Educating All Parents To Ensure The Future Of Our Republic

Investigations Math 7/29/05 Update


After receiving an email from Barry Graff, Alpine School District curriculum person (what's your title Barry?) I have a couple of corrections to make. To see the detail of our email exchange please look at the 8/15/05 Investigation Math update page. Previously I had stated the Nebo district was using Saxon math. That is incorrect. They are using Houghton Mifflin, another traditional math based method and not a "new math" method like Investigations. I'm still a little puzzled where my initial information came from, but I don't discount the base results any for that correction.

Second, Barry informs me that the 7th grade comparison is invalid because Alpine had their special ed students take the test compared to Nebo using their regular 7th grade math students. Please check the 8/15/05 Investigation Math update page for more information about this.


Sign the Petition to rid us of Investigations Math

If you are about to tune this page out because it's lengthy, at least scroll down to view the 7th grade math comparison charts between Alpine and Nebo. Socio-economic factors are the leading indicator of school success overall, and Alpine is clearly the more affluent of the two districts. That makes it all the more impressive that by 7th grade, Nebo students are 20% above Alpine students at the highest level of math mastery. Nebo uses a direct instruction method called Saxon math, while Alpine uses Investigations math.

May I remind those of you about to read this page, that though I was put off by Investigations the first time I saw what it was, I respected the opinion of our school principal that it was a good program. Until I decided to find out for myself what this program was all about and form my own opinion based on information I could find, I was prepared to completely accept this program. Someone named Shoseki said, "Truth only reveals itself when one gives up all preconceived ideas." To those of you that may be upset with the resources and comments I have below, please try to be open minded and let the information be weighed in a proper balance. Don't force the scale due to your pleasure that your child is bringing home good grades. Grades don't reflect learning and please don't ask me to prove that. Go read a book on Einstein's life.

A lot has happened since I first published the Investigations Math information. First of all a disappointing show in the raw number of people I'm reaching, but I guess I have to blame myself for a lack of marketing skills and hoping that in sending out a couple hundred emails would actually generate a grassroots effort to save our kids education. I need YOUR help to spread the word. I'm just a pebble in a pond (or however that saying goes). Please toss your pebble in with mine and make a bigger splash.

Real Life Stories

I now know personally of many people that have pulled their kids out of the school system to homeschool or put children in charter and private schools. Almost all of them had taken to supplementing their children's educations at home because they recognized the great weakness of Investigations math. More than one parent have described how putting their children in charter schools have caused their children to be put back one or more grade levels in math. In one instance, a former employee of the school district, who thought she'd just let the school district program work as it was designed to, wound up putting her 4 children in charter school and all 4 of them were put back 2 grade levels. That's exactly Dr. Wilfried Schmid's point (see 1st document below), that Investigations puts kids behind.

School Board Meeting

I attended the school board meeting on Tuesday July 19th. You may read my public remarks here.

Met with Barry Graff, Curriculum person at the district

As a result of the school board meeting I obtained an appointment to meet with Barry Graff, the district curriculum specialist, on Friday July 22nd. David Cox, a teacher in the district and state legislator went with me to the meeting. In preparation for the meeting I put together a packet of resources for Barry which I will list and link to below along with a brief description of what each one contains. He also answered some of the questions I had asked at the school board meeting and pointed me to some additional resources touting Investigations Math, the state board of education's sample questions for the state core standards, and comparisons of scores between schools in the district. This is most enlightening stuff and you really need to check out the comparisons I have provided to see the difference between curriculum (hmmm, not sure if that's plural...maybe curriculi?). For a synopsis of the answers he gave me regarding my public remarks at the board meeting and a brief summary on our meeting, click here.

