I stumbled across this video the other day, and I really want to get your feedback on it.

Everyday Math is the math curriculum that Denver Public Schools uses for the elementary grades. It’s a “constructivist” curriculum, or (from what I can gather) a way for kids to arrive at an answer using their own mental constructs. I know, I know, very psychobabble-y.

Diane Ravitch is pretty skeptical of this constructivist-only approach, saying, “Many districts that mandate constructivist programs realize that they must also teach basic mathematical computation.” In fact, the Minneapolis legislature removed it from their curriculum, saying that kids needed basic computational skills, w hich constructivist programs don’t provide.

I’m starting to get some feedback on this, like:

A good math program needs balance and would involve a good teacher with a diverse tool box -that the teacher could pick and choose to meet her class needs. On top of mastery of quick facts, the kids need to understand the concepts and real-life application (story problems) not just rote memory.

and

The more I teach it, the more I hate it. The thing about it that gets me after this years class is the level of the reading involved. Its not written at the grade level its intended for. Try being a severly afflicted SPED kiddo or an ELL….no way this works for you. And nothing on CSAP correlates…

and, when I express that I think such a math method repels parent participation,

I believe in parent engagement and have spent quality time with parents presenting algorithms from Everyday Math with much success. EM is an excellent program that differentiates for all kinds of learners including our ELLs. Teaching parents how EM works should be our focus over defending our traditional algorithms which haven’t served many students mathematically. Partial quotients is a great example- I had great success with struggling ELLs and students with IEPs who had conceptual understanding of the division due to the use of partial quotients method.

and even

What I think this “scientist” is missing is that both EDM and Investigations are teaching number sense and how our students can be critical thinkers in Mathematics. I don’t believe this is an ELL issue at all, but more of an opportunity for us to include our parents in our instructional strategies.

as well as

AGGHH! Everyday Math (and Connected Math) is an abomination. My fifth grader has a pretty good handle on algebra, and loves math, and her report card says she is at 12.9 grade level (12th grade, 9th month) in math. But she still lacks comfort with some basic computations and stuff like order of operations and dividing negative integers– Everyday Math at work. I’m afraid that these issues will emerge in AP Calculus, etc.

When I asked a teacher about whether this program really does correlate with the CSAP, she said, “No, it is much more applied than that; take a look at the third grade math standards. It covers algebraic thinking and all the way over to Geometry along with computation.”

So now I’m starting to think that we’re doubly setting our kids up for mathematical failure. Worse, again we’re in a situation that we’re firing teachers and closing schools based on test results that have no relationship with what’s actually being taught in our classrooms. Am I wrong?

What do YOU think?

Though I get why EM is constructed as it is, and I see their good intentions in designing it this way, I’m not a fan. In theory, everything works; in the real world of classrooms, it’s not always a great program because it requires full and complete fidelity (growing to hate that word…) in order to “work”, and there’s not enough time in the day to actually do it that way. (Plus, it doesn’t work for everyone, and teachers should have the freedom to adjust for the realities of their own classes, instead of HAVING to follow it for the sake of all the teachers in the district being on the same section at the same time…)

Also, I was taught how to teach math from a true constructivist approach, and this isn’t it. My biggest problem with EM is that in its attempt to wed constructivism and everyday teachers’ needs (the needs of teachers who may not have learned that way, and their need to teach kids more quickly than a true constructivist approach allows), it actually ends up combining the worst of both worlds. We end up with a program that tries to give kids a way to figure out the logic of math, but doesn’t give them enough time to understand something before they move on to the next (often unrelated) topic. And it also presents algorithms given from on high (which is what it’s supposed to move us away from), that may help some kids understand the underlying logic of what they’re doing, but often add more steps (and more opportunities for confusion) than most kids can/want to deal with– and their parents don’t know them, so they can’t help with homework.

And yes, it’s a disaster for kids with limited literacy. It’s very language heavy, unnecessarily putting those kids at a disadvantage.

Why, oh why are we closing schools and firing teachers because of CSAPs that show how un-aligned our curriculum is? (Poorly constructed sentence, I know.)

I was a school director in PA for 12 years. Myself and a few fellow board members researched the issue of Everyday Math and found that it was not a good curriculum for teaching math. Many districts that have tried it have dropped it. Thankfully, we were able to keep it out of our district. There are many math professors and researchers who could speak to the poor mathematics in this program much better than I can, but it really doesn’t take a math person to know that asking children to write about- “If math were a color, what color would it be?” is something most parents don’t want their children to be doing in Math class. Additionally, lack of learning math facts to automaticity and use of calculators starting in Kindergarten were other issues that disturbed our district.

Welcome, Marilyn. Thanks for your comment. Have you ever seen instances in which kids do succeed with this program?

