Email to Dr. Clifford B. Janey
Superintendent of the DCPS
By Barry Garelick
June 17, 2005
Dear Dr. Janey:
I was extremely disappointed to hear of the DCPS Board's decision to adopt Everyday Mathematics (as well as the other texts) for use in the DC public schools. I was particularly dismayed to hear of your statement that you felt the commenters expressing their views about the various math texts were "long on opinion and short on research".
I am familiar with some of the comments and the people who made them, in particular Bas Braams, a visiting professor at Emory, who as a physicist and chemist is extremely well versed in mathematics. He is also extremely familiar with Everyday Mathematics and its drawbacks, and has written articles on the same. The opinions expressed by the various mathematicians and others who submitted comments, are well reasoned and backed by years of experience with mathematics and how it is learned. As such, their opinions should be considered with extreme seriousness and respect. That they were not, and so casually dismissed is disturbing to say the least.
As far as the research which you seemed to find lacking in the comments, I would point out that the National Research Council, in its study "On Evaluating Curricular Effectiveness; Judging the Quality of K-12 Mathematics Evaluations", (National Research Council, the National Academies Press; September, 2004), it concluded there is no evidence of the efficacy of any math instructional program that they examined--Everyday Mathematics being one of them. Increases in test scores may reflect increased tutoring, enrollment in learning centers, or teachers who supplement with texts and other materials of their own choosing. Also, much of the "research" touted by some of the NSF programs has been conducted by the same companies selling the programs.
If you are as concerned with research as your remarks would seem to indicate, then you should be very concerned with the following statement which appears in the Teacher's Reference Manual for Everyday Mathematics:
"In one study, only 60 percent of U.S. ten-year-olds achieved mastery of the [subtraction] algorithm using the standard regrouping (borrowing) algorithm. A Japanese study found that only 56 percent of 3rd graders and 74 percent of 5th graders achieved mastery of this algorithm."
I contacted various people at Everyday Mathematics and asked various questions including: What studies were these? What test was used? Were all schools tested? How was "failure" defined? Were any follow-up studies conducted? April Hattori, Vice President of Communications of McGraw Hill contacted me to find out why I was asking the questions and if I were a reporter. Other than that I have heard nothing further from her. I also contacted some of the authors and developers of the text, specifically Jim Flanders and Andy Isaacs. Both admitted that they could not identify the study and Mr. Isaacs said that this "vaporous" cite (as he referred to it) will be removed from the various places where it appears (which includes EM"s website as well as the Teacher's Reference Manual). So far it has not been removed.
Finally, I question how DCPS came up with the list of math texts that were adopted. Why were neither Singapore Math nor Saxon Math considered? I also question how the Board can adopt the texts it did that clearly do not meet DC's very rigorous math standards.
Thank you for your consideration. I will greatly appreciate any responses to my questions that you can provide.
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