Educating All Parents To Ensure The Future Of Our Republic


This is my letter to the Mayor and City Council of Orem regarding the Superintendent of Alpine School District's statement that parents were extremist for trying to get the times tables back into the school district.


Dear Mayor and City Council members of Orem,

            I guess Vern Henshaw isn’t familiar with the phrase “let sleeping dogs lie.”  I am so glad we live in a free country where both sides can be heard on an issue and now that you’ve heard Vern and the school board, I’d like to give a response and then let you make up your own mind.

            I was both surprised and dismayed to receive an audio copy of your meeting with Alpine School District officials from a couple weeks ago and learn that Superintendent Vern Henshaw now refers to people who were against Investigations math as “extremists” as well as say, "this is more about parents than the kids." I guess even I have underestimated how far gone public education is.  I’m really wondering who is more extreme?  The school district that implements a program that removes the times tables and long division from education or the parents who fight to get it put back in? Does Vern really believe that times tables don't need taught to children and they've only conceded this because of parental outrage? You may want to ask former Representative Jim Ferrin in your area about the meeting he attended several years ago where all the parents were told by the district not to teach their children the times tables at home or they would risk “messing them up” for life because this new program was designed to work alone and without any supplementation to get children to construct their own math knowledge.  Funny how they’ve scrambled to supplement it over the past few years and have now replaced it for the harm it has done (which they also admitted to you in the meeting when they stated there were holes in the curriculum where it didn’t match the state standards). To get to the audio if you want to hear it again, please visit this page of my website:

            You may want to ask some of the local colleges about the quality of students they're getting these days and compare that to what the district said in regard to scores going up every year since they've been on Investigations math.  UVSC has certainly experienced an upward climb, but in their remedial math rate for incoming freshmen which has now reached the lofty level of 66%.

            I love public education and recognize the value it has on everything we do in life.  Three years ago when my third grader's teacher told me to my face that the times tables were no longer taught to children as part of the curriculum, I thought, “WOW, that's extreme!”  I suppose I should be grateful I wasn't at the meeting Mr. Ferrin was because I didn't know any better than to buy flashcards and start teaching my children at home the things I viewed as essential to an educated life.  Thousands of other parents have done this as well to try and compensate for the lack of education Alpine is providing and yet ASD takes credit for any good news they can.  In the process of messing up my daughter, she scored 100% on all 5 math areas of the IOWA test during her 5th grade year.

            In the Spring of 2005, I recognized that tens of thousands of children would suffer through life if nothing was done so I took up this “extreme” effort to get math basics in elementary schools.  It’s also interesting the number of parents that find me and tell me their story about trying to talk to district officials and being told, “you’re the only parent who has ever complained.”  What a great lie to make people feel isolated when thousands are upset at it and the city of Cedar Hills ran a statistically significant study that concluded 50% of the residents hated Investigations math.  I wonder how many that didn’t say they hated it even knew what it was?

            Another deception the district made in your meeting was when Vern and the board represented how great the scores were when you asked about Orem schools.  I’m attaching to this letter a pdf copy of the most recent IOWA test scores from fall 2006.  You’ll be quite dismayed to see Orem schools are at the bottom of the district (contradicting the statements of the superintendent).  My own school, Highland elementary, was the top school in the district, partly due to the pressure the teachers have felt the last two years with myself and other like-minded concerned parents on the community council to incorporate more traditional math and mastery of basic facts.  In fact, Highland was 7 and 9 points above the next closest school in the district on its 3rd and 5th grade scores respectively.  That’s a wide gap.

            To understand the travesty of Investigations math, you really have to watch these two videos on YouTube.  The first is produced by a meteorologist in Washington state and the second by professor Clifford Mass at the University of Washington.  They will quickly show you why Investigations math leads to low grades and future remediation.

