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School district committee drops Everyday Math

Original post made on Sep 2, 2016

After devoting an entire school year to testing out new math materials at Palo Alto's elementary schools and selecting three curricula to recommend to the Board of Education, a school district committee swiftly voted on Monday to back a new curriculum that most committee members just saw for the first time this week and to abandon Everyday Math, the curriculum at the center of the district's bitter "math wars" in 2009.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 2, 2016, 12:00 AM

Comments (37)

Posted by Out-of-towner
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 2, 2016 at 9:11 am

Correction: Harris is the Chief Academic Officer for Elementary Education

Posted by Jocelyn Dong
editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Sep 2, 2016 at 9:49 am

Jocelyn Dong is a registered user.

Thanks for pointing out that error, Out-of-towner. Harris' title has been corrected.

Posted by Investigations? Really?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2016 at 9:52 am

Investigations made the top 2?

The same Investigations that PAUSD used years ago, started the Math Wars here, and was abandoned?

The same Investigations that Edreports says that even its second, retooled edition "does not meet expectations" in every category, every grade? Web Link

Google it.

There's lots on the internet about that math textbook, including the controversy it stirred in Frederick County Public Schools in MD which schools rank high too. Web Link

That controversy prompted that school district to study, a few years after adopting it, whether Investigations worked as well as they claimed it would.

It didn't:

"Frederick County elementary students are not learning traditional math skills...That's a finding of an internal task force of school staff, principals and teachers after three months of evaluating the elementary school math curriculum, which is based largely on 'Investigations in Number, Data and Space'...math curriculum [does not] place appropriate emphasis on teaching basic math operations, such as subtraction, addition, division and multiplication [and] lacks balance between conceptual and procedural understanding, leading students to discover how math principals work rather than focusing on teaching them basic math ..." Web Link

Which textbook made it to the top of Frederick County's list this adoption round?

Not Investigations.

Posted by Good Riddance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2016 at 10:56 am

I tried desperately to fight the adoption of Everyday Math in 2009 and it was a complete waste of time. We had experienced the program in the Midwest just prior to moving to Palo Alto. Imagine moving here, finding out that Palo Alto was going to adopt the same defective program which was failing miserably in our last school district.

The program attempts to teach many different ideas on one page instead of focusing on one concept until the student learns it completely. It continues this, reasoning that if the child keeps seeing the same things, they will eventually learn it . . . but if they don't learn it, don't worry, it spirals back in a few months so you can try to learn it again (don't shut that door, just put it off till next time). And then it teaches an alternative method of multiplication (lattice) which is only teachable if the student already knows how to calculate multiplication through the traditional method. It's a program that was created for inner city schools but was failing nationwide. Yet, Cathy Howard, Barron Park's principal, bullied the committee into adopting it due to her school's poor test scores. Our weak superintendent also allowed himself to be bullied. Fortunately, the school district allowed teachers to supplement and interpret instead of following the program exactly, so our students weren't affected much. As noted above, "40 percent of teachers reported they don't use Everyday Math as their primary curriculum."

Singapore Math is supposed to be outstanding but no one gave it a chance due to the name sounding too rigid. Every other program on the table was superior to Everyday Math. Let's hope they get it right this time.

Posted by NoMoPa
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2016 at 11:01 am

I don't understand how investigations made the top 2?? It is ranked worse than Everyday Math in every category, and Everyday Math is already very poorly ranked. Obvious choice was to choose Bridges and Eureka, then pick one of those.

