents will also have great difficulty helping their children with math because there are no example problems to remember how to do the problems with. This fulfills the Progressive’s idea of separating parents from children and making teachers the “smart ones” in children’s eyes who know how to solve the problems.

Two separate parents emailed me last week illustrating the death of calculus to be true. The first was a letter sent to the USOE.

Ms. Suddreth,

My daughter is in ninth grade at Wasatch High School, where Common Core was implemented this year.

I want you to know that neither she nor any other ninth grader who took the Common Core math learned anything at all this year.  It was a waste of time, money, and children’s minds!

It may be a surprise to you that Algebra I is assigned to 9th graders under Common Core.  Before, last year, Algebra I was assigned to 8th graders.

Please provide an explanation.  I have seen the words “rigor,” “college readiness” and “high standards” applied in conjunction with Common Core at the USOE website and at our local Wasatch District website.  This is false advertising.

I have made this math robbery very clear to my local board and principal.

They tell me their hands are tied because the state school board has pushed Common Core on them.

Please let me know what you plan to do about it.

   Went to a district meeting this week up here in Park City touting the wonders of the Common Core math which we have been experiencing all year.  In a room full of angry parents, they explained in an attempt to get us to cut them some slack, that the reason the kids really didn’t learn anything this year and only did a repeat of material they already learned (ie: my daughter did 5th grade level math in 8th grade all year) was because the teachers really have not learned yet how to teach this new way of teaching math, and they still do not have any textbooks.  But they hope to have some online textbooks by next year.  When asked why on earth they would start this when they clearly were not ready,  the presenter said it was because the kids now in 9th grade need to be able to pass some test at the end of 11th grade so they wanted them to be ready. When asked why are we so concerned about the tests and not having the proper curriculum to be teaching off of, she totally slipped up and said, “because this is how the FEDERAL GOV’T wants us to implement it.  She practically gasped once it was out of her mouth as if to try and suck the words back in from out of the air and quickly corrected herself saying, “well not the gov’t but the state lead consortium.

They showed an example of some of the 6th grade math.  What a joke.  “Lets say your going to divide a fraction into another fraction.  Well before we can do that we need to get the students thinking “deeper”.  Why would you need to divide a fraction?  And what exactly is division? Why is division a necessary thing to know/learn. Once we know the kids understand the deeper meaning of what it is they are going to be doing, then we can proceed in teaching them”   WHAT!!!!!!!??????????  They told us that the kids would  be interacting with each other more to “find the deeper meaning of things” and the teachers would be interacting less with the students and they would be using less material.  WHAT!!!!??????

One mom  pointed out that the ACT & SAT tests are revised only every 10 years and thinks they were revised just a few years ago. So when her 8th grader is in 11th grade taking these tests, how will they prepare these kids for the tests since the new math and whatever other Common Core wonders they will be using by then will be different material than what is asked of them on the ACT & SAT tests.  Her response was that  “46 states have adopted it, so they will have to adapt the tests somehow”  In other words, she really didn’t know.  To which I added, “Not all school districts in 46 states have handed their kids laptops as ours has, my daughter has not hand written anything in 2 years now, and they spell check , they are losing their ability to write & spell and the ACT & SAT tests have a hand written in cursive essay.  And my understanding is that as of last year at least our district stopped teaching cursive in 3rd grade, they just don’t see the need for it anymore. How will they prepare the kids for essay writing for those tests?  SHE HAD NO ANSWER, just said yes they realize this may be a problem someday.  WHAT????  They have not thought any of this garbage through.

I also asked how were the Universities going to view kids college applications/transcripts that list 9th, 10th & 11th grade math.  No Algebra, No geometry, to Pre Calc or Trig.  She tried telling us that it was the Universities who were asking for this kind of math to be taught so the kids would be more college ready.   Yeah right!

Our state office of education is in need of an ideological cleansing. It’s time to look at what works and mimic it, before trying to go our own way with proven failures. Constructivism is a proven failure. Singapore math is a proven winner (as are several other strong curricula). If the state of Utah was serious about adopting high standards and excellent curriculum, they would switch to a proven world leader in math and mimic it.  Singapore. Common Core was never about setting high standards, it was about getting money from the federal government through Race to the Top grants.


*If you are unfamiliar with constructivism (also called discovery learning), it is a philosophy that has ignited what has been termed the “math wars” because of it’s approach to teaching which emphasizes group work and students developing strategies to solve problems. There are merits to this approach when used sparingly and in ways to open up the mind for teaching, but it has been carried to the extreme where the philosophy has become the entire curriculum. It is highly popular and everyone is told there are so many studies that support this method of teaching. In reality, there are no studies that support this style of teaching. If you want more information please see these two pages which fully expose this false philosophy.

Project Follow Through – the largest education study ever performed

A study of studies showing no peer reviewed studies exist supporting constructivism