Learn More about Math in Focus

From SPS Communications:

Want to learn more about Seattle Public Schools’ new elementary math program? We have scheduled a “Parent University” at five locations around the district on Thursday, Oct. 9, just for families who want to know more about Math in Focus. 

Trainers will share the framework for the Singapore approach to math, the basis for the Math in Focus program. They also will provide strategies families may use at home to support students in their learning.
“Parent University” runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 9, at the following schools:

  • Eckstein Middle School Auditorium
  • Washington Middle School Lunchroom
  • West Seattle High School Auditorium
  • Whitman Middle School Auditorium
  • Van Asselt Elementary School Auditorium


Anonymous said…
Was the change to Math in Focus supposed to go into effect this year? I thought I had heard that it was, but at the Montlake Elementary curriculum night last week, teachers talked about the Envision math curriculum, not Math in Focus...

-Montlake Parent
Patrick said…
It was supposed to, and I saw cases of Math in Focus textbooks being unloaded for the elementary students at Hazel Wolf the days before school started.
TechyMom said…
McGilvra is using Math in Focus.
Linh-Co said…
There are some schools with waivers. Thorton Creek is still using TERC.
Anonymous said…
Salmon Bay is using Math in Focus.

Anonymous said…
SPS is using Math In Focus. As a 5th grade teacher I can report with all honesty that it's total crap. The examples given in the workbook don't match the work on the page. Math games to help hone skills are non existent. Crap.

-Fifth grade teacher
Anonymous said…
That surprises me. I hear parents and teachers at both K-5 STEM and Schmitz Park are very happy with it. Is it possible the district just hasn't provided enough professional development on it yet?

A study of the Singapore math program, Math in Focus, state test results

Hopeful Parent
2E parent said…
Interesting, 5th grade teacher. My 5th grader, who had a really hard time with both EDM and Envision likes MIF a lot more, and is doing much better with math this year.

The word problems in the old books really tripped kiddo up. EDM was particularly bad, where often I couldn't parse the grammar, and do this sort of thing for a living. Kiddo says MIF if full of numbers instead of words, and that makes it much easier to figure out. Kiddo is gifted and dyslexic.
Anonymous said…
I was surprised as well about Math in Focus. Based on the discussion before the adoption, I thought Math in Focus was going to be great, but the teacher I most respect at our neighborhood school feels the same as Fifth Grade teacher. She finds the Math in Focus lessons unworkable in a real classroom with students of differing levels. She's resorting to pulling out past curriculum (not EDM) so that kids can understand the concepts. Sounds like perhaps it really depends on the types of kids in the classroom.

Central Mom
Anonymous said…
Well, 5th grade teacher, I really hope you are not telegraphing your distaste for math in focus to your students. Our child's 5th grade math teacher has done just that. It is not a good way to motivate students.

It's okay to have these opinions and to vent to other teachers and parents, and to seek improvements, but the kids shouldn't feel like they are being taught using a "bad" book.

- sixwrens
Anonymous said…
My daughter's math teacher hates the new math curriculum (I've heard through other parents/not directly through her words) and has been sending home homework from a different curriculum. It's too early for me to make a real evaluation other than when they did the end of the prior grade math assessment at the beginning of this year, most kids in her class failed the test because the curriculum for Math In Focus covers a lot of material before Every Day Math or presents it in a different way. That test really stressed my daughter out even though it was presented as a "no-stress, doesn't count toward your grade" type of test.

NE Parent of 3
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Don't really know whether they're MIF or not, but my child's homework sheets this year are MUCH better than any previous year in SPS. Child has ADHD and neurological vision stuff, and the sheets lack all the distracting borders, arrows, boxes, cartoonish things, different fonts and sections that used to send child off into la-la-la land of distraction. These homework sheets are plain and simple, easy instructions, all aligned - good amount of space for writing and calculating b/c sheets don't have so much visual clutter, just white space. I don't really know if it's MIF or something the teacher is using - I haven't looked that closely - but I'm happier than in the past. Thus I will credit the curriculum change (b/c I have had another child in same class before, and these are not the same homework - so it is certainly a change).

I wish there were more examples completed for the kid - that's one drawback I see with what's coming home - but IMO better these sheets with no examples than the old sheets where you couldn't even find the darn examples b/c there was so much junk on the page, and the visual clues of what to do next were totally jumbled and distracting. My child couldn't even FIND problems on the old pages - but it's obvious now.

All I can say: tears are declining, and more is getting accomplished. B/c child is less distracted by useless "Did You Know?" boxes and whatnot, child is getting more done faster and feeling better about competence.