If you want kids counting on their fingers and pulling out calculators for the simplest of computations, this is the math program for you. If you want your kids to succeed in higher level math, it is not. It presents standard algorithms as afterthoughts, and never introduces the standard long division algorithm, which if you can’t do, makes it hard to factor polynomials, i.e., you can’t do algebra. Look at CSAP math scores as kids reach 1.) middle school, and 2.) high school. They fall off a cliff. It’s because when kids get to real math, they do not have the foundation necessary to be successful, i.e., they haven’t been taught what is necessary to move to higher level math. Seen it first hand from grades 1-5.

Well, I still count on my fingers, but I definitely know what you’re talking about. I think your point about CSAP is well taken, because Denver’s kids don’t test well in math.

I’m a junior in high school and I grew up with Everyday Math. I knew only the lattice method of multiplication until last year. I was one of the rare kids that still used it. We all learned it, but by 7th grade everyone had their parents teach them the traditional method and were using that instead. What’s the point of even teaching it if no one is going to use it? My friend managed to teach me the normal way to do it in about 3 minutes during class. The lattice method took about 3 months of “precious class time.” I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to squeeze in those boxes (they take up a lot of space on paper), how common mistakes were, and to have confusing math that both my parents and future teachers couldn’t help me with. In middle school, where mulitiplying became a small piece to the problem, I’d get a problem wrong and ask the teacher to review my work. They couldn’t help me. They didn’t understand how I had gotten my answer. It very easily could have ruined my understanding of algebra and geometry.

I remember the day my 5th grade teacher rebelled and taught us division the normal way. I remember it took 1 problem. I remember the class asking why we even bothered with the other way. Yea, that’s right. Feel free to hunt down my former classmates and ask them.

And if they’re excuse is that the kids have a calculator on them at all times, why teach them addition and subtraction on paper? I’ll tell you why. It’s because, despite this techonological age, we DON’T have calculators on our person all the time.

I’m still lost on how other methods teach place value better than the traditional method. Um, we understand that it’s really 20*5. That’s why the numbers are written to the left one place.

To put it in a blunt conclusion; the lattice sucks, methods are abandoned a year or two after they are taught, and Everyday Math can shove it.

And thus spake the youth. Thanks for that comment, Gretchen!

I hate EM!! My son went through the program beginning in first grade and is now a freshman in high school who is failing geometry. I knew 3 years ago that EM was not teaching him the skills he needed for high school. My 2 younger children will never see a classroom using EM even if that means I have to home school them through middle school!

My children are good students but have had Everyday math or Investigations since learning math. They not confident in math, struggle and are partially proficient in math on CSAPs in math. They are proficient or above proficient in all other areas. Please help!

I stumbled across this webpage and just had to respond. If you were meaning Minneapolis, MN as the Minneapolis in the article, I don’t know if that statement is true that Mpls legislature has removed it from their curriculum. Maybe the Mpls district has, but definitely NOT the state legislature. We live in MN and more and more districts are adopting Everyday Math, much to my horror. My children have struggled with it to the point that I now teach them math after school by showing them how to do the problems how I was taught, which they catch on to very quickly. I have talked to their teachers explaining why my children don’t to the homework the way it is supposed to be done and have gone so far as to have my son sit out the portion of class where they were taught partial product and lattice multiplication. I plan on doing the same thing next year with our daughter. For division, I will do the same thing too. Interestingly, the teachers themselves have told me they have no problem with me teaching the kiddos my own way (I am a structural engineer, so I do know math) because they also don’t agree EM is a good way of teaching math, but the administration in our district is convinced it’s the best way (they’ve been teaching it for 12 years). Now, if I could only get the administration to look at the district’s standardized test scores compared to districts that don’t use EM, they could see how bad of a curriculum it is.

The constructivist approach involves students in their learning by making connections between prior knowledge and what new information is being learned. They also explore topics within a real world viewpoint, giving greater meaning to their new knowledge. It’s a process that takes time and getting used to but results in students learning how they learn best and always recognizing how what we learn through life has connections to what we know and what surrounds us in life. I believe it is a powerful way for students to learn, however it is NOT traditional direct instruction ALWAYS. To address the issue of the 5th grader who is at a 12.9 grade level in math – BRA-VO! Keep it up. Her simple computation can easily be addressed MOM AND DAD with practice practice practice. And, let’s also point out that kids are expected to use calculators and other technology more than ever in the past. For this 5th grader especially, I would highly, HIGHLY recommend her studying Vedic Mathematics, something she can surely understand at her high level and will master the computational shortcus that Vedic math teaches in no time at all. Moreso, this example is a good point, we need to focus on student’s strengths and USE those to grow in the areas where they are weak. I don’t know Everyday Math but I know teachers who don’t embrace all of the resources around them are ineffective teachers. As a math teacher myself, I never rely on ONE curriculum – I always pick and choose (the topics are most important!) and make sure that students are gaining as much knowledge and skill as possible. PERIOD. There are so many over-worked lazy teachers (wrap your mind around that concept! haha) out there. It’s especially hard when the BLAME GAME doesn’t stop. I’m not sure how blaming blaming blaming is helping any of our students. How about some support and encouragement people!