Weekly Math Updates

May 22, 2006

If there is one email you read thoroughly, it is THIS ONE!!! I'm going to declare a lower case "v" for victory. It's not over yet but we just made a big advance.

  • Orem Meeting Results
  • Alpine District to Offer Alternative Math Program***
  • Investigations Math Company Monitoring Us
  • Media Recap
  • True Stories
  • Weekly Comic

Orem Meeting Results

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE THAT CONTACTED THE OREM CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS. Tonight I went to the Orem city meeting where the board voted UNANIMOUSLY in favor of performing the feasibility study to split from Alpine School District and form their own district. This is remarkable in that two of the counsel members have ties in some manner to the district. Make no mistake, PUBLIC PRESSURE brought about this vote result and it is a welcome thing to see a council listen to their constituents.

A couple notable things that occurred:

City Council members from Lindon and Cedar Hills stood and asked if they could be included in the feasibility study. This served up additional warning to ASD personnel, but was finally not approved as part of the motion for Orem to do the study. HOWEVER, the city council said that if any other cities want to participate in the study to be included in breaking off from ASD, they need to decide in their next council meeting and approach Orem with funding to do the study. So for those of you especially in Lindon, get on the phone with your council members and start asking them to get included. Cedar Hills seems unlikely to be brought in since it's not landlocked with Orem/Lindon, but it's not for me to say what can or can't happen there.

County Commissioners Jerry Grover and Steve White both showed up and Mr. White pledged $5,000 in county money to help out with the study. Both spoke in favor of having the feasibility study performed.

Here's the story as reported in the press (all 3 of the big ones):

Orem OKs feasibility study of splitting from Alpine district

Orem not hastening into a schools split

Orem to study Alpine District split
Salt Lake Tribune Article

I apologize to a couple of you I wanted to meet. I did look for you before and after the meeting but I had to grab a district person and get clarification over the biggest news of the night.

Alpine District to Offer Alternative Math Program

Part of Alpine District's presentation to the board was to diffuse any irrate citizens over the Investigations math issue. I believe that they have been working on this for some time so this was not hastily put together for tonight's meeting, but it was certainly planned to try to influence a vote to not do the study. Regardless of motives for the vote, this is huge. ASD released a statement which I have attached a copy of, that essentially says that next year, the district will select two programs to be presented to each school, and local communities will choose between the two which they want to implement. The programs will be Investigations math version 2 (a rewrite the district person said brings in a lot of basic math skills) and something on the other end of the spectrum which they haven't decided yet. This district person said Damon Bahr would be presenting a list of programs on a continuum and where they fall to help them make this decision. Damon, for those of you that don't know, is a UVSC math educator that is a constructivist and debated (I use that term loosely) David Wright from BYU on Utah Public Radio a couple months ago. To listen to that 25 minute audio, click here. I tried to endorse a few of the top programs (Singapore, Saxon, SRA, Sadlier-Oxford) with this district person hoping one of them would be selected but it's too early at this point. There will be a committee chosen to review the programs consisting of parents and educators and I will of course let you know anything as soon as I know more. However, this is definitely a victory for reform in the district and I applaud the district for their actions which will hopefully bring about better math and better feelings in the communities. What they really need to do is offer Singapore as a visual program, and Saxon as a traditional program, and eliminate Investigations from the running completely.

One thing I want to say about our communities. There are strong feelings both for and against Investigations math (and the other poor programs in junior and senior high). Mostly the people that like Investigations are teachers, principals, and district people (though a significant number of them do not like the program and recognize it has huge problems). Some limited number of parents in the community love the program as well. It's a small group, but they do exist. I think all these people are well intentioned and more importantly, they're our neighbors. I'm hoping this isn't going to be an issue, but please try to pull together with them and not create a winner/loser mentality so that they feel like losers. I think one way to explain the Investigations math "problem" to them is that a lot of people get excited over how they see the kids get this big light bulb that goes on after struggling with a math concept. It's like they've been walking in the darkness and suddenly a 200 watt light-bulb comes on and everyone gets excited that they can finally see and it's so bright. However, if they'd been using a solid traditional program, they would have been flipping 40 watt light bulbs on for quite some time and been able to see all along the way and even though there wouldn't have been some giant "awakening" experience, they would be able to "see" much more clearly because they'd have the light of dozens of 40 watt bulbs illuminating their math understanding. Parents just don't know what their kids have missed out on.

