Understanding, and Outliers in a Sea of Outliers

Editor’s note: This is the third piece in a series called “Out on Good Behavior: Teaching Math While Looking Over Your Shoulder” by Barry Garelick, a second-career math teacher in California.  He has written articles on math education that have appeared in The AtlanticEducation NextEducation News and AMS Notices.  He is also the author of three books on math education.  Says Mr. Garelick: “At its completion, this series will be published in book form by John Catt Educational, Ltd.” Chapters 1 and 2 can be found here and here.

3. Understanding, and Outliers in a Sea of Outliers

During my second week of school at St. Stevens the principal, Marianne, called me in to her office to tell me some good news.  “I just want to let you know that we heard from Mary’s mother and that Mary said she is really happy in your class; she says that “Mr. Garelick really wants us to understand.”

I was glad to hear that Mary’s mother was pleased, and while I haven’t taught for very long, I knew enough not to believe I was any kind of miracle worker—particularly during the first few weeks at school when everything is new and has the cast of a halo over it. At my previous school during back-to-school night one year before, a parent of one of my students in my seventh grade class said something similar. “My son said that this is the first time in any math class that he actually understood the math.”

In both cases, it didn’t hurt that the word “understand” was used in conjunction with my teaching, although the word has different meaning for me than what others in education think it means. I want students to be able to do the math. That’s pretty much what students mean when they say they understand. It isn’t something I obsess over.

Mary was one of two girls in my eighth grade math class (Math 8), who had to come in twice a week for intervention help for half an hour before classes began. The other student was Valerie who had been classified as special needs since the lower grades. They were both very animated girls; Mary was very outgoing and friendly with me. Valerie was more guarded. In her world of Smart Phone, songs, reality TV, I felt she viewed me as frightfully out of touch with what was really important. Math was certainly not on her list.

My Math 8 class was similar in some ways to my last year’s seventh grade class. My prior school, like St. Stevens, had two seventh grade math classes—one accelerated, the other not. I taught the non-accelerated group who considered themselves “the dumb class”. Their doubts were compounded by their last year’s math teacher who was not popular with parents or students, and was finally let go by the school.  My Math 8 class similarly knew they didn’t make the cut for the eighth grade algebra class (which I was teaching). Their previous math teacher was similarly unpopular—and also let go by the school.

In a school as small as St. Stevens, there weren’t enough students to form a remedial class by itself. As a result, in the midst of a class in which the students already doubted their abilities, Mary and Valerie felt they were outliers. I worked with them as best as I could. I called on them infrequently in the main class, and focused on them during my intervention time.

At first, I tried to get them up to speed with what the rest of the class was doing. During one of my sessions with them, I went over one-step equations. I asked them to solve the equation 6x = 12.   I had reached the point where neither one was trying to subtract the 6 from 6x  to isolate x. But while Marie understood that 6x meant 6 multiplied by x , Valerie could not see that; nor could she see that solving it meant undoing the multiplication by division.

“How do we solve it?” I asked.

 “You put the 6 underneath both sides,” Valerie said.

That is:

Putting one number underneath another meant divide to Valerie which is as procedural-minded as you can get. If ever pressed to justify my acceptance of her level of understanding to well-meaning doing-math-is-not-knowing-math types I could say that her method at least incorporated the concept that a fraction means division. No one ever asked, but just to make sure, I said “And what do we call the operation when we put another number ‘underneath’ another?”

She thought a moment.

Mary whispered in Valerie’s ear: “Division”.

“Oh; it’s division,” Valerie said.

Over the next few weeks, I worked with the two girls privately while trying to keep them on track in the Math 8 class. I realized that their deficits were so significant that to hold them to the standards of Math 8 would result in failure. Katherine, the assistant principal agreed with me, and said to focus instead on filling in the gaps and to base their grade on their mastery of those.

I leveled with them one morning when they came in for their intervention.

“The Math 8 class must be extremely painful for you,” I said.

Valerie for the first time let down her guard.  “I just don’t understand what’s going on.”

