School Superintendent Richard Woods: Georgia is moving away from “funny math methods”

I am a bit troubled by this new column from state Superintendent Richard Woods in which he decries “funny math methods.”

mathBecause here’s what’s not funny: Georgia students lack strong math skills. We consistently rank in the bottom quarter of states on SAT math scores. And those are our college-bound students.

About 60 percent of Georgia high school students who took the End-of-Course test in coordinate algebra last spring failed to meet the state’s standard for content mastery. In analytic geometry, 65 percent failed to meet the standard.

I have never understood the assumption that somehow, if parents in Georgia cannot help their kids with more advanced math, the problem is with the math.

Here’s the other possibility, one borne out by the historical record. The parents themselves are not skilled in advanced math. If you want evidence, look at the state’s track record on math performance.

I won’t go into this story again in detail as I’ve shared it in the past, but the manager of a large supermarket told me he could not find workers in Georgia who  could even do simple math, hence packages of cookies marked three dozen that contained 27 cookies and packages of a dozen rolls that contained 10.

The state’s dismal math performance led former Superintendent Kathy Cox to adopt  an “integrated” model that weaves elements of algebra, geometry and statistics into a single math class, rather than teaching each separately. In elementary school, students got more hands-on activities to learn about numbers, geometry, multiplication and division. Middle school students learn some of the algebra previously taught in high school.

The state’s transition to integrated math did not go well, acknowledged now to be the fault of inadequate teacher training. When Georgia introduced integrated math 11 years ago, half of the middle school teachers responding to a state survey expressed doubts they could teach to the elevated bar because their own math content wasn’t deep enough.

In 2012, I interviewed William H. Schmidt, an internationally recognized researcher on effective math education. He told me integrated math “is more consistent with what is done everywhere in the rest of the world.”

I would like to share an excerpt from my story on Schmidt as it’s relevant to all the parent complaints about how hard math has been for their kids:

Schmidt believes that we ought to find ways to help students understand math connections to the real world and to their futures…But he says, “I have a degree in mathematics. I never really found it fun. I was always nervous when I had a test because I knew it would not be easy. Math is hard; it’s hard for the teachers and it’s hard for the kids.”

With that, here is what Superintendent Woods has to say about the retreat from integrated math:

By Richard Woods

Getting math right for the students and teachers of Georgia has been a priority of mine since day one. One of my first actions as your state school superintendent was working with the State Board of Education to provide a needed choice between integrated mathematics and traditional discrete mathematics (with assessments to match each option) for our schools.

Prior to this action, schools that chose to offer the traditional discrete mathematics option were penalized by having only one assessment option – integrated mathematics.

I regularly hear from parents unable to help their children with math homework, and math teachers who struggle to master instruction due to a lack of textbook options and unclear expectations for state tests.

While it is important for kids to think critically and to use different methods for problem solving, it is also essential that students have a firm understanding of the fundamentals of mathematics. Basic algorithms, fact fluency, and standard processes for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division also contribute to building a strong foundation for student achievement.

Teaching using “funny math methods” – such as, for example, the lattice method – is not state-mandated and not a requirement for students to achieve on any state tests. State assessments ask that students arrive at the correct answer and, in some cases, explain how they got there, but a specific process for obtaining the answer is not required.

I know that in the pursuit of increasing rigor, mathematics has become overly complicated. In some classrooms, solving simple multiplication or addition problems has become what may seem like a college-level calculus problem.

Due to a lack of textbook options and rushed implementation, many local school systems and mathematics teachers turned to Internet resources and/or vendor products labeled “Common Core.” As a former educator, I deeply believe in ensuring teachers have the autonomy and ability to teach using methods they feel are best for their students.

I ask that local systems, instead of turning outward to un-vetted resources, turn inward toward collaboration among the talented experts within their own departments.

