Saturday, February 07, 2009

Math Materials Update

You wouldn't know it from the math adoption web page (last updated on October 23, 2008), but there has been some movement on the high school math materials adoption front.

The choices have been narrowed to three:

The Discovering Series from Key Curriculum Press.
Discovering Algebra
Discovering Geometry
Discovering Advanced Algebra

from College Preparatory Math
Algebra Connections,
Geometry Connections,
Algebra 2

from Prentice Hall
Advanced Algebra

Community members are invited review and comment on the selected materials from February 9, 2009, to February 27, 2009, at the JSCEE library.

You will note that the textbooks from all three series are titled Algebra, Geometry, Advanced Algebra. This does not mean that the classes will be in the traditional style instead of the "Integrated Math" style. Ms delaFuente has assured the public and the Board that the curriculum is independent of the textbooks and that either a traditional or reform-style curriculum and pedagogy can be taught out of either a traditional or an "integrated" text.

The news about this progress did not appear on the Math Materials Adoption page, but on the Strategic Plan Update web page. Oddly, on that page, the texts are referred to as "curricula". I guess the textbooks and the curriculum are more closely linked than Ms delaFuente would have us believe. You wonder why people keep confusing the materials and the curriculum? It's because the District keeps confusing the materials and the curriculum.

Time for a little nomenclature lesson for the District staff. The curriculum is the body of knowledge and skills that are supposed to be taught, also called the course of study. The materials are the texts used to help convey that body of knowledge and skills. The curriculum is described in the Standards and, more specifically, in the grade level expectations (GLEs) or performance expectations.

Now, here's something interesting: It is the Board's responsibility to adopt curricula (Policy B61.00, Policy C02.00, Policy C03.00, RCW28A.330.100). In these official statements, curriculum goes by its formal title, "course of study". So when the State changed the math standards and GLE's for grades K through 8, didn't Seattle Public Schools adjust their curricula to match the new standards? I believe they did. And when, exactly, did the Board approve those new curricula? Hmmm... I don't know. I can't find any record of the Board voting to adopt the updated math curricula for grades K through 8. Nor, for that matter, have I seen a Board vote to adopt a high school math curriculum. So, in the absence of a Board adopted curriculum, how can we judge the materials?

I will be asking Ms delaFuente these questions. I'm sure she has excellent answers that will fill us all with confidence.


Dorothy Neville said...

Doesn't fidelity of implementation from Prentice Hall sound wickedly delightful?

I guess high school math chairs have more clout than elementary math teachers. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall in these adoption meetings.

dan dempsey said...

Hey Dorothy,

Doesn't fidelity of implementation from Prentice Hall sound wickedly delightful?

I'm all for it.... except it won't work initially .. because over 50% of the SPS kids are not ready for high school math. WHY? because they have been deprived of learning k-8 math.

I still recommend that P-H is the best of the three.

At least Discovering Algebra is accurate with their title ... yes the kids will be "discovering algebra" because this book teaches very little algebra. Thus the students will have to discover algebra or not. NOT being the likely scenario for many.

dan dempsey said...


At last I disagree with you on a math point...
You said:
So when the State changed the math standards and GLE's for grades K through 8, didn't Seattle Public Schools adjust their curricula to match the new standards? I believe they did.

I believe they did not change ....
One of us is wrong on this and I believe you have been fooled.
But I could be wrong on this.

Just because the district posted the Math grade level performance expectations that hardly indicates they had any intention of following them......

In actual fact they did not ..

It is still all ahead full on Fidelity of Implementation to the Everyday Math pacing plan.

{Contrary to what the June 2008 Strategic plan would lead one to believe.}

Check fifth grade here:


(for the viewer this is the most usable form I could find this in, .. do not worry about it being from another district .. same universal nonsense is posted most everywhere in some form at EDM using districts .. these are directly from EDM central)

Does this look like a focused narrowing of topics????

Do you see anything in Grade 5 that resembles dividing with a two digit divisor?

No ... I don't think so.

What you will find in the SPS is this:
and lots of it.

Like I said Pittsburgh is giving up on EDM and Beaverton has a coming HS adoption in which they are not even thinking about continuing with "Discovering Algebra". Does that make "Discovering Algebra" the next likely SPS mistake?

Michael Rice said...

Greetings from the Front Lines!!!

We use the Algebra and Geometry Connections from College Prep Math at Rainier Beach HS. We like how deep it goes on the big ideas that we are trying to teach. I feel that for the first time our students have a real understanding of the euqation of a line, how slope is the "growth" of the pattern and the y-intercept is how much y is when x = 0 or when it crosses the x-axis.