That PAUSD is even considering Investigations is a silly, but it would be a disaster to actually choose it. I feel bad for the students who got a substandard math education for the last 7 years, so let's fix the problem,not make it worse.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2016 at 11:05 am

It is difficult to understand why it is so difficult to select a solid math curriculum for teaching in this current age. Everyday Math is a lousy system which has failed in many cities thoroughout the country. These data were available back when the district made the decision to go with it back in the late 2000s. We, along with many parents, conveyed our thoughts to Skelli and the other committee members but it went through anyways. Our Palo Alto educators are much brighter than many in other cities and districts. Unfortunately, it felt like the previous decision to go with Everyday Math was an outcome of both a need for control and not allowing others to change a committee position along with politics and lack of leadership through the selection process. Glad that it will no longer be used but my kids wasted their time with it and now it is too late for them. Thank goodness that their thoughtful elementary teachers creatively supplemented information and taught past that junk. We should not have taken it even if it were offered for free but we paid millions for it. What happened to the "old math" curriculum that we used growing up? I think that it worked for most in our community, look at the education level of the citizens here in Palo Alto!!

Posted by Sue Allen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 2, 2016 at 11:10 am

So fun to sit back and watch the latest skirmish in the "Math Wars." I was on an adoption committee -- late 1980's?? Not 62 people at least!!! What goes around comes around. My grandkids are all being educated in other states, thank goodness.

Posted by Good Riddance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2016 at 11:19 am

Yes, Joe, let's revert back to old school math instead of buying programs which attempt to reinvent the wheel. The wheel was already perfect! The Asian countries are teaching old school math and they are crushing our math test scores.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2016 at 11:36 am

This Forbes article entitled "Is Everyday Math The Worst Math Program Ever?" nicely summarizes. By the way, in my corporate setting, the senior most leader would be inquiring as to who are the accountable individuals?

Web Link

Posted by outisder
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 2, 2016 at 11:42 am

In another school district, a family with three very smart, similar kids all had different math programs. The first just worked out of books by Larson and did puzzles. The second just did worksheet with skills, The third did everyday math.

Guess which one was 3 years behind the others and hated math-they were at a severe disadvantage because they had not number sense or fluency with numbers that were not just one or two digits.

. Parents would not limit their kids' reading materials to only what a school requires, so they should not limit all the fun math out there either. Young families need to look at Art of Problem solving for the gold standard of math education and for an exciting, fun platform that is online, but also interactive enough even for the kids who think they are not good at math. I think it is difficult for parents when there are changes in programs. They should expect this and have a few good ones to match up to over time and not worry so much what the district does. I love this program because after decades of hating math and thinking I am stupid, ( I was a victim of new math which is similar to everyday math) I finally am having fun with math just by eavesdropping and working out some of the more puzzling problems. I wish I had started sooner though. Start a little math circle 10 minutes a week for fun and do not worry about a publisher.

Posted by NoMoPa
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2016 at 12:01 pm

Joe, and Good Riddance - I think PAUSD may have lulled you guys into a false sense of confidence. This is the second Math War, and it isn't looking great. Investigations is worse than Everyday Math. Unclear about Bridges, it may be better, but also has some similarities to Everyday Math. Eureka would have been the return to quality that many wanted, and looks like it was politically assassinated at the last minute and replace with a mole. Note that it is the Investigations advocates who are now cheering Bridges.

Posted by Katie
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2016 at 12:02 pm

Good riddance to Everyday Math is right. I'm sorry my daughter was a victim of that curriculum, like "Outisder's" third child was. But, it was a tough transition into Everyday Math, and my guess is that it will be a tough transition out of it. So, I feel sorry for the students for whom EDM might be working for. I am just glad I no longer have children young enough to have to be guinea pigs again.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Our children's education is not something to be experimented with. They only have one chance to be in each grade level and it is very sad that for some they have had to struggle with what should be a basic skill that most of us leaned in elementary school without problems.

Saying that, I do know that some learn in different ways from others. A good system will monitor that and those that need extra help or a different method should be easily identifiable to a good teacher and with the right support a struggling child should be able to perform well.

To those who have struggled with this for the past years, it is a great shame.