            I know the district is not happy with my actions and the thousands of parents that have contacted them yet it took that Herculean effort to effect a change.  There are at least two schools in the district that I've been able to learn about that actually confiscated traditional-math textbooks from classrooms at night to prevent teachers from having any of their old traditional materials available to use (Grovecrest and Barrett to name names).  Teachers were also threatened and bullied into using Investigations math.  Former representative David Cox admitted in a newspaper article over a year ago that he was one who was threatened.  I have been in contact with numerous teachers who closed their doors to teach the times tables to children so they didn't get in trouble for it.  I made many presentations to the board and after one such meeting where I told them charters were outscoring them and taking their best and most parent-involved students, I received a set of spreadsheets from Barry Graff at the district showing me demographically that I was wrong and that the district was outscoring the charters.  He asked me to email that information out to my list and when I emailed Barry back that his math appeared to be wrong and that the population of the charter school according to his sampling information would have to be 125% of its capacity, he never replied to me again.  A few months ago in a conversation with Donna Barnes (school board member), she brought up that my data was all flawed and Barry had proven it.  I asked if he hadn't pointed out my rebuttal that his calculations were off and she said he had not.  To this day I don't know if I was right or if he just didn't feel like communicating with me anymore.

            One thing to watch out for is the district will tell you charters don't have the special case problem children to deal with or they don't have qualified and licensed teachers.  There's a whole litany of myths they've generated to put down their only competitor in education.  They're false though so if they bring it up tell them you want the actual data that shows it (and then check their math).

            When this whole thing started, I was spending hours at night trying to understand the issue.  My school principal at Highland had told me “all the studies show that these programs really work” and I had trusted and believed him.  A couple years after that conversation when I started doing my own research I discovered plenty of information such as Harvard math professor Wilfred Schmit's statement about Investigations math setting children back two years by fifth grade, but I couldn't find anything to support Investigations.  Andrea Forsyth solved that problem for me in December 2005 when she sent me the following email:

“Oak,  You've already got your mind made up but if by chance you are struck with a perfectly good moment of openmindedness, you could check out this website:   The web site
Providing you with ALL information is helpful.
Why is it that you seem so distructive? {remainder cut}
Happy new year to you!
 Sincerely, Andrea Forsyth”

            I was happy to check out the study and responded such to her that this had always been an open minded quest for the truth to know if our children would be OK in the end or not.  Without giving you the full detail (which I'm happy to provide) it turned out the study she had referred me to was performed by an organization who received its financial funding from Investigations math's parent company.  I was no longer amazed that the conclusion said Investigations math was the best program for every student and every socio-economic condition possible.  

            I presented these findings to the board in their January 2006 meeting and challenged them that by the end of the month (20 days away) they needed to produce just one valid independent peer reviewed study that showed the effectiveness of any of the programs they had implemented district wide.  It is now 15 months later and I'm still waiting.  However, that didn't slow down the ASD propaganda machine as Rob Smith (financial director) and Gary Seestrand (asst. Superintendent) began telling at least one person I have heard from on each of them, that all my research was “biased and flawed”.  Evidently that's the way of doing business with ASD.  If you can't beat them, discredit them.

            Here's another myth that you may not know.  ASD and the Utah Department of Education has touted that Utah is above the national average in math.  Wrong.  Demographically Utah is in the bottom third of the nation.  Here's why:  Utah's white population far exceeds other states such that our weighted average with 80% white children scores that are lower than the majority of other states' white pupil scores, brings our average up above other states with large low scoring minority scores.  It would be interesting to know if ASD was also below national average but NAEP scores can’t be calculated at a district level.

            Here are a couple stories that should make you wonder about how good your children’s scores really are.  A co-worker who was very frustrated with his daughter's math skills at home, but satisfied that she must be OK because her report card showed a 94% “A” on it for math, decided after hearing this “extremist” talk about his concerns with the program, took his daughter to a Sylvan center to have her tested.  After administering the CAT to her, they determined she was at a Kindergarten level of computation skills and a 1st grade level of comprehension skills.  At the time she was halfway through her 2nd grade year.  I guess that's why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last month released a study that gave Utah a “D” for “Truth in Advertising” on our math grades.  We like to say our kids are at a high level (all is well in Zion right?) but in reality our kids aren't up to par with the national average let alone leading the way in the most heavily concentrated area of people who believe the glory of God is intelligence.  Disgraceful.

