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The Math Story (8/8/2006)
I realized this week that most of you have never known the story of how I got involved trying to turn ASD's math program on its head, so I thought I would explain briefly what happened to cause me to do something I never intended to do. I will try to shorten my story considerably so I don't bore you to death (which I live in constant fear of termites for).
About two and a half years ago my oldest daughter was in third grade and near the end of the year I went to a parent teacher conference. I asked the teacher when my daughter was going to start learning the times tables because I learned them thirty years ago in third grade and thought surely they would be doing this by now. The teacher informed me that the times tables were no longer part of the program. I replied, "no longer part of the program, then how will kids learn their times tables." The teacher matter-of-factly stated, "well, the smart kids will just pick it up as they go." I think that conversation will be with me till the day I die.
I went straight to the principal (whose son I had coached in soccer a year or two previous to this time). He tried to calm me down saying things like "I know it's different from how we learned when we were kids but all the studies show that in the end the kids turn out just fine." I accepted this explanation as the word of someone that must have taken the time to see this work out in the end, but I still had that nagging intuitive feeling a person gets when something just isn't right.
Fast forward about a year. It all started in March 2005 when the school district held a community meeting entitled "The Proper Role of Public Education in a Democracy." Here's where I risk losing some of you. :) I read the flyer I received from the district and thought, that's so wrong. Why are they calling the meeting by that name? Don't they understand we're a Republic and not a Democracy? Don't they understand the true nature of free public education and who supports it?
So I attended the meeting with the idea I would make a brief statement concerning our country and founding fathers and I specifically told myself I would not bring up math at the meeting as this was still nagging on me while my daughter appeared to be floundering in 4th grade now (when she should have been doing long division as I had) and my 1st grader was bringing home the most inept assignments I'd ever seen.
At the meeting I brought up my two main points which were as follows: James Madison said, "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." I explained we were a Republic and should use that word in describing our country, not Democracy. Then I shared a second statement by Karl Marx which was the last item in his ten points of the Communist Manifesto: "FREE EDUCATION for all children in government schools." What is it we don't get today? I then tried to make the case that since the ACLU and federal Department of Education were trying to remove God from schools we should do everything in our power to emphasize the only document legally able to be taught in schools that many in our state of Utah believe was inspired of God, namely the Constitution of the United States for protecting the agency and freedom of man.
So I said my peace and sat down. Then it happened. Someone in the room stood up and said, "California tried Investigations math and rejected it, shouldn't we follow their example?" Then Gary Seastrand stood up and said, "California never gave it a fair shake. They only tried it a couple years and didn't do a full implementation." Then something astounding happened. Two parents sitting near me stood up and said they loved Investigations math. I'm not sure if my jaw hit the ground but I was most certainly in shock as they were the first parents I'd ever seen that liked the program.
After the meeting I approached Gary and a couple of the board members, one of whom I later learned was Chrissy Hannemann, my board representative, and said, "you ought to run a poll to find out why so many parents hate Investigations math and district people seem to love it." They looked at me and with nodding heads said, "yeah, that's a good idea." In that instant I knew they would never run such a poll and had expressed a platitude to appease me so I determined in that moment I would run a poll on a website that didn't yet exist.
I went home and got to work and you'll find the poll at the bottom of the Investigations math menu. After proving to myself that people generally despised this program I started to do my own research (much to my wife's dismay) by getting up in the very early hours of the day and staying up late. I was experiencing some unusually stressful experiences at work which actually in a way helped me have heightened insomnia which facilitated the work I needed to do. I hope not to repeat that period of life.
During this time I discovered that everything I'd been told was a lie. Not intentionally told I'm sure, but passed on from one mouth to another as knowledge coming from "experts" that was not to be questioned or researched for implicit trust is given to people in a subjective field that is never afforded people in objective scientific fields. The knowledge I gained propelled and compelled me to speak to the board at their meetings and try to show them the error of their ways. I quickly learned I would get nowhere with the board and district personnel as they were fully committed to their course of action.
At this point it's a little hazy what went through my mind, but I think I must have believed the only way I was ever going to succeed was to get a mass of people to help me and so I started a petition to raise awareness and educate people as to the problem we face. I reached out for parents, teachers, legislators, national experts, other school district administrators, and anyone else that could help the cause.
What else can I say but the rest is history which you can read about on all the pages on my site. The outward events are mostly recorded in the weekly email updates on the site but of course that doesn't reflect the hundredth part. I am thankful for the support so many of you have given me and will always be thankful for the opportunity you helped give me to climb this wall and experience so much personal growth and insight into what a person can do when they set their mind to a course of action and are supported by good people. The fight isn't over, but I thank you for your continued support.
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