Georgia is a local control state in regard to public education. Let me make the following statements very clear:

  • What many have labeled as “Common Core” methods for teaching mathematics are not methods mandated by the Georgia Department of Education
  • Georgia’s standards direct school districts, schools, and teachers to use basic arithmetic algorithms, fact fluency, and standard processes for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
  • The Georgia Department of Education provides resources (which may be used at district discretion) supporting the use and instruction of basic arithmetic algorithms

Offering choices and clarification are some of the steps we are taking to address the concerns surrounding mathematics in our state. We will continue to monitor this issue closely to ensure our students have the best education possible.

 

 

 

Reader Comments 1

90 comments
Mary Boynton
Mary Boynton

EVERY parent , that has,a child in school in the,state of geogia needs to read this. GOD help our poor mixed up , stressed out children, who are trying to fo something that parents OR teachers are not able to help them with.

Mom71555
Mom71555

Superintendent Woods is wrong on so many counts!  First of all, nowhere in the standards does the wording mandate a particular approach to math calculation.  The emphasis is on a variety of ways to "do math."  When I deal with 5th grade math students who still calculate 44 - 18 = 34, I know that they are applying the algorithm incorrectly, which stems from a poor understanding of the reasoning behind "borrowing/regrouping/decomposing."  Children need experiences with place value (the basis of our entire math system), as well as ways of checking the accuracy of their answers, such as 44 - 10 = 34, 34 - 4 = 30, 30 - 4 = 26, or 44 - 20 = 24, 24 + 2 = 26 (-20 + 2 = -18).  Although we as adults may look at these and think how complicated they are, children left to explore their own ways of subtracting will be far more accurate and develop the foundations for a later introduction of the algorithm. 


While I don't believe that the standards are perfect, I do think many of the problems mentioned stem from the rushed implementation, poor training of teachers (an ongoing problem), and poor communication with parents, NOT from the standards themselves!  Unfortunately, few schools have ever provided training for parents in constructivist approaches to math, which IS the "Common Core Way."  My experience has been that most parents readily admit that they (a) do not really understand math, and (b) did not like math in school.  Do we really want to continue to promote that by teaching the "old-fashioned way"?  Research indicates that the problem-solving, constructivist approach, as used in other countries, produces a far deeper understanding and higher math performance.  While some would argue (correctly) that other countries are far more homogeneous than the United States, we cannot ignore that our way is NOT producing high-achieving math students, and we need to find a better way!  Children build their math understanding in different ways than adults, and to ignore that will ultimately shortchange our students!

 
Let me take the example given: 29 + 17.  The "Common Core Way" shown has nothing to do with Common Core and everything to do with place value.  Think about the way we "traditionally" add the numbers.  We treat 9 and 7 as separate from the 20 and the 10, and add them to equal 16 (which is exactly what the "Common Core Way" shows).  We then separate the "1" from the 16 (which is actually 1 set of 10) and add it to the sum of the "2" and the "1" (2 sets of 10 and 1 set of 10).  Again, this is exactly what the "Common Core Way" shows.  The major difference is that students are explicitly showing their understanding of place value (the 1 + 2  +  1 is actually 10 + 20 + 10), which is a HUGE difference in the early grades!  I don't understand how this is a "10 or 20 step problem"--it's really pretty simple!

atln8tiv
atln8tiv

@Musicmom715 And if this method is so confusing to parents that they can't help their children with it, the parents themselves need more math skills.

Emily K
Emily K

 "The state’s transition to integrated math did not go well, acknowledged now to be the fault of inadequate teacher training."


Well, that plus the fact that it was never actually a truly integrated curriculum.  Throwing some algebra units in with some geometry units in the same course doesn't make it integrated; it just makes it a jumbled mess.



But irrespective of the organization of the courses at the high school level, no iteration of math for the past heaven-knows-how-many years has told teachers they _can't_ test for mastery and procedural fluency, nor even that they _shouldn't_.  The goal is to get the right answer AND to know where it came from; the second part of this, by definition, does not contradict the first.  You can get the right answer while having no idea what you're really doing (cross-multiplying is my go-to example of this), but if you really know what you're doing, you'll definitely get the right answer.  I'll take the latter over the former any day.

