Friday, September 18, 2015

Let's Talk Math

From contributor, Ann Donovan:

While the teacher negotiations are at the forefront of our minds, another school year is upon us and academic concerns are also important. Several readers have requested this new thread about the Seattle District's mathematics adoption this school year and this thread should allow for a free discussion of the issues. 

Some of the themes that have been coming up recently include:

* How is the adoption of Math in Focus (MiF) going at the elementary level?
* What training and support have Seattle educators have in support of MiF?
* What activities are District staff taking in support or to undermine MiF adoption?
* What gaps are being seen between the State adopted Common Core Standards and MiF?
* What changes have been observed in math performance in the District?
* What is happening with mathematics in the middle and high school levels?
Editor's note: I believe the Board is becoming aware that all is not well with the rollout of Math in Focus.  However, if you have concerns, please write to them at:


Anonymous said...

Our child's math syllabus (middle school) made it clear they would apply the Mathematical Practice Standards and "together make sense of problems" and have "rich mathematical discussions." I have also been told some teachers are supplementing with EngageNY materials. Wasn't part of the battle over MIF about the "Standards of Mathematical Practice," and how some felt MIF did not cover them? It seems like the teacher can bring the practices to the lessons, whatever the materials, so it has always confused me as to why it was a sticking point.

Is this what the District is trying to address in making changes to the MIF pacing and coverage? Is it being done with good intentions and inadvertently sabotaging the proper coverage and sequencing of MIF? Or are they really trying to undermine the MIF adoption? It feels like a case of one step forward (math adoption) and two steps back (messing with the implementation).

-math hopeless

Anonymous said...

In the same vein, Hoping someone can clarify what is being mandated around supplementation of MiF with EngageNY.

Elementary mom

Anonymous said...

Just another attempt to make the district look dysfunctional. City hall is simply waiting in the wings for Nyland's district death blow.

It's coming

Anonymous said...

One person's perspective on EngageNY materials:

"You Reeka Math," by Gary Rubenstein (Eureka math is another name for EngageNY)

-math hopeless

Anonymous said...

Our school (principal and teachers) recognized the issues with MiF pretty quickly and started working to supplement immediately upon adoption. I'm guessing that the principal would have preferred a different adoption, but given the politics of the whole thing - chose to simply solve our problem by working with the teachers to fill in the gaps. I don't know the details of the district level changes, but it doesn't seem to be an attempt to undermine, more likely just addressing challenges that became apparent over the course of the year.

- GE parent

Anonymous said...

Didn't Sue Peters ram through MIF wiping out all the math wavers for Saxon and Singapore math. I also remember that Rick Burke had a hand in the MIF Coup d'├ętat testifying at several meetings.

Are we starting over ? I would like to hear an explanation from both Burke and Peters on this.

Math Parent

Anonymous said...

I just want to know if there is a district wide consistent placement method and course progression for middle school math... There should be, but as far as I know there isn't??

BT Mom

Anonymous said...

At the time of the MIF adoption, some on the board wanted another curricula. Banda supported the insurgency and was angry because they did not adopt a Pearson alternative. MIF got high marks from many math experts and was considered a better choice.

Unfortunately, many teachers are fond of discovery type math, which spends lots of time figuring out the “why” of math problems. Many of us from “Where’s the Math?” think this is a waste of time and the reason so many students get placed into remedial math in college. The former elementary Everyday Math textbooks were especially criticized, with no examples for students to follow. It was the classic example of discovery math.

Rick Burke is from the “Where’s the Math?” group and he will bring better curricula into middle and high schools. Sue Peters and Marty McLaren also understand how confusing discovery math is and would work hard to replace it in the upper grades.

S parent

Anonymous said...

Dr. Nyland was asked about middle school math adoption last fall at our elementary school's Q&A with him. It seemed like an obvious next step after the elementary math adoption. He said there wasn't any money and he didn't seem inclined at all to try to find the money. That seemed his approach to any problem any parent brought up that day. "Yes, its a bad situation, but there's no money and nothing I can do about it." Completely uninspiring.

S parent of 2

Anonymous said...

What are the problems you see with Math in Focus? Are there some skills it does not teach?

-HS Parent

Anonymous said...

According to SPS, the new money from the state this year includes a chunk ($5m?) that's going to go toward new textbooks. They didn't way which textbooks, but one can hope math is at the top of the list.


Elementary parent said...

