Experience with Manhattan District 2 mathematics education

To Ms. Eva Moskowitz and
New York City Council Committee on Education

From Mary van Valkenburg
by email, November 2, 2003

Re Hearing on Math Reform, November 5, 2003

I wish to submit some brief comments regarding my daughter's experience with the District 2 math curriculum in the 1995-2003 period, K thru 8.

My daughter started out at PS 116 in a gifted program that followed the TERC curriculum. Parents were asked from the outset to read articles supporting this rather odd way of teaching math, to trust that in a few years our children would be adept at all basic arithmetical functions, and not to interfere with the process by teaching them traditional algorithms. Despite misgivings, I went along fully with what the educators asked.

Over the years my daughter enjoyed math, learned to think strategically, and became good at estimating. She got a high score on the NY State Standard Test and I thought everything was fine.

Then it came time to apply to middle school and I learned that her math skills were far behind what the better middle schools required. I learned, then, that most of the students who were accepted to the best schools had been privately tutored in math. I started speaking with many parents and teachers at that point, and finally realized that I had done my very bright child a disservice by trusting the district 2 curriculum.

Soon after that, I enrolled my daughter in a Japanese after-school math program called Kumon, where she had the opportunity to learn and practice basic math skills. Within a few months, her confidence and abilities soared. By mid-year, when she took her NYS Standardized test, she got a perfect score; and when she took an SAT as a 7th grader she scored higher than 77% of high school seniors. In short, my daughter is extremely talented in math, but no one knew that until she studied at Kumon.

The district 2 curriculum was not a total disaster for my daughter, but it was woefully inadequate.

Respectfully submitted,

Mary van Valkenburg

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