Was the Texas State Board of Education correct to reject the 3rd Grade curriculum of Everyday Math?
By Nakonia (Niki) Hayes
Part One: The facts on Texas Mathematics Standard 3.4(a) and Everyday Math
Part Two: The facts on the physical construction of Everyday Math, 3rd Grade, 3rd Edition
Part Three: An introduction to the author of this report
Faulty construction was the complaint of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) of Everyday Math‘s third grade materials up for adoption in November of this year. It wasn’t about the 109, 263 proofreading mistakes in mathematics materials submitted by all the publishers this year in Texas. It was about an issue that speaks to the heart among many in the mathematics education debate today: the multiplication tables.
With a 7-6 vote (and one abstention), the SBOE rejected the third grade program of the third edition of Everyday Math. They said it did not meet the Texas mathematics standards that required third graders to learn their multiplication tables to “automaticity” (or “by heart”) through the 12s:
3.4(a) The student is expected to learn and apply multiplication facts through 12 by 12 using concrete models and objects.
The SBOE’s members who voted to reject the book have been blasted by Everyday Math representatives who maintain the book does meet the standard. They say with proofreading corrections the problem can be corrected. There’s also a fringe group who declares the board is “censoring” materials by their voting to reject the 3rd grade curriculum. Lawsuits are being threatened.
Let’s look at the facts. In their Math Masters and Home Link Masters, which is composed of worksheets to be sent home to the family, Everyday Math states in the “Introduction of Unit 7, pp. 202-232, on “Multiplication and Division”:
“The goal is for children to demonstrate automaticity with x0, x1, x2, x5, and x10 multiplication facts and to use strategies to compute remaining facts up to 10 x 10 by the end of the year.”
Conclusion: “Automaticity” is not expected for x3, x4, x6, x7, x8, x9, and certainly not for x11 and x12.
Yet, in their Correlation to the Texas Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) manual, EM lists 39 pages that say the publisher has lessons/activities to support the Texas standardrequirement of learning and applying multiplication facts through 12 by 12.
All of those pages do support multiplication topics. Only one page, however, refers to working with 12 by 12 multiplication facts: P. 280 in the Teacher’s Lesson Guide (TLG) Vol. 1 says in a framed graphic at the bottom of the page:
ADJUSTING THE ACTIVITY (of “Playing Baseball Multiplication”): The basic game uses facts through 6 x 6. The advanced version of Baseball Multiplication, described on pages 276-277 in the Student Reference Book, uses products up to 12 x 12. Children use Math Masters, page 444 to keep score.
Since it is a Teacher’s Guide that determines the “objective for the lesson” each day, and with which supplemental workbooks or resources are correlated, it is important to review the objectives cited as “supporting” Texas Math Standard 3.4(a):
1) Vol. 1, P. 248-253: To provide opportunities to use arrays, multiplication/division diagrams, and number models to represent and solve multiplication number stories. (Lesson 4.3, “Multiplication Arrays”)
2) Vol. 1, P. 272-277: To review fact families and the Multiplication/Division Facts Table; and to guide children as they practice multiplication and division facts. (Lesson 4.6, “Multiplication and Division Fact Families”)
3) Vol. 1, P. 278-280: To practice multiplication facts. (Lesson 4.7, “Baseball Multiplication.”)
4) Vol. 2, P. 576-579: To review square-number facts, multiplication, and division patterns. (Lesson 7.1, “Patterns in Products”)
5) Vol. 2, P. 582-587: To guide children as they determine which multiplication facts they still need to learn. (Lesson 7.2, “Multiplication Facts Survey”)
Other sources cited by EM that support Texas Math Standard 3.4(a) include four worksheet activities in the Student Math Journal, four pages of review in the Student Reference Journal, and three activities in Math Masters (not an assessment source).
Two conclusions can be drawn from this factual information. First, Everyday Math does not meet the Texas Mathematics Standards for 3rd Grade. Second, the claim by representatives that it does is, at best, a misinformed one among themselves. At worst, the claim is a deliberate attempt to mislead the board.
The academic value placed by some Texas state board members on the role of automaticity with multiplication facts [i.e., cognitive, not calculator], with 3rd grade students learning and applying required mathematical knowledge and skills for future success, was made clear with their votes.
This mistake by Everyday Math is not a “proofreading” error. It is a clear indicator of the publisher’s philosophy regarding multiplication facts for 3rd graders. It will also require more than a “supplement” to correct or improve the program.
Part Two: The facts on the physical construction of Everyday Math, 3rd Grade, 3rd Edition
As a preface, it is necessary to remind every adult involved (or not) with elementary education the daily schedule of those teachers. They are teaching the four core subjects of mathematics, language arts (reading/writing, which includes phonemic awareness, spelling, and grammar), social studies, and science. Most are required to cover other areas such as art, music, character education, keyboarding skills, etc.