Common Core explicitly requires that students learn traditional algorithms for arithmetic[*], _in addition to_ a variety of other ways of thinking about a problem.  Take a moment to subtract 46 from 402.  Only people who have no idea how math works would line up everything in columns, borrow/regroup multiple times, then subtract within each column.  How could having other ways of thinking about it be bad?  For me, I'd take away 2 to get to 400, then 40 to get to 360, then 4 more to get to 356.  If you can't help your kid do that level of thinking, then we have much bigger problems to worry about.


[*] Common Core Standards

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.OA.C.7
[…] By the end of Grade 3, know from memory all products of two one-digit numbers.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.4.NBT.B.4
Fluently add and subtract multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.NBT.B.5
Fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.

RHodgdon
RHodgdon

@liberal4life

I'm a big supporter of Mr. Woods so far, but if he doesn't respond to the e-mail I sent to him last week, I may have to consider throwing him to the wolves. It is probably somewhere around 750th on the list of the 1000 e-mails he received that day. And I just taught my final unit of the year on the reintroduction of wolves to the Yellowstone ecosystem. He doesn't want to be thrown to the wolves--trust me on that. 


Oh, by "wolves" you thought I meant what? The Press? Talk Radio? He's a teacher and now an elected official. His bones are already being gnawed on by THOSE wolves.

popacorn
popacorn

If the teachers can't do the math, and if the teachers hate the math, then the students will hate and not be able to do the math.  Certain regular posters are very quiet. They can't do the math or teach the math. Do the math, people.

hssped
hssped

@popacorn

I can do the math.  This year I had to teach some elem math and I spent a lot of time on youtube learning how to draw pictures of mult and divide fractions.  I am guessing this is done for the benefit of the kids that don't have their times tables memorized. Mostly the spec ed kids.  The problem is...there are too many steps and they can't remember them all.  So, screwed once again.  Just learn your times table!


The smart kids usually pick up on the patterns before they are introduced.  They don't need them to solve the problem because they know their facts, they are, however, able to generalize with ease and will use said skills (detecting patterns, decompostion, etc) when working other problems.  


If you don't have your times table memorized you will not be able to factor in high school.  And factoring just gets harder each year.  I think it is really important to have them memorized.   What happened to Mad Minutes?  Did it hurt someone's self-esteem or something? 



Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@popacorn


If you are including me when you mention "certain regular posters" being "very quiet"  my lack of recent posts has nothing to do with not being able to do math....it has to do with it being the last few days of school and being insanely busy with...oh, you know...my job.

PJ25
PJ25

How the heck do college bound kids not easily pass algebra and geometry testing? 

EdumacateThat
EdumacateThat

@Outer Marker Oh puhleaze, I've seen HS kids that have trouble doing fractions.  And that, my friend, takes their struggles outside of math class, hampering them in chemistry as well.

Tutoring for those kids requires taking them back to the ES basics and building them back up.  Just imagine how much more successful they would have been if mastery was required in earlier grades, but like WasCatlady said... they're not allowed to mandate the basics anymore.  Guess it's not sexy enough.

All that said, I do know of some parents that have started their own math supplement group for ES kids.  And I can tell you that lattice drawing is banned in their after school activities.

HollyJones
HollyJones

@EdumacateThat @Outer Marker The idea of not focusing on basics in elementary math must be a system-by-system decision because my 2nd grader has been doing timed addition and subtraction tests all year. He did them in 1st grade, too. Thus,  he knows his math facts.  And when my daughter was in 7th grade, every day she had a "fraction of the day" problem where she had to change a fraction to the correct  decimal and  percent expression.  I still can't do that without a calculator.  



They are also spending a great deal of time learning why the math works like it does.  I think this will be very helpful as the students move on.  If I had been taught math the way it's taught now (yes, that "evil Common Core" math), I think I would have been better at it.  I, personally, need to understand the "why," not just memorize the formulas.  