The complaint we heard about Math in Focus at our school last year was that it requires whole group instruction. Our teachers prefer to use small groups for differentiation and so they are "supplementing" with Envision materials in the classroom and sending the Math in Focus workbooks home for extra practice.

We use walk to math so I would think whole group instruction would be doable - but what do I know?

Mid-Southend Teacher said...

The trainers at the District level are asleep at the wheel. Math in Focus is the Singapore Math system, albeit ratcheted down a grade or two to comply with CCSS. Our school had a volunteer teacher come in to demonstrate the logic of MiF and its emphasis on Algebraic Thinking. Once we had the training we understood what we needed to focus on. Before the training we didn't really get the relationship between Bar Modeling and Number Sense in complex problem solving.

Someone needs to get off the dime at the District level and train elementary teachers in the MiF/Singapore system. Who is in charge of training and what is the budget? I rarely see MiF course offerings from the Math Dept. It is as if they are trying to kill the adoption before it takes hold (at the expense of students). That's a bummer. Our students are really enjoying MiF now that we are focusing on Algebraic Thinking.

dan dempsey said...

Elementary Parent wrote:

"The complaint we heard about Math in Focus at our school last year was that it requires whole group instruction."

Whole group instruction actually works, when teachers have been correctly trained in how to do it. Look at this Seattle Times article on Gildo Rey HERE.

Even UW education guru Dr. Elham Kazemi seems to be pushing some whole group instruction at Lakeridge in Renton.
See Times article HERE.

More on the Gildo Rey scores and SPS scores coming soon.

The big question is why the focus on Scope and Sequence alignment rather than on the details of effective efficient instruction?

Anonymous said...

Math Parent wrote:

"Are we starting over?"

Who knows? I sure don't but check the data in the following comment coming below this one.

Something good may be happening if it is allowed to happen.

Highline adopted MiF and showed good improvement until Dr Enfield and her crew began meddling and things went downhill. The Math test data from Highline shows it.

-- Dan Dempsey

dan dempsey said...

The following link contains data.

The data is calculated from pass rates and looking at the difference above or below the average pass rate for all the students in the state.
Note: at Grades 4 and 5 in the first year of MiF, Seattle students produced the greatest positive difference ever. Greater than in any WASL math year or in any MSP math year.

Even though SPS scores were best ever, I am writing

Why not do what is known to work?

because there is huge room for improvement as Gildo Rey elementary school shows.

Anonymous said...

Here is another piece on SPS scores:

SBAC Math scores for Seattle's Math in Focus adoption = Good News

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Here's an update. First Melissa I want to thank you for recommending that I write a letter to the School Board about how the district was requiring teachers to use their Scope and Sequence and curriculum instead of MIF. I sent a letter to the Board with a cc to Tolley, Anna Box, and Nyland that outlined my concerns and included copies of the district written curriculum that we were being asked to use.Folks had already talked to Anna Box, the head of the math dept, and gotten nowhere so I assumed it wouldn't make a difference. BUT, it appears it is making a difference! I don't know who is pushing the math dept to change (Board, Tolley, Nyland), but the math dept is clearly hearing it from somewhere.

The Scope and Sequence has been updated (from the initial one I complained about). It now references more MIF materials. Depending on the grade level, it is still a little convoluted. Some upper grade levels at my school still think the sequence is not right mathematically and the reasoning for the sequence is not based on math as much as what the math dept think kids might enjoy learning about first. Some grade levels are still needing to hop around from chapter to chapter, but at least it is MIF instead of two or three other curriculums. My personal feeling it is still a work in progress. It's better, but still not there yet.

The reasoning for the district writing their own curriculum is that MIF didn't completely align with the Common Core. That's true. But most teachers I know just skipped the parts that weren't aligned to Common Core and focused on the parts that did align to Common Core; we are professionals after all. It's not rocket science to figure out what parts aligned and what parts didn't. All the district had to do was send something out saying skip these chapters at your grade level since they don't align to Common Core.

MIF is a different type of curriculum. I agree with Mid-Southend Teacher. We just barely got started using MIF and they are already trying to mess with it. I think the district should be providing more training on how to understand and use the curriculum, especially bar modeling. My understanding is that one of the things that makes Singapore Math such a good curriculum is the how well they train their teachers in really understanding and teaching mathematical concepts. I get the Univ of Wa has a different approach, but we bought the MIF curriculum.

At the end of the day my main issue is that we should be allowed to use the MIF curriculum as it is. I don't even think we should be jumping around chapters. The MIF sequence works great for my grade level. I think that the district adopted a curriculum and we should use it.
Frustrated Math

Lynn said...

