# Letter: Add Your Voice to Fairfield Math Curriculum Debate

This is a call to action from a Fairfield parent to others to unify on the math curriculum front.By Enrico Email the author March 2, 2013 Click here for article in Patch

- We hope you are aware of the changes going on with your child’s math curriculum at this point and are concerned. The purpose of this letter is to give parents the chance to represent to the Board of Education (BOE) as a unified voice that there is a large, concerned parent community in support of either the Singapore Math: Math in Focus or Singapore Math Primary curriculum texts. Email Enrico (click the byline above) and reply with “YES” if you support the implementation of either i) Singapore Math: Math in Focus or ii) Singapore Math Primary.

For those unfamiliar with what is going on, a quick review:

1) CT’s acceptance of the Common Core Standards for math in July 2010 has stimulated these changes. Fairfield has already realigned its math curriculum to the new Common Core Standards though it will continue to teach those topics now only needed for the CMTs until the new tests replace them in the school year 2014-15.

2) Along with the new content standards (what students need to know) are new math Practice Standards that address how students think about math and how they “do” math (more justifying their answers to prove understanding, use reasoning skills, look for structure, etc). The Fairfield instructional model (how teachers teach or deliver the new standards) has also been realigned to address the math practices.

3) The rewritten curriculum standards for grades 3-5 was approved by the BOE last spring.

4) In March, the curriculum and text committees (administrators, teachers and a couple parents), headed by Walt Wakeman, will be presenting the BOE with the K-2 curriculum realignment and the grades 6-10 curriculum realignment. They may also recommend a new textbook with which to deliver and support the new standards.

5) The BOE must approve all textbook changes and are the only ones who can do so according to Connecticut State Statutes.

6) If this matters to you and you vote YES to Singapore Math (MIF or SMP), click the byline above to reply “YES” via email. Additionally, we suggest you voice your opinion to the BOE and principal prior to AND at the March 12 meeting. Email: boemembers@fairfieldschools.org

7) If you support a)TERC, b) Origo or c) keeping what we have now for math, you do not need to do any further action. (We strongly suggest you do more research before arriving at that conclusion.

Take a minute to Google TERC and see what independent studies, articles, testimonies, blogs you find from all across the nation. Click here. and here Don’t take the teacher’s word for it. Research it yourself. Note that TERC is considered most like what teachers use now which they refer to as “non-teacher led instruction…”

The math textbooks currently being considered are very different. The four options are:

1) TERC Investigations, Pearson Publishing — (teachers say TERC is most like the “Hodge Podge” currently used which uses no texts, no teaching guide, every teacher does something different — non-teacher led instruction) — 51 percent of districts that signed on in 2007 dropped it by 2009;

2) Origo Stepping Stones, Origo Education – untested, no evidence to support its effectiveness;

3) Singapore Math Primary, Singapore Math;

4) Singapore Math: Math in Focus, Houghton Mifflin.

**What is Singapore Math?** The Singapore Math method takes a more visual approach to teaching math. Instead of relying on ambiguous key words, Singapore Math textbooks help students to visualize problem situations by turning abstract words into easy to understand pictorial models. Click here for a SMP learning examples from Scarsdale Schools. This is far from the rote memorization of days past.

In fact, the Singapore Math method brought Singapore to the position of No. 1 from the No. 16 rank for 4th grade student math achievement internationally (US is No. 11). Rye Neck, Scarsdale, Westport, Wilton, Bridgeport, New Haven, Hunter College Elementary (gifted school), Sidwell Friends (Obama’s daughters attend) and PS 132 (mostly underprivileged kids) are just a few that have all changed their curriculum to Singapore Math. Some of these schools were already top schools in math — Scarsdale is top in the nation and scores on par with the top Asian nations in international testing.

**Why Singapore?** Because it is the “gold standard” in math education for all children and has a proven track record.

**Why should you care?** For the first time, parents are being asked to weigh in. If we show apathy, we may never have this opportunity again. Parent input helps assure transparency in the process and as the ultimate consumers, we should have a say in our children’s educational opportunity. The foundational math skills acquired in elementary are key to higher level math classes, especially algebra. Many elementary school parents may not be aware that kids going to Fairfield middle schools and other middle schools across Connecticut are struggling to complete algebra successfully because their elementary math skills are lacking!

