The Case for Everyday Mathematics
By Andy Isaacs, D.A. May 28, 2009
University of Chicago School of Mathematics Project
Everyday Mathematics is the most researched and trusted elementary math curriculum in the United States. It is the program of choice for nearly four million students nationwide. No other program has been developed as thoroughly and carefully over time, with full field testing prior to publication. In addition, no other program has the extensive verification that it works.
Barry Garelick’s May 15 column, “One Step Ahead of the Train Wreck,” contains misperceptions that need to be corrected. While we certainly empathize with Mr. Garelick and his daughter’s struggle in math, we feel the methods in Everyday Mathematics are validated by its successful track record nationwide.
First, Everyday Mathematics does indeed teach multiple algorithms (strategies for solving math problems). Everyday Mathematics encourages students to learn multiple algorithms because it helps them understand both how to solve a problem and why the method is valid. Students can choose the way that works best for them, allowing them to not only feel more successful but to actually understand the math better.
Everyday Mathematics materials identify one algorithm for each operation as a “focus algorithm.” The purpose of a focus algorithm is to provide children with at least one accessible and correct paper-and-pencil method and thereby set a common basis for classroom work. Each focus algorithm is chosen for both efficiency and understandability.
The highly efficient paper-and-pencil algorithms that have been traditional in the U.S. may no longer be the best algorithms for children in today’s technologically demanding world. Today’s elementary school children will be in the workforce well into the second half of the 21st century and the school mathematics curriculum should reflect the technological age in which they will live, work, and compete.
Parents who would like to become more familiar with the algorithms in Everyday Mathematics can now see them in the Free Family Resources section of EverydayMathOnline.com. These animations take users step-by-step through solving a problem with each algorithm. With clear voiceover instructions, the animations help parents, students, or teachers gain a better understanding of different ways to solve a problem.
Mr. Garelick may be happy to learn that the third edition of Everyday Mathematics addresses many of his issues with the program. For example, students have a hard cover student reference book with worked examples and a journal to keep a daily record of their work. The reference book is also available online. The program was revised for the third edition based on extensive teacher feedback.
The publisher Wright Group/McGraw-Hill has done many things to help parents support their children with Everyday Mathematics homework. Everyday Mathematics’ instructional content incorporates ways to involve parents. Each lesson has a Home/Study Link in the form of homework that includes extensions of lessons and ongoing review problems. This shows families what students are doing in math class.
Everyday Mathematics comes with the Home Connection Handbook, which helps teachers and administrators communicate with families. It includes:
· A how-to section on holding school events such as the Back-to-School Night, Open Houses, a Family Math Night, and Portfolio Day. Each event is designed to welcome parents into the math education process and provide the background knowledge for them to do so successfully.
· Materials for teachers to send home such as newsletters, Family Letters, Game Kits and Feedback Sheets.
o Family Letters provide families with information about the Everyday Mathematics structure and curriculum by explaining key content and vocabulary, directions for appropriate games, and so on. The Family Letters are available in nine languages: English, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (traditional), Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu.
· Recommendations on creating Parent Handbooks – including how to create them, what to include, and when to distribute.
· Suggestions for inviting parents into the classroom to observe or volunteer.
· Displays to visually explain Everyday Mathematics to parents.
· Tips for maximizing time during Parent-Teacher Conference.
· A Glossary defining math terms.
In addition, Wright Group/McGraw-Hill also has developed several online support sites for teachers and parents.
· Under the Free Family Resources section of EverydayMathOnline.com, parents can access additional resources, including Algorithm Animations tutorials.
· The Parent Connection Web site provides much of the material from the Home Connection Handbook detailed above and quick tips for helping children succeed in math.
· The EverydayMathSuccess.com site includes videos of the program in action and important research supporting the program’s effectiveness.
Another issue Mr. Garelick questioned includes Everyday Math’s pacing, which we refer to as distributed practice. First, content in Everyday Math is taught gradually over time, beginning with concrete experiences to which students can relate. Research shows that students learn best when new topics are presented at a brisk pace, with multiple exposures over time, and with frequent opportunities for review and practice. The sequence of instruction in the Everyday Mathematics curriculum has been carefully mapped out to optimize these conditions for learning and retaining knowledge. Test results show that this approach works.
We agree with Mr. Garelick that instructional material must support teachers to be effective. The Everyday Mathematics Teacher’s Lesson Guides are robust with mathematical background information to help teachers enhance their knowledge of the mathematics. The Teacher’s Reference Manual that comes with the program also offers extensive teacher education information about the content in the program. McGraw-Hill Education also provides professional development for Everyday Math teachers routinely in the form of national user conferences, in-person training for new and experienced users, and a newsletter for teachers to share ideas.
As a final word, Everyday Mathematics’ effectiveness has been documented through a variety of studies. No other program has been scrutinized as widely, both by researchers and program users. Everyday Mathematics students have been found to be mathematically literate on a wide variety of measures, including state-mandated tests, commercially available standardized tests, tests constructed by the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project, and tests written by independent researchers.
As a report from the National Academy of Sciences (National Research Council, 2004) makes clear, no other currently available elementary school mathematics program has been subjected to so much scrutiny by so many researchers. The agreement about the curriculum across so many research studies is the strongest evidence that Everyday Mathematics is effective.
The ARC Center, located at the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP), studied the records of 78,000 students and found that the average standardized test scores were significantly higher for students in Everyday Mathematics schools than for students in comparison schools.
In the Everyday Mathematics Intervention Report, posted by the What Works Clearinghouse, Everyday Mathematics was found to have a “potentially positive effect” – this is the second highest rating possible – something not yet accomplished by any other elementary math curriculum.
In addition, many districts have shared that they see markedly improved student outcomes on state-mandated tests. Some of these districts include: New York City, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Virginia Beach, VA; Kent, WA; Fayetteville, AR; Citrus County, FL; and Chattanooga, TN.
For any parent struggling with their child’s math performance, it is essential to partner with the teacher to get to the root of the problem. For any teacher struggling with a particular lesson or student, it is key that they look for help from district leaders or even the publisher of the program and the author group. Wright Group representatives are always available to help.
To learn more about the philosophies behind Everyday Math, see it in action, hear from those succeeding with it, and find parent resources, please visit EverydayMathSuccess.com.
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