January 23, 2002

By E-Mail


Honorable Members of the Board of Education,


Please vote against the Resolutions which would provide a total allocation of approximately $9,330,423 relating to instructional and professional development services in mathematics.  The one, for a total of $9,150,423 (annual allocation of $3,050,141 for each of the fiscal years 2003, 2004 and 2005) appears to provide funding for instructional support in curricula often referred to as "fuzzy math" courses.  One of the proposed questionable contracts is with Marilyn Burns Education Associates, Inc. who once wrote the following in an article entitled "Arithmetic: The Last Holdout:"


"I am a teacher who has embraced the call for change completely.  I've made shifts in my teaching so that helping children learn to think, reason, and solve problems has become the primary objective of my math instruction...I do not give timed tests on basic facts.  I make calculators available for students to use at all times.  I incorporate a variety of manipulative materials into my instruction.  I do not rely on textbooks because textbooks, for the most part, encourage 'doing the page' rather than 'doing mathematics'."


This approach to math may be fine for "math appreciation" or, even, "math enrichment," but it is not fine for the development of math knowledge and skills - as my children have had to learn the hard way: through having to use what they consider their precious free time to learn math with supplemental materials at home and in tutoring sessions.  My children have had the dubious privelege of attending PS234 in CSD#2 which piloted use of Marilyn Burns materials and instructional strategies prior to implementation of TERC (i.e., "Investigations in Number, Data & Space") as an elementary school mathematics curricula.  They have then had to suffer through the mind-numbing exercises in CMP (Connected Mathematics Program) in CSD#2 middle schools.


Fortunately for my children and their future opportunities in the world (and despite their resentment of continuous usurpation of their free time), their parents have had the financial wherewithal to afford supplementation and educational intervention.  Unfortunately, this kind of support and supplementation of math education by parents in CSD#2 (and CSD#15) - particularly in neighborhoods such as PS234's - has kept math scores as high as they are in this district and led to the misapprehension that such performances are due to these questionable curricula and "math staff development" in these curricula.  (Though, interestingly, there has been substantial drop in the numbers of children scoring in the highest level, level 4, in CSD#2 the longer these programs are in place.)


While I wholeheartedly support instructional support for teachers - particularly in the area of mathematics - I am adamantly against the implementation and promulgation of the curricula and programs these allocations would provide support for.


I strongly urge you to vote against these Resolutions.


Kind Regards,


Christine Larson

CSD#2 Parent