            You should also know the district deceived you and parents when Barry Graff said in your meeting last year that every school would get to choose from a standards-based and a traditional math program.  The members of the district committee were hand selected by the district officials.  Of the approximately 30 members, I have been told only 3 had issues with Investigations math and the press reported how so many of the members wanted to keep Investigations math.  The committee developed a rubric to evaluate programs then selected 8 programs to review.  Amazingly Saxon math was one of them (though I think it was just to say they looked at it).  When it wasn't chosen by the committee and two middle of the road nearly identical programs were selected, many parents were quite upset since Barry promised that we could have a traditional program such as Saxon to choose from.  Public outcry caused the district to open the selection process up and gave principals the ability to choose Saxon as one of the programs to evaluate, however, the district also released a document to their committee members which I obtained and it showed they had graded Saxon with extremely low scores in several grades, ending with 6th grade only having a 38% correlation to the state core.  When I found an alignment on record with the State Board of Education showing Saxon with over a 90% correlation in that grade, I had a pretty plausible explanation for why Saxon was graded so low.  We have leaders who wanted to try and kill it off by making it unreasonable for any principal to even evaluate it if they knew they had to develop other material to supplement it. A GRAMA request will be filed Monday to obtain a copy of their records and find out the truth about how they arrived at their figures.  Eight of the top ten private schools in the state use Saxon math and most of the charter schools as well.  It is a very effective program which the district is against because it uses direct instruction instead of constructivism, the currently preferred fad in educational methods.

            Speaking of Saxon, when you read the attached IOWA test scores, you will be interested to know that back in the 90's when California experimented with “standards-based” math, commonly called “fuzzy math”, they dropped to 2nd lowest math scores in the country and it woke them up to the issue.  They raised their standards and then the only schools that could use Investigations and such had to heavily supplement.  A professor at Cal State named Wayne Bishop decided to track the progress of schools that switched from Mathland (virtually identical to Investigations) to Saxon math.  How effective was it?  At the low end, schools performing even worse than Geneva elementary with high hispanic, high illegal alien student counts tripled their scores over a period of 4 years going from the 19th percentile to over 60%.  The rich schools also had dramatic increases showing Saxon worked across all ranges.  Another story about Saxon, a district in Maryland called Anne Arundel took their 14 worst performing schools and put them on Saxon and after one year had doubled their scores.  Saxon works and that our district apparently intentionally killed it so we could not use it is another point which they will have to someday account for.  The funny thing is that Saxon has gone through many changes over the years and they give no credit for it’s changes from 30 years ago but are totally excited that Investigations version 2 has just been released and brings back the times tables.  Even Brett Moulding the state director of curriculum acknowledged to me that with the revisions of Saxon over the past several years, it has turned into a very solid program even incorporating units called “Investigations”!!!

            A week ago I got this email from an SLC resident that has seen my weekly emails and she decided to contact me about her poor Hispanic friend who moved to Orem.

Dear Oak,
I'm an admirer of yours up in SLC.  My friend [name removed] forwards your stuff to [me].  I'm writing for your advice.  Another friend just moved from a small district (Provo) to a huge one (Alpine).  [She] now lives below the poverty line (she and her American husband have three kids, and he's still paying child support for his two from a previous marriage...and he's manual laborer.  You get the picture).  Anyway, their oldest child has been in Head Start and was learning to read and do math well in kindergarten.  He is a bright kid, and so are his parents despite their circumstances.  I've gotten materials to [her] and she also works with her kids at home.

SO...they move from their horrible apartment on a highway (thus her Provo public school wasn't exactly in prime demographics) to a better duplex just barely in Orem.  She called me after two weeks completely distraught at how bad the Orem school seems compared to the other.  The little boy's not reading anymore, learning phonics, doing math (and what bugs her the most is that he's not saying the American pledge of allegiance, which has nothing to do with curriculum, but which I found interesting).  The whole school, she found, seemed fraught with low expectations and a terrible learning atmosphere.  I told her she needs to get on a charter list immediately and to find at least 3 educated parents in her area and discover which public schools she should open enroll at.  Do you have any suggestions or know of any charters that don't have a 600 student waiting list?  Any decent district schools you know of on the far southern tip of Orem?  Do you think vouchers will stand and they could send the kid to Meridian, if that private school still exists?  They'd definitely qualify for the $3000, but couldn't pay anything over that, so private may be out.