List of resources given to Barry:

  1. Harvard's Dr. Wilfried Schmid's (MS Word Doc) opening remarks at a NY conference that TERC students are 2 years behind by 5th grade.
  2. Testimony of James Milgram (MS Word Doc) , Stanford research mathematician, to congress that there is NO research evidence that TERC programs are effective and the NSF programs set too low a standard
  3. Jan Mokros' "study" on TERC Investigations debunked
  4. Open letter to Secretary of Education (MS Word Doc) , Richard Riley, from Dr. David Klein at CSU and signed by over 200 professors of math including 7 Nobel Laureates, that the NSF endorsed math programs were never reviewed by REAL mathematicians and some of the programs touted actually remove fractions and multiplication from their curriculum. (though TERC is not specifically mentioned on the list because it came out shortly after these programs, they are all from the same mold where teachers faciliate classes instead of teaching directly)
  5. Fordham foundation report with Utah ranking 35th in the nation for math curriculum due to lack of memorization, reliance on calculators, overuse of manipulatives
  6. "The havoc wrought by today's "modern" math" by Dr. Charles Ormsby (PhD MIT). Dr. Ormsby maintains the opposite of TERC that "teaching the techniques first, and then exploring the underlying concepts and why these techniques work is the most efficient way to achieve true understanding."
  7. TIMSS international benchmarks which show 93% of Singapore's 8th grade students reach the intermediate international benchmark, while in the U.S. only 64% do. We only have 90% that reach the low mark.
  8. * Testimony of John Hoven (MS Word Doc), PhD economist, bachelor's in math and physics, and master's degree in physics. Because Singapore is "the acknowledged world leader in mathematics," Dr. Hoven compares their math program to the U.S. NAEP guidelines (national assessment of educational progress). He compares U.S. math problems with Singapore and graphically shows that Singapore students are doing problems in 3rd-5th grade that rival our 8th grade level because we have lowered the bar so much. Look a the document and see what I mean.
  9. Jeff Lindsey's report on Wesley Elementary school in Houston. As you'll read below, socio-economic factors are huge in education. Wesley was a school doomed for failure under this logic since 99% of the school is minority. Yet somehow they were placing in the 82nd percentile. The reason? Direct instruction by the teachers to the students instead of teachers acting like facilitators. Teaching kids works!
  10. Washington Post article on Maryland schools falling apart from constructivist math programs (meaning teachers act as facilitators instead of teaching)
  11. Conundrums for Constructivists (MS Word Doc) by David Cox. David reports on a study performed by constructivists where they themselves admit maybe they're not onto something after all.
  12. The Difference in Research (MS Word Doc) by Dr. George Cunningham. Dr. Cunningham points out that there is no research to compare math methodologies and when constructivists were invited to have a real scientific comparison by taking children that were just coming into school and having two groups be taught by direct instruction vs. constructivist methods, the people offering to do the study were called racist, anti-feminist, and other labels.
  13. Letter to President Clinton by educators begging him to read E.D. Hirsch's book, The Schools We Need: And Why We Don't Have Them. The letter is signed by about a hundred math educators at prestigious universities. I am purchasing a copy for Barry Graff as well as myself to better understand this issue. Publisher's weekly describes the book as follows:

    Bestselling author Hirsch (Cultural Literacy) argues that American education, kindergarten through high school, has been undermined by a deep contempt for factual knowledge and an addiction to fads such as "project-oriented" instruction, "relevant" topics, "child-centered" activities and building students' self-esteem. In a damning, highly provocative, full-scale assault on today's educational establishment, this University of Virginia English professor calls for a return to a so-called traditional approach emphasizing drill, verbal practice, memorization and interactive classroom instruction. Hirsch, who advocates a grade-by-grade core curriculum, buttresses his pragmatic tack with cognitive-psychology research and international comparative studies of classroom practice. An enjoyable 30-page glossary demystifies educators' slogans, pet phrases and jargon. A rigorous polemic.

Barry maintains that no curriculum is a "silver bullet" and all have holes. They have recognized a lot of holes in the Investigations Math program since inception and they have certainly made some progress in filling in those holes. My point is that the difference between Investigations Math and other curriculum is that Investigations has bigger and substantially more holes than other rigorous programs and if we were to implement another program we could have a more cohesive program rather than tossing patches at this one. Besides, if Investigations was such a great curriculum, why patch anything?

SES (socio-economic status) Factors - Now it gets interesting (Traditional vs. Investigations)

Now for the really interesting stuff. One of the things that came out of the meeting with Barry Graff is the importance of taking into account SES (socio-economic status) in determining how good scores really are. For example, lower economic class schools should have lower grades if all things are held equal when compared to an affluent area. I think it would be safe to say that the Alpine school district is overall a fairly affluent area.