I agree that mastery of the basics is crucial to math fluency. An earlier post called math a "language," and that is true. Like any language, you have to learn the vocabulary and structure, and then you have to practice them over and over again.  Like we did with "whole language learning, we're throw the math baby out with the bathwater instead to using the best parts of multiple methods.  I'll bet if you asked the classroom teachers how they would approach teaching math (or any other subject) instead of "education experts" who haven't been in a classroom in years (if ever), you'd find a blend of methods. But why would we waste our time listening to the folks who do it every day?  <sarcasm>


My other question is why this push for everyone to end up taking pre-calc or calculus in HS?  They need personal finance more than higher level maths.   An earlier post talked about how even engineers don't use calculus after college, and my Georgia Tech grad husband would concur. He took something like 5 quarters of calculus, which I think Tech uses as a weed out.   Has he used any of it in the 20 years since he graduated?  Nope.  

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@EdumacateThat @Outer Marker When I worked at an adult literacy center while in grad school, I noticed that most students could get no further than fractions (if they could get past regrouping, especially in subtraction).  They would tell me they could never do it.  So I showed them how, and they were amazed that it was really so "easy" now.  For some reason, fractions don't seem to be mastered by many.

class80olddog
class80olddog

And then we can move over to English and actually start teaching the difference between to, too, and two - and there, their, and they're.

class80olddog
class80olddog

I remember the "new math" of the sixties/seventies.  My parents complained that they could not help us with our homework because it contained ideas they had never heard of - such as non-base ten math.  So we learned base two and base eight and base five - and HOW has that helped us in our lives?  How many potential graduates became dropouts when they failed the math course involving bases? 


Woods is right - we need less "voodoo math" and more drilling on facts and multiplication tables.  The person who puts 10 doughnuts in a dozen box does not know the meaning of the word "dozen" - no special "lattice" is going to make up for that.  The person who gives you 27 when you ask for three dozen cannot multiply 3 x 12.  We need to fix the problems with basic math FIRST before we worry about "critical thinking skills". 


And we need to stop promoting first graders to the second grade who cannot count to ten... (social promotion)

ByteMe
ByteMe

@class80olddog I use base 2 (binary) and base 16 (hexadecimal) all the time and sometimes base 8 (octal).  I'm a programmer and that's the basic numbering systems in a computer.


So, yes, it's worth knowing that information if you're engaged in learning anything about how to work with computers beyond "where's the on button?"

CSpinks
CSpinks

Jay Bookman has said that Georgia has a cultural problem. He's right. Our culture values form over substance, ease over accomplishment, and almost anything else over education.


popacorn
popacorn

If you want to laugh and cry at the same time, give the test to any non Math/Science teacher blogger in here. 

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

Wascatlady is correct - the elementary teachers in our system tell me they are no longer allowed to teach or drill on math facts, such as the multiplication tables.  This makes it difficult for students, because they don't recognize incorrect answers when they mis-type something into the calculator - if they even know what to put in there....


Also, go back to the testing blog. The CRCT is such a very low level test that only about 30% of those 8th graders who passed it actually had the math skills to do well in high school. That's one reason we've seen such a problem with coordinate algebra, Math I, etc.


And middle school math teachers don't have to be high school (7-12) certified, they only need middle-grades certification, which means they don't have the math background and knowledge that high school math teachers have.  That's another problem.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@ScienceTeacher671 And yet, in my kids' (public) school, "math facts" (aka additional and multiplication tables) were drilled like crazy this year.  Maybe it's just the school.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

It seems that the hand wringing is for lack of higher level math skills. Let's be honest. How many of us use algebraic equations or higher level math on a routine basis? 


We mostly need to know how to navigate a myriad of lower level pathways and apply our skills to finance, statistics, and measurement in the form of spreadsheets, reports, forecasts, and mechanical calculations. 


It would not be that hard to get most people to have pretty good skills in these areas- those with more interest or higher level math needs could go further. 


Does the company where you work constantly bemoan the dearth of employees with calculus skills?


