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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 5, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Math curriculum

Start with simple solution to complex problem

The May 31 guest column by Cliff Mass highlights a systemic educational problem [“Seattle’s shortsighted math curriculum,” Opinion, May 31]. The polarization surrounding math education is really between those who seek a revenue stream from it, and those who just want their kids to be successful and their taxes to be spent wisely.

The volunteer community members of Where’s the Math? are completely solution-focused, and I’m pleased to report that the solutions are not that hard. Putting effective textbooks in the hands of teachers, students and parents is the simplest and lowest-cost path to immediate achievement gains. With any leftover money, Seattle could place math specialists in the schools — not math coaches who promote fuzzy-math programs, but actual math content experts.

It’s really hard to drive nails effectively with a screwdriver, even if the screwdriver is glossy, expensive and includes training by the UW College of Education. Pick the right textbook tools and the job gets much easier all around.

— Rick Burke, Seattle

Cost of students’ futures outweighs cost of tossing books

The recent guest column by Cliff Mass sums up what I’ve been thinking all year about my son’s first-grade math curriculum. He has an excellent teacher whose effectiveness is largely wasted on the rotten Everyday Math curriculum she has to work with.

Long-term exposure to math problems –sometimes over a period of years — is supposed to magically result in understanding of the underlying math concept by the student. In reality, from the student’s point of view (and the parent’s), presentation of the material is disorganized and does not build on previously learned skills nor emphasize mastery of skills before moving on to the next concept.

Many at our school, including my family, supplement with outside tutoring because we can afford to. But as Mass points out in his guest commentary, those who cannot are falling behind as a result.

Discovery-based math should be abandoned by Seattle Schools entirely. The cost may be great, but the cost to a generation of students who fail to learn math is greater.

— Tina Yamagiwa, Seattle

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