"Everyday Mathematics"

My child starts school.    the public school district uses "Everyday Math".

 it seems that most parents hate it.   many teachers hate it.    even the people who support it just seem kind of lukewarm about it.     a lot of people want to fire the Superintendent for foisting this program upon the district.

I'm not sure what to think.  apparently a lot of other districts use this program.  It's supposed to have been developed by a crack team of math educators at the U of Chicago.   so it should be good, right?  

what do i need to know about this program? what should i do as a parent to prepare for this?

i'm looking for personal experiences (either as parent or educator).  A few quality sites may be helpful.    

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Unfortunately, there aren't studies that meed DOE guidelines for the WWC reports:

The WWC reviewed 72 studies on Everyday Mathematics® for elementary students. One of these studies meets WWC evidence standards with reservations; the remaining 71 studies do not meet either WWC evidence standards or eligibility screens. Based on this study, the WWC found potentially positive effects in math achievement for elementary students. The conclusions presented in this report may change as new research emerges.

The standards are published here, and emphasize that they don't endorse _any_ intervention methods as a policy.

Given only one study, and insufficient statics to backup a +10-12 point improvement, it's hard to say.  I read through sample lessons in K and 2nd.  Doesn't seem like anything controversial, except that it does ask students to go home and do work there.  With some parents, asking for participation or support in the home is objectionable.

I see my 2nd grader doing some similar work, not using this EM-brand of math.  Alternatives for getting the same outcome.  That's always been the case, but old-school methods rely heavily on rote, not on actual problem-solving skills.

If you weren't involved in the learning process, I would say, "Why complain?"  And, if you are involved, then you can monitor the methods and put your own opinion in.  Not everyone is capable of teaching a problem/solution cycle, so most parents have to rely on whatever the school serves up.

Having a hard time finding objective articles.  Like you said, lukewarm copy even on the publisher's site.  Wikipedia article isn't much help either.

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rwj04Author Commented:
interesting links.   I'm processing it simultaneously as i comprehend it... feel free to correct any false assumptions or conclusions I make

out of 72 studies performed, the WWC ("what works clearinghouse") determined that 71 of those studies do not meet the minimum evidence standards to be included in their report.    

the 71 studies were rejected for either not having a control group, or that the control group and the test group (aka "intervention" group) were not similar enough at baseline to make an accurate comparison.   This does not implicate Everyday Mathematics, but is stating the evidence from or methodology of the study was biased or incomplete.

Even the one study that was accepted only met the evidence standards "with reservations" .  If I understand this correctly, this one study was determined to be a "quasi-experiment" that had to do some statistical tricks to make the control group and the intervention group appear equal ("equating").   this reduces the "weight" of the study's importance when considered alongside other qualified randomized controlled trials.   Except in this case, where this study was the only one that even made it.

the reported results of this one acceptable test indicate that there was an improvement in the intervention group compared to the control group, based on standardized tests.   The study authors claimed a statistically significant result of +11 percentile points.   The WWC recalculated the results according to its statistical criteria to include the effects of population "clustering" and found that the results are "not statisically significant" (i.e. not very likely to have a difference), but are "substantively important" (if there is a difference, the magnitude of the difference can be important)...  

The overall finding, then -- based on this one single study -- is that it may have "potentially positive effects in math achievement"

i'm kind of surprised there's such an alarming lack of what the WWC statisticians consider to be a proper randomized, controlled trial with proper evidence standards.   It sort of begs the question if the studies' proponents are trying to pull some statistical shenanigans to bias the results.

Sounds like even the volume of students/teachers involved has not been conducive to collecting data that can pass muster and appear unbiased (or at least be adjusted to be non-biased).  Not surprising, IMO....I'm no statistical expert, but it's understandable that it's difficult to collect a solid data set while also teaching and dealing with day-to-day operations.

If the program was adopted, but no research staff or funds allocated for data collection, establishing suitable controls, maintain objectivity, etc.  then you'll get info that is statistically suspect, even if it was well-intentioned.

The one set of data that was accepted was (I'm gathering) "normalized" to a net zero increase in scores.  But that's not bad.  Means it was no worse or no better.  And that the people in the program reported (anecdotally, if the numbers are suspect) that scores and the experience were "better".

Also considering the one data set was collected in the first year of adoption, when staff are still learning the program....and to get no decrease in test scores?

I'm not sure I'm sold against it.  Tried-and-true versus new-and-different is rarely an argument that's completely won, if ever.

I never liked rote.  Multiple solutions usually exist to solvable problems.  I like non-traditional alternatives, since my  brain works that way.  One of reasons it took three tries to "get" calculus.  Took real-world mathematician (part-time teacher) giving us real-world problems with practical applications.

Sounds like you're interested, which puts you head and shoulders above a lot of parents.  I actually like the alternative math methods they're teaching, and tell my boy other ways to solve the same problems.  I also tell him that none of them are wrong...just different.
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I believe that a problem-solving approach is necessary in mathematics. I also believe that a rote-learning approach has solid value. (I'm not sure how 'necessary' it is, but I've seen many instances of value.) I don't quite understand how the two seem to be in such opposition.

I kind of see rote-learning as being similar to 'spelling' and problem-solving as being similar to 'composition', if I look at mathematics and English as two areas of study. Why do we not use pure rote-learning when we teach English? Who would be satisfied if spelling, parts of speech and verb conjugation were the only elements of English that were taught? Who would be satisfied if we only taught essay writing with no emphasis on spelling, etc., in lower schools?

In general, I see two opposing groups. One group tends to support problem-solving forms of mathematics such as 'everyday math' and also to support 'Evolution' as science. The other side tends to support rote-learning (as long as the algorithms are the same ones they were taught) and also to support 'Alternatives to Evolution' as science. (Tendencies on both sides, not absolutes.)

Problem-solving seems to be a way of getting students to explore and discover. Evolution (as science) seems to be a way of saying "this is how things are". Rote-learning seems to be a way of saying "this is how things are". Alternatives to Evolution (as science) seems to be a way of getting students to explore and discover.

Are politics clouding the issues?

rwj04Author Commented:
please dont make the mistake of oversimplifying the issue.  the issue is not "Rote Learning" vs. "Problem Solving".   "Everyday Math" is not the only alternative to  "Mrs. Crabapple's Mulitiplication Table Memorization Extravaganza"

there are other options besides Everyday Math.   Singapore Math, for example, is used internationally, and in some US schools.

It has, apparently, impressive results that are backed by proper statistical research.

rwj04Author Commented:
thanks for the link aleghart. that is actually pretty useful.

Glad it helped!
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