I agree. If by the end of 5th grade, every concept is covered, shouldn't that be sufficient? This is more concern about form over substance. The excuse for mucking about with our brand new curriculum is that kids are tested (by the SBAC) on certain standards each year and they need to be prepared for that. Who cares enough about the test scores to make these changes?

dan dempsey said...

Lynn and Frustrated Math, you both make excellent points.

What leads anyone to believe that local district tinkerers will improve anything in MiF as written?

What leads anyone to believe that the net effect of math Scope and Sequence modification will maximize any student's learning?

The district math leadership should be assisting teachers to maximize each student's learning but instead too often the leadership does not do so.

It is interesting examining the history of the SPS Everyday Math implementation. First fidelity of implementation was demanded and there was little improvement even with greatly increased instructional time. When the district gave teachers more latitude the larger improvements occurred.

Now with MiF are we seeing a return to fidelity of implementation? But in this situation not fidelity to the publisher's plan but rather District Math Leaders ideas on what should happen.

MiF in Highline has already gone to hell in a hand-basket as digital learning is emphasized. There is a finite amount of time in a day and a finite amount of energy in students and teachers .... and Highline is not focusing that energy on MiF and efficient effective instruction and the results show it.

Consider Highline's Midway Elementary and Auburn's Gildo Rey
demographically those schools are very similar.

Test score differentials on SBAC in 2015.

Gildo Rey:
Grade 3: +9.30% ;; Grade 4: +12.60% ;; Grade 5: +15.40%

Grade 3: -13.00% ;; Grade 4: -27.50% ;; Grade 5: -16.90%

Wonder why the Highline School Board fails to ask Dr. Enfield about those numbers?

Let's not allow this to happen in Seattle. We sure need to improve instruction for educationally disadvantaged learners, rather than play political district office games.

This entire system is upside down. Teachers and individual schools need to be major decision-makers for they are the trained professionals making the day to day minute to minute instructional decisions in the classroom.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that a cadre of teachers worked over the summer to develop a defined scope and sequence based mainly on MIF (with supplementation) that aligned more closely with common core. While I wasn't thrilled with how MIF was adopted, it seems like an attempt at fidelity to the actual MIF program would be worthwhile before butchering it. Deleting, supplementing, and jumping from topic to topic-in a pattern designed by experienced teachers with limited experience with this particular curriculum--seems ill conceived. Particularly since the rationale for this tweaking is not to produce greater gains in mathematical understanding, but rather to more closely prep for what will appear on that year's standardized test. I would much prefer a long term investment by the district in training teachers to be expert users of the curriculum that was chosen, however the choice came about. Year 5 (and maybe year 10) scores should be the ones that count to allow for fidelity of implementation.


Anonymous said...

TestingIsRuiningEducation, I agree with almost everything you said except the scope and sequence being based mainly on MIF (with supplementation). In the primary grades, there was LOTS of supplementation in the two units that were presented. MIF materials were not even 50% of the material recommended to use for the units.
Frustrated Math

Anonymous said...

One of my students has been in Seattle Public Schools 5 years. Each and every year she has had a different text book!

K Everyday Math

1 ReThink Math + 'homebrew'

2 My Math

3 Math In Focus (aka Singapore Math)

4 Glencoe Math

Math instruction in kindergarten was atrocious.

Math in 1st grade was FANTASTIC! The teachers collaborated and seemed to be allowed to go 'off roading'. It was the BEST math year EVER! The power and prowess of those teachers flourished. Excellent instruction, logical sequence, supporting development of skills, critical thinking, abstract reasoning and mastery of basic operations. Nailed it! It involved both 'differentiation' and whole group instruction.

Then, 2nd grade. Math tanked. "My Math". I couldn't believe how low it was. It was like taking a big step back. Not the wonderful teacher's fault! It was the book she was required to teach from. Incredibly low expectations. Shockingly low. A lot of jangly pictures, crazy colors, and distracting, multiple fonts. It was common core aligned, or so said the text book. Teachers supplemented with Singapore Math, especially around geometry.

Then, 3rd grade. MIF. It was solid. Clear. Challenging stretches were provided (MiF has a suite of materials; text book, work book, problem book, extra challenge book). Seemed like the staff could have benefited with some additional professional development around bar modelling, but it was fine.

Now, 4th grade. Middle school math: using Glencoe. I really, really like it! I hope the district adopts this. Clear, logical, lots of direct instruction and detailed examples, good practice, good stretches.

