Investigations Math Poll Results - Origins and Articles
Investigations Math was created by a Cambridge non-profit organization known
as TERC (short for TERrorizing Children - no, just kidding).
What you are about to see is a bit about the Investigations program, what
it comprises, and what others are saying about it. You will read statements
by teachers using this program that could cause you to reach for some duct
to wrap your head before it explodes in frustration. Consider yourself warned.
Please be sure to read this entire page. You could literally spend hours exploring
the few links in #3 and it's almost essential that you review some of those
pages so you can see what weak information is touted as real proof of Investigations
1) While chatting with my Brother-in-law, Jon Nelson, a fine programmer
(taught me everything I know) and PhD student at Utah State University in Instruction
Technology, he pointed out an article from the Boston Globe discussing the
implementation of Investigations Math in school districts around Boston. Below
is a snip from the article, and here is a link
to the full article.
“Smith said school systems need to provide training for parents and
teachers if they want the new approach to succeed. In Boston, the school system
offers ''math nights" a few times a year and workshops for parents.
In Wayland, parents can attend PTO meetings to see examples of math games
can play with their children.
But many parents said they have to do more. They are drilling their children
in math facts, hiring tutors, or enrolling their children in Kumon Centers
or similar programs. Some specialists say mixing approaches will confuse children,
but parents say they want to be sure their children can compute equations with
William Pike, a Wellesley parent who led an unsuccessful
fight against a curriculum called MathLand many years ago, found tutoring
for his sons. He
also did drills
with his youngest son, now a 10th-grader. ''We had to play catchup with
Pike, an MIT graduate. ''It's infuriating."
Then Jon's comments were:
"There is something funny thing about the 'benefits'
that are reported [of Investigations Math]. In the article it mentions
huge improvements in performance. But, as consumers of research we have to
ask, 'what are possible confounding
other words, 'Is the math curriculum the only factor that is affecting
the score improvements or are there other factors?'
The quotes I extracted show a couple possible 'alternatives'
as to why the curriculum was so successful. First, the parents are so concerned
that they are getting tutors to supplement the curriculum in school. Additionally,
the Boston school district offers “math nights” and workshops
for the parents.
I am not saying that these things are bad. I
am simply saying that these may be some of the reasons why Boston showed
If these things
would we see the same gains? No gain? Or, a decline in performance?"
This was exactly the reason for this survey though I don't think I achieved
the exact purpose I was looking for since I'm not overly experienced in doing
this. There are certainly things I would do differently were I to
repeat this poll. However, it is my belief after doing this survey that the
reason for many of the math score improvements we may be having are a direct
result of parents spending more time with their children trying to catch them
up in their education and in essense homeschooling them to stay competitive.
2) From a website with lots of information about running gifted student programs
comes an article called "Why
Memorize Math Facts?" The author, Aimee Yermish
is an educational consultant and here's a couple clips from her article.
"My private practice is full of kids whose parents thought that way, and
now have to pay me lots of money to teach the kids what they could have been
for free in second or third grade. They usually hit the wall some time
in middle school or in algebra I, where you have to use these math facts
rapidly on the
...And while I would agree that some of the very highest areas of math (beyond
my own expertise, as I am but a lowly molecular biologist-turned-educator,
so I haven't studied much beyond multivariate calculus and simple differential
equations, plus statistics, linear algebra, and discrete math) do not require
automaticity of basic math facts, they do require automaticity of the skills
that fall somewhere in between them and single-digit addition, and that those
skills are very difficult to master and to automatize when the basic stuff
isn't firmly in place. It's going to be very difficult to get to graduate-level
mathematics if you can't hack calculus because you couldn't hack algebra because
you couldn't hack middle-school math because you couldn't hack arithmetic
Now, where you do have my agreement is that a gifted child who is ready
to progress should be allowed to progress. If he is ready to understand algebra,
then he should be allowed to study algebra, even if he is still struggling
to memorize his math facts. The two areas should be worked on in parallel.
Frequently, it's the algebra study that convinces the kids that it was
idea to learn the math facts in the first place. Holding the "good
to the gifted kid's weakness with basic facts is really neither fair nor
truly appropriate, and it's a recipe for underachievement."
It seems to me that what we've seen in this survey is that parents are quite
frustrated at the slow nature of Investigations Math. I can say from my own
experience that last year my 3rd grader was so frustrated with being asked
multiplication problems in school and one boy in the class that was dominating
every answer, that in a couple hours with flashcards, she was then dominating
the class. Of course, *I* think she's a bright girl, but I also know that memorizing
facts improves the brain's recall ability and creates a system for retention
of other facts. It's an all around great mental exercise.