I found her statement true in a number of ways.  One was just the fact that she admitted it. But more, it brought home the issue of understanding. Of course she didn’t understand—she barely had the procedural and factual tools that would allow her even the lowest level of understanding of what we were doing.

While there are those who would say “Of course they didn’t understand; traditional math has beat it out of them,” such thinking is so misguided that, in the words of someone whose name I can’t remember: “it isn’t even wrong”. In the case of Valerie and Mary, they needed more than the two half-hour interventions every week. They needed someone who specialized in working with what is known as dyscalculia. But qualifying as a special needs student doesn’t guarantee the student will get the kind of help to deal with a disability.

They had finished what I gave them to do early that day, and Mary being in a celebratory mood said the two were going to make a drawing for me. They giggled while they drew a rather strange looking bird laying eggs and eating blueberries among other odd things going on and presented it to me.  I put it on the wall where it remained for the entire school year. Sometimes other students would ask what the drawing was, and they would explain it, excitedly.  The excitement was partly due to them having drawn it, and partly due to my keeping it on the wall for all to see.

Review: DIVE Online Math and Science Program

This article is in response to a question about DIVE, an online mathematics and science program for homeschool and/or private school students. Its focus has been on using Saxon Math but the program creator and director, Dr. David Shormann, has now written his own online mathematics program called Shormann Math. It is based in part on the Saxon methodology of incremental learning and continual review but now has integrated material that he feels is necessary for today’s students to be successful in math and science programs. This includes technology applications, computer math, real-world problems, and non-standard solutions. See more at https://diveintomath.com/shormann-math.

Dr. Shormannearned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and a master’s degree in marine chemistry from the University of Texas. His doctorate in limnology (a study of inland waters) is from Texas A&M University. He has an extensive background working with mathematics and science from aerospace engineering to oceanography. Presently living in Hawaii, Dr. Shormann said he is currently working on a patent-pending design. “It is a biomimetic airfoil based off a humpback whale’s pectoral fins. LOTS of math application going on with that. It’s got everything from Fibonacci ratios to computational fluid dynamics!”  

I contacted him because I had heard he was changing some of the methods used in Saxon Math. This seemed unacceptable to me since Saxon Math is successful when users follow Saxon methods with little to no exception.

We talked by telephone on Thursday, March 14. This is a summary of that 70-minute conversation:

Saxon Math unchanged:

Saxon Math is still being offered with no changes to its requirement of 30 homework problems and its methodology. Video lectures to accompany Saxon Math are still available in grades 4-12.

On homework:

However, his own Shormann Math materials presently cover Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Advanced Math. These have 100 video lectures and lessons in each subject with 20 homework problems, as compared to Saxon Math with its 125 lessons/30 homework problems per lesson in Algebra 1; 129 lessons/30 homework in Algebra 2; and 125 lessons/30 homework in Advanced Mathematics. 

With 20 homework problems which MUST be worked in each of the 100 lessons, that equals 2,000 homework problems for each course. Dr. Shormann believes this is adequate homework practice. (All homework problems in Saxon Math MUST also be worked.) 

Considering how many schools are limiting or eliminating homework today, and one of the reasons public schools in particular avoid Saxon Math with its demand that all 30 homework problems be solved, I find Dr. Shormann is remaining true to the Saxon philosophy that completion of all homework problems supports a student’s retention and learning of information in daily lessons.

Struggling by students:

I was concerned that students are not being allowed to see the solutions manual until after they had made several efforts to work out a problem. I interpreted that to reflect the progressive philosophy that students learn best by “struggling” through a lesson. Dr. Shormann explained that with online coursework, the easy answer for students is often simply to look at the solutions manual. He wants to be sure they have made good-faith efforts to work the problems; he doesn’t want students to “struggle,” but he does want them to put in the time to try and reach the correct solution. That made sense to me.