As SPS staff (Tolley, Heath) were clear during the Board Action Report process that there must only be 1 text book so that every child in every class in every school was locked-step aligned (*alignment, the new dirty word)so that those mobile students could easily switch schools and be exposed to a consistent experience, this re-engineering of math texts after the fact seems like more sour grapes. Recall, that after the Board adopted MiF, there was that infamous email that went out from JSCEE to the principals that was basically sedition: it egged on the principals to 'get a waiver' to go with enVision. Banda's hand was forced and he had to put a stop to that. The waiver process is a thoughtful and intentional process, it was not a quickie autocratic thing, nor it is a funded thing either. So here we are, with MiF for the whole district for elementary math, in year 2, and JSCEE itching to mess with it. No surprise there. What would it be like if the District just had the teachers teach MiF, in chapter order, as presented, with additional materials as thought to be helpful by the actual teachers? How about we try that? What would it be like if JSCEE didn't mess with our teachers?

Middle school math CMP2 is awful. That is why Hamilton just announced they have 'redone' the curriculum. That is why JAMS relies on other materials. That is why Mercer has gone off on their own to teach their kids, and has reaped extreme success for so many, many years.

So the district has no money for decent texts for middle school math. That's what Dr. Nyland has said. I guess he is good with how things are? Then what do they have money for? What is the priority? They seem to have money for 'change management'. And preschool. And so many other things. But when it comes to actual K-12 kids, not so much.

Teachers Rock (con't below)

Anonymous said...

Kids deserve to be taught something since they have bothered to show up and face forward. Readers and Writers workshop is so, so shoddy. Guess and Go spelling? Seriously? No grammar, ever, until when, exactly? We call it language arts? And middle school math, the ultimate 'turn off' of so many kids, who are being doomed to never be open to many careers because they didn't get decent math instruction in middle school because those teachers had Byzantium text books.

This is not a problem money can fix: the educators in charge (Nyland, Banda before him) don't see the value of teaching kids, if they fail to have their breath knocked out of them when they see kids stuck using texts that will risk limiting their futures. Seems like these are not educators who share the same priorities as me. How long has Mercer been doing what it is doing? Without the District saying, yes, let's replicate that success and support kids everywhere else too?! By the same token, how much evidence does the district need to have to see that a better bell time for teens helps them learn, succeed, stay alive? And yet, the district won't do that either, but yet this same district is happy to demand at the last minute kids get a half hour longer day without any evidence that will move the needle on achievement?

With the current team at the helm, money won't solve any problems, because the people in charge seem kind of crazy to me. Giving them more money would be like pissing in the wind. They would probably just hire a bunch more consultants. Not actual teachers. Until we have a board full of Sue Peters types, who are matched with a similarly committed, talented, sincere, capable, hard working, and honest Superintendent, there is simply no hope.

Math is symptomatic of the larger, more pervasive problem. The grown-ups in charge have messed up priorities. So they continually get in the way, make things harder, add complexity, and sandbag common sense. There are many beneath the Supe who are smart and hardworking, but they're not in charge.

Anyway, MiF can work really well and middle school math is an emergency because it is dooming children.

Teachers Rock

Anonymous said...

By the way, who died and left Common Core in charge, as the Imperial God of All Things? The Exalted Emperor of Everything Good and Important?

Blindly following orthodoxy never leads to good things.

Common Core, or rather, the assiduously slavish micro-worship of its every essence seems like the problem. Don't you think folks in Singapore are doing a great job producing solid math minds? Yet, they do so without Common Core, but with Singapore materials? Go figure.

The question should not be, how well does it align to Common Core; the question should be, how well does it teach kids math.

Ah, if only.

How I miss common sense.

Reminds me of that old adage, "Surgery was a grand success! Patient dead, though."

Teachers Rock.

n said...

I have to chime in with Frustrated math teacher. This curriculum at elementary emphasizes numeracy and a lot of elementary teachers have not been trained in arithmetic/algebraic math including myself. I am so against changing again. I found my kids had a lot of success with MIF last year. Esp. my math-strong kids. They love numbers and that is the strength of MIF. From what I read above, it sounds like the non-alignment really reflects the inclusion of elements not contained in common core. I haven't read anything indicating that MIF leaves out common core topics. So what's the problem?

I did the whole program because I thought it was age appropriate and because my kids liked it. I just don't understand how a group of teachers and two math specialists(?) can be so quick to revise a program that I would expect has been vetted and tested and that is focused on procedure over process. That group should be offering PD that helps educators teach it. As for the sequence, I trust MIF before I trust the group that wants to change it. If they want to leave out units, just let me know which ones. Keep it simple.

