Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Math curriculum needs more work

Walking into the first Oct. 17 math meeting with Dr. Jonathan Brendefur, I expected to meet the Kool-Aid seller of "new math." I expected to hate his teaching. After four of his lectures, Dr. Brendefur has easily proven his outstanding worth as director of the Idaho Initiative for Developing Mathematical Thinking ( Blaine County School District Superintendent Lonnie Barber, Curriculum Director Patty McLean and Math Coordinator Carla Scanlon deserve our thanks for bringing us this terrific educator to further educate teachers and parents on developing mathematical thinking.

But why is such training needed? A new math curriculum was not written in spite of the fact that the new math texts—"Investigations" for K-5 and "Connected Math 2" for 6-8—are drastically different from previous textbooks. Instead, Patty McLean simply purchased the curriculum within these texts. When parents and taxpayers began scrutinizing them, many holes were found.

Fears that these texts are incomplete were confirmed when Dr. Brendefur stated that he has not found any good math series. When asked about "Investigations," he replied that it was the best text for teaching math concepts, but overall isn't very good. Since the texts are lacking, the "curriculum" within them is also lacking. Our amazingly dedicated teachers have been forced to work beyond their normal workload to develop a math curriculum on the fly.

This first textbook implementation by our new and rather well-paid curriculum director is an ongoing disaster. The district office called in the cavalry to save the day; Jonathan Brendefur and his associate Sam Strother are thankfully capable of the task. And yet, will our children learn the math they need this year? Bringing in an incomplete and unbalanced curriculum is having ongoing negative effects for many teachers, students and families; it is no small matter.

Ellen Mandeville


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