Teaching Math: What do Teachers Say?

Letter to the Editor, New York Teacher
By Denise Matava Haffenden
(Published? Not on the Web edition)

I am responding to the article in the Reality Checks column entitled Teaching Math: What do Teachers Say?

The "prologue" to this article implies a bias, rather than a reporting on what teachers actually say. The characterization of opponents to watered-down math curricula (such as Everyday Math) are put in the same sentence as "tabloid columnists and angry parents". This was not investigative journalism but an article attempting to manipulate concerns for the program before teachers actually use it citywide.

Many teachers in District 2, 15, and 9 are well aware of the problems with programs that are child-centered. Parents in these districts are spending huge amounts of money tutoring their children to make up for what they do not receive in school. How do I know this? Because I am not only an elementary teacher and a high school educational evaluator, but a parent, who has already taken my son out of public school.

The students I test in middle and high school have not acquired the necessary math skills for higher level math using programs such as Everyday Math. The proof is the number of referrals high schools receives for "math disabilities", when the only problem is curricula emptiness. Every school administrator tells concerned parents "it will work out" or it will "all make sense". Just as Ms. McAdoo writes, "Everyday Math is different from how most teachers learned math . . ." That is not what makes teachers and parents turn from this program but the lack of content and rigor.

Diana Lam has instituted these type of programs wherever she goes, and they are all discontinued after her tenure. The people Chancellor Klein used as advisors on his non-public Working Groups, were the same people who receive millions of dollars in grant money to promote these curricula without parent input or opening the books, so to speak, on the success of these programs. Why, one of the members of the Math Literacy Group, Lucy West (who was director of math in District 2) doesn't even have a degree in mathematics, rather in theatre. Teachers need to teach within license, but to mandate curricula for the system you only need to "act" like a mathematician.

Every teacher in a math department that I speak to has nothing good to say about this program. All you did in this article was recreate the mantra parents have been hearing all along, but to a larger audience: teachers. Now we are being told, don't worry, with professional development you will accept this despite your reservations. I read Brave New World and unfortunately, the public schools have become this reality. Check that!

Denise Matava Haffenden

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