Why Should This Be So Hard?

My son Clay is now three weeks into third grade and already I'm getting frustrated with his math curriculum.

It seems that our school district has drunk from the new-new-math Kool Aid. They have bought the spiel from the Snake Oil salesman from Chicago. To make matters worse, they only use the curriculum until fifth grade, where they change over to the Saxon math program.

The key differences of these two programs, is that the Chicago Everyday Math curriculum is two fold. The big issue is that Everyday Math doesn't teach standard algorithms. secondly Everyday math doesn't require mastery, but Saxon does.

For those of you parents out there that have a child learning with Everyday Math, you know full well, does not use any of the tried and true (read proven over time) algorithms, instead it encourages the student the devise their own methods and shows them tricks, such as matrixes to do multiplication. In contrast Saxon uses well proven and recognizable methodologies. Why do they feel the need to reinvent the wheel here. I hate to sound like an old codger, but it worked for me, my father and his father.

The secondary issue is that Everyday Math's curriculum spirals. I know you just had a big question mark rise over your head, but stick with me here. Spiral, in this context means that all the students aren't expected to master a particular task. If they don't get it this time around, don't worry, we'll be covering this again next month, or even next year. The bottom line is that a student can float from one grade to the next without mastering anything. Now I know that is a bit of an exaggeration, but while reviewing my son's home work the other day, they we touching upon statistics.. IN THIRD GRADE!!!.


What I don't understand, is how you can teach multiplication without mastering addition first? The way I look at it, learning math is like building a house. Addition, subtraction, multiplication & division are the foundation and algebra and trigonometry are walls and floors. If the foundation isn't rock solid, how can you expect the walls to stay up?


Now as bad as the Everyday Math may seem, it gets worse because our district switches gears in fifth grade and goes to the Saxon curriculum, requiring the student to use the standard algorithms and requires mastery. I realized this was a problem in speaking with a woman who is a math tutor, she told me her entire client base consisted of fifth graders from our district because the didn't understand the material.


In our household, the way we are dealing with this is by using the Singapore Math curriculum at home and make sure Clay learns the algorithms. What I am torn about is how to deal with our school district. While it's too late help my son,   I am debating whether I want to fight this. I am afraid that a poorly performing math program will just depress our property values (no one wants to move into a school district performing poorly). While researching this, I found that all but one of the dozen or so communities surrounding ours perform better than ours.