FYI — algebra is a leading indicator of a child’s ability to graduate college and earn money. A friend’s sister is an 8th grade math teacher in another district in Connecticut and tells her that, under the current curriculum, by the time the kids make it to her in 8th grade, most kids are almost two years behind in their math. It is virtually impossible to catch them up in time to do well in Algebra. We can’t afford to have that happen to our children. All children will be affected by these changes as a curriculum cycle lasts anywhere from five to seven years.

As math is a vertically building subject, what we learn in elementary school will affect how well our kids progress in middle and high school, and therefore college as well. Failing algebra may change a student’s ability to follow a higher math and science track. A group of moms across Fairfield and Mill Hill have been working to understand the differences in the programs so that we can make an informed recommendation to our elected officials on the BOE and the text committee before they make their recommendation on March 12. Word is that Central Office (the curriculum department) is biased toward TERC in elementary school and CPM in middle school. Some teachers favor TERC because it is most comparable to what they have been and are teaching now.

After doing a tremendous amount of research, we firmly believe TERC is not in the best interest of our kids, particularly when given the option to switch to a Singapore Math method. If you spend the time researching the texts and the methods, you will see that TERC is very controversial. Respected professors have said that TERC is ruining kids’ chances to advance in math and science fields because of the weak foundation they are receiving in elementary schools (see below testimonies*).

**Recommendation – Implement Singapore Math: Math in Focus or Singapore Math Primary.**Almost every parent who 1) took time to go to the Open Text Session or 2) who has carefully researched the above alternatives, agrees that Singapore Math Primary or Singapore Math in Focus are the only two acceptable alternatives.

What can you do?

If you AGREE that one of the Singapore Math methods should be selected for the Fairfield School District, below is the plan of how we would like interested pro-Singapore Math parents to create a single powerful voice:

1) We have created for the BOE and Central office a Parent K-5 Math Change Findings email statement to present our findings and conclusions regarding the various Math Texts under consideration.

2) When you receive an email to the BOE next week where you are BCC’d, we ask you to Reply All and send it to the BOE and Central office again directly saying “I Vote for Singapore Math” (we will send it twice to the BOE; once with everyone CC’d and once BCC’d for easy replying).

3) We ask that you further forward that statement to your friends who have not received it at other Fairfield schools and parents who will have children in K-5 in the next 5 years who are not on the list. Have them directly forward the email to the BOE and Central Office with the comment: “I am an interested parent of Fairfield and I vote for Singapore Math.” We want them to get that note over and over again so that they are obligated to read every word and attachment.

We only get this one chance to make sure our kids get world class math and our voices are heard. We ask that you make the time in these coming days. The BOE meeting where the Text Committee makes its recommendation will be March 12. The BOE vote will be in April.

If you are an interested parent, please have you and/or your spouse show up. And even more, speak up!! We need to show we are serious about our children’s education. We believe the Administration bias is currently TERC. Do the research and ask — is that really what is best for your child?

*Testimony 1: Investigations In Number, Data, and Space (TERC) by Wilfried Schmid, Harvard University (June, 2001) Opening remarks at the NYC HOLD math forum at New York University: “A TERC teacher doesn’t explain, and a TERC teacher doesn’t teach! I don’t want to be misunderstood: group learning and discovery learning are parts of the tool chest of every accomplished teacher, but it is folly to turn these techniques into an ideology. If we mathematicians had to re-discover mathematics on our own, we would not get very far! And indeed, TERC does not get very far. By the end of fifth grade, TERC students have fallen roughly two years behind where they should be.”

Testimony 2: “A Partial List of my Objections to the TERC Investigations Curriculum, by Thomas Parker, Professor of Mathematics at Michigan State University. “TERC students will hit a wall, probably at the end of middle school. They are not being given the grounding needed to understand the abstractions of high school algebra and geometry. Their options for careers in science and engineering are being closed off by their elementary school program.”

Testimony 3: Finally, do check out this video, described as “A third grade student explains how to solve a ‘hard’ addition problem using the TERC/Investigations method she learned in school.” This second video shows a live example of how TERC and Everyday Math work for addition and division.

— Enrico Cacciatore

**Related Topics:** Fairfield Math Curriculum, Letter to the Editor, and Opinion

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