At the School Board meeting on Wednesday night, 15 of the 20 public comments were about the high school math adoption. Of those 15 comments, 11 were comments from people opposed to the adoption of the Discovering Series and 4 were from people in favor of the adoption. I was in the opposed group. The 11 speakers opposed were from all over the district and included teachers, parents and math professors. Of the 4 people who spoke in favor, 3 of the people were on the adoption committee and the 4th person was Mr. Boyd, the Principal at Chief Sealth, who said that all the high school principals are in favor of the adoption of the Discovering Series. I have to say, I don't know why anyone would care what the principals think on this topic, they are not the ones who have to teach the class. I know that our principal never asked any of the math teachers here how we feel about Discovery. It was interesting that no one outside of the adoption committee came forward to speak for adopting Discovering.
I do believe that the Board listened to what was being said and will look very long and hard at this. I had to leave the meeting before the presentation was made to the Board by the staff, but I was told that the Board asked some good, hard questions and did not get good answers back from the staff. How this will play out in the end, I have no idea, but I believe that there is much skepticism on the part of many Board members and those that were around for the Everyday Math adoption feel they were sold a bill of goods on that adoption and they do not want that to happen again.
I am including what I said to the Board:
My name is Michael Rice. I teach mathematics at Rainier Beach High School. I am here this evening to speak to you about the proposed adoption of the Discovering Series by Key Curriculum Press as the math textbooks for the high schools in Seattle. I would like to encourage you to reject this recommendation. This is based on many factors, but since my time is limited, I will only share a couple with you.
1. Rainier Beach High School is known for many things. Besides being only one of three high schools in Seattle that is not on the Federal Needs Improvement list, every year, we have several student-athletes who earn athletic scholarships to college. I have found that my students really understand sports analogies. I use the analogy about how the football team practices Monday through Thursday, so they can be ready for the Friday night game. I tell my students that same sort of sustained effort is needed to be successful in a math class. When you are learning a new concept, you have to practice it (better known as classwork and homework), so that you are prepared for game day (better known as a quiz or exam). I share this with you because I have reviewed the Discovering Series, and I have found it to be lacking in practice problems to help prepare students to be ready for game day. When I inquired about this, a district official told me to “supplement” so the students will get enough practice. Any textbook where you have to “supplement” something as basic as practice problems, is a textbook series not worthy of being used in the classrooms of the Seattle Public Schools.
2. According to the SPS website: Mathematics is the language and science of patterns and connections. Learning and doing mathematics are active processes in which students construct meaning through exploration and inquiry of challenging problems.
That definition of mathematics makes no sense. It does not explain what math education is and what students need to know. A much better definition of what math education needs to be comes from California. Among other things, the goal in mathematics education is for students to:
a) Develop fluency in basic computational skills.
b) Develop an understanding of mathematical concepts.
c) Become mathematical problem solvers who can recognize and solve routine problems readily and can find ways to reach a solution or goal where no routine path is apparent.
These are much more understandable goals that actually discuss what math is and what students need to learn. In addition to the revised state standards, these are the kind of standards that Seattle Public Schools should be applying when it comes to math. When applying these standards, the Discovering Series lives up to its State Board of Education designation as “mathematically unsound.” Please reject the Discovering Series. Thank you for you time.