**Does new TTSD math program add up?**

*Parents for Math Choice plan to speak before the Tigard-Tualatin School Board tonight*

**BY JENNIFER CLAMPET**

*The Times, **Dec 11, 2008*

**A new approach to teaching math is shaking up more than just the classrooms in Tigard-Tualatin’s secondary schools. Some parents are afraid it’s giving their kids a shaky foundation for mathematics.**

Tigard Tualatin School District Curriculum Director Carla Randall says feedback from parents on the district’s new secondary schools’ College Preparatory Math curriculum has been overwhelmingly positive.

“My kid never did well in math, and now he’s getting good grades,” Randall said as she recited testimony parents have given through phone calls and meetings with school principals and teachers.

Carol Feng has heard the same thing from parents just with a much different inflection.

“My kid never did well in math, and now they’re getting ‘A’s.”

Feng contends that CPM isn’t a miracle program, that it wasn’t designed to turn struggling students into straight ‘A’ students over-night.

Feng and a group of parents calling themselves Parents for Math Choice are questioning the rigor and content of the new math curriculum. Feng admits originally her concerns were for the advanced students. Feng worried that the new math approach wasn’t challenging enough for advanced students.

And with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, Feng says a foundation of understanding math concepts is crucial for anyone interested in pursuing an engineering or science degree.

Without a good foundation, a student can’t succeed in college. But just within the last few weeks, Feng said parents of students who once struggled in math have sought her out to tell her “My kid never did well in math, and now they’re getting ‘A’s,” raising concerns that the program may be too easy.

And as some parents began to pick apart the research behind CPM as a successful curriculum, Randall said she stands by CPM as “the best choice for the district.”

But could the math curriculum be too easy? Are students learning enough? And will the new program do what it’s supposed to do — prepare students for college math courses?

**What is CPM?**

**In a questions and answers brochure distributed by the school district, CPM is described as a math curriculum that has a record of improving student understanding and achievement in math.**

Designed by math teachers, CPM uses a scaffolding method for teaching mathematics. Rather than just the traditional lecture, algorithm memorization and practice problems, CPM couples direct instruction with class time dedicated to group work.

** **

**What is the goal of CPM?**

CPM is designed to make math problems relevant, because then “students learn how to relate them to real life situations.” And that helps with retention of mathematical concepts, says Kim Lindsey, the district’s Teacher on Special Assignment for Math.

Last spring, the district adopted CPM math textbooks. This year in the classrooms, instead of the traditional rows of desks and students busily working on scratch paper in silence, the rooms harbor group debates. In October, Lindsey explained that some parents were questioning the new approach. But that was to be expected as the district’s secondary math curriculum shifted from “memorizing formulas to debating.”

**What are the concerns?**

* Parents’ concerns run the gamut of not being informed ahead of time of the change in curriculum* to the concern of putting advanced students with struggling students in groups. And some have even questioned whether the pace of the new curriculum will give students the foundations they need to succeed in college-level math.

“They’re questioning the rigor, but in my professional opinion this is much more rigorous (than other math curricula),” said Randall.

Parents, who have formed a group called Parents for Math Choice, plan to give more specific accounts of their concerns tonight at the School Board meeting.

**How is CPM different?**

Some parents are concerned the curriculum isn’t challenging enough and that the CPM curriculum does not cover as many topics as other textbooks.

But the content and the pace coincide with the CPM approach, said Randall. Traditional math curriculum in the United States is often described as “a mile wide and an inch deep.” CPM is meant to give students a deeper understanding of concepts. Rather than going a mile, the curriculum covers less but goes into more detail and depth in hopes that students will retain the concepts.

**Just one math curriculum?**

Parents have raised the question “Why not two sets of math curricula — one for the struggling students and one for the more advanced?”

But Randall said that’s not something the district is interested in.

“Superintendent Rob Saxton’s — and mine as well — core value was to have a core curriculum track and work to differentiate it. We’re not interested in two tracks,” said Randall. “Philosophically, we don’t think that’s the best thing for the students.”

Tigard Tualatin School District has same concerns as Fairfield District

Why is CPM always secretly adopted in districts? Why do some districts call it a curriculum and others, like Fairfield, do not… for convenience?

**It leaves one to question the merits of CPM (instructional model, textbook and curriculum).**

*In 2009, Tigard-Tualatin officials this year revisited CPM, which cost $195,000, for 6-10th grades.*

## Leave a Reply