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Insane Supplementary Materials Compound Investigations Math Nightmare
As if Investigations math weren't enough cause for concern in Alpine School District (ASD), the district administrators have taken it upon themselves to produce the required supplemental materials the state mandates must now accompany areas that use Investigations math programs. Click this link to open up this homework assignment and then read the commentary below.
The document starts off defining the problem the student is to work on, 84 x 26. The student is then instructed to solve this problem using 2 of the strategies below. Notably absent is the standard algorithm, which my daughter thought to do in the 4th box where the student can try their "own strategy."
The first box contains the following problems: 84 x 10, 84 x 20, 84 x 5.
Under traditional math techniques, those fomulas would add up to 84 x 35 which wouldn't normally add up to 84 x 26, unless you're dealing in the world of fuzzy math where the process is more important than the correct answer (Deseret News article).
The second box is even more baffling. When a person thinks of a strategy, a number of things come to mind. You might think of the military where efficiency in operations are the priority for the troops. This example is kind of like invading Iraq by way of Antarctica. Six different math problems are given to illustrate how to do 84 x 26. The six problems, however, add up to 154 x 26.
Only the third box contains a valid example of how to achieve 84 x 26, but none of the strategies presented are as efficient as just following the standard algorithm as shown in the fourth box.
After sending this out to my petition list, a national board certified teacher from Alpine School District emailed me this letter:
Subject: A teacher's response to the dumb worksheet you posted
I have to respond to your statement quoted below. I've been using and helping to write "district" and "state" curriculum and teaching strategies for over two decades. This ASD homework sample is typical of what you get when you hire busy teachers, pay them pittence for a few hours or days, and ask them to produce "worksheets" or "lesson plans" for others to use. Having been in the position of writer on countless occasions, I know that we do our best and sometimes we come up with really good stuff. I realized many years ago, however, that it's pretty bold (can you say nervy or stupid) for districts or the state office of education to try to compete in this way with textbook companies who spend millions on development. Qualified teachers do a great job of creating and adjusting lessons to meet the needs of their students but I personally think the best things happen at the teacher/student interface. I might have a fantastic lesson, or I may have learned a great strategy that I can apply for students who need a special approach, but it's tough to put that kind of thing on paper. For me, that's where the art comes in. I don't think even the very best classroom teachers who spend their physical and intellectual energy working with students every day can come together in a few workshops and produce any great quantity of "supplementary" material like ASD is trying to use with their fuzzy math programs. If teachers themselves don't really "get" the fuzzy math and aren't gifted mathematicians themselves they may produce a few gems but I think the bulk of the product will be like the worksheet you attached.
Thanks for your great work,
[Teacher name withheld]
NBCT AYA Science
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