Issues in Math Education

If you are not aware of the national controversy over math standards and standards based curricula, you owe it to your children to learn more about it.
NEW!! Parents in the Marion Independent School District are displeased with the implementation of Core-Plus as its high school math curriculum.
More information about Core-Plus:


Cedar Rapids is finally taking notice of the math education controversy that has polarized communities across the nation for almost a decade. The ongoing “Math Wars” are a result of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) 1989 publication of the well-known polemic “Standards” document. In an effort to improve “critical thinking skills”, the standards recommended an emphasis on constructivist pedagogy (discovery learning), multiple ways of solving problems, use of manipulatives, group learning, invented strategies, “real world problems” and the liberal use of calculators.  On the other hand, they explicitly de-emphasized paper and pencil computation, repetitive problem-solving, rote memorization and traditional algorithms.  As a result, computation scores are dropping while problem solving scores remain stagnant.   (more)

Information about math education:
Mathematically Correct  The best overall math site, it has a wealth of information about NCTM standards, curricula, and method of instruction.   Mathematically Correct started with four parents in California, and because of their passion, knowledge, and dedication they have become nationally recognized as experts on math education.  Many of the following links are from Mathematically Correct.
Curriculum Reviews by Mathematically Correct   See how your school fares according to the reviewers at Mathematically Correct.  The curricula used by the Cedar Rapids School District (Investigations) earns an “F”.
Mathematics “Council” Loses Hard Earned Credibility  A discussion of the NCTM by Frank B. Allen, former NCTM president
The Truth About the REVISED NCTM Standards: Arithmetic is Still Missing! by Bill Quirk  Lots of good information about the NCTM Standards
An Open Letter to United States Secretary of Education, Richard Riley This criticism of “new-new math” curricula, signed by 200 mathematicians, including several Noble laureates, was published in the Washington Post.
Professor David Klein, one of the founders of Mathematically Correct, has additional information on his home page
Rainforest Algebra  One mother’s description of her 8th grader’s math experience.  A classic.
Where’s the Beef in the Turkey Problem?  An example of how a math problem is solved by a new-new math advocate
Texas Adopts Textbook Rejected by Nation Another discussion of “Rainforest Algebra”
A Lesson on Norm-Referenced Testing from Ames, Iowa  A look at the effects of introducing “Math in Context” in Ames, Iowa
Parents Win ‘Math War’  Maryland school district loses grant to expand controversial programs
CMP at Okemos Middle Schools
Is This Math Fuzzy?
NYC Math Wars NYC Honest Open Logical Debate (NYC HOLD) On Math Reform
Review of High Quality Experimental Mathematics Research
An example of some excellent math standards
New California Mathematics Adoptions   After years of poor math achievement, California has adopted a list of acceptable math curricula that emphasize content
Links to different math curricula
You do the Math!   Israel has dropped from among the highest scoring to the lowest scoring nation after adopting fuzzy math
How Not to Teach Math  A math teacher’s opinion of Everyday Math
Mathematically Sane These guys, who refuse to reveal their identities, claim to have evidence of the success of fuzzy math curricula.  Many of these studies are methodologically flawed and their conclusions are invalid. View CEBE’s evaluations of some of these studiesDale Seymour’s Investigations (also called TERC) used in the Cedar Rapids Community School District.  This constructivist curriculum encourages children to “discover” math, with the children using cumbersome and inefficient “hands-on” activities.  Algorithms, such as the standard procedures for adding multi-digit numbers, long division, and operations of fractions, are never explicitly taught.  It is clearly an unacceptable curriculum for any child that may desire a career that requires mathematical ability.
Many Parents Unhappy with Choice of Program that Discourages Memorization  Article about Dale Seymour Investigations in Palo Alto
TERC Hands on Math: The Truth is in the Details A discussion and analysis of the Investigations curriculum by a mathematician
PAUSD Parent Compares Reform Texts
A collection of TERC Reviews by NYC HOLD
Review of Studies on InvestigationsMath Trailblazers adopted by the Linn-Mar School District, will be used beginning 2003-2004 school year.  This “integrated” curriculum has students keeping a math journal and reading books about math.
Review of Math Trailblazers by Wayne Bishop
What is Wrong with Kendall Hunt Math Trailblazers

There are many local, grassroots organizations concerned about the quality of math education.  The following have a wealth of information and are highly recommended:
Illinois Loop A Chicago area organization
NYC HOLD (Honest Open Logical Debate)  A very active group in New York City

What you can do:
Don’t assume your children are learning math just because they’re bringing home good grades.  See how your child does on these student practice problems for the California Math Standards.
Many parents have hired tutors or supplement their children’s education with homeschooling curricula.  Here are links to several favorites for home use:
Singapore Math This is the curriculum used by the country that consistently ranks highest in international comparisons.  Workbooks are fairly cheap; teacher’s guides are highly recommended.  This site has an online placement test.
Saxon Math A homeschool favorite, and easy for the parent.   More costly.
Kumon Math Centers Cedar Rapids is fortunate to have one of the only Kumon Centers in Iowa.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  Kumon provides the pencil and paper repetition that many children are missing at school.   The Cedar Rapids Kumon Center director can be reached at 319-373-8540.
Educate yourself about the math wars.  Get involved.  Call or write your school board members and voice your concerns.  Write letters to the editor.  Contact your elected officials.  There is power in numbers.