Posted by Good Riddance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2016 at 12:32 pm

@NoMoPa: Joe or I never stated support for the Investigations math program. And this is the THIRD math war, the first being in the 70s. I support old school math, which entails memorization. There is no way to successfully bypass memorizing facts in math. Everyday Math didn't allow drill sheets so the children had to somehow memorize on their own. I think our PAUSD teachers may have supplemented with drill sheets. Math can be fun once the addition, subtraction, multiplication, division tables are memorized. Everyday Math is lacking that foundation, however. Fortunately, there are many online programs these days for learning the math tables.

Posted by Stew Pid
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 2, 2016 at 12:37 pm

This has got to be one of the most stupid series of decisions of any school district in the nation.

What is with PAUSD? The Phil Winston fiasco, the OCR idiocy, the budget disaster, and now this.

Just when you are certain it can't get any worse...

Maybe we need to put the adoption of Singapore Math to a vote. Desperate measures for desperate times.

Posted by Contrarian
a resident of University South
on Sep 2, 2016 at 12:50 pm

"Frederick County elementary students are not learning traditional math skills...such as subtraction, addition, division and multiplication..."

They're called traditional math skills for a good reason: calculators and computers have totally obsoleted them. As any professional who makes their living with math knows, it's not the What you calculate, it's the Why and How you're doing the calculation.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by JA3
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 2, 2016 at 12:51 pm

"...put the adoption of Singapore Math to a vote."

+1. One of the greatest math teaching programs ever conceived; a logical, well-reasoned approach with proven, time-tested results.

Posted by NoMoPa
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2016 at 1:13 pm

@Good Riddance - I agree 100% that Everyday Math was garbage, and we set back hundreds of kids with a blatantly defective math curriculum. I am just raising a huge red flag here that Everyday Math may be going away in name only. The momentum looks like it is going to lead to another defective dumbed down curriculum. Investigations is worse than Everyday Math. Bridges looks like it might be better, but also seems to share the Everyday Math philosophy.

Eureka, which would have been a real step in the right direction mysteriously gets dropped from the list despite teacher recommendations. BTW, the teachers using and recommending it were at Hoover which also has the highest math scores in the district. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Elections coming up and time to get real about STEM
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 2, 2016 at 2:18 pm

I fortunately have kids who never had issues learning Math, and always did activities on the side to complement whatever little they were learning at school. At some fundamental level I wonder if all these Math wars are rooted in the fact that some people want to find an easy way (shortcut)to learn STEM-related subjects. They have always been harder than other subjects because they require mastering certain building blocks as you progress, which calls for hard work, memorization, and the ability to apply whatever concepts you memorized.

There's no easy way or shortcut. You either put in the work, or you won't get it. Some kids will get it, and some won't. I won't get into the controversial factors as to why, but this is real life. And this is why we'll always have some kind of achievement gap along social-economic-cultural lines. It happens in our society, and it happens outside the US.

Elections for the school council are coming up. Make your voices and positions relevant by ensuring the right candidates get your support, and retire the ones who have contributed to this mess.

Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 2, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Jordan parents, you may be interested in knowing that your new principal, Ms. Kinnaman, was one of the lead proponents of Everyday Math when she taught at El Carmelo. No doubt she viewed it as another way to showcase her "outside the box" thinking about education. We in Palo Alto have seen how well that turned out, haven't we? And an entire cohort of students have had their math education affected by to this grand experiment, at least those whose teachers used the materials (sounds like many recognized they were sub-par). You might want to keep your eyes and ears open at Jordan for the signs of more math experiments in which your students will be guinea pigs...

Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2016 at 6:27 pm

Here's a link to information on the Bridges program:

Web Link

Posted by Good Riddance2
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Sep 2, 2016 at 6:59 pm

I agree that Everyday Math was a disaster. The district should retroactively offer remedial help to the victims of what I can only describe as a miseducation. Thankfully we left the district program or it might never have been possible to undo the damage.