Some of the packets Barry gave me when I left his officer were CRT test results for grades in various districts around the state that are somewhat comparable in size. I took that information and tossed it into a spreadsheet and started plotting some graphs (the curse of being a CPA). I chose to compare Alpine with the Nebo school district because Nebo uses Houghton-Mifflin math and they are in a lower SES than Alpine since they take in Spanish Fork, Salem, Mapleton, Santaquin, Payson, etc... Honestly, there are a few things I'm not 100% certain on because the numbers Barry Graff gave me were actually much worse for Alpine, showing about 40% of the students failing 7th grade. I wound up contacting Seth Sorensen at the Nebo school district who looked up Alpine and Nebo numbers again for me online at the COGNOS site run by the state and gave me much better figures for Alpine which trend similarly to Nebo so I have a lot more confidence in the numbers. (see additional updates to this on the 8/15/05 update page)

Just today 7/29/05, I spoke with Patty Murphy at the state board of Education and got some SES data on these two districts. The data was mostly retrieved from the National Center for Education Studies ( and the Utah State Office of Education ( What the data shows is that Nebo is definitely a lower SES location in terms of poverty, but I just wasn't willing to put together yet another spreadsheet listing all the towns in both districts to try and come up with an average income level for households. I'm going to make a wild assumption that Alpine school district has a higher median income than Nebo. Also, in an effort to be fair and objective, I have included statistics that show Alpine has a higher percentage of students in some type of limited English program.

School District
Poverty %
% children on free & reduced lunch
% students in limited English program

3rd Grade Comparison

Mastery Level: Higher is better
Levels 1 & 2: Not Passing
Levels 3 & 4: Passing

Comparing the 3rd grade results we see similar trends (increases and decreases) between 2003 and 2004 for both Alpine and Nebo districts which I suppose could be due to test questions that differed between years. However, the more important factor is that 83% of students in Nebo are passing while 76% in Alpine are. Also, the Nebo students have a higher level of mastery than Alpine. An impressive achievement when you consider that SES factors are opposite what this table should show.

5th Grade Comparison

Again, similar to the 3rd grade results, Nebo has a 5% higher population of students in the 4th level of mastery of math facts, while the 3rd mastery level is 1% lower. The children in Nebo just seem to be a little bit ahead of Alpine.

Comparison of State Board math problems compared to Singapore math

OK, after the prior graphs, I wish I had some Saxon problems to compare to our state board core problems, but what I do have is Singapore math books since that what we've been using to supplement our children's math this summer. I think after you see this, you'll see that our state board of education could be where the underlying problem comes from. (Also note the comparison document near the top where I've put a red asterisk next to item 8 which compares national test bank questions to Singapore math questions)

Barry gave me the website (Utah test item pool server) to see what kind of math problems the state board generates as part of their core standards that children are supposed to be able to do in each grade. I downloaded 4th grade math problems across their whole core curriculum to compare with the 4th grade Singapore math book my daughter uses. Some of these state problems are downright ridiculous for 4th graders such as the 4th problem below. My first grader could do that and maybe even my pre-schooler.

Sample 4th grade Utah core problems

1) What is 5,090.4 in words?

A. five thousand ninety-four tenths
B. five thousand ninety and four tenths
C. five thousand nine and four tenths
D. five hundred nine and four tenths

2) LaToya made popcorn using different amounts of kernals.

Kernal (cups) Popcorn (cups)
1 6
2 12
3 18

The table above shows how much popcorn she popped each time. How many cups of popcorn will LaToya have if she pops 5 cups of kernals?
A. 30 cups
B. 20 cups
C. 36 cups
D. 24 cups

3) About how tall is a doorway?

A. 2 meters
B. 20 meters
C. 2 centimeters
D. 20 centimeters

4) The table shows the number of pizzas sold each day for five days.

Day Pizzas Sold
1 111
2 97
3 74
4 105
5 83

Which day had the lowest number of pizzas sold?