In the quest to make everyone "college ready" we have abandoned the goal of adequately preparing most for math fluency necessary for everyday skills.

anothercomment
anothercomment

Even 99% of engineering graduates do not use calculus after they graduate from college anymore. This is due to the computer programs now run calculations that engineers used to have to crank out by hand. I used to survey the Architects and Engineers that worked for me if anyone had ever used their calculus after college. I only had a Mechanical engineer say that he had, but the las time he did was about 25 years ago. That was when he manually ran some heat load calculations. This has long ago been you just pop your numbers into a program or a Mfg, program and the calculations are run for you.

I only see computer engineers and scientists, along with math professionals really needing Calculus anymore. Other than understanding the theory. We certainly don't need 2-4 semesters of torture and GPA busting in college.

jezel
jezel

What was the bill for the integrated math program ? anyone know. And for the whole language approach to the teaching of reading ? Think we need a refund....did not work
 

duke14
duke14

Math comes easily for me. As an undergraduate engineering major, I took enough math electives simply our of interest that to my surprise I earned a minor in math. I completed one year of graduate math with a 3.8 average on a 4.0 system. The modern teaching of math is total nonsense. The math expert hired to rubber-stamp the Common Core math curriculum refused to sign off on it. Math is hard for a lot of people, but modern math is impossible for any rational person. I have mentioned specific examples in this forum before, and I will not repeat them here; but there are plenty of them on the internet.  "Funny math" is a common and accurate way of describing it. Anyone who does not understand this criticism has simply not taken the trouble to read it.

liberal4life
liberal4life

@duke14 

There are people, perhaps like yourself, who learn mathematics no matter how it is taught. Unfortunately, those are really minority.

OldPhysicsTeacher
OldPhysicsTeacher

"The state’s transition to integrated math did not go well, acknowledged now to be the fault of inadequate teacher training." 

 Acknowledged by who?  Have you looked at Common Core?  It ain't any better!  We did a good job teaching math all the way through the early 90's...until we started this insane testing regime and "to get a good job, you need a college education."  How did kids learn math from the 1700's until the early 1990's?  It's a quite simple answer; even a college grad could figure it out.  Not everybody could.  Only the best and brightest can operate at a high level.  But, when teachers are TOLD that everybody MUST pass, bad things happen.  (see APS)

Then Cathy Cox and her sycophants came up with integrated math on a 12-hour trip back from DC. That's going to save the teaching world (snark intended).  Research the term group-think and you can follow this idiocy right down the line.  It was such a disaster that NO textbook producer had any text that would do anything like she, and her buds, wanted.  Teachers had to come up with a curriculum on their own and try and teach 15 year-old's 18 year-old math.  Right!  It was the teacher's fault! (Sarcasm majorly intended).  The implementation was so poorly planned out that an entire grade missed out on the multiplication tables and were told, "Don't worry.  You'll get to use a calculator on any test."  And that's how 3 dozen cookies get to be 27.

Nothing is going to change until Legislators, Lawyers, and The Professional Class actually realize that the normal distribution curve applies to humans.  We need to deal with reality - not everyone is capable of earning "A Good Job" (meaning paying $80k/yr)   We need to "legislate" a true minimum wage that allow 2 persons to raise a family on, and we need to "produce" those jobs.  That's the legislators and The Professional Class's JOB!  It is being done in other countries.  We need to do that here.  Not everyone is capable of learning algebra, but everyone IS capable of memorizing the 12 x 12 tables and adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.  Not everyone is capable of graduating high school (and I mean the 1960-70's version high school); not every high school grad is capable of getting a college degree; not everybody is capable of being a pediatrician.  There's nothing wrong with that. We need to accept that and move on.

anothercomment
anothercomment

Sorry, with a General Diploma and a Real Vo-tech track, where juniors and seniors attend a Vo-tech school for 1/2 day. To earn the equivalent of a year technical diploma in lieu of having to attend one after college. I attended a district that had this in upstate NY. We had 99% graduation in the late 1970's the district, has maintained that through today. The neighboring districts have the same thing.