Besides, wasn't common core created by a group that included a lot of non-math specialists and corporate bureaucrats? Why this loyalty to common core over a proven math curriculum.

Thank you frustrated math teacher for bringing this to light and perhaps stopping this repeated manipulation of our curriculi. A good place to save money is by stopping all this micro-managing by people who are getting paid to make constant often ill-conceived changes to everything!

n said...

You stole my thunder on common core while I was busy posting! Bravo, Teachers Rock!

dan dempsey said...

Frustrated Math, Teachers Rock, Lynn, and "n" have nailed it.

Without data all anyone has is merely an opinion. Unfortunately those unfounded math ed opinions keep intruding on sanity.

Teachers Rock stated:
" So here we are, with MiF for the whole district for elementary math, in year 2, and JSCEE itching to mess with it. No surprise there. What would it be like if the District just had the teachers teach MiF, in chapter order, as presented, with additional materials as thought to be helpful by the actual teachers? How about we try that? What would it be like if JSCEE didn't mess with our teachers?"

There is a considerable amount of dysfunction originating from those with Math Education Degrees, often pushing only their opinions as justification for particular changes. Note: Math program manager Anna Box has a BS in Math Education and a Masters in Math Education.

So would Ms. Box care to answer the questions of Teachers Rock?
"What would it be like if the District just had the teachers teach MiF, in chapter order," and "What would it be like if JSCEE didn't mess with our teachers?"

Given the previous near revolt against the MiF math adoption under Banda by District Math experts at odds with Board leadership, are these actions to heavily modify MiF actually sedition?

Of extreme importance in Singapore Math Primary Edition or in Math in Focus is the Bar Model. It is shocking to think that Ms. Box was devoting resources to Common Core alignment and introducing non-MiF materials rather than sticking with MiF as written and focusing resources on Professional Development dedicated to understanding Bar Modeling. Does Ms. Box understand MiF or is she just for changing it?

It takes time and effort to learn math. Students need adequate instruction and adequate time in the adopted MiF materials to maximize their learning. It is difficult to progress in Singapore Math above grade 3 without a good understanding of the Bar Model. In far too many instances the SPS has failed to present students, especially disadvantaged learners, with the opportunity to maximize their learning.

I challenge Ms. Box to review those results from Gildo Rey (82% Low Income and 42% Bilingual) and tell us how any plan of hers will get us to Gildo Rey results. Does this district have any real plan to reduce or eliminate the achievement or opportunity gap? If so she should share it.

Test score differentials on SBAC in 2015.

Gildo Rey:
Grade 3: +9.30% ;; Grade 4: +12.60% ;; Grade 5: +15.40%

SPS averages using MiF were the best ever in 2015:
Grade 3: +7.20% ;; Grade 4: +9.40% ;; Grade 5: +7.90%

SPS Low Income pass rate differentials =>
Grade 3: -13.70% ;; Grade 4: -12.90% ;; Grade 5: -15.10%

One last question:
Why not do what is known to work?
It is really not that difficult if we focus on achievement and provide each student with the opportunity to maximize their learning.

"To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data"
-- W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993)

Anonymous said...

Online Professional Development for Singapore Math:

The online instructor, Anni Stipek, lives near Tacoma.

Singapore Math Strategies: Model Drawing for Grades 1-6

Singapore Math: Number Sense and Computational Strategies

Singapore Math Strategies: Advanced Model Drawing for Grades 6-9

I took these three courses when I was in Nevada as part of White Pine County School District's Professional Development for those teaching Singapore math. The district paid $85 each for these "ed2go" classes through Feather River College in Quincy, California.

The courses were more like an informative class than heavy duty academics. I do not think they counted for college credit. The elementary teachers found them worthwhile in coming to a better understanding of how bar modeling works. They liked the classes because they were informative and not so time consuming that they would ruin your life during the school year. Most teachers took two classes because that was all the district would pay for.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

EdReports (funded by the Gates Foundation) has evaluated curriculum for "alignment" to Common Core. Their methods have been questioned and publisher Pearson has released a statement in response:

Read Pearson's response in it's entirety. It touches on so many of the issues of standards vs curriculum.

We now have stronger K-5 math materials, but lower standards (20028 WA State Math Standards are considered better than CCSS-M), and SPS wants to bring the curriculum down to the level of the standards?