Sorry to bother you, but I care a lot about this family and couldn't think of anyone more knowledgeable on this subject.
Thanks very much,
[name removed]

            Pitiful isn't it?  All the more reason to examine your options again for splitting now that SB30 offers guidelines for the process.

            I have heard that UVSC offers a test specifically created for what they call the “swiss cheese math” in Alpine district?  The test lets you see what holes are in your child’s math education before they graduate and have to go into remediation.  They offered this test to the district to find out what students have missed but ASD REFUSED IT!  I would suggest demanding that all the Orem children are tested and see what skills and knowledge they are lacking.  You should do CAT testing on the lower grades to ensure they really know what the schools say they know.

            Lastly, another piece of information to let you know who is in charge of your Orem children’s education.  A couple years ago I saw something being done in other states where people were donating posters that said “In God We Trust” to classrooms hoping that children would read the poster and remember the source of their blessings.  I now have to take back my statement from the beginning of this letter and I did actually have a short conversation with Vern on the phone over a year ago, but not about math.  It was about getting his support if I and others donated such posters if he would help get them out to the schools.  Vern said he would do it.  I'm ready to send out the posters along with a nice one page lesson that could be performed for 10 minutes each Constitution Day.  It now appears that Vern will no long support this action because I made the mistake of putting the word “Republic” on the poster.  Specifically, “In God We Trust” is the main large text and in subtext at the bottom it reads, “The National Motto of the Republic of the United States of America.” 

            If you hadn't noticed, all district correspondence contains the line Vern loves, “Educating all Students to Ensure the Future of our Democracy.”  Besides reversing his previous promise, this is quite disturbing that he of all people would take up the fight for socialism in our district.  We pledge allegiance to the flag of the REPUBLIC of the United States, not the Democracy.  It seems he disagrees with our founding fathers who said “we have given you a republic, if you can keep it” (Ben Franklin) and “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths.” (James Madison)  Here's a link to see the poster and the curriculum page I prepared.

            You should ask Vern what problem he has with the posters and see if he responds.  Initially, before I learned he was against the word Republic, he told me after viewing the poster that he would only “approve” it if it matched the three-foot wide posters placed in each school (there’s only 1 in the entire school). That wasn't feasible to me because it's three-feet wide and teachers have limited space in their classrooms.  It would also have tripled my costs in getting the 3,000 posters printed.  Once I offered to remove the word Republic, he got word to me that the posters could then be printed but he wouldn't respond to my question as to why he wanted the word off.  After consulting with several legislators they instructed me not to remove the “offending” word and to begin a drive to get the posters donated to schools all over the state which I will soon take up action to accomplish.

In conclusion, here’s a few things I think you should ask the district for:

1)  The real data that showed Investigations math was the cause for the increased grades and not the introduction of supplemental traditional math work in the schools and the influence of parents teaching kids at home (which thousands are doing with whatever materials they can get their hands on...Saxon, Singapore, etc…) 

2)  You should ask why so many Orem schools are failing and why Saxon isn’t being tried.  The answer to that will not be positive and will be filled with excuses because they hate the program while not understanding anything about it.

3)  You should ask the district for the peer reviewed studies they used in implementing Investigations math for K-6, Connected math for 6-9, and Interactive math for 10-12.  The latter two are still in use and are horrendous programs in the same way Investigations was for K-5.  In one scientific study performed in Michigan, Core-Plus math (similar to Connected and Interactive) was shown to have a scientific correlation to doubling the remediation rate for freshmen entering college, over those students taught with “traditional” math.  If they want “balanced” math, when will they replace the un-balanced Connected and Interactive math which are causing remediation rates to continue to soar.

