"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Common Core, Lattice Math Problems and a Parent's Frustration

Just wait until you see the Math lattice problem.

I got a chuckle when I read this from e cards.  How many of you remember word problems in Math that didn't seem to make sense?

A blog on educational matters, Learning in Maine, had an article extolling Common Core math standards.  The readers took exception to some of the writer's praises about Common Core's strengths (according to the writer) in an extraordinary and thoughtful manner.  This comment on how math works, or doesn't, is worth pondering:

As a parent with a minor in Biology and dad who works remotely as an IT Security Consultant (and who sees many Asians blow our kids out of the water when it comes to mastering computer programming which uses not only math but "logic"). Both of us cannot comprehend Everyday Math.

I can't help my son with his 6th grade homework because I do not understand half of it and neither does my husband.

We learned math the old school way and are very proficient ~ I have even passed college level Calculus 2 and Statistics.

My son is in 6th grade and I fear that he has never learned the basics. We are going to talk to the Principal of my son's school and beg for him to learn "Singapore Math". We pay enough in our property taxes and they should help us out here.

Everyday math is fine if you want a nation of liberal arts degrees rather than science, computers and engineers.

Pulling up internet resources about "Everyday Math", it looks as if lattices are taught in solving multiplication problems.  If this is the way students are assessed on the Common Core assessments, the reader's plea to her principal is useless. If the student doesn't understand the process of a problem, the student will fail.  If the student fails, the teacher's accountability rating goes down.  What teacher wants to teach math problems in a manner that will affect his/her job?  

If "Singapore Math" is not the consortia's assessment decision for your state, it's a safe bet your local school district won't teach it, even if the taxpayers demand it.  Is this really the best way to teach math to children?  This is the lattice method for the multiplication problem 567 x 432.  And you thought word problems were bad?

It's clear as mud to me.



  1. You are completely totally, miseducated and dead WRONG on this subject. Everyday Math is a research based math program actually created by educators and NOT a publishing company. It is the only math program owth there that encourages higher level thinking skills and not rote memorization, which is probably what you mean by the "basics". Parents traditionally do not like this program because they don't understand it, it is different than how they learned, and it just plain scaresz them and makes them feel inadequate. Just because you learned the "basics" the old-fashioned way doesn't mean it was the best way.

  2. Everyday Math was around long before the Common Core.

  3. Anonymous: You are missing the issue. I never said Everyday Math was created by a publishing company. The issue is: THE CONTROL OF THE STANDARDS AND ASSESSMENTS have been taken away from the state and autonomous decisions on how to teach their own unique students by local schools and teachers are non-existent.

    Did you read the 2 comments from "Anonymous" in the Maine blog?

    And when and if the kids bomb with EDM (entertain that premise for a moment), the school can't change it unless the assessments change. Who cares if the kids have a strong foundation in math? The issue is really one of control. If you want to be a parrot and teach what you HAVE to rather than what works for students, then you will love common core.

  4. Anonymous,

    Have you read any of the research for Everyday Math that you feel makes it a "research based" math program. Much of it was done by William Carroll who was on the payroll of U of Chicago (who developed the program). This does raise the question of whether and to what extent his research is independent and non-biased. Other research is just as questionable.

    Also, why do you believe that mastery of basic skills means "rote memorization"? I have looked at many textbooks used in the 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's and found that in most, the mathematical procedures are explained, with examples, and students are given word problems (as well as numerical problems) that require students to apply what they have learned. EDM fails on two counts. It does not teach to mastery, but instead relies on the spiral process of learning which assumes that if students don't get it the first time, they'll get it the next few times around. In the meantime, without mastery, it is impossible to build upon a foundation of prior knowledge, because that knowledge isn't there. (In psychological jargon, these building blocks are called "schema"). So, much of the time, students aren't getting it, and what they ARE coming away with is pretty low level. Also, EDM loves to give problems for which they have provided no prior explanation. This is supposedly part of the discovery method, but it is not scaffolded appropriately, and if perchance a child does manage to get the answer to such a problem, they will likely not be able to repeat the success.

    For more information on EDM, see http://www.educationnews.org/commentaries/13361.html.

    For more information on the myth of traditional math teaching see: http://www.educationnews.org/education-policy-and-politics/barry-garelick-the-myth-about-traditional-math-education/

    For your information, I majored in mathematics and learned "the old fashioned way". It did not handicap me, nor limit my "higher order thinking skills". Also, I fully understand what EDM is doing, but can see that it is inappropriate for use as a math program in our schools.

  5. If Everyday Math has been around long before Common Core et al, then there should be a body of evidence that supports its positive impact on student math achievement. Where's the evidence?

  6. Anonymous writes "Just because you learned the "basics" the old-fashioned way doesn't mean it was the best way.

    The old-fashioned way of learning math put rockets in the air, men on the moon, developed the polio vaccine, the nuclear bomb, etc. Would you tell us again why it isn't the best way?

  7. 2nd Anonymous-- The old fashioned way is clearly the wrong way- It was simple, basic, cost effective and it worked. That's not allowed in anything government has any jurisdiction over.

  8. Somebody Please GET THE GOVERNMENT OUT of our schools. They can't run their own house so why do we have to have them in ours!

  9. "Somebody Please GET THE GOVERNMENT OUT of our schools." Either my snarkometer isn't working today or I'm in a parallel universe. If what you said isn't facetious I've got some great ocean front property down at the Lake of the Ozarks to sell you, cheaply!

  10. I agree with both sides of the issue. I am a new math teacher and I grew up on the cusp of math ed. I received the traditional old way of learning math, along with the new mathand technology. I'm cross-referencing common core and lattice method and I came upon this page. I want to know if there is anything against lattice in the common core. Because truthfully, as much as you want to stand by everyday math and it's usage you can't. There are several bullet points in the standards that say "USING THE STANDARD ALGORITHM" Thus, we must return to the old ways. And truthfully I don't understand any part of lattice!!! All I see are numbers with no connection to addition and multiplication. My students look at me like I have five heads. But when you think about it, how can we call math a universal language if we have people speaking different dialects? Also, I get the anti-rote memorization rhetoric and teaching it to a 7 yr old in elementary is not worth it. But then, tell that to the same child at 14-15yr old in middle/high school that can't do 8x3 in their head and is forced to be in Sp. Ed.? =/ How is that fair? We need to teach all parts of math and recognize that certain parts are mechanical and certain parts are conceptual. We need to blend the best of both and start from an early age.


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