Investigations Math Company Monitoring Us

Well, this was quite unexpected and I thought I should share it. First, hello Investigations Math company people. :) One of our district personnel told me while at a meeting in Illinois, he met with a variety of math curriculum publishers and struck up a conversation with the Investigations math (IM) sales rep. The ASD person asked the IM rep how Investigations was being received around the country. The IM rep said very well and listed a few states and then the ASD employee asked if there were any trouble spots. The IM rep specifically mentioned a district in Utah (not knowing he was talking to someone from Utah) and said they've been regularly monitoring a website critical of the program. The ASD person said, "can I guess a name?" He was right. :)

So since I have an audience with the publisher, let me just take this opportunity to say your program is too slow, contains irrelevant information, and focuses on meeting low expectations. If you want to produce a visual program that's challenging that both parents and teachers can buy into, look at Singapore math and see how they're doing division in second grade in extremely simple ways that help kids practically teach themselves...AND kids think its fun so the learning perpetuates. If you'd like to contact me feel free to use the contact form here. Thanks for reading.

Media Recap

Several articles appeared in the paper this past week. Here's quick links if you'd like to read any of them. I really don't take the time to fully scour the papers so if you come across something, please shoot me an email and let me know so I can pass it on. It's a lot better having 1,000 sets of eyes than 1. :)

Division may hurt district's bond plan

Orem High may be razed, rebuilt
Alpine officials note plans precede split plea

Alpine charter eyes third spot for its school (Mountainville)

True Stories

True story number one comes to you from a co-worker of mine who was shopping in Wal-mart last week and had an experience he shared with me. While purchasing what he describes as four six-packs of "apple" beer (a likely story...) the cashier had a little trouble with her math. As she looked at the 4 packs and started to ring them up, she said, "let's see, that's 16 cans." My co-worker said, "no, there's 24." The cashier stopped and looked puzzled for a moment and said, "how many more cans is that than 16?" After my co-worker replied "8," the lady behind him in line said, "must be a graduate of investigations math."

Our second true story comes from another co-worker who was lucky enough to be appointed a state delegate for the Republican convention. While attending the convention, it seems the state leadership, namely Enid Greene and Joe Cannon, floated a modification to the Republican party bylaws that would allow the leadership to choose delegates in the future instead of having local caucus meetings and allowing neighborhoods to send people to the convention the "old fashioned way." This lead balloon didn't go anywhere with the crowd. When Enid called for the first vote and asked people to stand in favor of it and then those not in favor, it was clear to the audience that the modification was shot down. However, that doesn't stop a good politician and Enid called for a revote. When the revote didn't go according to plan, Enid and Joe tried to explain to the crowd how they'd been selected as the Republican party leaders and that the crowd should just accept their leadership decision and vote the way they wanted the masses to vote. They called for a third vote. This prompted cries from the crowd that they must be using INVESTIGATIONS MATH to count the votes (I'm so proud of all you state delegates that helped participate in the jeering :) ). It turned out that the third vote didn't go Enid and Joe's way so unbelievably, a fourth vote was called for with paper ballots and the measure was soundly rejected 59-41%. The moral of the story is, GET THOSE DARN FUZZY POLITICIANS OUT OF OFFICE!

Weekly Comic

I found this comic this week and thought I had to share it.

Archive: http://www.oaknorton.com/weaponsofmathdestruction.cfm

Till next week,

Oak Norton


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