Weekly Math Updates

May 23, 2007


  • Math Standards News
  • In God We Trust Site
  • Simpsons on Math
  • Media Articles

Math Standards News

Last week the education subcommittee had their meeting to review where the state math standards are at. If you'd like to listen to the entire proceedings it's online and lasts about 45 minutes. If you'd rather see the highlights, I typed out as fast as I could (with frequent pauses) so you could read it if you'd like. I was just going to type highlights and got to transcribing the thing toward the latter half. It's good stuff. Senator Howard Stephenson said that morning (Wed) they had a meeting to discuss getting teacher's salaries up 80% for math and science by this time next year and I assume up significantly for others as well. That puts top math and science teachers in the $80-100,000 salary range, and the best news is they think they can do it with current funding. I honestly don't know what's in the wings that would allow them to do that, but I'm hoping it's drastically reducing district bureaucracy which is one thing I've discussed with legislators to pass money on to teachers. Here's a link to the audio and the transcript:

Audio--listen to segment 5 (State Legislature website)

My fast transcription - don't quote anything exactly from it

There is some additional huge news in this document. Quick recall of basic math facts is now in the state core where it was ACKNOWLEDGED AS ABSENT before. Utah's new standards are not world class but if they take a comprehensive approach to content training for teachers (not just pedagogy), better end of level testing with instant feedback for students, better pay to attract better teachers and the new standards, we are taking a huge leap forward from where we were. However, after sharing my views with several legislators, Senator Howard Stephenson took up the fight for us. Here's his letter which was sent to Patti Harrington, the state superintendent:

Supt. Harrington:

I know you realize it is the desire of the legislature to set a new bar for Utah and the rest of the country in the field of math standards.

Last October Jim Milgram of Stanford testified before the Interim Education Committee declaring that Utah's math standards were not world class. The committee then began to prepare legislation to adopt standards for Utah. You appeared in our November meeting and asked that we delay legislation and allow a committee of math educators and mathematicians to propose improved standards rather than the legislature merely adopting California's standards. We agreed to wait so the committee could go forward with a re-write of the standards.

During testimony in the Education Interim meeting last week the math standards committee reported on its results. It was said by Dr. David Wright that the request of the legislature last year to adopt "world class standards" has not occurred due primarily to the composition of the committee and politics being played between math educators and mathematicians.

We know that California's math standards have been rated an A by the Fordham Foundation while Utah was given a D. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce earlier this year gave California an A for their standards and Utah a C. Dr. Wright has indicated that our newly developed standards are perhaps a B. We believe this is unacceptable. As you are aware, the composition of the committee was such that 11 of the 16 members were the same people who last year signed a document that Utah did not need to change it's math standards at all. It is clear that a mistake was made in allowing any of those individuals onto the committee to revise our state standards. The committee trusted your judgment in allowing these people to be involved, however, if immediate action is not taken to adjust the deficiency and get Utah to truly "world class standards" then the legislature will begin discussions on adoption of an improved version of California's math standards.


I'll keep you posted when I hear anything.

In God We Trust Site

As you know from my email Monday, I just launched InGodWeTrustPosters.com. This site will take orders from schools anywhere in the country that want a set of the posters, but I especially hope to get the posters into all the classrooms in Utah. I have to share something funny with you when I did this. I use GoDaddy as my registrar, and like many of the big registrars when you choose a name to purchase a domain for, they make suggestions about other names you might consider purchasing similar to the one you want, in case it sparks extra sales for them or perhaps even generates a better name for you. Here's a couple that came up when I put in "InGodWeTrustPosters".


So those are up for sale if any of you feel so inclined. :)

Feel free to visit the site and share it with all your friends. ASD teachers will all get a copy of the poster.

The Salt Lake Tribune is also running a story on the posters very soon. Please help me get these distributed quickly. My wife is going to kill me if these boxes sit in our living room for the next 3 months. :)

Simpsons on Math

I'd heard about this before but never seen it. It's hilarious.


Media Articles

Hedge fund guru: Math education critical
Here's a clip from the article.

When my son was in middle school — that would've been maybe 15, 16 years ago — I began being concerned about how much math his teachers knew, and expressed that concern to the headmaster. He said, "Well, our math teachers are just wonderful, why don't you just go and ask?" So I did.

I started in the first grade — I figured I might as well start in the first grade and work my way up — and the response that I got when I talked to a first-grade teacher about math was interesting. She ... would typically giggle and say, "Well, math is not my favorite subject." Now, can you imagine talking to a first-grade teacher who giggles and says, "I really don't like reading?"

Education: Why They Are the Best (How we developed our own unique method for ranking America's top school)

In this article by Jay Matthews he explains how he developed an index to rate successful schools that would not try to ignore irrelevant factors such as socio-economics (I used to think this was relevant but now it's only relevant to me if the teachers and students believe it's relevant). Give the article a read. It also lists the top 1200 schools in America. Where is Utah's first appearance? #158, then 205, 285, and 396. We have 4 schools in the top 500 schools in America. Now I realize this is just one person's analysis but it is an interesting read.

Till next week,

Oak Norton


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