Non-standard solutions:

We discussed the issue of “non-standard solutions,” which is a particularly egregious topic with me for elementary and middle school students. Dr. Shormann said these solution processes are now required on the SAT and ACT. That is, a traditional procedure for finding an answer may need to be supported with alternative procedures to prove the student understands the concept within the SAT question. 

I accepted, therefore, that non-standard solutions may need to be taught now at the high school level, but I explained those are being required, as interpreted with Common Core standards by publishers and teachers, in grades 1-8. I believe it is unacceptable to require these unfamiliar, non-standard methods in such early grade levels. For one thing, too many parents cannot help their children with lesson assignments that use such unfamiliar methods. (There are many other reasons against supplanting traditional procedures with these non-standard methods at the K-8 level.)

Real world problems:

I asked about the use of “real world” problems that Dr. Shormann promotes on his website.  John Saxon hated that progressives used the term “real world” problems simply to promote politically correct ideas within their curriculum. Dr. Shormann’s problems are from “real world”, however, as related to specific occupations, personal interests, math history, etc. That satisfied me.

Integrated math:

I said the description of “integrated” mathematics is a loaded term used by progressives and resisted by many traditionalists. Based on European and Asian math programs that are not separated into distinct subjects such as algebra and geometry, and thus are “integrated” materials, Dr. Shormann believed that Saxon pioneered integrated math in America by integrating geometry throughout the Saxon algebra books and advanced math. 

I explained Saxon did that for only one reason: He said geometry is used here as a “wedge” course to weed out students from advanced math classes. That is, when students take a sequence of Algebra 1, Geometry, and then Algebra 2, the year between the algebra courses causes weaker students to struggle in Algebra 2. He believed that was eliminating many students who could have worked Algebra 2 successfully if they had had continuity with their learning in the subject. By spacing geometry over three courses, Saxon’s goal was simply to provide an uninterrupted access for more students entering higher mathematics and science.

I’m still concerned that use of the word “integrated” in math education conjures up the weak progressive materials that are not written on the level of European or Asian courses. They are, instead, at fault for much of the failure of math education programs in America. John Saxon’s precise use of “incremental learning” and “continual review” offers more clarity in describing his sometimes-called “blended” or “scaffolding” methods. 

Summary:

Dr. Shormann and I discussed many other topics. At this point I will say that I believe his online program is an excellent one and his heart truly is in the right place for students’ learning. The traditional Saxon Math can be taken or his new Shormann Math with its integrated materials is available. 

While my heart will always be with the pure and proven Saxon Math at all levels, I appreciate Christian values that support mathematics, or vice-versa, being available in lessons to non-public school students. Because I had a semester course in the history of mathematics years ago that hooked me on the subject, I am also pleased that he’s incorporating people and topics from that rich history into his lessons. This can help explain how greatly the world of mathematics has always transcended throughout, and thus supported, other subject areas. 

I hope this information is helpful regarding the DIVE mathematics education program.

(Video) Alternative Math

I watched a short film yesterday entitled “Alternative Math.” The description of the video says, “A well-meaning math teacher finds herself trumped by a post-fact America.”

Obviously, the plot is intentionally ridiculous, and, generally, we don’t see schools respond to parents like this fictional school acquiesced to the parents’ demands.  Also when parents complain about bias they’re not referring to something like math which is straightforward (except for the asinine way basic math is being taught due to Common Core).

That said, it literally made me laugh out loud. I’m thankful that in my brief time teaching I never encountered parents like this.

Enjoy!

An Open Letter to Bill Gates on Preparing Students for Algebra

Photo credit: World Economic Forum (CC-By-SA 2.0)

Dear Mr. Gates,

You recently said, “Math is one area where we want to generate stronger evidence about what works. What would it take, for example, to get all kids to mastery of Algebra I?”

