NYC HOLD Parent Members’ Questions for

District 2 Parents Council Meeting on Mathematics Curricula

Guest Presenter: Lucy West, District 2 Director of Mathematics

Spring, 2002



Q; What materials, texts and teaching approaches, outside the mandated constructivist programs and supplemental NCTM Standards-based materials, are sanctioned by District 2 for use at each grade level, K-12 by classroom teachers, and in after school programs?



Q What is the math office's explanation for the declines in percentage of students in levels 3 and 4  in District 2 elementary schools?

 (eg At  PS 2, PS 3, PS 6, PS 41, PS 124 and PS 130 percentage in levels 3 and 4 dropped between 1999 and 2001 in every grade tested.) (3,4,5))


Q What is the math office's explanation for the dramatic declines in the percentage of students scoring in level 4  from 1999-2001?  

(eg At PS 1, PS 2, PS 6, PS 41, PS 40, PS 124 and PS 130 students scoring in the top performance level (4) declined between 1999 and 2001 in every grade tested (3,4,5 ) )

Q What is the math office's explanation for the precipitous drop (23%  percentage points) in students scoring in performance level 4  at PS 6?




Q At what grade are calculators  introduced into District 2 classrooms?

Q What are the criteria for deciding at what time and for which kinds of problems  calculators may be used in class work and homework? 

Q What are the criteria for deciding which kinds of problems calculators may be used to solve on assessments - both classroom teachers' and city and state standardized tests? 




Q Is the long division algorithm taught in TERC and/or CMP?

Q If so at what grades and in which units of TERC and/or CMP is the long division  algorithm explicitly taught?

Q At what grade are District 2 students expected to have mastered the long division algorithm?




Q Are the rules for adding and subtracting fractions with unlike denominators explicitly taught in  TERC and/or CMP?

Q  If so, at what grades and in which units of TERC and/or CMP?


Q Are the rules for multiplying and dividing fractions explicitly taught in TERC and/or CMP?

Q  If so, at what grades and in which units of TERC and/or CMP? 

Q At what grade are District 2 students expected to have mastered proficiency in fraction manipulation? 




In an NSF funded comparative study of Singapore Math, CMP and Mathematics in Context by faculty in the Department of Applied Mathematics at the University of Washington, the reviewers' report includes substantive criticisms of CMP.




“The number strand is arguably the most basic and fundamental mathematics strand and much of the presentation in CMP is below the level articulated in the 2000 NCTM number standard for grades 6-8. Specifically we find that CMP students are not expected to compute fluently, flexibly ad efficiently with fractions, decimals and percents as late as 8th grade. Standard algorithms for computations with fractions (eg. a/b X b/c = a/c; a/b ÷ a/c = c/b)are often not used. …Conversion a of fractions to decimals is discussed only in simple cases such as for fractions with denominators of ten, and CMP lacks a discussion of repeating decimals. A discussion of long division is also missing….Multiplication of fractions is discussed I 7th grade but mostly in simple cases (page 10)


”…the exponential laws are not explicitly written down for the students …There is no discussion of negative and fractional exponents except when students explore functions using graphing calculators. … We feel that CMP’s overwhelming emphasis on conceptual development neglects standard computational methods and techniques…CMP admits that ‘because the curriculum does not emphasize arithmetic computations done by hand, some CMP students may not do as well on part of standardized tests assessing computational skills  as  students in classes that spend most of their time on practicing such skills. This statement implies we still have not achieved a balance between teaching fundamental ideas and computational methods.” (page 11)


Q: What has the math office done to address these serious deficiencies in CMP, mandated for use in all middle schools in District 2?



The draft report of Chancellor Levy's Math Commission includes the following statements:

Under Recommendation 2: Establish New Options for grades 9-11 emphasizing formal and abstract mathematical competency for all students who desire them


(In referring to aspects of NCTM Standards-based programs of which ARISE is one, the report



“Whenever an emphasis is placed on ensuring that applications are made to 'real world' situations, time must be made available not only for the mathematical ideas, but also for the application of these ideas. The net effect of these applications is that less emphasis is placed on arithmetical or mathematical ideas, and the formal abstract contextual settings sought particularly by students who will go on to become scientists, engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists, physicians, and educators of mathematics.”


And connecting the needs of those aspiring to careers in technical fields, the draft report includes a statement about the NCTM standards, specifically, (which TERC, CMP and ARISE are all based on): 


“Despite their many strengths, the NCTM standards do not contain the rigor, algorithmic approach, formal methods and logical reasoning which are required of this critically important population.” (pages 9, 10)


Q: Given the Math Commission's draft report clearly characterizes  the NCTM Standards-based programs as insufficient to serve as a college preparatory continuum; what K-12 continuum of math programs does District 2 intend to provide college-bound students?


The Math Commission’s Final Report submitted to the Chancellor (May, 2001)  recommends  for the high school level,  the provisions for : "an option stressing formal and abstract mathematics, while preparing students for the Regents Mathematics A and B examinations, be available at the ninth grade to all students who are interested in taking it. The content and scope of these courses should emphasize more extensively and in greater depth the logical, formal, and abstract aspects of the topics associated with Mathematics A and Mathematics B, especially algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, and delve more deeply into mathematical algorithms, rigor, and proofs.” (page 11)


This more rigorous option is necessary for college bound students who intend to pursue college coursework toward careers in medicine, engineering, accounting, computer science, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, business, mathematics and mathematics education.


Q: Does District 2 intend to follow the Math Commission's recommendations and provide for a more rigorous, college preparatory alternative to ARISE?

Q If so, how will it be decided which students must take the non-college preparatory ARISE program?



In the NY Post article, "School's New Math=Trouble for City Kids," April 17, 2001, Stuyvesant AP, Danny Jaye reports on Stuyvesant's experiences with ARISE, and gives his evaluation of District 2's math programs:

"Stuyvesant HS experimented with the ARISE constructivist math program for a year, then scrapped it as inadequate.

"We don't do it anymore. The constructivist curriculum as a stand-alone was not effective," said Daniel Jaye, assistant principal and math department chairman at Stuyvesant.

Students who've taken constructivist math in middle schools are "scoring lower on our math placement exams because they don't have the requisite skills" for algebra, Jaye added.

"I don't think it's appropriate for any high school . . . We're not preparing our students for the challenges of a technological workplace," he said


Q: Given the strong criticisms of District 2's math programs, voiced by the head of the math department at the most highly regarded high school in NYC, together with the findings and recommendations of the Math Commission,  does District 2 plan to  replace,  or provide a more rigorous alternative, to TERC, CMP and ARISE  in District 2 schools?


Q If so, when?



Elizabeth Carson NYC


Phone   212.529.1302

Fax     212.529.0062

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