Yes, I can see many of you rolling your eyes right now and thinking "why does this take so long?" Well, many of the freshmen we have come to us without EVER passing a middle school math class. It doesn't matter what the textbook is, these students never passed anything. I think that more than anything explains the lack of success that students have. They have never been held accountable before, they were just passed along until high school. When they get to high school, it is a shock that they have to actually pass to move on and they don't know what to do.

I would favor PH, but it doesn't really matter what is picked. Untill things change in the middle and grade schools, we are kidding ourselves if we think any math curriculum will make that much of a difference.

kprugman said...

There are alot of good points being made here - our district adopted both the traditional PH sequence and Glencoe for the failing track.

In terms of achievement, it doesn't seem to matter, because the failure rates continue climbing. My own children skipped math in high school. We opted for getting good grades instead. They are taking it through adult school and community college.

Most kids aren't prepared for lofty ninth grade expectations.

CPM gets better results, but its the teacher training program, not the curriculum that matters.

After one adoption, I went through a CPM teacher taining program and now after another adoption, I use Glencoe problems to teach CPM concepts (district adoption for extended algebra). I get better results than my learned colleagues, but I don't teach sitting down either, so I suppose that helps.

Lets not quibble over definitions, like SPS officials are prone to do (e.g. curriculum, standards, and textbooks.)

Most of my students don't have the reading skills to understand PH. SPS will need an alternative textbook that parallels Prentice-Hall.

Why can't the US have one curriculum for all students like every other country does? That students have to pass before being advanced to the next class. Why do we have to invent more curriculum for our failures and conjure up more excuses?

Dorothy Neville said...

I believe they did not change ....
One of us is wrong on this and I believe you have been fooled.
But I could be wrong on this.

Dan, I think you have to tune your satire/subtlety meter a bit. Charlie often writes like this. He knows the score as well as you do.

One SSD middle school math teacher I know -- nationally board certified --- had never even heard of fidelity of implementation and I know others aren't following it either. This adoption at the HS level, along with some strengthening in middle school science, could influence more middle school math teachers to find their own path. That might trickle down to elementary, but they are typically less math savvy, so maybe not.

The Keys To Series is curriculum lite on every subject I've ever seen, not just math. I worked in a bookstore and saw many. Not worth touching.

I don't have familiarity with low reading levels, so cannot comment on that aspect. With a good teacher and concentrating on learning how to solve problems, not using the text for explanations, is it that much a difference if the reading level is too hard? I am not trying to be snarky or anything, it's an honest query. Lots of kids seem to pay attention to the exposition and never look at the text. But perhaps if the text is intimidating it unfairly frightens some kids? I'd have to see both books side by side and have an experienced teacher point out the issues.

dan dempsey said...


The Discovering Series is from Key Curriculum Press.

Discovering Algebra is something that might be suitable for some supplementation. (In a one year only pilot) I used the first edition during 2000-2001 school year, the worst algebra book I've ever used. Lots of Statistics, lots of graphing calculator, but very little authentic algebra. That is why the title is so appropriate ... students will need to discover algebra because it is not taught to them.

The idea of building skill upon skill in an organized fashion ... seems to have escaped Key Curriculum Press.

This idea of building skill upon skill in an organized fashion also escaped SPS math leadership during the last decade.

Everyday Math is certainly a fine example of the district's continuing failure to recognize the obvious.

dan dempsey said...

Hey Michael Rice,

Great to hear from you on the Front Lines!!!

I am at Lummi Nations School, where they used Everyday math for about a decade and the kids know very little arithmetic. EDM does not teach division and many of my kids can either not multiply or use the Lattice Method from Everyday math because they are unfamiliar with the standard algorithm. (The lattice method is pretty useless when multiplying two trinomials together in Algebra)

The Bureau of Indian Education is funding a Saxon Math program which is replacing Everyday Math. The BIE said there are only two math programs that have any evidence of success with Indian kids. Not Terc Not EDM ... Saxon and a direct instruction program are the two.

I am with you 100% on the fact that until this district starts to teach k-8 math successfully grade 9 math will be a trauma center.

Let's get Prentice Hall adopted and then let's get the board started on fixing k-8 math as the administration continually avoids that topic.

Wonder when the SPS promotion / non-promotion policy will kick in.
The administration is unable to follow either district policies or the Strategic Plan .. thus Excellence for All continues to elude us.

What will a real math test at grades 3 through 8 show next year when the bogus WASL is replaced in Spring 2010. If we stick with Fidelity of Implementation to EDM, I wonder what 5th graders will do when they encounter long division on the state test?


kprugman said...