I believe I can answer your question. There have been two significant math studies done in the last decade, reaching very similar conclusions. The first was the National Mathematics Advisory Panel Report of 2008 commissioned by President George W. Bush. Here are some of their conclusions: students’ difficulty with fractions (including decimals and percents) is pervasive and a major obstacle to further progress in mathematics including algebra. The panel suggested curriculum should allow sufficient time to learn fractions, and teachers must know effective interventions for teaching fractions. Preparation of elementary and middle school teachers in mathematics needs to be strengthened; using elementary teachers who have specialized in elementary mathematics could be an alternative to increasing all elementary teachers’ math content knowledge by focusing the need for expertise on fewer teachers.

Another problem is that many textbooks are too long (700 to 1000 pages) and include non-mathematical content like photographs and motivational stories. Key topics should be built on a focused, coherent progression, and continual revisiting of topics year after year without closure should be avoided.

Lack of automatic recall in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division is a serious deficiency as is a lack of proficiency with whole numbers, fractions and certain aspects of geometry and measurement, which are the foundations for algebra. Of these, knowledge of fractions is the most important foundational skill not developed among American students.

The panel advised that algebra problems involving patterns be greatly reduced in state tests and on the NAEP assessment. Also districts should ensure that all prepared students have access to an authentic algebra course by 8th grade, and more students should be prepared to enroll in such a course by 8th grade.

The second important study, “Early Predictors of High School Mathematics Achievement” was published in June 14, 2012, and an article about it, entitled “Fractions are the key to math success, new study shows,” was posted at the Univ. of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research on June 18, 2012. Robert Siegler, a cognitive psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University, was the lead author of this study which analyzed long-term data on more than 4,000 children from both the United States and the United Kingdom. It found students’ understanding of fractions and division at age 10 predicted algebra and overall math achievement in high school, even after statistically controlling for a wide range of factors including parents’ education and income and children’s age and I.Q.

Univ. of Michigan researcher Pamela Davis-Kean, the co-author of the study, said, “These findings demonstrate an immediate need to improve the teaching and learning of fractions and division.”

Dr. Siegler stated, “We suspected that early knowledge in these areas was absolutely crucial to later learning of more advanced mathematics, but did not have any evidence until now.”

I know how interested you and your wife are in improving education, especially in math, for our students. As a state school board representative, I understand the importance of getting our teachers and students on track immediately. I believe we can succeed, though, if we will follow the advice given in these two studies. I would certainly be glad to discuss this subject with you or your staff.

Sincerely,

Betty Peters
Dothan, AL

The Scary Square Root Symbol

The square root symbol, in the past some high school students may have felt dread in the pit of their stomachs when they saw this symbol. Before it was due to a student struggling with math, but not anymore.

Last week I saw a story in the Miami Herald that I wished I read in The Onion. It reads:

A discussion among students at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, La., about a mathematical symbol led to a police investigation and a search of one of the student’s homes, according to the Allen Parish Sheriff’s Office.

On the afternoon of Feb. 20, detectives investigated a report of terroristic threats at the school, where they learned that a student had been completing a math problem that required drawing the square-root sign.

Students in the group began commenting that the symbol, which represents a number that when multiplied by itself equals another number, looked like a gun.

After several students made comments along those lines, another student said something the sheriff’s office said could have sounded like a threat out of context.

Police searched the student’s home, where they found no guns or any evidence that he had any access to guns. Authorities also wrote there was no evidence the student had any intent to commit harm.

“The student used extremely poor judgment in making the comment, but in light of the actual circumstances, there was clearly no evidence to support criminal charges,” the department wrote, adding that the school board had been contacted to determine any disciplinary action for the student.

This says more about these students’ understanding of math than anything else.

Average U.S. Math Literacy PISA Scores Drop 18 Points Since 2009

pisa

Looking at the PISA 2015 results that were released by the National Center for Educational Statistics it shows that there has been a drop in average math literacy scores among 15-year-olds since 2009 (pre-Common Core).

They write:

The U.S. average score in mathematics literacy in 2015 was 12 score points lower than the average score in 2012 and 18 score points lower than the average in 2009, but was not measurably different than the average mathematics literacy scores in 2003 and 2006.

