Testimony of Ginny Donnelly , parent ECC and JHS 104

I'm speaking as a District 2 parent and as a classroom volunteer. For the

past 8 years, I've spent one day a week in the classroom, coming to focus on

math.

For the first 3 years, there was a wonderful math program at ECC. It

combined Miquon math workbooks with manipulatives, word problems and various

worksheets. My daughter's favorite was the workbooks. I thought that was a

bit strange till I started observing that between a third and half of the

kids in every class felt the same. Contrary to popular belief, many kids

enjoy working with numbers. This curriculum provided a real conceptual

understanding of math. I saw most of the first and second graders exhibit a

clearer understanding of fractions, for example, than I now see in most 6th

graders who are using CMP.

Then came TERC. My daughter found 95% of her math
classes boring, 5%

frustrating because she was asked to figure out problems for which she had

not been given the proper groundwork. And the endless writing that makes math

harder for kids with language issues, and that kids
who love math hate! Last

year a group of 6th graders were discussing writing to the district to

complain that math had been turned into Language Arts 2.

But my daughter, and the comparatively few other kids who love math and will

learn no matter how it's taught, will be okay. Bored, not working up to

their potential, but okay. I know of two kids, based on my observation and

parents' reports, who've really benefited from TERC & CMP. My heart breaks

for the hundreds of other kids who fall farther behind each year. The kids

who, in the words of a student teacher, "can explain anything to death,
but

can't get the right answer." The kids who make mistakes because of
how

they're taught: the second grader who used "friendly numbers" to
subtract 13

from 31 and got 24.* Her teacher knew that answer was
wrong but couldn't

figure out why. The dozen 6th graders who insisted that you find the median

of any data by folding the graph because the hands-on activity they did was

writing numbers on a strip of paper and folding it in half.

Some teachers don't like TERC & CMP but teach them because they have to.

Others say they like the programs, but after a few enthusiastic sentences

start mentioning how they need to be supplemented. The only people I know

who completely support these programs are staff developers whose professional

pride is at stake.

Over and over I've seen that the kids who can't calculate are the ones who

don't get the concepts either. They don't know which operations to use; they

don't know what numbers to punch into the calculator. The ones who know

enough math to calculate the right answer are the ones who understand the

concepts.

Keith Devlin, mathematician and senior researcher at
Stanford, writes in his

book *The Math Gene*, published in
2000, that mathematicians don't have to be

experts at calculating. But he adds, "What…we know about the way the brain

works…suggests…drill is probably not a dispensable component of mathematical

education. Repetitive practice is as important in learning how to do

mathematics as it is in learning how to play tennis or to play the
guitar."

(p. 268)

For the sake of our children, please let District 2 use math curricula that

teach them math!

*I didn't have time to explain how. She took 1 from the 31 and 3 from the

13, then subtracted the "friendly numbers": 30 - 10 = 20. She knew
she had

to put back the 4 she'd taken out, so 20 + 1 + 3 = 24. Neither she nor the

teacher understood that in taking the 3 from the 13 she was subtracting a

negative number, which is the same as adding a positive number. To put the 3

back in, she'd have to subtract 3: 20 + 1 - 3 = 18, the correct answer. I

think regrouping, as borrowing is now called, might be easier to explain to a

seven-year-old.