3) Below are a list
of excellent resources on real studies performed about Investigations math.
I hope you will take the time to review at least some of these links and
see for yourself the information that is being used in support of the program
and the negative comments exposing it.
*Review of studies touted by TERC(the Investigations Math creator) (the
conclusion was the study had multiple flaws in its methodology and the program
was not compared to a substantively different program such as Saxon math)
In Number, Data, and Space (TERC) by
Wilfried Schmid, Harvard University (June, 2001). Opening
remarks at the NYC HOLD math forum at NYU. "A
TERC teacher doesn't explain, and a TERC teacher doesn't teach! I don't want
to be misunderstood: group learning and discovery learning are parts of the
tool chest of every accomplished teacher, but it is folly to turn these techniques
into an ideology. If we mathematicians had to re-discover mathematics on
our own, we would not get very far! And indeed, TERC does not get very far. By
the end of fifth grade, TERC students have fallen roughly two years behind
where they should be."
(Schmid, Wilfried. "Remarks on Investigations in Number, Data and Space (TERC)." opening remarks delivered at the NYC HOLD Math Forum. Are our school's math programs adequate? Experimental mathematics programs and their consequences. New York University Law School, NYC, June 6, 2001.http://www.nychold.com/forum01-schmid.html)
the Data Really Show: Direct Instruction Really Works! The dirty little secret
from the biggest education study ever by Jeff Lindsey (great article)
Hands-On Math: A Snapshot View
A-Maze-ing Approach to Math by Barry Garelick - One of the best summaries
of the debate between constructivists and traditional math proponents which
concludes with an NSF sponsored study that shows the research done “falls
short of the scientific standards necessary to gauge overall effectiveness.” In
other words, there is NO valid research to say whether Investigations and 12
other NSF sponsored math programs are effective or not.
by Dr. Oliver DeMille presented at BYU in June 1999 -
A must read article for understanding the purpose of public education and how
the great leaders throughout all history were educated.
Correct* (Mathematically Correct is the informal, nationwide organization
that fights the Establishment
on behalf of sanity and quality in math education. -- David Gelernter, NY Post)
Illinois Loop -
An excellent website that has articles from a multitude of subjects from math
to social studies and how they're being taught in some schools. Excellent to
be aware of the variety of issues we face as parents.
HOLD - Hold Open Logical
Debates is the repository of the efforts of mathematicians to bring education
back to math classes. Excellent source of information including Wilfried Schmid's
paper mentioned above.
in Math Education (Excellent list of more resources)
of TERC-check this next block out and ask yourself if you think your
kids should be taught math with objects instead of textbooks.
Basic Information and Introduction
Investigations in Number, Data, and Space is a K-5 curriculum developed by
TERC Inc., Cambridge, MA, and marketed through Pearson Scott Foresman (and
previously by Scott Foresman - Addison Wesley and by Dale Seymour). The TERC
Investigations Project Director is Susan Jo Russell and the project web site
is www.terc.edu/investigations/. Pearson Scott Foresman has a Teacher Resources
page for the Investigations curriculum.
TERC: Investigations in Number, Data, and Space is marketed (in 2002) as whole
classroom units. The curriculum does not come with traditional student textbooks
and workbooks. Instead, each year of the curriculum is sold as a box full of
material: teacher guides for the year and for individual units, posters, overhead
transparencies, manipulatives, work sheets, and assorted gadgets.
As an example of the composition of TERC Investigations, here is the list
of student materials included in the Grade 5 package (valid in 2002). 4
rolls of adding machine tape; 36 blank 5/8" cubes; 1,000 stickers for
blank cubes; 200 1-cm cubes; 16 transparent blank spinners; 4 450-piece sets
polygons; 4 buckets of square color tiles (400 per bucket); 1,000 Snap(TM)
cubes; 1 set of elementary bar mass set-Ohaus; 4 graduated measuring prisms
(2-cm x 5-cm x 21-cm); 4-liter measuring pitcher (calibrated 100 ml - 1,000
ml); 4 spectrum school balance (includes 7-piece mass set); 4 sets standard
measuring pitchers (3 pitchers: quart, pint, cup per set); 10 measuring
tapes; 12 meter/yard sticks. The total package for Grade 5 is listed at $1,388.42,
and within that total the cost of the just mentioned student materials,
a class of 32, is $817.00.
Excuse me....where's the text book? This is
5th grade and we're still not beyond objects????
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