I should add than in 2015 only 6 percent of 15-year-olds in the U.S. taking the test scored proficiency level 5 or above with 29 percent at level 2 or below.

Massachusetts’ average score was 30 points higher than the U.S. average – 500 to 470. If Massachusetts were ranked as a separate nation it would have been in 20th place compared to the U.S. that is tied for 40th place with Israel. Massachusetts saw a 12 point drop since 2012.

U.S. PISA scores in science literacy and reading literacy were not measurably different than in previous years. It should be noted that Massachusetts scored 33 points higher in science – 529 to 496 and 30 points higher in reading – 527 to 497. Comparing Massachusetts to other nations would be tied for 6th place in Science and 2nd place in reading.

Before Common Core Massachusetts PISA scores were among the best in the world as well. Considering how well they scored in science it is odd they are dumbing their science standards down. Their performance in reading has not been diminished due to Common Core, but nationally we have not seen improvement.

Saxonisms—The wit and wisdom of John Saxon

Below are some “Saxonisms” that illustrate the wit and wisdom of John Saxon a well known math teacher and math textbook publisher.

Results, not methodology, should be the basis of curriculum decisions.

Fundamental knowledge is the basis of creativity.

Creativity springs unsolicited from a well prepared mind.

Creativity can be discouraged or encouraged, but “creativity” cannot be taught.

Problem solving is a process of concept recognition and concept application.

Problem solving is therefore the application of previously learned concepts.

The “art” of problem solving cannot be taught.

The use of productive thought patterns can be taught,

but the act of “critical thinking” cannot be taught.

Educators cannot teach students to reason; they can hope only to provide students with the skills to reason. Prevailing math teaching methods fail to do that.

Mathematics is an individual sport and is not a team sport.

Students do not detest work; they detest effort without purpose.

On how students think: “Aren’t you interested in theory?”

Answer: “No, man, I just want to know how to get the answer.”

Beautiful explanations do not lead to understanding.

Teachers are not paid to teach.

Teachers are paid to find a way for students to learn.

You do not teach mathematics with your head, but with your heart.

Making eyes sparkle does not come from erudite mathematics.

Teachers say they are going to teach the children to think.

The children can think already.

What they need to know is the math to use in their thinking.

Dr. Benjamin Bloom says you must overlearn beyond mastery

until you can do it like Fred Astaire said:

“Do the dance while reading Shakespeare.” 

  I contend that our job is to teach rewarding responses to mathematical stimuli,

to teach thought patterns that have been found to lead to the solutions,

to allow the students to practice reacting to the stimuli with these thought patterns and

to be rewarded with the warm feeling of pride that accompanies the correct answer.

I believe that students should be gently led and constantly applauded for their efforts.

I oppose intimidation in any form. Mathematics classes can become warm sanctuaries

towards which students gravitate because there they are asked

to solve puzzles by using familiar thought patterns.

You grasp an abstraction almost by osmosis through long-term exposure.

You can’t put your hand on it. That’s the reason we call it an abstraction.

We’ve never had research that shows how long it takes for students to absorb

abstractions in mathematics. It takes a long time. Then the summer lets them forget it.

Meaningful education research is an oxymoron.

We have more education research in America

than all the other countries and kids are at the bottom.

The math educators spend time at the universities

playing like they’re scientists and they publish their papers.

The idea that children can be taught from books that are unintelligible to adults

is absurd. This should be our first check from now on: If we can’t read and understand the book, then the book is unsatisfactory.

Most math books are like the Book of Revelation—

horror stories and surprises from beginning to end.

Students see my book as the 23rd Psalm.

It’s a nice safe place to go.

Saxon books will win every contest by an order of magnitude.

If it were possible to teach people to think, it would be possible

to teach professors of mathematics education to be mathematicians.

The only difference between a mathematician and

a professor of mathematics education is the creative spark.

[One studies inside the mathematical sciences. The other, the results of those studies.]

