Weekly Math Updates

September 26, 2007


  • Wonderful State News
  • Singapore vs. Utah Flier
  • The Problem of Relying on Bad Research
  • Voucher Issues-Oops...Anti's send a warning letter to the wrong people
  • Media Articles
  • Educational Resource Links

Wonderful State News

Hi folks,

It's been an intense last couple weeks. Thanks for all of you that helped by sending emails and making phone calls to your legislators and/or state board members. Due to a major server crash last week I was unable to attend the education meeting on Wednesday but in speaking with those who attended, it went very well. Here's the quick and dirty that you need to know from it.

  • A packet was passed out to all legislators and the media which helped detail how we were supposed to get world class standards and then how we didn't get them (it was also spiced with several WMD comics for added effect. :) Click here to download a copy of the packet. Click here to download the appendix which supports the packet in greater detail. It contains many other items like Milgram's original reports, emails from me and others to the state board and legislature and a lot more. It's a nice look at what's been happening behind the scenes.
  • Testimony was given that there were no international comparisons done of our brand new standards.
  • When the legislators confronted the state department of education as to what the external reviewers thought of the standards and if there had been communication with them, they were told the external reviews went great, everything was implemented, and no additional communication had been given by the external reviewers after the standards were completed. At that point Dr. Milgram, present by phone, chimed in that indeed Nicole Paulson at the state office had communicated and received communication back from Dr. Wu at Berkeley regarding a question she posed to him. It seems that when the standards were under fire and Milgram quoted Wu's comments about them still being the same "mess" they were when he reviewed them , Nicole wanted to try and challenge that statement as if Milgram would have made it up. So on the spot Milgram forwarded Wu's reply email to Nicole to the committee since Wu had sent him a copy. For your reading pleasure, I have included it here.


Thank you for your courteous note. I can understand your consternation upon reading the quote in Jim Milgam's letter of my reaction to the revised standards (incidentally, he quoted me correctly), but if you realize that I had taken for granted that most of what I recommended would be implemented, then you would also understand why I was so shocked when I was reluctantly made to read the revision.

I made seven major recommendations:
(1) on the emphasis of the number line,
(2) on revamping the treatment of area,
(3) on a major overhaul of the treatment of rational numbers,
(4) on eliminating linguistic overkill,
(5) on improving he treatment of transformations and congruence,
(6) on automatic recall of the multiplication table,
(7) on an overhaul of the progression in K-6 from informal mathematics
in K-3 to deeper and more formal mathematics.

In the revision, there was a pro forma attempt to attend to (1), (2) and (5), but little or nothing was done about the rest. Let me explain just a bit about what I meant by "pro forma". Consider the case of the number line. As far as I can see, two references to the number line were added to grade 1 and one reference was added to grade 2. These only scratch the surface of my main concern, which is that the number line has not been accorded "its rightful place in the school curriculum as a major idea that unifies various concepts and skills". Moreover, (4) and (6) could have been addressed with ease, but they were not.

Of the other detailed suggestions that I made (over 40), many were not followed. Among those not followed, the most serious are the ones about mixed numbers and addition of fractions in grade 5, and the use of "predict" in connection with data in grade 3. Clearly, the committee and I are not of like minds.

Please understand that I had no intention of returning to the revised standard after writing my review, because doing the review already did me in as I had become way behind in my own work. But then rumors about the revision began to swirl around the internet. Milgram asked me about my opinion, and I was forced to take a look. My initial shock at the extent my comments had been ignored probably prompted me to exaggerate a bit about "Except for (I think) three or four small instances involving very simple changes in the standards of K-6" when I wrote to him. Now that I have tallied more carefully, I know that I should have said "a small number" rather than "three or four". Sorry about that.

Finally, I must said in plain English that, although the Utah Standards are not by any means atrocious (in the sense that I have seen much worse), they need to adequately address five of the seven major flaws I pointed out before they can be called acceptable (all except (1) and (4)). To achieve respectability, it must address (1) and (4) as well in my opinion. And this does not even take into account of the detailed corrections I suggested. To recall what our joint report wrote about it being "a sound document that, if faithfully implemented, would lead to increased student learning", it embarrasses me very much to point out that our team, having meet with Brett and having been told how it was necessary to expedite the PR process, decided to go along and only touched on a few criticisms for public consumption but reserved our real messages in our individual reports. In my case, I was very sympathetic to all the work the Steering Committee had done and tried to keep my comments to an *absolute* minimum. I was certain that my self-restraint in expressing my judgment would make it possible for every single one of my suggestions to be adequately addressed. Imagine therefore my shock when I found that almost the opposite was the case. But I am afraid I am now repeating myself and therefore must stop.