Two simple things need to be done in Georgia. Break up the massive districts to

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I hope Mr. Woods is serious about this.  A large part of the problem, from my perspective, is not requiring mastery (fluency) in basic math facts and operations.  AT my school, students are allowed to "discover" over and over, that 8+5=13.  Much of the time, they don't end up "discovering" the correct answer.  This lack of mastery (fluency) DOOMS students as they move to middle school.  Fourth grade requires students to be able to multiply two digit by two digit numbers.  For this, you need not only to know multiplication facts, but be able to add accurately, as well as have an understanding of place value.  This are first grade skills, yet are infrequently mastered.  Students get exhausted after only a few minutes of making tally marks to multiply, and never finish the computation.  In addition, there is too little emphasis on figuring out WHAT operation to use in a real-life problem.


None of my 3 went through school during the "blended" high school math.  My daughter who had a double major (one was math) says she would not have done so well in college, probably would not have majored in math, if she had had the blended classes.  I think the other two would have done much worse.


And, as a teacher, requiring students to learn the "voodoo" math, such as lattice method, when the students had not mastered the basics, was crazy.

liberal4life
liberal4life

@Wascatlady 

Well, your math major daughter doesn't know the great opportunity she missed.

As Wood says, "lattice method" is not in the standards.  On the other hand, the lattice methods will be useless unless you mastered the basic multiplication facts.  As a method of multiplying two multi-digit numbers, the method isn't that complicated.  The problem with the lattice method is that it hides the basic principles that makes the method works.  If it looks "voodoo," that's because you don't understand mathematics.

EdumacateThat
EdumacateThat

Teaching mathematics in an integrated format only works well if the students and teachers have solid foundations in basic math concepts.  In Georgia's case, pushing integrated and manipulative crap to the elementary grades in an effort to make math "fun and engaging" has been a disaster.  When concepts are not mastered, it is not helpful to anyone to continue down the path in the hopes that they will just "get it" or it will become clearer via "spiraling" (which is BS for we'll reintroduce the topic again next year as well).

I've witnessed too many kids struggling with the basics.  Until they are fluent with those concepts, higher level thinking skills will not become a reality.  You can defend Kathy Cox's brain fart all you want, but from my perspective, this has been a disaster and will continue to be so until we demand that kids display mastery before moving on.  Math is a language and needs to be respected as such.  Switching math topics as if at a ping-pong match does not help anyone.

And before anyone assumes my animosity is from struggling to help my kids with their math, think again.  I am fortunate that I can do this math smoothie (thanks Georgia Tech) and my kids actually do quite well in whatever math they dabble.  But I know they are the exception b/c they spend a lot of time/effort tutoring other kids.

liberal4life
liberal4life

@EdumacateThat 

When you keep teaching the same thing over and over, that is not a spiral - you are just going around in a circle.  A spiral either has to go up or go out further.

williev2000
williev2000

As a retired educator, with over forty years of experience, and currently an educational consultant, with two high school granddaughters the issue is too many teachers were not adequately trained to teach integrated math.  I know some that are amazing but most have no clue. It’s sad!

Please do not jump on me and say I am blaming teachers. Quite the contrary, I am not!  I am blaming the system (state of Georgia) for not providing quality professional learning experiences for the many great math teachers in the profession.

RHodgdon
RHodgdon

@williev2000 Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that teachers are not provided with the proper amount and types of professional development to carry out a new program or mandate. We assume that throwing a few hours of PD at them here and there in a large group format is enough even though time and time again that has been demonstrated to be wildly ineffective. PD, in order to be effective, is a sustained process of development that requires sequential, ongoing training, monitoring, and feedback. 

Bull_Moose
Bull_Moose

Georgia test scores, and for that matter, America's won't see any significant increases in math proficiency until there is a dramatic cultural shift in how we look at math.  You can see it in the comments here: "math is hard", "my son has straigh a's except for math and it sucks!", etc.  


Listen up everyone out there: math is not hard- it requires effort.  There is a tendency in this country to proclaim something as difficult if it takes us more than just a cursory glance to learn it.  Math is one of the unique subjects which needs to be done every day to fully comprehend.