-math hopeless

Anonymous said...

I'm a K teacher. Last year the district offered a training to K teachers on how to differentiate for advanced learners. I was excited to go to the training. It's hard to learn a new curriculum and tweak it at the same time for different level learners. I was hoping for some tips on differentiating MIF.

I was so disappointed. The training was mainly on using counting jars, math trays, and number talks. When the question came up how to integrate these strategies into MIF. It was clear that the teachers they were spotlighting for using these strategies in their classroom either weren't using MIF or were using it minimally.

I have nothing against the strategies they were espousing. Most kindergarten teachers use counting jars or some similar version. It's kindergarten; we count ALOT! Number talks are great. Many teachers I know use number talks. Math trays is just a way to organize math games. I have a different way to organize my math games for kids to use, but math trays is fine.

My issue is that I learned nothing about how to differentiate MIF for advanced learners and nothing about teaching math to advanced learners. It was all strategies and little content beyond the suggestion to have advanced learners use higher numbers when counting.
Teach K

Anonymous said...

Education Week's discussion of EdReports review of math programs:

MIF did not meet the EdReports alignment criteria, but then you realize that most math programs did not, and were downgraded if they assessed content from future grades, among other things. If districts were to rate math programs as EdReports has, they could pass up some strong math programs.

-math hopeless

Melissa Westbrook said...

Math Hopeless, what you write about has always been one (of many) little secrets about CC. Some states had BETTER standards (in fact, MA is considering going back to theirs).

Anonymous said...

Alignment is way overrated.

In selecting programs for implementing the "A" rated 2008 WA Math standards it was all done by alignment. It had zero to do with whether the texts were teachable or could be effective as there was no field testing used. Eventually one aligned text was tossed because it was found to be Mathematically Unsound.

Singapore Math Primary Edition was the lowest rated text for alignment as it presented the topics in many cases before the year suggested by a particular standard.

Fact: Craig Parsley at Schmitz Park used this lowest rated Singapore text and those 5th graders tested at #3 out of 1000+ schools in annual WA math testing. Carla Santorno installed Everyday Math and Schmitz Park resisted. Most administrators are more in love with uniformity than better results.

Melissa is correct about some states had better standards. The CCSS are not internationally competitive standards. The standards are one-size fits-all standards and so can't be top notch. The actions of failing to use the CCSS as a general guide and instead discouraging the presentation of topics before the CCSS advised grade level is a recipe for "dumbing down".

Tom Loveless points out that if CCSS-M is followed in k-4 there will be way too much material to cover effectively in grades 5-8.

So as others have recommended: Ditch CCSS dictates.

Let us demand a return of local control to our districts and individual schools. Urgently needed: teachers teaching to a room of students instead of running test prep.

In fact I would go further with a return to teachers using school developed and modified effective practices to teach students rather than being subjected to the blanket uniformity of supposed "best practices" mandated by District level administrators for test prep.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Note: Current SPS Superintendent Larry Nyland was a member of the Washington State Board of Education's Math Advisory Panel, which also had Bellevue Supt. Mike Riley.

Larry Nyland is aware of how the math wrangling went down and the controversy surrounding "recommended" texts.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Can anyone here recommend a reference for parents to learn how to do bar modeling? My elementary school child really needs help with math homework, and I have no idea how to do this bar modeling, so I am of no help. I would like to find some kind of tutorial where I can learn about it so I can then help my child. Thank you!


Anonymous said...

The training on the new scope and sequence was an exercise in frustration. The MIF scope and sequence is grossly lacking. I understand why SPS was attempting to improve it, but using MIF with the new SPS scope and sequence (which is much better btw) is a logistical nightmare. MIF is the worst program I have ever used. I have used Singapore math and loved it. I have had real Singapore math training. MIF is NOT Singapore Math. MIF has some Singapore stuff mixed in (poorly), but it is nothing at all like the real Singapore Math. There isn't a daily structure to each lesson (it hops around wildly, some lessons taking 1 day, others 3. The workbook pages are poorly matched to the lessons. I often have to spend large chunks of time trying to explain a workbook page, even to the kids who "get" the math. There are so many different problems and kinds of problems on a single workbook page, that struggling learners just give up. There is very little repeated practice and a lot of our kids need repetition to acquire new skills. I have yet to meet a teacher who likes it. I also don't know any teachers that liked Discovery math. Please don't say we hate MIF because we have an affinity to discovery math. I don't think one grade level in my school is using MIF this year. Envision was sooooooo much better. My Math was good. We spent millions more, against the wishes of the teachers, and now...nobody is using MIF. It's classic SPS.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is my building is using MIF and is liking it. Hate the new scope and sequence.
Just saying

n said...