This is complete proof that the standards writers did NOT take seriously their charge to give us world-class standards or the external review by accomplished standards writers and they finally had to acknowledge that fact.

The final outcome of the committee meeting was a consensus that work still must be done on the standards. Next month's meeting will decide exactly what should be done. The hopeful scenario is an appointment of a legislative task force committee to look into the issue and perhaps adopt a world-class standard such as Singapore, or get qualified individuals to write something very similar that is tweaked just a bit for us.

Singapore vs. Utah Flier

In relation to this, yesterday I sent this single page pdf to all the legislators and state board members showing a quick comparison of Singapore to Utah standards and results.

The Problem of Relying on Bad Research

Last week an opinion piece written by Blake Peterson, math educator at BYU, appeared in the Provo Herald decrying the whole state standards process as intentionally flawed and made to fail from the beginning, and unfortunately patting ASD on the back for their use of Investigations math.

Rise Above Politics of Math Programs

Unfortunately for Blake, he actually made reference to the Noyce Foundation in his letter. This left the organization open for investigation which I was happy to do. As you know, ASD has not been able to provide me with a single valid study that shows the benefits of Investigations, Connected, or Interactive math, so I was quite excited at the prospect that perhaps this study was actually worth the paper it was printed on.

The bottom line is, it's not. The study has several major flaws. For starters, the Noyce folks that claim major benefits from the use of Investigations, refuse to reveal the names of the schools that participated so it is impossible to verify the data. I found this exchange on the web between Dr. David Klein, Cal State Math prof., and Penny Noyce.


Again, math educators show they rely on studies that cannot be shown to be validated, which then leads to serious trust issues about anything else they say. Read the Klein/Noyce exchange. It's very enlightening about the research process.

Voucher Issues-Oops...Anti's send a warning letter to the wrong people

I know a number of you are interested in voucher issues. You MUST read the ABC.com link. It's quite funny that an anti-voucher piece was sent out in bulk and some legislators in favor of vouchers received it asking them to please try and help stop this article from being published around. Please feel free to publish and pass this on. :)

From Utahns for Public School:

You are receiving this email because of your active involvement in politics and policy here in Utah. As I'm sure you are aware that a pro-voucher organization is pulling out all stops to get School Voucher's approved here in Utah.

We have no way of telling how you feel on this issue, but if you support our cause to defeat this pro-voucher movement we would ask you to reply to this email so we can build an action list of anti-voucher supporters. We ask you to provide a personal email address, name and contact number so we can keep you informed.

There is a website that we would like you to see and post comments about some of the articles. The most recent posting about an abc news story must be put down before it receives traction.

The Website is http://vouchernews.blogspot.com/

(Oak note: you want to scroll down to the Sept. 24th piece entitled "It's All About the Union Stupid" which is the 2nd article on the 24th. In case this disappears, here's the ABC4.com link which describes how a teacher solicited a donation from a parent at a parent/teacher conference and the resulting fiasco.)

Here is additional information on the issue with links:

Both bills (the law is a combination of the two bills): http://le.utah.gov/~2007/bills/hbillenr/hb0148.htm
For a summary of the law, how it works, and requirements for participating private schools:  http://www.i2i.org/main/page.php?page_id=138
Pro-voucher information:  http://www.believeinparents.org
Anti-voucher information:  http://www.utahnsforpublicschools.org/

If none of this convinces you to be pro-voucher, recall the NEA agenda sheet I sent you several weeks ago exposing their homosexual agenda and many other socialist leanings and realize that they are pouring approximately $1.5 million into Utah to prevent vouchers. (Deseret News article on dollar figure)

Media Articles

There's been a number of media articles over the past week. Here's the quick rundown on relevant articles to math.

Math wars: Legislators and teachers grapple over state curriculum

Utah Math standards criticized

Alpine districit considering year-round schedules

Educational Resource Links

I came across this site last week that links to a number of free educational resources. Some I've sent out about before but this is a nice list of all of them in one place. Some of these are fantastic free resources.



Oak Norton

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