Seattle public high schools this fall will use new math textbooks that have stirred controversy for their less-traditional teaching methods.

The Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors on Wednesday put an end to what have come to be known as the “math wars,” approving a school district committee‘s recommendation for high school math textbooks in a 4-3 vote.

“We really see this as Step 1,” said Anna-Maria de la Fuente, the district’s K-12 mathematics coordinator. “The hard work is really coming.”

That will be a summer full of teaching educators how to use the new textbooks and telling parents about the overhaul of the high school math curriculum.

With the board’s vote, the school district adopted textbooks published by Key Curriculum Press for algebra, advanced algebra, geometry, pre-calculus and calculus. For statistics classes, high school students will be using an Addison-Wesley brand textbook published by Pearson Education.

With the program adoption, Seattle Public Schools will move away from its integrated math curriculum and standardize its math classrooms by using just one program.

The controversy surrounded Key Curriculum’s Discovering Mathematics series for algebra, advanced algebra and geometry, which officials describe as using an inquiry-based learning method. In a nutshell, the series focuses on helping students uncover math concepts on their own instead of laying out rules for memorization.

“Absolutely getting kids ready for college is what I’m about,” said de la Fuente, who headed the district’s recommendation committee. “And that’s problem-solving.”

But state math experts disagree about the effectiveness of the Discovering series.

The state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has called the Discovering series “mathematically unsound.” A state Board of Education report states, about the series, “Students learn to solve interesting problems but not to understand algebra.”

The education board also said the Discovering series places too much emphasis on “pictures of graphs” instead of the algebraic equations that go with them.

But other mathematicians, contracted by the state, have said the opposite — that the Discovering series indeed is mathematically sound and is effective for teaching students with a wide range of learning styles.

“It’s kind of a case of dueling experts,” de la Fuente said.

In its study, the OSPI ended up choosing the Discovering series as its second choice, behind a program published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. All of the OSPI’s recommendations, including the Discovering series, align with the state’s educational standards, it said.

The Seattle schools Board of Directors on Wednesday only had the power to approve or reject the Seattle math committee’s recommendation. The committee worked for about six months, combing through 20 textbooks until settling on three finalists. It then came to a consensus on the Key Curriculum and Addison-Wesley textbooks.

“I believe that the Discovering texts have (a) sufficiently broad approach to allow a range of teaching,” said board Director Peter Maier, who voted for the adoption.

Board President Michael DeBell previously said he was not satisfied with the Discovering textbooks because they can’t be used as well as other options as reference materials at home. He voted against the math committee’s recommendation.

Most people who gave public testimony at recent board meetings were widely opposed to the Discovering series. Many said it teaches “fuzzy math” and criticized it for departing from teaching methods that have been used for centuries.

“The effort to reform math into something it is not is failure,” Seattle resident Kate Martin said. “And SPS is getting on that train.”

Catherine Costello, the only person to give testimony in favor of the Discovering series, said she feels it promotes open communication in the classroom and values students as valid thinkers.

“Discovering has a progressive, egalitarian focus,” said Costello, the mother of a freshman at Nathan Hale High School. “The direction is to teach both ideas and skills.”

Some board members and many concerned parents said the Discovering program relies too heavily on classroom teaching. They have also cited the fact that the San Diego school district adopted the Discovering series and then abandoned it.

Rick Burke, a Seattle parent who served on an OSPI board that reviewed math textbooks last summer, said the Discovering series puts Seattle Public Schools on a progressive path that the larger mathematics community, as a whole, has already abandoned.

“Education’s this huge pendulum, and it’s swinging back,” Burke said. “But the damage has been done.”

Harium Martin-Morris was one of the three board members to vote against the adoption.

“I’m pleased with the community that we’re actually talking about mathematics,” he said. “We may disagree on the road that we’re traveling, but I think we’re all aiming at the same destination. I believe in my heart that this adoption doesn’t direct us in a direction that we should be going.”

The Board of Directors was scheduled to vote on the math adoption recommendation at its meeting two weeks ago. Director Cheryl Chow was absent, and after the six present directors indicated their votes would result in a tie, they postponed their vote to Wednesday.

Chow was among the directors who voted to approve the recommendation Wednesday, along with Maier, Steve Sundquist and Sherry Carr. DeBell, Martin-Morris and Mary Bass opposed the adoption.

The board’s decision ends a three-year-long process of finding a replacement math program. The current high school textbooks are falling apart, and the board is not happy with the school district’s poor math test scores.

“I’m elated that we have textbooks and we can move forward,” Seattle schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson said.

Catherine Costello, the only person to give testimony in favor of the Discovering series, said she feels it promotes open communication in the classroom and values students as valid thinkers.

“Discovering has a progressive, egalitarian focus,” said Costello, the mother of a freshman at Nathan Hale High School. “The direction is to teach both ideas and skills.”

Some board members and many concerned parents said the Discovering program relies too heavily on classroom teaching. They have also cited the fact that the San Diego school district adopted the Discovering series and then abandoned it.

Rick Burke, a Seattle parent who served on an OSPI board that reviewed math textbooks last summer, said the Discovering series puts Seattle Public Schools on a progressive path that the larger mathematics community, as a whole, has already abandoned.

“Education’s this huge pendulum, and it’s swinging back,” Burke said. “But the damage has been done.”

Harium Martin-Morris was one of the three board members to vote against the adoption.

“I’m pleased with the community that we’re actually talking about mathematics,” he said. “We may disagree on the road that we’re traveling, but I think we’re all aiming at the same destination. I believe in my heart that this adoption doesn’t direct us in a direction that we should be going.”

The Board of Directors was scheduled to vote on the math adoption recommendation at its meeting two weeks ago. Director Cheryl Chow was absent, and after the six present directors indicated their votes would result in a tie, they postponed their vote to Wednesday.

Chow was among the directors who voted to approve the recommendation Wednesday, along with Maier, Steve Sundquist and Sherry Carr. DeBell, Martin-Morris and Mary Bass opposed the adoption.

The board’s decision ends a three-year-long process of finding a replacement math program. The current high school textbooks are falling apart, and the board is not happy with the school district’s poor math test scores.

“I’m elated that we have textbooks and we can move forward,” Seattle schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson said.

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