Friday, July 3, 2009

Introduction to "Save Math In Issaquah"

I want to commend Issaquah School District Superintendent Dr. Steve Rasmussen for his decision to delay adoption of the Discovering Mathematics series of math textbooks.

Here are a few facts about the Discovering Mathematics series of textbooks:

1) Discovering Mathematics was found to be mathematically unsound” by a textbook consultant hired by the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

2) The Seattle School District has been sued by a group of concerned parents and citizens to stop adoption of Discovering Mathematics in that district.

3) The San Diego School District adopted Discovering Mathematics a few years ago with disastrous results, and was forced to change textbooks at considerable cost.

4) Professor Jack Lee of the University of Washington has stated: “Discovering Algebra and Discovering Geometry have too much verbiage and too little in the way of clearly stated mathematical principles. Definitions, computational algorithms, and formulas are vaguely stated if they are stated at all. Proofs, the essence of geometry are nearly absent. The program does not include enough practice for mastery. And parents will find them incomplete and confusing.”

5) An independent international study of discovery based teaching methods states: “Although unguided or minimally guided instructional approaches are very popular and intuitively appealing, these approaches ignore evidence from empirical studies over the past half-century that consistently indicate that minimally guided instruction is less effective and less efficient than instructional approaches that place a strong emphasis on guidance of the student learning process.”

6) In a stunning conflict of interest, it has been discovered that Ms. Leslie Nielsen who is the K-12 Math Curriculum Specialist for the Issaquah School District is also employed as an author by Key Curriculum Press publisher of the Discovering Mathematics series of textbooks.

The poor quality of mathematics instruction in our public schools has given rise to a large private math tutoring industry. Concerned parents, desperate to save their children’s education, turn to companies such as Kumon, Mathnasium, Sylvan, and countless private tutors to do the job the public schools aren’t doing at a cost of thousands of dollars per year. One study has shown a 350% increase in the private math tutoring business in the past 5 years.

In my interactions with the math department in the Issaquah School District, I discovered that so called “math educators” including Ms. Neilsen (mentioned above) have little knowledge of the application of math outside the academic environment. With almost no knowledge of the practical application of math, it is clear that the textbook selection committee must have voting members who use math in the practice of their professions to provide perspectives, insights, and guidance that is missing from the current committee.

In Dr. Rasmussen’s message to the Issaquah School District Board of Education he stated:
While we have followed our typical adoption process, I recognize that in this environment, we have not done enough to engage our public. We will continue our conversation with our parents and community members around this curriculum recommendation and math instruction in general in the Issaquah School District. We want to gather feedback about students’ current math experiences and use the information to continue our goal of helping ALL students succeed in math.”

Whether it’s being able to perform a math intensive job in a global economy, or simply to comprehend the actions of reckless politicians, a mathematically literate citizenry is a requirement for a civilized society. We must decide whether we are content to allow another generation of students fall into the abyss of ignorance and low achievement, or to return to being the best educated and most capable people in the world. I hope that the policy of the Issaquah School District is to return American students to being the best in the world.

Welcome to "Save Math In Issaquah"

The purpose of this website is to give parents of students in the Issaquah School District, students in the district, and concerned citizens of the City of Issaquah a place to meet, discuss, and organize our efforts to help the Issaquah School District Board of Education make a good decision regarding selection of math textbooks.

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