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Math Investigations Protest Tuesday

By Greg L | 31 October 2008 | Prince William County | 14 Comments

UPDATE: The rally will be held from 2-7 PM.

The group opposing Prince William County’s use of “Investigations in Number, Data, and Space,” known colloquially as “Math Investigations,” is planning a protest at the McCoart Building on Tuesday (election day) for those who might not be all that engaged in this election and might be looking for something else to do.  I hope they get a good turnout, since this hugely expensive, experimental program just doesn’t seem to be producing the promised results.

The group also has a petition up with over 1,300 signatures.  If you can’t make the protest, at least visit their petition page to find out what this is all about.  Their website has a long list of reasons why adopting Math Investigations was a mistake, none of which I feel have been adequately addressed by the School Board.  Parents need to be familiar with this debate at the very least, and if they’re not this is a good place to find out what this program is, its history, and the results it’s getting.

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  1. mnd said on 1 Nov 2008 at 2:16 am:
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  2. CONVA said on 1 Nov 2008 at 9:37 am:
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    Of all the great leaders this country’s education system produced in the 50’s and previous decades one has to reason why does the NEA and other special interest groups continually toy with a proven and effective sustem? This latest exercise in “New Math” is just another screwed up attempt to dumb down the education of our youth. The “agents of change” on the school board should all be replaced the next time they run for office. Of all people, Dr. Otagibi knows that too many high school graduates coming into college require remedial training in math and reading comprehension prior to taking college courses.

  3. A Reader said on 1 Nov 2008 at 3:47 pm:
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    I found a good program to teach the multiplication tables.
    www.bigbrainz.com. It has a free version that my kids love.

    I agree that Math Investigations needs to go. The Prince William County Schools now are doing Math Investigations up through the 4th grade. Plans were to extend it up to 5th grade next year. However, the textbook is on the Not Approved list from the state of Virginia. I don’t know how they plan to handle that.

  4. freedom said on 2 Nov 2008 at 9:37 am:
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    mnd, I just forwarded your video to two members of the PWC school board.

    They won’t “experiment” with pay-for-performance and they won’t experiment with school vouchers, but when it comes to the basic math skills training of our children, experimentation is “no problem.”

    I have an adult cousin who can hardly read today because of an experimental program in California, teaching to read [not] by “the shape of words” rather than old-fashioned phonetics.

    We just gotta put our own little mark on society, huh? pshaaaaaaaw!!!

  5. anon said on 2 Nov 2008 at 10:39 pm:
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    I can’t speak to any of the other bullets, but bullet 7 is patently false.

  6. Harry said on 3 Nov 2008 at 4:30 pm:
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    “Math Investigations” was not initiated by the NEA, but rather by the Republican dominated school board.

  7. Monster_Mom said on 3 Nov 2008 at 5:52 pm:
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    anon - bullet 7 is absolutely true. Students are not required to learn math facts and standard operations. They are taught to calculate solutions to more complex math fact problems using less complex math facts. For instance 6 x 8 = 48 is unacceptable under Investigations because students must demonstrate that they know how to break the 6 and 8 into smaller numbers to solve. So 6 x 8 would be acceptably solved as 5 x 8 + 1 x 8 or 4 x 3 + 4 x 3 + 3 x 4 + 3 x 4,but just 6 x 8 = 48 is not acceptable.

    Students are “provided” multiple different strategies to solve problems. I believe students are encouraged to understand 7 different strategies to subtract two 3 digit numbers and each strategy is effective in different scenarios - unfortunately the standard algorithm isn’t one of those 7 different strategies. Emphasis should be placed on the understand part of that argument - mastery of arithematic operations is not attempted under Investigations.

  8. freedom said on 3 Nov 2008 at 8:06 pm:
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    Oh come on Harry….get a frickin’ life…even Paul knows better than that!!

  9. Wake up Harry said on 4 Nov 2008 at 12:56 am:
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    Harry, aide to Delegate Paul Nichols, who bashed the School Board in the press, is lying again. Math Investigations was initiated by Dr. Kelly years ago before any of the current School Board Members were even on the board. Once this program went county wide about 80%+ of the elementary schools already had the program in place in several classrooms.

  10. freedom said on 4 Nov 2008 at 5:44 am:
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    Harry, again, you’re making Paul look foolish…and even Republicans don’t think he’s a fool.

  11. Monster_Mom said on 5 Nov 2008 at 9:26 am:
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    Wake up Harry - your comment about Investigations being in about 80% of the classrooms in PWC is absolutely false. Full Investigations was only implemented in a few classrooms and used as a supplemental in others, but the number was more like 20% rather than 80%.