We have allowed this fraud, this pasquinade, on education by these people

who are literal and total gross incompetents, and they have destroyed

mathematics education in America to the point that I,

a retired Air Force test pilot who has flown two combat tours,

and whose profession was killing, know more about teaching than they do.

By asking math teachers of America to adopt the new list of fads without testing them, you will cause the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged to widen because inner city schools are so bad that they will do anything that you say so they can protect their rear ends.”

It has to stop right here, right now.

The time for inactive skepticism is past.

I’m going to bypass the math establishment because a man convinced against his will

is of the same opinion. I will run over these people with a bulldozer.

Either I am the most brilliant thing to come down the pike,

having doubled some students’ test scores, or

the people in charge of math texts are totally incompetent.

  This is more than one man lighting a candle.

When they see the brilliance of this candle,

they’re going to have to light their own or be overpowered.

I know I don’t make headway by speaking out this way,

but I am determined to change this system of math education.

Our math experts aren’t really experts; they have abdicated

all claim to control by their behavior of the last 20 years.

I’m mad, and I’m doing something about it!

It’s a joyful, joyous experience, this one-sided battle.

There I am on one side and aligned with me are all the mommas and daddies

and employers. On the other are the major book companies

and their committees of experts.

My side has to win.

I believe I’ll be proven right by 2015 or 2020.

John Saxon was West Point graduate with three engineering degrees and a retired U.S. Air Force war hero who began a second career in 1971 as a math teacher, author, and publisher of K-12 mathematics textbooks. From 1981 to 2004, the year his company was sold, Saxon Publishers had distributed seven million textbooks worldwide. More “Saxonisms” can be found in John Saxon’s Story, a genius of common sense in math education by Nakonia (Niki) Hayes. Check http://saxonmathwarrior.com.

Indiana to Continue Using Fuzzy Math in New Standards?

indiana-flag (1)Hoosiers can now comment publicly on Indiana’s draft academic standards until March 12, 2014.  Instructions and the link to the form can be found here.

You can read the standards below:

There is a lot of skepticism around the review committee that has been appointed to review and rewrite the standards.  The timeline for the adoption of the new standards is extremely short as the final adaption by the State Board of Education will be on April 9, 2014.  Hoosiers Against Common Core called the review panel a stacked deck.  Heather Crossin makes the following points:

  • 15 of the 29 members of the Evaluation Panel can be readily “red-flagged” as having a pro-Common Core bias. 
  • 13 out of 32 members of the College and Career Ready Panel can be readily “red-flagged” as having a pro-Common Core bias.
  • Only 1 individual, out of a combined total of 53, can be readily “flagged” as having an anti-Common Core  bias.
  • 8 Individuals sit on both the Evaluation Panel and the College and Career Readiness Panel.
  • 7 of the 8 individuals who sit on both panels, and thus wield a greater level of influence, can be readily “red-flagged” as having a pro-Common Core bias.
  • Only 1 Professor of Mathematics is a confirmed member of either panel, and he testified in favor of Common Core Standards at the Interim Legislative Study Committee, August 5, 2013.
  • Several members of both committees belong to, and/or have presented together at conferences for, the Indiana Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM), an affiliate of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the NCTM, and the Hoosier Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (HATME).
  • The Evaluation Team is divided into bands (such as Grade 6-12 Math).  In most of these “bands” or subcommittees, the majority of seats are held by individuals who can be readily “red-flagged” as having a pro-Common Core bias.
  • None of the Hoosiers whose names were submitted by Common Core opponents as candidates for the panels, such as IU Mathematics Professors Jim Davis and Chris Connell, were contacted or selected to serve.
  • In addition to the pro-Common Core bias of the panel members, a similar bias exists regarding which sets of standards were selected to be officially evaluated.

Be sure to read her entire argument.

Public Law 286 was passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2013, which created Indiana Code 20-19-2-14.5 concerning the State Board of Education’s responsibility to review Indiana’s Academic Standards. The law specifically mandates the State Board to develop college and career readiness standards for Mathematics and English/Language Arts compliant with state and federal requirements before July 1, 2014 and to hold public hearings on the proposed standards prior to adoption.  So why adopt in April?  Why not extend this a couple more months?