I hope everyone in my bldg is using it but I know a lot are not happy. I continue to believe elementary teachers have not been trained to use correctly. Every grade level got a book on bar modeling. Find it at your school and read it. At my school, I was the only one who took the time to even ask for it and it was buried in another teachers room. Neither teacher but me at my grade level even referenced it once.

That is the problem. We are all used to process. It takes time and effort to move to procedure. Actually, it is easier now that I get it myself. I quit worrying about all the process, let it go, and really finally worked on procedure. I am willing to give a try. Too soon to give up. Process is so much easier to teach! Teachers have to totally understand the math in order to embed the process while teaching the procedure.

Please, let me learn it before you all start changing it.

Anonymous said...

TS, Just Saying, and "n" ... thanks for your comments.

I taught in the White Pine County School District in Nevada. Before I got there they had adopted Singapore Math Primary Edition and done virtually no professional development for teachers. It was a huge mess and likely remains so. The SBAC testing completely failed in most of NV 2014-2015 so hard to tell.

WPCSD "mandated" Singapore materials through grade 8.

#1 .. Singapore Math (the real one) is hard to implement above grade 3. Students need the knowledge of what happened in earlier grades. Teachers also need knowledge of the earlier grades material. This produced an enormous mess.

#2 .. Many teachers simply gave up and (sort of secretly or not) went back to whatever book they had used previously (could have been from either of two different publishers)

#3 .. In fall 2013 .. the District decided some PD was necessary and had periodic meetings and paid for teachers to take two online Singapore Math courses. I linked to those on 9/19 above.

#4 .. In fall 2013 .. the District mandated that everyone "really" use the Singapore materials.

K-5 teachers found the videos and PD enlightening and took a more positive view on using the materials.

Things still remained a mess as far as any improvement in MAP math scores at White Pine Middle School(6,7,8) even with great increases in instructional time.

I was at Lund K-12 school with 95 students enrolled.


I have never really examined MiF

From my experience I would think it would be easier to implement at primary grades and more difficult at grades 4 and 5. Scaffolding might well be the operative word... but if teachers have not been trained in Bar Modeling "Ouch"

I recommend the videos ... I would think that the videos or something similar would have been part of district provided PD.

I was at West Seattle HS (2006-2007) my room adjoined the cafeteria. I got to listen to Carla Santorno and Everyday Math PD on a few afternoons and it was pretty worthless.

From my seat in the bleachers far from the action ...
I question if the district staff has a real commitment to making MiF work.

Is there evidence of an organized plan to deliver the PD required to make it happen?

Is there a plan to effectively deal with the lack of exposure or mastery of previous material for grades 4 and 5 students and teachers.

I would think that perhaps a bit of school reorganization into some 4th 5th grade teachers becoming math specialists at grades 4 and 5 with others not teaching math might be worth looking into.....

Considering all of the above and the SPS...
I find SPS test score improvement on the MSP and SBAC over the last 3 years quite an accomplishment ... Good Job by all.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Crackers wrote:

"Can anyone here recommend a reference for parents to learn how to do bar modeling?"

Get connected with all those parents and others at

They will be a great help to you.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

All buildings are different, but our teachers really did spend a fair amount of time working with each other to learn bar modeling. The district also offered a training. Teachers who worked with the younger kids (2nd grade) said it was not an issue. However upper grade teachers who were trying to teach bar modeling to the kids AND have them solve grade level problems said it was much harder. Everyone is hoping/expecting that kids who are learning the curriculum now will be much more skilled at bar modeling by the upper grades.

Crackers- Dan's suggestion is good about parents learning bar modeling. Here are some other ideas. MIF has an online reference book. I believe all kids, above k, were given online access. Last year I saw some different parent trainings on bar modeling. If I see them this year I'll post them in an open thread. Math n Stuff on Roosevelt is always my go to for these types of things. They often know what is going on in terms of resources in the community or resources you can buy at their store. Finally, I would go online. It's amazing to me how many helpful you-tube videos there are on math. Kahn Academy is a great math source. I don't know what they have on bar modeling.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in someone's interpretation of SBAC math results. If you look at 3rd grade, as an example, the distribution of scores has somewhat of a bell curve, with a spike at the highest score, so can we read that as a ceiling?