We were not among those whose teachers ignored EDM - those kids ended up ahead and getting preferred treatment in later grades. The whole thing stinks from top to bottom. A public district should have systems the open opportunity to all, not inflict an inferior education on some with lucky others who manage to get teachers who can protect them.

Posted by Stan
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 2, 2016 at 8:06 pm

It speaks volumes that it took soooo long for PAUSD to finally acknowledge what was widely know when it was selected, Everyday Math is a corn studded pile of ****. I suffered through Everyday Math homework with my kids. I never knew just how screwed up math instruction could be until I saw what was coming home. It's clear that adopting it had more to do with padding someone's resume at Churchill for instituting a district wide 'change', than anything having to do actually teaching kids math. I am of the opinion that if what ever the next allegedly great math curriculum is, if 'old math' is clearer and helps kids understand how to get to the correct answer, forget it and stick with tried and true. Leave your curriculum changing ego at the door.

Posted by Puzzled
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 2, 2016 at 8:24 pm

I have three children in different grades in elementary school. We have had EDM for several years now. I honestly don't know what the fuss is all about. What aspects of it evoke such strong reactions? I view having different, non-standard, ways of doing math as a plus. It broadens thinking, deepens understanding and allows for more creativity. At the end point of mathematical education it is the creativity that matters for mathematicians, engineers and scientists (computer and otherwise). After all you are building something new, or improving something old by making it faster, better or cheaper. My view is that it does not matter what specific math curriculum is used, the outcomes will be the same. The kids who get it will get it. The kids who need extra help will still need extra help. Maybe the real discussion we should have is how to support the kids who need the help.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2016 at 10:10 pm

My kids did some of their education in PAUSD -- what could be described as some of their middle years. Therefore, I did see several different approaches to Math education.
I am sorry about the periodic "Math Wars" and the apparent requirement to spend taxpayer money to purchase "new" materials/curriculum to inflict on the public. Shifting the curriculum and teaching seems unnecessary and stressful.
I strongly recommend traditional, fact-based Mathematics education for the fundamentals. Adding on creative curriculum and special activities is fine,of course, but the fundamentals should and must be taught and learned.
Give me a topnotch Math teacher, s/he is worth his/her weight in gold. The curriculum also matters a very great deal.
Special online learning, special apps, weirdo textbooks that one sees nowadays, all offend me; beyond that I don't think they are effective for most.
The crap about oddball schemes that spiral or don't require practice or demonstration of knowledge and a full grasp of Mathematics in a coherent order, these schemes don't make sense to me. I am not a Mathematics specialist but I do have common sense and have some experience in different school systems.
The nonsense that upper income parents have adopted, that they are able to compensate for oddball curriculum by hiring costly tutors to stress out and pressure their kids for top university admissions, is a poor way to experience education. One should respect what one learns IN school. Some kids should not have an advantage over their peers who choose not to do this tutoring or who cannot afford it.
Our example: one of our kids who attended first grade in another community, in a religious school (by happenstance not on purpose), and received a SOLID FOUNDATION in Mathematics - with a standard text and routine homework, with clear instruction from a pleasant teacher, we know that carried forward to personal enthusiasm and a degree in Mathematics from a major university, without any pressure or tutoring from parents. Our kid also did BC Calc AP exam (5) without tutoring/prepping. I thank that teacher, that school, AND that curriculum (all I can remember now is that it was a standard publisher and the material seemed clear and straightforward and sequential). It isn't rocket science, folks, though school boards seem to present it to be. A good foundation is so meaningful and playing games and paying for fancy apps, etc. are approaches I won't endorse.

Posted by Good Riddance
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2016 at 11:48 pm

@Midtowner: In fact, Jordan is now experimenting with a new book, but our 7A math teacher says it's a very good book, from the same publishers as Singapore Math. The problem, he said, is that the regular math lane might not be able to understand it so they might not be able to adopt it . . . no comment, enough said.

