Weekly Math Updates

March 28 , 2008


  • UVU Professor Speaks Out
  • BYU Professor Speaks Out
  • Teacher Comments
  • Media Articles
  • Cool Math Website

"Energy and persistence conquer all things."
- Benjamin Franklin

UVU Professor Speaks Out

Last month I spent a week in California with students visiting the four largest animation houses in Los Angeles. Something that impressed me were the number of animators who understand mathematics and code writing. Some animators actually wrote their own code when the software would not do what they wanted it to do. Second I was amazed at how much of the work was done in India. Part of it is caused by the high cost of doing business in California. The other is the quality of animators and code writers in India.

Here is a link to an article that came out today about AT&T in relation to outsourcing in India. They would bring jobs back from India, but they can't find qualified people for the jobs. I believe that math is a key to success of our students in Utah. We have gone over this before, but it is something parents and community leaders need to understand and get involved with.


I would hope a grass roots movement of parents and community leaders might start looking at what is happening and begin to evaluate classes and educational philosophies in K12 and in higher education that are helping to create a generation that is functionally illiterate and unable to compete in the global marketplace.

Dennis Lisonbee

BYU Professor Speaks Out

I've enjoyed these cartoons immensely.  I'm employed at BYU and within our department of Independent Study, we've avoided, like the plague, any thought of investigative math in our courses.  I've visited nearly 3,000 high schools over the past 15 years from coast to coast and most of those schools refuse to use investigative math.  I'm still appalled at the complete lack of math skills of those graduating from ASD or other districts using this warm and fuzzy, let the student find out for himself how to do it method of learning some kind of math skill.  I love to give clerks a challenge when I make purchases and watch them struggle to make change.  I've had way too many ask for a calculator or ask someone else how much change I have coming.  I even gave a clerk some cans of cat food and said to her, "I have a dozen cans."  She asked: "How many is a dozen?"  And, bold as I can be I simply ask: "Where did you go to school?"  A majority of the time these are ASD graduates. 

Teacher Comments

A little while back I received this email from a teacher in ASD who understands the problem and is trying to do his part to help students overcome their deficient elementary experience.


This year I am teaching 3 Pre Algebra classes made up of mostly 7th graders with some 8th graders and a few 9th grade resource students transitioning into regular ed classes. The resource students are the most proficient in basic computation.

The resource teachers at our school put them through a program called mastery math. It was a district program used back in the 80's that is built in units, each one focusing on a basic skill such as prime factorization, division, multiplication, fraction addition and so on.

At least 40%-50% of the regular 7th and 8th grade students are weak in basic skills such as multiplication tables through 12, division of any size and what a fraction means.

So for these students I asked if I could bring them into my advisory class (this is a half hour 4 days a week for announcement, channel 1 and reading time) and use this time to drill them on basics and help them complete their homework. We started this at the semester (Mid January) and it has been exciting to see the kids get excited about success. The really want to succeed and know that they need help. Most of the students I talked to about coming into this setting were happy to get basic help.

We have been going only 3 weeks. We have reviewed times tables through 12 and have helped them complete homework assignments. Now the students are saying that they love math because they finally understand what we are doing. Their elementary experience left them frustrated and hating math.

It has long been my belief that students come to school wanting to succeed and deep down inside they are not happy when we give them a bad education. Some will enjoy a free ride while the free ride is happening, but when the ride is over and the consequences come they hated the easy, "fuzzy math" experiences.

It will be interesting to see what the rest of this semester brings. I believe that the student's excitement will continue to grow as we continue to review the basics. That is the good part. The sad part is that they have come to junior high not knowing basic skills, and not having a good understanding of how to learn and be successful.

I'll let you know how the semester works out.

In a follow-up email this teacher wrote:

To update the story, the most of the ones involved have gone from the D (give or take) range to the B (give or take) range. One girl came to parent teacher conference, Mom was thrilled that her daughter was getting a B+, the daughter was disappointed because it wasn't higher, she was enjoying doing so well.

Somehow we have to make people realize that the easy way out may give good grades in the short term, but in the long term it hurts kids. I don't know how many ways to say it, it makes me so upset when I get a kid in class who has all A's in Algebra that can't solve basic equations.


Media Articles

Lots of good articles this past week around the web. Snips provided but the articles are excellent.

What's Missing from Math Standards?
Focus, Rigor, and Coherence

"The single most important result of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is that we now know that student performance is directly related to the nature of the curricular expectations. I do not mean the instructional practices. I mean the nature of what it is that children are to learn within schools. (In the U.S., the curricular expectations are usually referred to as standards; in other countries they are known by various names.) After all, what is more central to schooling than those things we, as a society, have chosen to pass on to our children?"

New Mathematics Textbook is Drawing Ire (Guess which program??? :))

"The program, which de-emphasizes memorization and drills, pushes students to discover creative ways to find answers, through techniques such as drawing pictures, playing games, and using objects. Prince William officials say Investigations in Number, Data, and Space , which cost the county more than $1 million, teaches students why an answer is correct and prepares them for algebraic concepts used on the SAT. More important, perhaps, they contend it increases passing rates on state exams."

Education Schools Neglect Math, Obsess over Multiculturalism

According to this "rough indicator of the relative importance of social goals to academic skills in ed schools," the nation's teacher training programs offer about 82% more courses in multiculturalism than in math. UCLA hosts the most imbalanced education program in the nation: 47 UCLA education course titles or descriptions contain the word "multiculturalism" or "diversity," and only three contain the word "math."

Algebra is the Key to Math Success (This article is about the Math Panel Report and it's excellent)

According to Stotsky, providing "math coaches" for teachers and spending money on professional development in math, two popular strategies to improve math instruction, are unsupported by research and most likely a waste of tax dollars. The NMAP instead recommends the development of more alternative routes to credential mathematically knowledgeable people to teach math in the public schools. "We are not going to get the teachers we need for math and science from traditional teacher preparation programs," said Stotsky. "But there are other ways to get mathematically or scientifically knowledgeable people. Sometimes they are mid-career changers; sometimes after majoring in math or science they have decided they want to teach. There must be district-based programs that give them a little bit of preparation and get them into the schools without going through a traditional preparation program."

Cool Math Website

This particular site has a lot of cool stuff on it:  videos, lessons, money matters, and stories from people on how math helped them.

Till next time,

Oak Norton

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