Open Letter to Chancellor Joel I. Klein and Deputy Chancellor Diana Lam

For an Alternative to NCTM Standards-based "Constructivist" Mathematics Programs in New York City

December, 2002

Dear Chancellor Klein, Deputy Chancellor Lam and members of the Children First Numeracy Working Group:

We have followed our children's experience and progress in NCTM Standards-based "constructivist" mathematics programs, and have grown increasingly concerned. Our children's schools have adopted one or several of the experimental programs, among them: Investigations in Number Data and Space, (TERC) Everyday Math (Chicago Math), Connected Mathematics Project (CMP), Mathematics: Modeling Our World (ARISE) and Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP). We have been dismayed and frustrated to find many classroom teachers oppose these programs, but report that their hands are tied, that they're not free to teach with the materials and methods they believe best suited for our children. Standardized test scores have declined in many of our schools, since the programs have been adopted.

Some of us have researched the programs and their use in other regions and found that we are not alone in our concerns, rather, our experiences and worries are shared by parents across the country.

We have learned that many mathematicians and scientists share our concerns, and report the "constructivist" programs lack adequate skills development, are missing important topics, and lack the rigor necessary to prepare our children for advanced high school math and science courses and pursuit of college math-based courses and majors.

We are aware that the experimental math programs being imposed on our children have already been tried on a large scale in California and failed.

While we value strategies to engage students, that promote understanding and help make the study of mathematics accessible to the broadest number of students, we reject a "constructivist" approach that (1) de-emphasizes and devalues basic skills mastery (2) denigrates the importance of memorization and practice (3) lacks prescription for regular assessment of skills mastery, conceptual understanding and problem solving (4) promotes literacy skills to a greater degree than mathematical competency (5) is dismissive of the fundamental value of a textbook to provide coherence, to bridge classroom instruction with parent support at home (6) that leaves our children poorly prepared for standardized assessments and entrance examinations for competitive middle school admissions and the specialized math and science high schools (7) that leaves our children bored or hopelessly frustrated.

Our children, though often earning good grades in the "constructivist" programs, and praised by their teachers, are left confused and frustrated, and unable to perform even the most routine calculations.

Many of us have spent countless evening and weekend hours with our children, attempting to fill in the large gaps in their school mathematics instruction. Those of us with the means, have spent enormous sums on outside tutoring. We recognize our efforts, at best, are only a partial remedy.

Some of us have previously spoken or written of our concerns to school and district staff, others of us have appealed, individually and in group, to district and central board administrators, all to no avail.

We believe our children are victims of curriculum experimentation that has been imposed without parent choice, without independent review, and without regard for even the most evident near- and long-term damage to our children's education.

We want an alternative to the NCTM Standards-based "constructivist" math programs. We ask for the opportunity for our children and all NYC school children to study in coherent, rigorous, college preparatory K-12 mathematics programs.


Elizabeth Carson
Christine Larson
Denise Matava Haffenden, Educational Evaluator, Manhattan High Schools
Amy Lestner Thomas
Margaret Hunnewell
Maureen McAndrew, DDS
Michael Weinberg
Marjorie Weinman
Mitchell Breit
Leonie Haimson
Edmond David
Ginny Donnelly
Susan Erlanger
Marilyn Schorr, Mathematics Teacher
Garry Dobbins
(Parent Members, NYC HOLD Steering Committee)

Audley Haffenden
Melanie Cissone, Co-Founder, Partnership for an Upper East Side High School
Stephen A. Springer
Ellen Miller
Gregory Kiss
Gary Miller
Patrick Chupko
Diane Temkin
Chris Boeke
Beverly Matava
Herbert Matava
Sylvia Sorin
Barbara Sorin
Jeffrey Matava
Lori Matava
Maurizio Tosadori
Erika Roth
Philip B. Paty, MD
Ilene Danuff
Monique van Dorp-Berkowitz
Samuel Schulman, Ph.D.
Ira Gershenhorn
Isabel Cotarelo
Peter Damon
Kriss Damon
Lisa Safir-Barness
Linda Talisman Gomez
Susan D. Resnick
Alyse Portera
Betsy Combier
Mark Caparosa
Marjorie Caparosa
Cathy Haft
Deborah Harkins
Arthur P. Goldberg, Professor of Computer Science, NYU
Lynn Edlen-Nezin, PhD
Frank Apollo
Yvette Apollo
Zachary S Glazer
Sonia C Glazer, Teacher, PS 48M
Diana Lopez
Karen Gershenhorn
Ethel Bass
Lisa Crafts
Ken Brown
Jemma Brown
Nicole Vianna
Andrea Javaly
Amy Ellen Schwartz, Associate Professor, Wagner School of Public Service, NYU
Mimi Taufer
Mary van Valkenburg
Edwin Hittig
Maria K. Nikolova
Marjorie Zien
Deane Beebe
Beth Herman
Brian Sullivan
Esther Altaras Meyers
Joel London

In order to sign on to this open letter, please send email to . You may also want to see our call for signatures.

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