When a 2003 survey was done in Seattle Public Schools’ to determine actual “seat time” for learning purposes, we discovered that elementary students received about 4.5 hours of actual academic learning time per day out of the 6.5 hours we had them for 176 student days. (This excludes holidays or days off for teacher in-service, etc, during the year). The limited availability of learning time had become apparent after we removed the following times of “non-academics” that had to take place each day:
- “Passing time”: Bringing children in from their lineup areas when the bell rang to start the school day and settling them into class routines.
- Recess twice daily (once in the morning and once in the afternoon).
- “Passing time x2”: Bringing children in from each recess and settling them into class routines.
- “Passing time: Taking children to the cafeteria for lunch (and going to restrooms before lunch
and after recess to wash hands, etc.)
- “Passing time”: Bringing children in from lunch recess and settling them into class routines.
- “Passing time”: Taking children to and retrieving them from the gym for P.E.
- “Passing time”: Taking children to and retrieving them from the library.
- Setting aside time for foreign language instruction, or, at our school, other electives such as journalism or photography to improve writing skills (which included the 3rd grade).
- Preparing children for the end of the school day with assignments, coats, etc., and ready for buses.
Then, we subtracted times for early dismissals (teacher professional development, holidays, parent-teacher conference weeks), assemblies, field trips, fire drills, earthquake drills, lockdown drills, two class parties allowed each year, and at least two weeks for TESTING for the Direct Reading Assessment, Direct Writing Assessment, and the state-mandated WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning).
There are, of course, other events that cause children to be out of their “academic setting.” One of the biggest is the absence of the regular teacher from the classroom. Substitutes are generally warm bodies who babysit the students. (Add a curriculum with unique and/or unknown procedures, such as lattice multiplication and substitutes will definitely not be able to teach math.) High teacher absenteeism means lost learning time. Another major source of time lost is caused by student misbehaviors that take away from a classroom’s learning environment.
We realized we were lucky to get 4.5 hours per day for “real learning.”
It is therefore crucial to remember the class schedules, hours, and academic requirements that are expected of elementary teachers as the following information is reviewed from Everyday Math‘s 3rd grade curriculum materials.
The number of pages in each published “component” (manual, workbook, journal, etc.) is shown in red font. Worksheets, or “paper-and-pencil” tasks, are shown in blue font. For those who claim they avoid the “traditional” use of paper-and-pencil tasks and thus prefer Everyday Math’s “activity-based learning,” this should be enlightening.
A total of 2,997 pages are in the 3rd grade “components” of Everyday Math for teacher review and use. Of those, 925 are worksheets for students.
In addition, when the following materials are stacked, they measure 8 inches in height and weigh 18 pounds. The following body of information, without the page count, is from http://www.wrightgroup.com/index.php/componentfeatures?isbn=007608972X.
Grade 3 Core Classroom Resource Package includes:
- Teacher’s Lesson Guides (Volume 1 & 2) – The core of the Everyday Mathematics program, the Teacher’s Lesson Guide provides teachers with easy-to-follow lessons organized by instructional unit, as well as built-in mathematical content support. Lessons include planning and assessment tips and multi-level differentiation strategies to support all learners. 848 pages + 152 pages of “reference” information (glossary, charts, etc.) = 1000 pages.
- Teacher’s Reference Manual (Grades 1-3) – Contains comprehensive background information about mathematical content and program management. 290 pages
- Assessment Handbook – Grade-specific handbook provides explanations of key features of assessment in the Everyday Mathematics program. Includes Assessment Masters. 144 pages of examples for teacher information + 83 forms for teacher use = 227 pages + 64pages of blank assessment worksheets
- Differentiation Handbook – Grade-specific handbook provides that helps teachers plan strategically in order to reach the needs of diverse learners. 145pages
- Home Connection Handbook (Grades 1-3) – Enhances home-school communication for teachers and administrators. Includes masters for easy planning. 102 pages
- Minute Math (Grades 1-3) – Contains brief activities for transition times and for spare moments throughout the day. 112 pages
- Math Masters – Blackline masters for routines, activities, projects, Home Links/Study Links, and games. 468pages
- Number Grid Poster
- Sunrise/Sunset Chart
- Content by Strand Poster
- One set of Student Materials
- Student Math Journals (Volumes 1 & 2) – These consumable books provide daily support for classroom instruction. They provide a long-term record of each student’s mathematical development. 281 pages
- Student Reference Book (Grades 3) – This book contains explanations of key mathematical content, along with directions to the Everyday Mathematics games. 308 pages
- Pattern Block Template – A clear, green, plastic tracing template contains a variety of geometric shapes with six of the shapes exactly matching the sizes of the pattern blocks.