4)  You might also ask Vern for a list of those he considers extremists and to get examples of extreme actions?  Trying to get leaders to change direction?  Getting thousands of signatures on a petition?  Trying to get the public schools to teach the times tables and long division?  Getting legislators to raise state math standards?  Testifying to the state legislature that Investigations math is destroying our state’s technical future?  Putting my children in a charter school with a real math program?  Switching positions on the voucher issue from against it to for it?  Trying to get the district split so that more parents can actually be involved on a school board instead of just a few people who have that much time available and most without children in the school system? Spending thousands of hours trying to get Utahn's to wake up to the need for us to lead the country in math?  If so, I stand guilty as charged and might be an extremist after all.  To add to the charge, I think Vern Henshaw should resign and be replaced with someone who actually respects parents rather than call us names and ignores us while pressing forward with his own agenda.


Oak Norton









Investigations Math Menu

** Most important pages to read (all have value but if you will only read a few pages make it these)
* Very important

Research and Information Press Coverage

THE PETITION TO REMOVE INVESTIGATIONS MATH** (OVER 5% of ASD represented--still ignored by ASD)


Math With Madeline Video

All Weekly Email Updates **

Edspresso Article on WMD Comics

Weapons of Math Destruction Comics**

What Can You Do About Fuzzy Math in Your Area - 13 Ideas**

Brain Programming

ASD's Saxon Math Deception
Part 2 of the Deception

4/21/07 ASD Superintendent Calls Parents Extremists (for wanting the times tables in schools)

Alpine School District Residents Should Choose Saxon Math

9/13/06 Dual Enrollment Guidelines - Opting Out of Math or Other Classes

9/2/06 Jaime Escalante and NCTM Standards**

9/2/06 Amber Lee's Independent Research

The Math Story (ie. How I Got Started)

7/31/06 Educators Ignore Project Follow-Through**

7/26/06 Comparison of Alpine to Nebo and Provo Districts and comments on Orem City Breaking Off **

3/30/06 Utah Public Radio Broadcast with David Wright and Damon Bahr* (Right-Click and use Save As to download)

Insane Supplementary Materials Compound Investigations Math Nightmare**

Map of ASD Precincts and Election information- You must register to run by 3/17

3/2/06 David Wright's Mathematician Petition to the State of Utah*

2/14/06 Why are Charter School Scores Better than Alpine School District's?*

2/14/06 Alpine School District IOWA Test Math Scores

10 Myths About Math Education and Why You Shouldn't Believe Them

2/1/06 The Case for Utah adopting California's Math Standards-Testimony to Utah Congress**

1/10/06 School Board Meeting challenge to find just one valid study by 1/31/06 ** (I'm still waiting)

Math Tutors in Utah (find one/list one)

11/9/05 Update - How ASD is failing more children each year**

ASD's statement to teachers authorizing them to teach traditional math without fear of repercussion

California Study showing tripling of scores for schools that left constructivist math and implemented Saxon Math**

10/31/05 Petition Maps (see where people are signing the petition-blue dots are schools, red are petitions)

How About Grades 6-12 Connected and Interactive Math?**

Raising Critical Thinking Skills*

Pro-Investigations websites (for anyone interested)

8/15/05 Update (compares Alpine to other districts and charter schools) *

7/29/05 Update (resources given to ASD, sample problems, ASD vs. Nebo School District) *

Investigations Math Origins and Articles*

Math Programs Compared ("Traditional", Investigations, Saxon)

Supplementing your Public School Student's Education**

The California Investigations Math Failure**

Community comments - both Pro/Anti Investigations **

Investigations Math Poll Introduction and Question Summary*


Additional articles are covered in weekly updates since April 2007

Victory in Utah - State to Revamp Standards (11/16/06)

Major Breaking News...NCTM does a 180 after 17 years of destroying math in America

It must really irritate the folks at Alpine School District (ASD) who have taken to calling all my work "biased and flawed" to have such no-name disreputable organizations pandering to my lies. The legacy of ASD will be the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of students unable to obtain a technical higher education degree.

4/25/07 Provo Daily Herald - Math petitioners called 'extremists' in Alpine District

4/24/07 Deseret News Article - So how many different programs are appropriate to use at one time Mr. Henshaw?