Signed - math counts
Anonymous said…
The former conceptual textbooks like Everyday Math were damaging to students who could not follow word problems pretending to be math. Some teachers are comfortable with the older methods, but it does not make them effective. These word problems are time consuming and too many students did not reach proficiency in math.

In 2008 sixty math and science professors at the University of Washington issued a statement expressing concern about the declining level of math competency. Our high remedial rates of math in college should be unacceptable, and a new approach was needed.

I am glad we are moving away from a complicated approach to math. Now it should be expanded to middle and high schools.

S parent
Anonymous said…
I would never complain about curriculum to my fifth graders. That would be unprofessional and unproductive. I use the district's math calendar so that if any student were to transfer into my class from another SSD school, they wouldn't miss a beat. I just wish that the workbooks had better examples embedded in the text, opportunities to practice skills in games (non-existent in 5th grade), and a focus on critical thinking skills.

Fifth grade teacher
Anonymous said…
Fifth grade teacher -

I'm curious what you mean by "critical thinking skills" when discussing a 5th grade math curriculum.

There's lots of critical thinking skills involved in just knowing the math.

However, I suspect you are referring to questions that bring the math into context.

I'd be concerned that even at the fifth grade level, the focus should be primarily on learning the core concepts. Even fifth grade math is a bit early to begin thinking about it in the context of big world problems.

In my MBA program someone asked our Financial Accounting professor how to be successful in his class if they'd never have accounting before. His response went something like this - "In a setting like this, students have the temptation to form teams and try and learn accounting with study buddies. But in order to be successful in a study group, you need to know something about accounting. And you won't get that from a study group. You'll get it by learning the principles from the lectures, the book, and exercises. Once you learn something, you can then go meet with your group. And once everyone's learned something, we'll start looking at this stuff in greater depth and context."

His statement was pretty accurate for our grad level class. Can't talk about context with out the basics. And I tend to feel that applies as well, to 5th grade math.

Personally, I didn't feel that any of the story problems or so-called critical thinking about math really were worth anything until I got to differential calculus (my 'terminal' math course) in college. Then, and only then, did over a decade of core learning in math come together in a way that could really be used for critical thinking.

Anonymous said…
Well, in brief, I'd have to say that I cannot force-feed skills to students and expect them to succeed in the kinds of standards I am accountable and assessments they are expected to take. Critical thinking goes well beyond story problems. Students are hungry for reasons to use the math skills they are learning in science, engineering, and the arts. Yep, even in fifth grade.

Fifth grade teacher
Anonymous said…
I appreciate the answer...

Thanks - northwesterner
Anonymous said…
I teach first grade. I am trying to remain optimist but I've had nothing but complaints from parents because they feel the math is too easy. I am finding it to be a very difficult curriculum to differentiate. I am confused because this is, by far, the wordiest curriculum I've ever used. The first unit test had more reading on it than I've ever seen on a math test, much less a 1st grade one.
Anonymous said…
You bet!

-fifth grade teacher
Anonymous said…
I have a 5th Grader, and so far I'm far more impressed with Math In Focus than any other curriculum we've had so far. Math is typically a subject my daughter struggles with at times, but we've seen great strides so far. (She also has a fantastic math teacher so yeah that helps too.)
Whittier Parent.
Anonymous said…
Our 2nd grade student at Lincoln has started with the 4th grade Math In Focus book. His teacher commented at curriculum night that she had used the book in the past and loved it. Even at Lincoln, they differentiate with walk to math. Our son hasn't commented about the book except to say he now gets math homework 4 days a week, which he consistently finishes on the bus without any help.

Our daughter has started kindergarten at Wedgwood and is using the Math in Focus Kindergarten book. Having spent two years in preschool it will all be very easy for her, and unless its somehow supplemented or accelerated I don't expect she'll learn much math in school this year. I also listened in on her beginning of year assessment, and there weren't even any simple addition or subtraction questions, like 1 plus 2. But then the district doesn't have a formal differentiation program for kindergarten although I know some of the teacher's at Wedgwood have supplemented in the past.

I reviewed the math books last year in depth, and really liked the Math in Focus books the best. I don't believe any of the books that I reviewed would have solved the acceleration problem.

If 75% of a given school needs to be accelerated based on assessments, then it would seem the policies need to be in place to allow it. If the extension work provided by Math in Focus is insufficient and the district or school doesn't allow acceleration, then it would seem the district should provide supplemental materials for those teacher's that need it. Our own kids like to play math games on the Arcademics website, and so far I haven't seen the district offer any online math for our kids to do at home, so we pay for it.


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