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Beth Ritsema's Replies to "Letter from Parents"

Issue Addressed:

(Note: this message refers to the Letter from Parents Criticizing CMP, which can be found under "Public Engagement" in the Library.)

By Beth Ritsema, Core-Plus Mathematics Project (CPMP) Professional Development Coordinator, Western Michigan University

It seems to me that of the 41 questions and comments from parents, at least 14 of them reflect a concern that students will not do well in college if they study from standards-oriented curricula rather than traditional curricula. These are items 8, 9, 14, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, and 40. To quote R. James Milgram (the Stanford University Mathematics Professor quoted in Item 37) as reported in the News Tribune from Tacoma, WA. "Traditional programs have not been successful in reaching all students. They have worked with the top 15% of our students but have not been effective with students much below that level." So assuming the percentage of successful students is correct, traditional programs have not been successful for about 85% of students. (Of course we have not determined what "success" means.) If Standards-oriented programs "succeed" with more than 15% of the students, it seems that these programs should be considered more successful than traditional programs. I can contribute to the responses to specific items from information provided to the Core-Plus Mathematics Project from schools who implemented the Connected Mathematics Project developed curriculum in middle school followed by the Core-Plus Mathematics Project (CPMP) developed curriculum for high school students. I am sure that other Standards-oriented high school curricula are finding similar results.

Item 8

As indicated above, with traditional programs the failure rate is very high. Is a 15% success rate sufficient for our school district?

Item 9

What would convince you that a math program is right for your children? Let's use that criteria on traditional programs to find out if they are right for your children.

Item 14.

Good grades can be given with any mathematics program without student learning. One district response could be that the teachers will work together next year to ensure uniform expectations at each grade level and across grade levels.

Item 17

Much time for re-teaching occurs with traditional mathematics programs. Look at the first chapter or two of the books. Advanced Algebra revisits most of Algebra 1 etc... Good teachers have and always will "re-teach" concepts or help students review concepts as needed. Teachers teaching Core-Plus indicate that they need less time for review than when they taught traditional programs because "students actually remember what they learned last year."

Item 19

Is the issue here that students need to take calculus in high school or that they need an algebra course in middle school?

Since Course 4 of the Core-Plus curriculum was published in 2001, we are now beginning to hear from some schools who have taught CMP and CPMP with all students. They are finding an increase in enrollment of students in AP Calc and AP Stat courses and that students are scoring as well or better than their students did when they studied from traditional programs. At Bellevue School District where K-12 standards-oriented curricula is now in place, they have raised the percentage of students in AP courses from 18% to 50%. (They expect the percentage to be even higher next year.)

Acceleration is a separate issue from selecting mathematics curricula, scheduling of classes needs to allow for acceleration. See www.wmich/cpmp the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for acceleration plans used by schools teaching the Core-Plus Mathematics curriculum.

Item 20

And what is the Mathematics Association of America recommending for precalculus courses?

Item 21

Elaborate please, name the college majors that would be restricted to them? Not engineering, not mathematics majors, not science areas... (See Item 37.)

Item 22

Students can successfully complete AP Calc without being accelerated in middle school although schools that have historically accelerated students in middle school do continue that policy, often by teaching Course 1 of Core-Plus in 8th grade. (See the CPMP web site for acceleration plans submitted by school districts.)

The Traverse City data will be posted on the CPMP web site soon. In Traverse City students are not accelerated in middle school, they study CMP in heterogeneous groups. Acceleration occurs from grades 9 - 11 at which point students may elect either AP Calc, AP Stat or both.

In some schools, students wishing to study AP Calculus as seniors are accelerated from 8th grade CMP to Course 2 of Core-Plus supplemented with some Course 1 material as needed.

They may also enroll in both Course 4 of CPMP and AP Stat as juniors.

Item 32

Yes, "higher level" ( level 6) students should have the opportunity to study standards-oriented curricula. Students from the Battle Creek Area Mathematics and Science Center where students study Core-Plus have had the opportunity to assist mathematics professors in summer research projects.

Since "higher level" students do not need to "practice" methods for long periods of time to be able to do them, Standards-oriented curricula offer them the opportunity to study statistics, probability, and discrete math, in addition to algebra and geometry and require deeper understanding of concepts. To quote Rose Martin, teacher at the Battle Creek Mathematics and Science Center, "Why would we deny our best students the opportunity to study this rich curriculum?"

Item 33 Seems that the "concrete examples to imitate" approach gives a "success" rate of 15%.

(K. James Milgram)

Item 34

SAT tests are not based on traditional math courses. The College Board supports the NCTM Standards, allows graphics calculators on the tests, and tests reasoning abilities as well as mathematics skills.

Where is the evidence that students studying Standards-oriented programs not do well on the SAT test?

Where comparable groups could be monitored, students who studied CPMP did as well or better than students from traditional programs.

Item 35

"We need our children in a strong traditional math program next year" - So 15% can "succeed"?

Item 36

Typically, some of the chapters in traditional textbooks are not covered each year.

SATs again...

Item 37

Stanford student: "It is my firm belief that the Core-Plus education in fact better prepared me for the mathematics I encountered in college as well as for preceding Advanced Placement Examinations, than would have a traditional mathematics program. For any student who intends to study math at the level of single-variable calculus or beyond, I believe that the conceptual-based style of education stressed in the Core- Plus program will prove far more beneficial than memorization of what would otherwise be meaningless formulas and algorithms."

Item 40

The intent with Standard-oriented programs is to raise the standards for all students not lower them.


Beth Ritsema, 6/11/2002


Professional Development, Leveraging Support



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