@Puzzled: Look at the link that Joe posted, which describes Everyday Math. You have been fortunate that your teachers likely shielded your children from the horrendous program. In the midwest, the teachers were not allowed to supplement or alter the program and it was clearly a disaster. One teacher gave her students drill sheets, knowing she could be fired for doing so. There are no memorizations or drills in Everyday Math. So how are the children supposed to learn the math tables? Osmosis?

Posted by Weekly Reader
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 3, 2016 at 8:22 am

If there is one program which is worse than EDM it is Investigations. It was an absolute nightmare. The regression it caused in bright, eager-to-learn early elementary school students did not stop until individual parents took steps such as private school, nightly tutoring or moving their students to district schools where teachers ignored Investigations. The majority of my child's classmates were not able to do 3rd grade math in 5th grade. Teachers had to take time out and redo whole units. And when students hit more traditional math in middle school it was a very serious cause of anxiety. Parents get ready to take over your child's math education if you have not done so already.

Posted by Inappropriate
a resident of Midtown

on Sep 3, 2016 at 10:07 am

Inappropriate is a registered user.

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.

Posted by NoMoPa
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2016 at 10:37 am

@Weekly Reader - Investigations is such an obviously bad and poorly reviewed choice, I don't think the district could choose it. That meant we were on track for Eureka by default. The anti-math pro-Investigations crowd realized they were going to lose the battle, and were able to pull a fast one and swap Bridges in for Eureka. Something very shady going on..

Posted by Non Illuminato
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2016 at 10:53 am

Our children are not laboratory rats for the school districts to experiment on!

Nor should they be wasting years of our children's precious educational time with silly and unproven methods and curricula!

I am sooo glad I decided to pull my children out of PAUSD and put them in a Catholic school with a strong STEM program!

Posted by Investigations? Really?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2016 at 12:23 pm

How Investigations got this far:

1. Last September the "Math Leads/principals/staffs [selected] 2 - ­8 different curricula they would like to explore.... from the approved CCSS curricula, or other Common Core aligned materials." Web Link">Web Link

The edition PAUSD tried, according to the math committee on the district website, was the 2012 one which EdReports says is NOT Common Core aligned.

So Investigations shouldn't have even been on the initial list of 2-8, right?

2. For the last 2 years and again this year PAUSD teachers pick their own math materials to teach the Common Core requirements.

What materials students are taught from differ based on teacher preference. That preference? For 1/3 of the classrooms, Investigations despite its abysmal rating by edReports.

Not coincidently 1/3 of PAUSD teachers want to pilot it.

More teachers though - 40% of them - said that they want to pilot Eureka, the textbook that the committee took off the "to pilot" list last week.

Web Link">Web Link

Posted by Parent of 2
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 3, 2016 at 1:24 pm

Looking at the Board packet, on the slide "Pilot Willingness" the survey of 190 K-5 teachers says (p71 of the PDF):

EDM 4: 26%
Eureka/Engage: 40%
Investigations 2016: 37%
Not ready to pilot: 27%

So now the top vote-getter is now off the list? That doesn't seem right.

The sensible approach is for the staff to offer the Board an option - the committee recommended Investigations and Bridges, and in third place was Eureka/Engage. Investigations of course, has negative CCSS validation for the 2012 edition, and no validation for the just released 2017 edition - so the board may sensibly say it should not be considered. In which case they can bring in Eureka/Engage, and pilot that and Bridges. This seems especially appropriate since Bridges got a cursory review (15 minutes, really?), while Eureka was the top vote-getter in the teacher survey.

Seems like an obvious solution for moving forward.

Posted by NoMoPa
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2016 at 1:49 pm

@Investigations? Really? - Also note the Jennifer DiBrienza influence.

"Jennifer DiBrienza, who is running for school board (and is listed as a "contributing author" to Investigations on the curriculum's website)"

She is definitely someone we need to be wary of when we vote for school board.

