Old Math, New Math : Everyday Math, aka Chicago Math

Author: Rox Dover
Published: April 13, 2009 at 2:00 pm

-2 On Tuesday, April 14, the Elementary Math Materials Adoption Committee will recommend a new math curriculum, Everyday Math (also known as Chicago Math) to the Palo Alto Unified School District Board.  In the post below, I offer an open letter to the PAUSD Board voicing my concerns with Everyday Math stemming from three years of parenting an Everyday Math student before moving to the PAUSD

To the PAUSD Board:

Moving to California from New Jersey, I sought to optimize the benefit of the move and, as a parent, that meant finding the best public schools for my children.  I honed in on the districts with the lowest teacher:student ratios, great statistics and positive reviews.  Having narrowed our search down to four towns, I called each district with one question: “What is the name of your elementary math curriculum?”  The answer to that question narrowed my search further; now here we are in Palo Alto.  An educator myself and committed to public education, I have been over the moon about my third-grader’s educational experience here in California.  It has far exceeded my expectations, and my daughter is quite happy in school, too.

So why did math matter so much?  Because I had seen firsthand the effects of a problematic math curriculum on otherwise motivated kids.  My daughter is a keen student who is interested in math and science to a surprising level.  We want to encourage our daughter to stay her course – and hopefully, one day, she will be among those solving the energy crisis, curing cancer or healing the environment.  Mastery of math is key to success in science.  What I saw when my daughter experienced Everyday Math for three years in K-2 was a rejection of math out of frustration and a related inability to master basic mathematical concepts because of the Everyday Math approach of teaching every concept in too many different ways.  This approach gives students a cursory understanding of several ways of addressing concepts at the expense of mastery. 

Specifically, mastery falls victim to a concept called “spiraling.”  Spiraling means that concepts are introduced but not necessarily mastered before new concepts are introduced, then the previously introduced concepts are revisited and built upon before something else new comes along, repeat.  Mathematics learning, which should be progressive and built on a solid foundation, is replaced in this curriculum by a method of throwing a multitude of ideas at the kids without giving the kids time to properly internalize them to create that solid groundwork.  It’s like cooking spaghetti and testing it by throwing a handful of noodles at the wall to see what sticks.  Everyday Math doesn’t want it all to stick; it’s just concerned that some of it does.  And that’s not good enough to build the solid mathematical groundwork that our children require.

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