3/1/07 - Deseret News - Schools' grades mixed - Utah system rated by U.S. Chamber in a new report

2/14/07 Provo Daily Herald - Committee makes math program suggestions for Alpine: Many in district pine for 'Investigations'

2/14/07 Deseret News - Alpine seeking balance in math

2/12/07 Deseret News - Math Program Deleted - Alpine District dumps controversial approach

11/16/06 Deseret News - State leaders support math overhaul for schools

11/16/06 Salt Lake Tribune - Utah's 'fuzzy math' curriculum scrapped; legislators endorse plan to revamp state standards

11/15/06 New York Times - As Math Scores Lag, a New Push for the Basics

10/29/06 Provo Daily Herald - Survey: Math Program Doesn't Add Up

10/25/06 Deseret News - Students decline at 5 Utah colleges

10/19/06 Deseret News - Math learning is shallow in U.S., professor says

10/19/06 Deseret News - Math in Utah — 'fuzzy' or A-OK?

10/06 Salt Lake Tribune - Bad marks for Utah's schools

10/9/06 BYU NewsNet - Alpine School District Under Attack

9/30/06 Provo Daily Herald - Districts evaluate 'failures' in testing

9/29/06 Provo Daily Herald - Utah schools receive progress rankings

9/26/06 - Parents Know the Right Equation for Teaching Math - by Phyllis Schafly

9/12/06 Wall Street Journal - New Report Urges Return to Basics In Teaching Math

9/6/06 Provo Daily Herald - Parent suggests Alpine district be responsive

8/28/06 Provo Daily Herald - Alpine readies to let schools choose curriculum for math (be sure to check out the comments section)

8/26/06 Provo Daily Herald - Charter schools attract parents concerned about public education

7/29/06 Deseret News - Burned-out teachers problematic

7/26/06 Deseret News - Most favor creation of small school districts

5/28/06 Salt Lake Tribune - Alpine School District relents and will change its math offerings***

5/26/06 Deseret News - Alpine opts for choice in its math programs***

5/25/06 Provo Daily Herald - District Reviews Math Options***

5/23/06 - Provo Daily Herald -Orem OKs feasibility study of splitting from Alpine district

5/23/06-Deseret News - Orem not hastening into a schools split

5/23/06-Salt Lake Tribune Article-Orem to study Alpine District split

5/12/06 Provo Daily Herald - Math decision delayed

5/10/06 Provo Daily Herald - Petition Requests District Division

5/6/06 Deseret News - Utah to study states' math programs

4/16/06 Provo Daily Herald- Alpine District continues to lose students to charters

4/6/06 Provo Daily Herald- Charter school debate heats up in Alpine school district

3/20/06 Salt Lake Tribune - Alpine in grip of 'Math Wars'

3/3/06 Provo Daily Herald-Professor: Clearer math standards needed

3/2/06 Deseret News- Math Petition Circulating

2/19/06 San Jose Mercury News - Math back in forefront, but debate lingers on how to teach it.

2/18/06 Salt Lake Tribune-Battle over math teaching spreads

2/15/06 Salt Lake Tribune-Indifference to math skills part of the problem

2/15/06 Deseret News-Parents voice their views on Alpine math

2/15/06 Provo Daily Herald-Provo district seeks math balance

2/9/06 Deseret News - Alpine trio defend approach to math
Rebuttal Letter to Editor: Math approach is harmful

2/7/06 Deseret News - Alpine defends math classes

2/2/06 Deseret News - Lawmaker Gives Alpine Math an F

1/29/06 Salt Lake Tribune - Charter School Funding Tight

1/20/06 Deseret News Letter to Editor: Rote exercises pay vital role in mathematical education

1/7/06 Provo Daily Herald - Investigations: Not your parent's math

12/18/05 Provo Daily Herald -Math doesn't add up for all

12/13/05  15 Charter Schools Scheduled to Open Next Year

11/24/05 Provo Daily Herald - Parents mad over new math curriculum (be sure to read the comments)



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