    Investigations was brought to this county by teachers and administrators who buy into the constructivist philosophy - with Carol Knight being one of the leaders of the movement towards Investigations. Blaming Investigations on Waltz is neither entirely accurate nor inaccurate. The committee responsible for reviewing and selecting a text was already on it’s way towards “selecting” Investigations when Waltz was hired.

    However, his statement in a school board meeting about Investigations success in Greece and his full confidence in the program coupled with his willingness to mislead the public regarding Investigations content and use of strong armed tactics against teachers who question the program can not be discounted.

    Ultimate responsibility for Investigations and the conduct of the school system administration lies with the elected school board. Only one of the current members sitting on the school board was not a school board member when Investigations was adopted. The rest of them supported and approved the decision to adopt Investigations. The entire board has refused to task the school system with developing a plan whereby dual instructional tracks could be facilitated and has failed to call Waltz and his administrative staff on their misleading statements. For that they are all equally cuplable.

    The majority of the members of the school board are Republicans. Considering the losses the GOP suffered yesterday I’d hope the PW GOP is listening. Because the next school board election is in 2 years and if this board doesn’t get off it’s collective backsides and start responding to parent concerns PWC may well find itself with a Democratic board.

  12. anon said on 6 Nov 2008 at 11:24 pm:
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    Monster Mom,

    You are lying. Either that or you haven’t read the teachers manuals and the parent letters that go home in investigations.

    Yes, they are taught other ways to come up with 6×8 = 48.

    But they are also required to learn math facts.

    And 6×8=48 IS an acceptable answer. If they can explain what that means. Can you?

  13. freedom said on 7 Nov 2008 at 8:31 am:
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    Well anon, I’m not sure if Monster Mom can explain what it means or not, but I certainly can. …and the most basic reason that I CAN explain what it means is that my parents understood what it meant and they helped me understand what it means. Simple.

    Most people, anon, are simply not willing to turn their child’s entire education over to an experimental program and the teachers’ union.

    I wonder how fast “Math Investigations” would disappear if we had school vouchers and could send our children to competitive programs…:)

  14. Monster_Mom said on 10 Nov 2008 at 3:59 pm:
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    Nope anon, I’m not lying. I’ve read the books. Observed classes. Even discussed the program with professors from MIT, Cornell, and Cal Tech. Have you? FYI - they have grave concerns with Investigations as well and the professor at Cal Tech was instrumental in changing California state standards such that Investigations is no longer an approved text series in the state.

    The books, BTW, are available at the library at the Hill if you’d like to review them. Pay particular attention to the CAUTION in the section on fraction to decimal conversions - which are taught with a calculator. The book says “Repeating decimals are intriguing to 5th graders although these sessions are not focused on understanding which fractions result in repeating decimals and why. CAUTION: An eight digit calculator display is often insufficient for determining whether a number is a repeating decimal.” Not exactly a confidence inspiring statement, at least to me.

    I also have the homework assignment where a child solved the problem 6 x 8 with the answer 48 and was marked wrong. I also have a homework assignment where a child was given full credit for answering 1/8 when asked if you have 4 brownies and 8 friends how much brownie does each friend get if you share equally. In the first instance the child was marked wrong because he didn’t show his work. In the second instance the child was given full credit because he showed his work in the manner Investigations expected but arrived at the incorrect solution.

    Marking the child who answered 6 x 8 = 48 wrong is what Investigations says to do. You’ll see where the books says to mark a child who doesn’t demonstrate his work for that problem wrong in the grading section in the teacher guides. You’ll also see the book recommend that at student who write 6+6+6+6+6+6+6+6=48 or 12+12+12+12=48 would be give partial credit. What the book wanted to see was the students break the 6 and / or the 8 into smaller parts and then calculate the solution. So, for instance, 6 = 2 + 4 and if you know your 2 and your 4 times tables you can calculate the answer as 2 x 8 + 4 x 8 = 16 + 32 = 48. The book doesn’t explain why knowing 2 x 8 = 18 or 4 x 8 = 32 is acceptable but 6 x 8 = 48 is not.

    The funny thing, anon, is that I don’t want the county to dump Investigations for all students. There are parents and teachers who like and believe in the program. I just disagree with them. I don’t think it’s meeting my child’s needs and I’d prefer that he be taught under a different approach with different materials. So do about half the parents and more than half the teachers, according the the survey the county released last year. And because the old textbooks are still available, creating an alternate track which could use those materials would actually save the county money.

    I’m surprised the school board isn’t jumping at the opportunity! Imagine - teachers get to teach using materials they think are effective and appropriate for their students, parents getting to choose what they think is appropriate for their children, and it doesn’t cost anything!

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