There is no excuse that as a functioning adult, you shouldn't be able to help you kids out with their math homework.  Every problem can be solved step by step.


The discrete model works.  We can try a trillion different ways to improve test scores, but until people start changing their attitude regarding math, it is futile.

L_D
L_D

@Bull_Moose Agree!  Many other countries already have the attitude that math takes time and practice to learn - but everyone can do it!


gactzn2
gactzn2

@Bull_Moose The discovery methods have overtaken all aspects of educational practice.  Tried and true methods do work.  Most computer scientists and those in STEM related fields did fine with it.  Why do we feel the need to alter so much in Georgia.  We sink our own ship.

Robtown
Robtown

Wingnuts are the best at "funny math"... just look at the economy at the end of the last two wingnuts presidential runs... And Kansas...

PJ25
PJ25

@Robtown Life passed you by huh?  Enjoy working at that job you hate until the day you die. 

khd713
khd713

I have become convinced that public education, at least in Georgia, is an endless cycle of futility. As long as our education leaders are elected – school board members and state superintendent – no approach will ever be allowed to succeed. What's here today will be gone tomorrow when the leadership changes, and before long we find that we've circled right back around to where we started. Integrated math might hold some merit; at least it seems like it should logically, and I would think 11 years would be the bare minimum amount of time needed to fully implement such a wholesale change in how math is taught (including the hardest part of all which is always getting the teachers to fully buy in) and start seeing some real comparative results. In that time it seems the integrated approach didn't move the needle much if at all (but how can you know when the standardized tests today are totally different from the standardized tests then?), but I suspect that has as much to do with how it is being taught as anything. Integrated math is the approach the rest of the world uses, including and especially Japan and other Asian countries that are so proficient in math. Instead of throwing out the baby with the bath water, I think a better initiative for the superintendent would have been to announce he is revamping the training model for teachers and really knuckling down on how integrated math is, well, integrated into the curriculum. Then, perhaps, he could have offered a real alternative "traditional" option for schools that want to go that route. Then we would have a real comparison of which system works better. Oh, well, I guess we'll have to wait until the next superintendent is elected and then we'll have a whole new approach. Who knows, maybe we'll even try integrated math all over again.

RHodgdon
RHodgdon

@khd713 Whether it be implementing STEM, Integrated Math, or any other "new" concept, colleges and university teacher prep programs (not necessarily the engineering or other programs) need to modernize pre-service training and education for education majors. You can teach an old dog (like me) new tricks, but it makes no sense for fresh from college math teachers to enter the workforce with a host of outdated skills. Here's part of the issue for me: colleges and university education majors require most of their instructors/professors to have doctorates, but a significant percentage of them spent very little if any time teaching in a public K-12 school. That's not a dig. My professors were biologists, physicists, historians, sociologists. I'm pretty sure one of them was a closet Liberace fanatic, but never a K-12 teacher. If I want to learn how to be an effective 7th grade biology teacher, I want to be taught by someone who has a proven track record as a middle school science teacher. And not 20 years ago, but in the last several years. We need true teacher academies. 

Smilesterr
Smilesterr

Would be nice to see this cleared up.  Having a child in the 9th grade ourselves, we are witnessing the failure of math concepts at the AP level already. Algebra, Geometry and Statistics in the same semester?  It makes it hard for the kids to get into the flow of one concept for sure and filters out the kids without high level reasoning ability.  Our child copes through being able to dump his short term memory and move to the next fragment of the next math concept.  Many of the kids in his class have given up already and will have to repeat.  I do not think my child has retained anything from any of the three areas that I know he has been exposed to this year.  What good does that do?

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Smilesterr It's hard to know by your own student's experience as my son loves integrated math. The research seems to favor an integrated approach, at least for those students going on in math in college or career.


In talking to college-level mathematicians, they tell me real world problems require integrated math approaches.. The leading math education groups advocate a more integrated approach.


Here is an excerpt on this issue from Ed Week:


A study published in the Journal for Research in Mathematics Education last year tracked students over three years and found that those who were being taught with an integrated-math curriculum outperformed their counterparts who were in a traditional sequence.

