Help Your Kids, and All Kids, with Math-It Needs Fixing in Anchorage

Math is one of the core subjects. It is in any education program anywhere in the world.  Like it or hate it, you use it every day.

Have a bad grasp of basic computation and you will suffer the rest of your life.

Anchorage parents and students have been struggling with the EveryDay Math curriculum and its companion Middle School Math for 16 years. It has one more year of life left and then it is scheduled to be replaced.  I say good riddance.

EveryDay Math, according to a District funded study,  was “poorly implemented”, “badly managed” and a “failure”.  Approximately 50% of the teachers who responded to the study survey wanted to “trash” EveryDay Math.  The school board wisely decided to replace it with a new math program beginning in 2013. Why should you care?

Ask your child to do some simple arithmetic problems. You know, addition, subtraction, multiplication and long division. Most likely your child will either get the wrong answer and have a strange way of calculating, or your child will get it right and will show the work the way you remember. This is the key difference between programs like EveryDay  Math and Traditional Math. The standard algorithm of arithmetic has been in place for hundreds of years.  Most of us would, like the alphabet, use the same method for doing sums. It is with this current generation of students that the difference between the old Traditional Math and the new Reform Math  best illustrates itself.  Reform Math (such as EveryDay Math) has a 16 year history of failure in the ASD.

There are, however, signs of hope in the pockets of resistance: Anchorage ABC schools and charter schools are exempt from the mandated Reform Math program.

What do these ABC and charter schools have  in common?  They can  use Saxon Math, a rigid old school drill-drill Traditional Math program. How does it fare in the schools that choose to use it? Here is the empirical evidence:

Eagle River Academy Charter School:  95%  of students score proficient or above on the State’s standardized math tests. This school has the #1 rank of 67 Anchorage elementary schools.

Northern Lights ABC School:  95% of students score proficient or above on the State’s standardized math tests. This school ranks #2 of the 67 Anchorage elementary schools.

Birchwood ABC  School: 91%  of students score proficient or above on the State’s standardized tests. This school ranks #7 of the 67 Anchorage elementary schools.

These are outstanding results. Better yet, this is unmistakable empirical evidence that  a Traditional Math program outdistances Reform Math in Anchorage schools.
Now, this is why the parents need to get involved. The math program selection committee has eliminated  for the  final round both Saxon Math (used in ABC schools) and Houghton Mifflin Exploring Math (used in  Kenai and MatSu schools) because they were too rigid, and relied on two much drill and practice (Traditional Math ). Presentations by publishers have already occurred. But it is not too late to be heard. You can go to the Anchorage School District website and listen to these presentations on-line. You can also review the textbooks at the ASD at these times.  With a stacked field of 6 finalists, 5 of them “fuzzy math” and only one Traditional text the outcome is likely to be more of the same. The board may choose a math textbook that you, the parent, do not understand.

The board may adopt a curriculum that robs students of basic arithmetic and denies those students a chance at higher math in high school. If nearly half the teachers oppose Reform Math, students cannot learn basic arithmetic, and parents cannot help their kids with math, then why adopt a new version of EveryDay Math with the same results?

Let’s not doom the next generation. Parents need to demand from the school board and District that the finalists be changed so that Traditional Math instruction, you know, the kind where you can actually help your kids, and fuzzy math are equally represented. All of Anchorage’s children deserve the opportunity afforded by a good solid basic arithmetic instruction.

If you want all Anchorage kids to be able to do basic arithmetic functions and succeed in life, sign our petition here.

By David Nees, a former middle school math instructor who taught our kids for 28 years.