To Michael - "Students aren't held accountable for anything anymore."

Well yes, they are made accountable because in the US students simply go to a failing track, where more often than not, they suffer through endless, monotonous boredom and repeated moronic exercises and after four years then maybe they graduate.

When teachers lack quality materials, they resort to quantity.

The biggest mistake people make (educators included) is confusing illiteracy with intelligence.

To lofty, nationally-certified board educator -
'Fidelity of implementation...of instructional content' is an apology used by math reformers to defend their 'exemplary' textbooks. It was first lifted from bible study class.

Jeanne Century wrote a paper about measuring it, but she's not the first person to use it. In special education communities it has an entirely different meaning.

Merlino who did the EDM implementation in Philadelphia with Briars actually built a classroom index. He does the evaluation of your MSP in Washington State. Your MSP, directed by Pinky, is mostly responsible for pushing the reform curriculum in your state.


This is one of the stupidest ideas in education I have ever seen. e.g. deduct 5 points if desks are not flat.

And now we have endless illogical pursuits, like -

Questioning fidelity? What does faithful implementation look like.

I don't have to lampoon village idiots, they do it much better to themselves than I ever could.

One half of me is yours, the other half yours - Mine own, I would say; but if mine, then yours and so yours! - WS was listening.

dan dempsey said...


I do know it from the Math Materials adoption page....

February 5 (8:00 AM – 3:00 PM)
@ JS Center Rm. 2778 Committee Meeting #5: CORE only (grades 9 – 11); narrow to top three choices; schedule and plan for site visits

Yup... true to the schedule the top three choices have been made....

Oh you mean .. they were supposed to tell us what the choices were.

You are correct I don't know where to find that.

TwinMom2003 said...

I just watched the 60 Minutes interview with Captain Sully.

This man knew real math and physics -- not a sense of them. Without truly understanding the altitude of the plane, the thrust, the speed, and the distance to the airport it would have been a very different story.

By knowing 'real' math and appyling it, Capt. Sully saved not only the crew and passengers, but also their families and those on the ground from the most terrible of grief.

Is there any more compelling argument for teaching actual math in our schools vs. just a sense of it?

dan dempsey said...

The National Council on Teacher Quality ...


Dorothy Neville said...

The Science Goddess is a Washington educator. She used to teach middle school and high school science, branched out to coaching elementary teachers on science and now works for OSPI on science education and assessment. Her blog is quite good.

Last Spring she sat for the elementary endorsement exams for Washington and Texas.

Here she compares studying for the exams, especially math.

Here she comments on the actual Washington elementary endorsement exam.

North End Mom said...

"Math Update" is on the agenda for the Feb 11 Board Meeting:

seattle citizen said...


I think Captain Scully understood a LACK of thrust: His engines thrust themselves into a flock of birds. If these had been thrushes, the damage would have been minimal, but they were ducks who couldn't duck, and they caused the engines to feather...hence, no thrust.

I think this "miracle on the Hudson" speaks to both REAL math and also to experiential learning. Sully, like many good pilots, learned by flying from the seat of his pants. Sure, vectors, drag coefficients, flap angle..all these can be calculated, but until you actually sit in the plane and fly it the book knowledge is utterly useless. How do you account for the various factors at play, such as windspeed, air pressure...which flucuate at a micro-level? You FEEL it, due to experience.
This is why I have yet to trust the newer "fly-by-wire" systems, which control rudders, ailerons, etc by digital signal rather than mechanical linkage.
We need humans at the controls because their brains can react so, so much quicker and with better "judgement" than a computer, which uses pure calculation.

seattle citizen said...

I'll correct myself:
There are SOME systems which can be designed to give faster (or different) responses than humans. I'd cite ABS, Electronic Stability Control, Traction control, and active AWD. All of these use sensors that can act in concert to keep a vehicle from sliding off the road in evasive actions, on ice, hard braking etc.

And they were all designed by engineers, most of whom took the pure math classes in HS...

TwinMom2003 said...

Seattle Citizen,

A thrust bust because of a thrush?

A flight blight with geese in sight?

This twin mom, is no match for your word aplomb. ;-)

Charlie Mas said...

The Strategic Plan Implementation Update page has now been corrected to make it clear that it is materials - and not curricula - that are being selected for recommendation to the Board.

Still no luck finding the Board vote on the updated curricula. Still looking for it and asking about it.

Still no answer from Ms delaFuente, although I did write to her and thank her for the correction to the Strategic Plan Implementation/Update page. I also asked her to update her Math Materials Adoption page and to help me find the Board vote to approve the updated curricula.