'Everyday Math' gripes aired
CANTON - For Eric Schrader, "Everyday Mathematics" doesn't add up.
He brought his concerns to the last Canton Area School Board meeting. Some district teachers, meanwhile, took the chance to defend the program at the meeting.
District superintendent Matt Gordon said "Everyday Mathematics" was implemented in the 2004-05 school year, and currently it's used in grades K-5.
"We plan to incorporate it into sixth grade next school year," he said, when asked for comment. "The students' PSSA Math performance has improved significantly each year after implementation of this program."
During the meeting, elementary principal Diane Barrett also said test scores have gone up.
Speaking during the public comment period, Schrader said he was in favor of a traditional approach of teaching math. He spoke of the difficulties his son has had with "Everyday Mathematics."
"He was actually crying at the table because he couldn't figure out how to do his division," he said. "He worked on the problem for over a half an hour, and could not get the answer. My child is not a slouch. He is very good at school, very good."
"I taught him how to divide the way that we were all taught in school," he continued. "He had every problem on the page done in less than five minutes. So, you tell me what works."
When asked for comment, Schrader said he doesn't like the "Everyday Mathematics" program because he said it doesn't feature constant "drilling" and repetition of basic math facts, as students used to be taught. With "Everyday Math," he claimed that children, for example, are given "tools" to get answers, such as exercises that involve counting window panes or tiles, rather than simply being taught that two plus two equals four the old-fashioned way.
"I spoke with a couple of you on the board about this, and you honestly told me you know nothing about this program," Schrader said. "That's shocking to me."
"What this is going to boil down to in my eyes is possibly when my child hits college, it's going to be more money out of my pocket and I'm going to have to pay for remedial math courses for my kid to get into college or to maintain a college grade point average," he said. He said other parents feel the same way as he does.
"Every parent that I talked to hates this 'Everyday Math' and wishes it was gone," he said.
When asked to respond to Schrader's comments, Mary Skafidas, spokesperson with McGraw-Hill Education, which publishes "Everyday Math," said, "'Everyday Math' was developed to incorporate several ways of teaching a particular math concept. The US (United States) standard algorithms, like long division, are provided for teachers and students, along with other ways. Many teachers that use 'Everyday Math' share with us that their students enjoy math and actually understand it much better because they can choose the way that work best for them."
At the meeting, teachers speaking in favor of the program were Claire Waldmeyer and Trina Beers.
Waldmeyer said, "'Everyday Math,' as its names implies, goes to the everyday math around us. Students are taught to think mathematically and use the math throughout not only math class, but everyday examples of what they do.
"I do feel it's a very good program," she said.
On a Web site, www.everydaymathsuccess.com, a description of the program is included. It reads: "'Everyday Mathematics' is a structured, rigorous, and proven program that helps students learn mathematical reasoning and develop strong math skills. 'Everyday Mathematics' is the program of choice for over 3 million students in over 185,000 classrooms nationwide. No other program has been developed as thoroughly and carefully over time, with full field testing prior to publication. In addition, no other program has the extensive verification that it works."
It notes that "Everyday Mathematics" "not only teaches basic skills, but also expands beyond traditional drills."
"The program encourages children to understand why math is important and how they reach their answers, so they internalize what they are learning," it continues. "As a result, students find it easier to remember basic skills, to apply what they know in order to solve problems, and to think mathematically. Children learn and practice all of the basic math facts, and they do it in multiple ways, including paper-and pencil exercises, hands-on use of math manipulatives, and skills-based mathematics games. The program also has extensive teacher materials that provide a wealth of information for both the novice and experienced teacher."
It notes that "Everyday Mathematics" is research-based, field tested one year at a time - and revised based on feedback - prior to publication, has higher expectations for both teachers and students, has a unique instructional design that ensures that students learn basic skills and mathematics strategies and can apply them in a variety of situations, and has an effectiveness that has been documented through a variety of studies.
Also on the Web site, several success stories are listed.
For example, the Web site notes that since implementing "Everyday Mathematics" in 2003, New York City public schools have closed the achievement gap with peers throughout the state each year. At the end of the 2008-2009 school year, 81.8 percent of New York City students in Grades 3 to 8 met or exceeded grade-level math standards, it notes.
And according to the Web site, the School District of Philadelphia has made a tremendous turn-around.
"The percentage of students in Philadelphia who scored in the Advanced and Proficient categories on the Grade 5 PSSA mathematics test has doubled to 42 percent since implementing 'Everyday Mathematics' in 2002," it notes.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.