To cover the Texas Mathematics Standards, the two volumes of the Teacher’s Lesson Guide would have to be completed; i.e., 848 pages of teaching directions and content in 176 days, supported by assignments from other EM “component” materials. Even though each day’s lesson/objective in the Guide covers an average of four pages, that still requires 212 days to get through all of the recommended lessons—without assessments. And that’s assuming each day’s lesson is accomplished in one day, with no “extensions” or reteaching required of the lesson.
A buzz phrase now being circulated by Everyday Math‘s publisher, the University of Chicago Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education, is “fidelity of implementation” (FOI), explained at http://cemse.uchicago.edu/node/3. This leads one to believe that only EM materials may be used to assure promised outcomes by the publisher, which also suggests a district should buy all of the above materials or EM should not be held accountable for negative learning results.
Questions come to mind
The first question has to center on the costs, in millions of dollars, for these materials. That includes the published materials and the professional development required to train teachers how to use those “effectively”—or at least with “fidelity.” And, in today’s “eco-friendly world,” the costs to the environment should be considered with how many trees it takes to print these materials.
Second, since such massive teaching resources seem to be written for every conceivable situation a teacher might face in a 3rd grade mathematics class, what is the underlying message? Is this an effort to “teacher-proof” the materials?
Third, has any data been collected to see how much of EM material is actually covered each year?
Lastly, has anyone surveyed third grade teachers to see if they need or want 3,000 pages of materials to cull for only ONE of the four core subjects they must teach in 176 days?
Part Three: An introduction to the author, Nakonia (Niki) Hayes
Even though I retired from teaching in 2006, my interest in mathematics education has continued. For that reason, I decided to study the issues around the recent rejection of Everyday Math‘s third grade curriculum by the Texas State Board of Education. In order to understand my frame of reference in reporting on this situation, I offer a brief introduction to my background as an educator and journalist.
First, my bachelor’s degree is in journalism; my master’s, in counseling. I began my doctoral work in mathematics education at the University of Texas-Austin but decided its philosophy did not square with mine and I left the program. My work in journalism fields for 17 years included being a newspaper reporter, public information officer, and in public relations positions for two state senators. I’ve taught journalism in three high schools, at a community college, and I established a journalism program at a K-5 elementary school in 2001 that is still being used.
As an educator for 28 years, I became certified and experienced in special education, counseling, mathematics, and administration. While working as a special education teacher, I found that teaching mathematics to my middle and high school learning disabled students was a valuable way for them to learn structure, cause-and-effect, and linear thinking, all traits they needed to incorporate in their episodic learning and living. This led me to earn a certification in mathematics. Subsequently, I taught grades 6-12 for 15 years in high, at-risk populations in Central Texas and Washington state. My students were in special, regular, and gifted education classes. Because of my training, I was usually asked to take the English language learners.
I became acutely aware of the growing deficiencies of math skills among all of my students during 1987-1991. My question was, “What is happening at the elementary level that our students are coming to us with so many deficiencies in mathematics?”
As a middle and high school guidance counselor, I saw failure rates and “remedial courses” becoming the norm for students, both in public education and colleges.
I figured being a principal would allow me to affect curriculum and the teaching of mathematics in elementary schools. So, I became one. That experience includes my being a P-12 principal/ teacher on an American Indian reservation and principal at a K-5 school in Seattle, WA, with an 80%, upper-middle-class white, student population.
Lastly, my training in Jerusalem, Israel in 1998 and 1999 with Reuven Feuerstein introduced me to a pioneer in constructivism who knows how to use it effectively. Prof. Feuerstein’s International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential is dedicated to teaching cognitive remediation strategies. His work has been used throughout Europe with business leaders, in South Africa for children from apartheid policies, and for a half million children in Brazil. The American “home office” is with IRI Skylight Publishers in Chicago, IL, since there are some U.S. districts that use his programs.
In essence, my approach to mathematics education is not that of a mathematician. It is one of a “diversified” educator who happens to appreciate the reality and potential of mathematics and what it can mean for learners who master its power.
And in summary, this report isn’t about pedagogy, the primary focus of the math wars across this nation. It is about the accuracy of EM‘s content as compared to the Texas state standards and an accountability of simple quantitative facts. As a teacher and an administrator, I would not accept any program that clearly maintains the mile-wide-inch-deep approach in mathematics education, whether it’s in teacher materials or in content for students, and that is what Everyday Math offers.
Published November 27, 2007