"

Many countries—including those whose students outperform the United States in international assessments—use an integrated-mathematics sequence at the secondary level. And many American teachers and administrators who have transitioned to a combined-math pathway say they have seen benefits.


One of the most common arguments for integrated math is that it doesn't make sense to teach the subject in silos, since in real-world applications, math topics are not neatly segmented.


"The advantage of integrated math is that it kind of blends those math topics together," said Gina Ziccardi, the assistant superintendent for student learning at Community High School District 99 in Downers Grove, Ill., which is transitioning to an integrated-math curriculum. "It focuses on these connections instead of isolating [topics]."

OldPhysicsTeacher
OldPhysicsTeacher

@MaureenDowney @Smilesterr "...said Gina Ziccardi, the assistant superintendent for student learning..." and here we go again.  How many classes a day does she teach?  How many years does she have as a math teacher?  How many GHP math students has she produced?  How many BA Math or BS Math has she taught?  How many times has she been the STAR teacher?  Unless she is a MAJOR EXCEPTION, she's been out of a classroom for almost 20 years and has no idea what is actually going on.  We are rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic.  

OldPhysicsTeacher
OldPhysicsTeacher

@MaureenDowney @Smilesterr "...In talking to college-level mathematicians, they tell me real world problems require integrated math approaches.."

You're absolutely correct!  In college, they need that.  Research brain development.  High school kids do poorly in REAL colleges.  Middle school kids do poorly in REAL high school.  That's because it takes time for neural paths to grow.  In a sports analogy asking a 12 year-old to throw the wheel route (look it up) is stupid.  He/she won't get it to the line of scrimmage.  Asking kids to perform mental acts before they're prepared is insanity.

Let's get these kids to learn math algorithms perfectly before they start trying to perform at a high level.  Remember the Karate Kid?  Wax on; wax off FIRST!!!   

bu2
bu2

@MaureenDowney @Smilesterr 

Do those other countries put all those students in the same track?

I know some of them don't.  Germany doesn't.  China doesn't.


There is a lot of research supporting mastering something before moving on to the next step.  If you haven't mastered Algebra, its hard to integrate it.  Maybe for the mathematicians and engineers, it works.  But that is not most people.  And those will get more math in college, where the lower level courses will not be integrated math.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@MaureenDowney @Smilesterr Perhaps once they have mastered the basics they could take an integrated approach.  I am not sure it works for the average student who is not math inclined.

anothercomment
anothercomment

Maureen, why then did NY and Mass. Along with the other top ten performing states that went down the integrated Math black hole at least ten years before Kathy Cox, brought it to Georgia, if it was so great, why did all the top performing Private schools like Westminster, Lovett and Marist stick with traditional Math. Simple they wanted their Math sequence and preparation to align with top Universities, the IVY league, top Engineering and Stem Schools, the Top 50 Public Universities, Duke, Vandy, Wake Forrest etc... Even the UGA system is aligned to traditional math curriculum. Take a dual enrollment class it is in traditional math not Kathy Cox nonsense.

RHodgdon
RHodgdon

@liberal4life @bu2 @MaureenDowney @Smilesterr


Gonna have to comment on this. Japan's educational system is one of the most homogeneous in the world in terms of student diversity (race, ethnicity, cultural background, language, etc.) The US educational system is by far the most heterogeneous. We educate a greater diversity of students (including special needs students) than any other nation on earth. In France, for example, it is my understanding that there is no version of ESL (FSL). If you are a foreign student and you don't speak French, you are expected to learn it primarily through immersion. I don't know this for certain, but I doubt seriously that most other industrialized nations do as much as we do to address diversity. 

RHodgdon
RHodgdon

@anothercomment

Oh, anothercomment. Your argument would be so much more compelling if you had not almost completely mangled nearly every rule for proper writing mechanics. Hard to take someone seriously when you have to decipher 50% of what he or she has written. Not doubt a result of our inadequate educational system. But I agree with you. I think.