Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Board Approves Adoption of Discovering Math

Issaquah School District Board of Education voted 4 to 1 in favor of adopting Discovering Math. The 4 members who voted to approve the recommendation gave their rationale as essentially "we trust the teachers". The overwhelming body of evidence against Discovering Math was considered, but was apparently not persuasive.

Bad news for students and parents, but great news for professional math tutors...


  1. Hi Mark, It's time to follow Seattle and file a lawsuit. I am interested in participating in suhc an effort. I cannot find your contact info on this blog, so if you are pursuing this avenue, please post some info on how we can get involved. Thanks.

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  3. Let's sue the Issaquah School Board. This terrible math book could ruin the future of thousands of students who want to go to college and major in technical areas of study.

  4. Like the other posters here I would also like to contribute to any next steps. This is a sad day for current and future students of the Issaquah SD.

  5. The Montessori method is founded in an inquiry-based approach to education and has been around for over 100 years. I've seen my own children thrive in math for 10 years as a result of their Montessori education. As a parent, I'm not concerned that I cannot help them with their math homework, because it is different than the way I was taught.

    For many years, I was a victim of mastery-based mathematics classes. My teachers told me to "just do it this way and you will get the answer right every time." It didn't work - I graduated in the top 5% of my graduating class despite a 'D' in Advanced Math / Trig in my senior year. Interestingly enough, I earned an 'A' in Physics that same year and much of the math was identical. Amazing what happens when practical application is involved. If a child "discovers" and truly understands a mathematical concept, they own it for the rest of their lives!

    Inquiry-based education was important enough to the following intelligent people and I look forward to seeing it benefit kids in Issquah just the same.

    - Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Co-founders of Google, credited their Montessori education and not the influence of their professor parents as the driving force behind their success (interview with Barbara Walters in 2004).

    - Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel founded the Montessori Education Association in 1913. They also provided financial support directly to Dr. Maria Montessori and helped establish the first Montessori class in Canada and one of the first in the United States.

    - Thomas Edison helped found a Montessori school.

    - Jean Piaget, noted Swiss psychologist, made his first observations of children in a Montessori school. He was the head of the Swiss Montessori Society for many years.

    And Mark, just in case you are wondering...I have been an educator and I now work in the tech industry. I have two Bachelors degrees and I'm well on my way to my Masters degree in Information Technology. Yes, I was saved by an inquiry-based college math class.

    Math doesn't need saving in Issaquah - it has now finally been saved! Please don't bother with a law suit. It would only waste the money needed to enrich the lives of our children as the school district defends a great decision.

  6. Montessori Mom
    Excellent for you and for your high-profile examples that you and they succeeded in the Montessori model. But if your math skills are truly as good as you say, you wouldn't be citing anecdotes as examples. You would cite data that support your conclusions for large cohorts of students. That is what we are talking about here. Large cohorts of students for which there is no data that supports the incremental success of this program and materials.

    In fact, the data says otherwise when you look at the math scores for children who have been using these materials for years. An abysmal failure, worse than the prior materials. And especially true for those who are already at a disadvantage.

    Also - this is not necessarily about criticizing the Montessori method. What does Montessori say to do if a child in fact has a learning style that is more suited toward the traditional methods of math learning that you decry? What if they just can't discover the math on their own? Are they allowed to do it their way, no matter what that way happens to be?

    By the way, I earned a masters in Engineering and Statistics - and I learned math the "traditional way" - I didn't discover math for myself. Frankly, if that was the case, I don't think I would have gone as far in math had I been forced to do so. Interesting - I can still learn and apply math. But my "n of 1" is not what I am pushing here. I am looking at the data for large cohorts that say Discovering is a failure.

  7. I do agree the data must be central to the consideration of the argument; however I've had a difficult time locating independent/3rd party data that asseses the curriculum's effectiveness on a national level. Because of this, I based my initial judgement on a personal preference for inquiry-based teaching over a mastery-based approach.

    Our family may be relocating to the district and our kids would begin school there in the fall. In preparation, I've reviewed the OSPI report in addition to the news articles about the controversy. The data presented by OSPI appears only to rate curriculum effectiveness against Washington state standards rather than prove curriculums' universal effectiveness among children. I'm less interested in whether a textbook helps a district place a checkmark on a 'No Child Left Behind' report card and more interested in how a curriculum and/or teaching approach supports subject mastery and student confidence in the application of material. Can you point me to the reports I need to see? Preferably nothing from Holt or Key Press, or that is related to Washington only.

    Karie, I'd like to apologize to all for coming off poorly by mentioning my education and corporate background in a sarcastic way. In reading the various articles online, I became irritated with the mathematicians and engineers from the Issaquah community and I snapped back. The perception of this outsider is that those behind the 'Save Math in Issaquah' efforts feel that their education backgrounds coupled with their education experience makes them more qualified than Issaquah's math teachers to evaluate and select math curriculum. This is short-sighted in my opinion. Teachers are the learning theory specialists and their expertise should not be discounted in such a belittling way.

    Just as you do not criticize the Montessori method, I do not promote it as the best way for all students to learn. Whether inquiry-based or traditional methods are used in a classroom, the teacher must be prepared to redirect an individual student who is not grasping the material presented.

    Additionally, the kids need confidence in / respect for their teachers, else they will tune out in class and learn nothing. Hearing complaints and votes of teacher incompetence at the dinner table will not support their ability to learn. Whatever curriculum is ultimately used in Issaquah schools, I do hope that the community comes to trust that its teachers can prepare students for the future.