SPS 3rd grade math SBAC

Other grades have a similar pattern, with a spike of high scores at the upper end.

For comparison, the 3rd grade MSP score distribution:

SPS 3rd grade math MSP

And statewide SBAC results:

WA State 3rd grade math SBAC

Is SBAC an appropriate AL qualifier if it has a clear ceiling?

Anonymous said...

I started homeschooling my child in math at grade 4, using Singapore. It took a bit of work for both of us to learn bar modeling, but well worth the effort, IMHO. I've always been comfortable with algebra and easily translated word problems into algebraic equations. Bar modeling is an interim step, and visualizes the problem concretely. In one case, it allowed me to solve a problem I couldn't have done otherwise, just because it was a hard problem to interpret. It was a great bridge to algebra for my kid, who admittedly is mathy, and who sailed through difficult online algebra. Agree that it's hard to pick up at grade 4 without having built up to it in the earlier grades, unless you understand math well, and take the time to learn it. But teachers are professionals and should be able to put in the work, supported by the district, to get it figured out, then help the kids get it. My other kid learned much more in 5th last year with MIF than she had previously....can't say whether it was the curriculum or the teacher, but they did use the MIF curriculum.

It takes work

Anonymous said...

My experience has been that a 7th grader who really understands Bar Modeling can solve many problems that the average pre-calculus student has great difficulty solving.

A good drawing can often solve problems that others might use a system of simultaneous equations to solve.

-- Dan Dempsey

dan dempsey said...

I do not get it.

The MiF edition adopted was the Common Core edition. So what do Anna Box and company find that needs to be removed or supplemented?

I would hope that MiF presents some topics earlier in grades k-4 than CCSS as that pace is absurdly slow and would result in needing to cover too much in grades 5-8.

I am just really skeptical that the publisher's text needs changes from SPS Staff. Would the effort need to be placed on teaching teachers how to teach the material.

Does the SPS have difficulty because of trying to make MiF happen in grades 4 & 5 when students have had no previous MiF exposure?

-- Dan Dempsey

MathIsMyFocus said...

Thank you Dan D for all your posts.

@Math Parent,there was no coup d'etat with Sue Peters and Rick Burke. That's inflammatory and not accurate. Sue Peters and the others on the Board used evidence (gasp) of what works (see all Dan Dempsey posts) and advocated for what was truly in the best interest of students. The District had been trying to achieve their agenda by figuring out ways to populate the math selection committee with people favorable to their POV. That committee came to the conclusion that more than one text would be Common Core aligned and MiF was one of them. So even if you don't believe that the committee was an engineered one, the Board was not doing something they hadn't vetted. Ultimately it was a committee coming up with a recommendation (not a binding decision). It was the Board's decision (in the capacity of elected officials). MiF was more expensive in large part due to professional development. But I would argue that teacher's math education, no matter, the method, is not anywhere we want it to be. See Liping Ma's Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics (a wonderful and very concrete study of Chinese and American elementary teachers readable by lay people). Evidence of the District trying to get their way continued with their outrageous offer of quick few day "waivers" that historically took months and were sparingly offered. Now this sequencing and re-ordering thing. All part of a long and sustained effort to not do the right thing (and don't get me started on how Everyday Math was chosen and the lawsuit that found the Superintendent and process so irregular that the judge demanded that the District start over--which they didn't. they appealed and the plaintiffs ran out of money).

What parents are seeing is just a skirmish in what has been a few decades of math wars -- none of this makes sense (just feels like a tennis rally that goes on forever) without knowing the deeper history. What parents should know is that many students get to college or community college thinking they are prepared in math, take placement tests and 40% have to be placed in remedial math. Talk to college professors, ask them about readiness. I think it was 60 UW professors en masse who signed a letter a few years back decrying this problem. When students fail the placement tests, they are likely blaming themselves for being math challenged when in fact it was the system that was committed to "Discovery" math (amazing marketing term), use of calculators and a visceral rejection of standard algorithms that got them there. But they don't know that. And they are unlikely to ever complete a STEM career. Have you ever asked yourself why Kumon makes so much money??

Tom Loveless is an excellent source of analysis (Brookings Institution) and I encourage people to read all his work over the years. Here are some recent posts on math: and


Anonymous said...

We just learned at curriculum night that our elementary school (and, we understood, the district?) has jettisoned MiF. The books are untouched on the shelves, and the teachers now get their math curriculum online - one week at a time. Has anyone else heard this? Even our PTA president was baffled, and I can't find anything about this online - this discussion is as close as I've come.