This is Rich, Dept.


NSF has doled out grant money once more in their never-ending quest to improve mathematics in middle school:

“The National Science Foundation has awarded a $1,090,283 grant to researchers at the University of Arkansas, Brigham Young University, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and Grand Valley State University. The three-year grant, titled Investigating Middle Grades Mathematics Teachers’ Curricular Reasoning, will fund the work of researchers to study how middle grades mathematics teachers plan and enact mathematics lessons from a variety of resources, including textbooks and supplemental materials.

“Textbooks have traditionally driven what is learned in the mathematics classroom,” Dingman stated. “However, over the past couple of decades, and in particular since the release of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, we have seen more and more teachers move away from strictly following textbooks and towards using more supplemental materials that either they or someone in their district have created, or they have found online. “

I’m curious as to whether the study will find that teachers do this because textbooks are lacking in word problems that actually result in transfer to other types of problems, lacking in explanations, lacking in scaffolded problems that increase gradually in difficulty (rather than starting right off with something that causes kids to give up), and lacking in good sequencing. I’m curious also whether the study will include those teachers who use books from previous eras.

Something tells me the conclusion will be “The internet provides vast resources in math education that are not constrained by the traditional form of math teaching that currently dominate education.” In spite of the fact that the non-traditional form of math teaching has encroached upon the lower grades over the past 25 years.


One thought on “This is Rich, Dept.

  1. “we have seen more and more teachers move away from strictly following textbooks and towards using more supplemental materials”

    So what, specifically, are these teachers looking for that is not contained in textbooks? And, when they do that, how does it affect the “strictly” progression and testing of skills defined by the textbooks? What material or units do they eliminate? You can always cover less material in a better fashion, but that’s true with any approach. I look at my son’s old Glencoe Pre-Algebra and Algebra textbooks and see various types and approaches to problems in each homework set, including writing. Might the study find that their “curricular reasoning” is completely wrong, and why should individual teachers have so much control over their curriculum? That is fundamentally wrong.

    I find that middle school is the battleground in many communities. Our town (parents) finally pushed better math textbooks down to 7th grade because the fuzzy old CMP that the school used did not match up to the curriculum opportunities offered by the high school. The curricula did not match up! That’s incompetence – that schools and individual teachers could do their own thing regarding curricula without regard to where the students are going. So now the curriculum gap is at our 6th and 7th grade wall between Everyday Math and our proper Glencoe books. Unfortunately, it’s easier for them to hide the gap with good ol’ “trust the spiral” (repeated partial learning) EM where you can see some level of curriculum continuity. Unfortunately, the “trust” ends up with parents and tutors who ensure mastery, create the best students, and increase the academic gap. Is there any chance that this million dollar study will go there?

    How about a study that examines which schools offer a proper curriculum sequence to algebra in 8th grade and what, specifically, are the tests and requirements to get onto that track. Then it can survey the parents of those kids who get on that track to find out exactly what they had to do at home to ensure that result. Then it can look at which students get into STEM degree programs in college or are able to pass the statistics courses required by so many non-STEM degrees. Back when I was a college math and computer science teacher, I saw too many students who had to change career paths because they couldn’t meet the non-STEM math requirements of their departments. The answer is not to whine that real life and college degree requirements should change.


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