A) 3
B) 5
C) 2
D) 4

Links to the PDF's where these problems came from (if you want to see for yourself):
Problem 1
Problem 2
Problem 3
Problem 4

4th Grade Singapore Math Problems

Now here's a few of the Singapore math problems. Notice how the some of the problems are multi-step. You have to do two problems to find the answer, and they require you to think about math while performing a real-world problem. In Investigations you are taught to think about math in the classroom and then work on far simpler problems or cut out images and paste them together, or other "manipulative" projects. Now I know the school district has made changes here and our kids are bringing home some of the more "traditional" math homework, but wouldn't it be better to have a core curriculum that didn't have so many holes that needed patching. Wouldn't it be better to have problems that teach comprehension as you solve them? Parents would love to help their kids understand this kind of homework and the kids would build their self-esteem for having solved these challenging problems.

Now which set of problems do you want your child struggling with in 4th grade? Which do you think will teach them more? The state core problems just don't stack up to a rigorous curriculum (please note the first problems are from the state and not necessarily equivalent to Investigations math though the schools derive their problems from what the state publishes).

It isn't that Singapore math problems are terribly more challenging, but they are more comprehensive. Investigations math advocates say one of the purposes of the program is to teach children to understand math concepts by discussing them and pondering math relationships. I challenge that notion and believe that solving comprehensive problems is what brings comprehension of math. The process of thinking through a problem is where learning takes place. You learn by doing.

It seems to me that ultimately the core of this whole problem is that our state board of educators has set low standards. When districts try to hit low standards, they succeed, but at the detriment of our children. We need to raise the bar and have our children approach math with the understanding that a challenging course is the best path to superior mastery of math skills. Even if their grades drop, which they should in a more challenging course, they'll know more and be better prepared for algebra and college. After all, self-esteem doesn't come from people telling you how good or smart you are, it comes from tackling hard math problems and getting the RIGHT ANSWER!

Alpine School District Interventions Packet

Just when I thought I could wrap up this page, I opened up a binder Barry gave me that every teacher is being given for the upcoming year. This is one of the "hole patches" the school district has developed. It's called "Basic Facts Benchmark and Intervention Toolkit." I think it's called that so the teacher has a resource to assess and "intervene" when students are having problems and they want to make sure they're up to speed on the core curriculum.

In looking through the book at the 4th grade "interventions" the only thing that's really there is a page of multiplication problems up to 9 x 9. Over 30 years ago in 3rd grade I had to have my times table down to 12 x 12 and we had times tests constantly to get those facts down pat. I'd guess most of you grew up that way as well and somehow managed to become engineers and accountants and stay-at-home moms and everything else that uses math (which is literally everything).

The beginning of the interventions book informs teachers that while students are learning their addition and multiplication facts, it is inappropriate to give them times tests because they are just learning their "strategies." I'm sorry, but I thought by 3rd-4th grade, children should realize that multiplication is simply a grid of so many numbers wide by tall and that they didn't need to formulate a strategy to deal with that kind of problem. We are also informed in the binder that "all students should be fluent with facts for 0s-5s and 10s by the end of third grade." I thought that over 30 years we'd be finding better ways to teach kids and perhaps they should have that set of skills down by first or second grade (as Singapore math and others do in their curriculum) and have all numbers through 12 down by the end of third grade.

The "correct" answer here, I believe, is we should, and Singapore does, and that's why they're #1 in the world because they expect that tiny bit more out of kids at a younger age. It really isn't a revolutionary concept here. It's just teachers giving direct instruction to their students and expecting them to learn what they teach and do it a tiny bit earlier in school (than we currently expect, but was done for decades previously) so that when they get through 6th grade, they're way ahead of where they would have been because they've been pushed a tiny bit more all along the way.

If you've read this far, I'm begging you, please contact the Alpine School District and tell them you've read this website and see a clear need for a better math program. Saxon math would be a great pick. I've never yet met anyone that didn't love the program (unlike the thousands that don't like Investigations math in this district) and the results of Nebo's district clearly show Saxon works well.

If you'd like to contact the school district, here's a link to their contact page. Use the School Administration phone number. Their webform doesn't seem to be working at the moment. THEN, SIGN THE PETITION to have the district let principals make their own math choice decisions to switch to a direct instruction program such as Saxon math.

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)



Copyright 2005-14+, All Rights Reserved

spam software