Posted by Some more fixins
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 3, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Dong, you fixed the first mistake, that of Harris' title, but you have left Peñalizo in there? Seriously, what kind of culturally inept editor thinks that Peñalizo is a name. Go Google or Yahoo! it and fix that. It makes me think that Kadvany and you are really that journalistically incompetent. Editors, like teachers, simply cannot make spelling errors, especially the former when it comes to the spelling of names.

Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2016 at 8:03 pm

Oh yes, I have encountered Everyday Math, and I hate it. My main concern is: What are these weird things they’re replacing it with?

In concept, Everyday Math is nice. It’s designed for a world where you can calculate many more digits, much more accurately, using your computer and your tablet and your phone and your watch, than the typical “you” could by hand. Unless you are a freak like John von Neumann, and even he had speed limitations. So, you should spend your time developing skills in logical creativity and intuitive numeracy. Emily Willingham in Forbes complains about finding different ways to calculate 2+2=4. Actually, you are supposed to find a variety of ways to add 2 numbers to equal 4. 0+4, 1+3, 2+2, but can you think of anything else? What about fractions? What about negative numbers? What about things that are not real numbers? What about commutation?

In practice, it’s a disaster. You get math-hating teachers who confuse everybody with slavish devotion to the spiral, without understanding what it’s meant to teach. Then you get traditionalists who stop the world until everybody memorizes their times tables. Creativity means sometimes getting things wrong, and learning from that, but it is incompatible with a culture that uses grades for evaluation. So, you either pass everybody and nobody learns their mistakes, or your students find a way to game the system with technically correct but uncreative solutions. And each homework is only like 6 problems long, each seeming to require a different algorithm to solve.

I have no idea what Investigations and Bridges are. But so much for the “great schools” in Palo Alto.

Posted by Same path
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2016 at 11:01 am

"District staff also point to the fact that Piedmont Unified School District, which they describe as a comparable district, adopted Bridges in 2015." - the Weekly

Two years ago, Piedmont considered renewing Everyday Math but ended up rejecting it because Everyday Math 4 "does not meet the criteria of rigor and balance." PAUSD just rejected Everyday Math too.

Instead, Piedmont selected Eureka and Bridges 2 as its top two math textbooks to consider for adoption. These are the same two textbooks that the Weekly reports are in PAUSD's top list along with Investigations.

Piedmont looked at Investigations and then rejected it because it lacks focus and coherence.

Maybe PAUSD will end up rejecting Investigations too.

Web Link

Posted by Theodore
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2016 at 2:27 pm

@Everybody complaining about “experiment”

This whole American educational system is an experiment, guided by outmoded Prussian industrial reductionism. And look where it got the Prussians. Just because it has been going on longer than anybody who is currently alive, doesn’t mean it isn’t up for debate.

I think it should be scrapped and rebuilt. The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers. Er, close the Department of Education, return the funds to local school districts, end standardized testing, and let all the administrators find fulfillment in new career opportunities. So we’ll get appalling educational outcomes out of Texas and West Virginia. We already get that, but at least it will be less expensive.

In math education, I don’t know what “traditional” means. We have been beset by educational reforms from the beginning. When I was in school, we were doing “New Math.” Ostensibly, that was to usher in a new era in set theory and investigation, exactly what was needed to understand a world filled with big engineering problems and these new-fangled programmable binary computers. In practice, all it did was reverse the direction of arithmetic problems (22-13: borrow the 1 from the tens place, 12-3=9, 1-1=0, answer: 9, vs. 22-13: 2-3=9, subtract another 1 from the tens place, 2-2=0, answer: 9). It was already less efficient at practical math than the curricula around the last turn of the century. So, I didn’t develop intuitive numeracy until I left school and started using numbers without the crutch of calculating from the least significant digit every time. And when I went to college and learned the true meaning of significant digits.

We need reform, and we have always needed reform. After all this time, I don’t expect the system to be able to deliver it.

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