Board of Education reviewing alternatives to UCSMP Everyday Math

District considers traditional math plan
By Nanci G. Hutson
May 31, 2005

NEW MILFORD - Board of Education member David A. Lawson said he is "cautiously optimistic" the district next year will try a traditional elementary math program to improve how students acquire skills.

He suspects such a program would be less expensive than today's Everyday Math curriculum, the subject of considerable controversy this year.

A week ago, about 20 parents and Board of Education members met with the math curriculum team to talk about ways to improve the elementary math program.

Though some district administrators and elementary teachers say the current program has helped many students excel, parents have continually complained the current approach forces children to consider high-level math concepts before mastering basic skills. Some parents have said the program is difficult for them to follow, and often they cannot assist their children with homework. The program has no textbooks, just worksheets.

Lawson said he recognizes institutional change is difficult, but he believes a more traditional program will not only meet the district's needs but exceed them. He said he is pleased the committee offered the opportunity for parent input.

The curriculum committee has been considering a number of suggested, more traditional programs as pilots for the coming year. The intent is to expand on what exists so that students are able to master mathematics.

This year's fourth-grade Connecticut Mastery Test scores showed a drop in math proficiency. Though some parents were quick to blame the current math program, district officials said those scores also reflect a budget reduction in tutorial supports and summer school programs to benefit those who struggle with math.

Officials have said they are continually reviewing curriculum in all subject areas to find what might work better but don't want to make a change that might not achieve results.

The decade-old Everyday Math Program does promote strong thinking and problem-solving skills, and for many students has proven effective as they advance to higher level mathematics, such as algebra and geometry.

The one drawback that educators admit with the current program is a lack of attention on rote math skills, but most teachers supplement the program so that children master those skills before they leave the elementary grades.

Still, no program is ideal for every child, officials said.

Board of Education Chairman Wendy Faulenbach said the committee has invested a lot of time with other districts and professional math consultants seeking a way to build on its current elementary math program. She and other administrators have said that whatever program is chosen must be one teachers endorse.

"Everybody has a history of what they feel works best for their system," Faulenbach said. "There has been a lot of effort put into this."

She said the committee is expected to bring recommendations to the board's Committee on Learning on June 16.

Contact Nanci G. Hutson
or at (860) 354-2274.

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