Why are teachers being told little will change?

Then there is this email that has been circulating among teachers in Lafayette, IN:

For all of you that are curious about the article in the INDY STAR today regarding scrapping the Common Core standards, I spoke to Dr. Schauna Findlay today.  Schauna is one of the closest individuals to this situation, so I trust her information.

Here is what I have learned from her:

The INDY STAR published an article today about Indiana scrapping the Common Core standards.  This is not completely accurate.   In the article, it says we will revert back to the old Indiana standards by July 1st.  We will NEVER transition back to these standards – on July 1st, we will adopt the NEW Indiana Academic standards.   Now, here is the kicker….those standards will most likely look ALMOST IDENTICAL to the CCSS.  We will take the CCSS standards, add a few that outline more details (mostly math related) and adopt them as Indiana standards.   What the article did not say was that we HAVE to adopt College and Career Readiness standards to stay in compliance with our NCLB waiver.   And, when all is said and done….the standards will completely reflect the CCSS standards.   It is VERY much a political issue at this point – the issue is not with the standards or content of the standards, but rather WHO controls the content. 

So, if teachers ask….don‘t stop your work on CCSS – they are just getting a new name.   I understand from Dr. Schauna Findlay (I spoke in length with her today.) that the draft standards are coming out late February.  Once they do, if you compare the new drafted standards to the CCSS, they will see that they are practically (or even exactly) the same.   I will do my best to keep you posted. 

Thanks!! Tami

Tami Hi
cks

Professional Development Coordinator

Wabash Valley Education Center

3061 Benton Street

West Lafayette, IN 47906

Phone: 765-588-1146

Cell: 765-491-3086

www.esc5.k12.in.us

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Dr. Schauna Findlay is the Chief Academic Officer for Goodwill Education Initiatives in Indianapolis, IN.  Prior to joining Goodwill, Dr. Findlay was the director of Curriculum and Instruction at the Indiana Department of Education.  She gave the closing testimony for the first legislative study committee on the Common Core State Standards that was required by HB 14327, last year’s pause bill.

Some problems a couple of our members who are well versed in reading and evaluating math standards have noticed thus far when reading the Indiana draft standards:

  • The new IN process standards are identical to the problematic 8 CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice.  IN adds one more—Use technology strategically.
  • Dividing is included in the 6th grade but the standard algorithm is not required—not even mentioned for division.
  • 5th grade multiplication with standard algorithm is identical to CCSS.
  • Grade 2 standard is identical “Fluently add and subtract within 100 using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.”  He gave an explanation why he focused on that standard, “I picked that standard because many of the CCSS standards call for “strategies based on place value’ while they delay the requirement for the standards algorithms.  The new IN do not seem to require the use of the standard algorithms except for multiplication.  In my initial look, I would say that these new IN standards are basically the CCSS put in a pot, barely stirred and same key ingredients removed or watered down.”

  • He considers this to be a shell game and believes at least the K-5 standards may be even worse than the Common Core.

  • Another member wrote, “Nowhere did I see the requirement to teach standard algorithms and to what extent the students should know their multiplication facts. That is, we require automatic recall through the 10’s by the end of 3rd grade. I also didn’t read enough to know if they are limiting the use of calculators.”

It seems, on the surface, that his may be an attempt to drive Indiana back to the Common Core.

The first public hearing is Monday next week which doesn’t give parents much time to review the standards.  Here is the schedule:

  • Mon, 2/24, 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. EST at Ivy Tech in Sellersburg, IN
  • Tues, 2/25, 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. EST at the Indiana State Library, History Reference Room in Indianapolis, IN
  • Wed, 2/26, 3:00 – 7:00 p.m. EST at Plymouth High School, Plymouth, IN

These meetings will be live streamed if you are unable to join in person.  You can also give feedback about the review process by sending an email to INCCRevaluation@doe.in.gov.