# CPM Spiraling

CPM continually revisits topics year after year without closure [i.e. spiraling]. CPM curriculum is not a coherent, progression-based set of topics. The only reasonable conclusion**regarding this situation is that TTSD should offer a choice in the math program.**TTSD Board Meeting – January 8, 2009

Public Comment Speaker: Wu-chi Feng Members of the board, I am a Professor and Chair of the Computer Science Department at Portland State University. As you may or may not know, computer science is a discipline built heavily upon discrete mathematics. In my role as department head, I suspect I face similar curricular and student challenges as TTSD does. I UNDERSTAND the need to educate a diverse student body with varying skill sets and learning styles. I UNDERSTAND the need to meet criteria and standards for education. I UNDERSTAND the need to maximize the efficiency of the educational delivery. I UNDERSTAND how the conceptual understanding of a piece of knowledge can be delivered in many different ways. What I FAIL TO UNDERSTAND, however, is when an objective National Math Advisory Panel, who bases their recommendation solely on credible research, makes their first recommendation regarding grade school mathematics of “a focused, coherent progression of mathematics learning should become the norm in mathematics curricula” and that “any approach that continually revisits topics year after year without closure [i.e. spiraling] is to be avoided,” that we, as TTSD, would end up with a curriculum that is spiraling. For my job as department head, this would be similar to hearing a recommendation from our main national computing body, the ACM, to avoid teaching Computer Science using the Basic Programming language and then I, in turn, change our curriculum to be based on it. Let me make another analogy, if a respected national medical panel that makes recommendations based solely upon credible research makes a recommendation to avoid second hand smoke, would you voluntarily put yourself in a situation that continues to have second hand smoke? I have reviewed the Pre-Algebra and Algebra I books of CPM. As a college educator for the last two decades, I have examined and reflected on what aspects of this math curriculum could be improved through implementation. Certainly, there are some aspects that can. I have come to the conclusion, however, that no amount of implementation changes can make the CPM curriculum into a coherent, progression-based set of topics. Let me expound on

**why through one last analogy**. Suppose you wanted to teach someone how to paint a car. In one approach, you apply a layer of primer to the entire car, followed by a layer of paint, and a layer of clear coat on top. An alternative approach would be to apply a spot of primer, followed by a spot paint, followed by a spot of clear coat; after which, you continually repeat on bare areas until the car is finished. Do you end up with painted cars? Probably. Is the paint structure and the time to paint the same on both cars? Probably not. Do you get someone that wants to paint for a living in both approaches? Probably not.

**Because the CPM textbook presentation is like the spot-painted car**,

**it is impossible to convert its presentation into one that is done in layers or, in the math case, a coherent progression of math topics.**I have read many articles on the math wars and have reflected on these as (i) the head of a university department, (ii) as an educator of two decades, and (iii) as a parent of TTSD students. The only reasonable conclusion I can come to

**regarding this situation is that TTSD should offer a choice in the math program**. I know it is a tough call to make. If you allow choice, however, I firmly believe you will end up creating a better overall math foundation for the development of our next generation’s leaders. These TTSD students will make you proud if you give them the proper foundation. Let that be your legacy. Thank you for your time.

## Leave a Reply