Weekly Math Updates

February 3, 2006

This Week's Contents:
  • Testimony to Congress
  • State Rules on Investigations' Curriculum
  • Alpine Declines to Provide Me a Study
  • What Can I Do?

Testimony to Congress

Hi all,

    Well, a very exciting week which I'd been hoping would generate more exciting news for us.  Yesterday I was able to testify to the Utah Legislature's Appropriations Sub-Committee of the need for Utah to adopt the California math standards.  With support from local legislators, we succeeded in getting a piece of legislation written to be hopefully appended to a bill to force Utah to adopt the California math standards.  California gutted fuzzy math from its approved curriculum after years of experience and declining grades.  They tightened up the math standards with the help of mathematicians instead of math educators, and the resulting core standards couldn't be met by the likes of the programs in use in our school district.

    To quickly report on my testimony, I was told two days ago that I would have ten minutes to speak.  When the scheduler called me, he told me I'd have fifteen.  When I arrived and took my seat at the table, the chairman said I'd have five.  I had prepared for ten and was thus not able to give the full presentation, but I did the best I could and then fielded several questions.  One of the senators that was a former educator invited Brett Moulding (state curriculum director) from the audience up to sit next to me and answer some questions.  Some of the questions about Utah's math education scores as a state I was unable to completely answer but Senator Stephenson spoke up and helped fill in some of the gaps.

    The end result of the testimony was the appropriations committee has now requested the education task force or sub-committee to review Utah's math grades and report back to them.  I honestly see little chance of legislative action on this particular adoption at this moment, but things have been brought to people's attention and hopefully will generate further inquiry at higher levels.

    After my testimony, I left and Brett followed me out along with a lady in the back of the room.  In the hall, this woman stated she had just returned from a teacher's conference in Kentucky (I think) and she was basically horrified at these programs and very interested in what I had said.  Brett and I then spoke for about 30 minutes.  He said he was actually surprised Alpine hadn't moved off these math programs due to the stink raised by so many parents.  He also said I should have invited our district superintendent so he could see three legislators in his boundaries speak out against these math programs.  (There's actually more than three in our district that are against this program that I've spoken with).

    To get to my comments to the committee, go here:


    We will continue the dialog with legislators interested in improving education in Utah and hopefully see positive changes made soon.

State Rules on Investigations' Curriculum

    This morning Brett Moulding emailed me the state guidelines for Implementing Investigations math.  Investigations supposedly doesn't meet the state math core and so this line is added in the evaluation for implementation:

     Note: This program requires a strong professional development component to support implementation. If this program is implemented, supplemental resources must be used to address basic computational skills.

    I don't know when this line was added, but only last year did teachers in Alpine start teaching times tables again and this line needs re-written so that Investigations BECOMES the supplement to some other stronger program.  Read my testimony to congress for more information on how far behind Investigations sets our kids.

Alpine Declines to Provide Me a Study

    On January 10th, with the help of national professionals, I debunked the study ASD had asked me to open-mindedly review by showing it was done by a group supported financially by Investigations math.  I reported on this a few weeks ago and said that I had challenged them at this meeting to produce one valid *independent* study that supported their position by the end of January (three weeks time).  They have not produced a document and in communications with a board member I have been told that the board and district have not determined the necessity of producing a study for me and if they did it would have to go through a vetting process to ensure that all questions were answered.  Furthermore, imposing a deadline does not change their timetable.  Lastly it was noted that communications from the district to me in the past had not convinced me of the value of their "current balanced approach" and they may be beating a dead horse to continue the dialog. 

    I certainly understand that the board and district are busy people, but with over 900 families in Alpine on a petition wondering where these programs came from...I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

What Can I Do?

    Keep spreading the word all around Utah.  We want better math standards and stronger programs.  Write your legislators or call them and ask that Utah's math standards be reviewed by mathematicians, not math educators.

Till next week,

Oak Norton


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