Everyday Math

The kids bring home papers from school and, like most parents, we look over them to make sure they are doing well. Most of the stuff is pretty typical fare, but I can’t get over the math papers that Isaac brings home. You see, he is being taught Everyday Math…it’s a curriculum that is mandated by the state (or maybe county? I think state) and it is crazy. The whole idea is to do math problems that one might encounter in their day to day life.

I am not exactly sure how I feel about it. I know the teachers are mandated to teach math using the curriculum so I do not blame his teachers one bit. I honestly doubt they like teaching it either. Anyhow, let me give you an example:

Directions: Estimate the answer. Write a number model to show how you estimated.

Problem A: A prairie vole (a mouselike rodent) has an average of 9 babies per litter. If it has 17 liters in a season, how many babies are produced.

Isaac’s number model: 10X17 = 170
This answer was marked wrong
The “correct” answer: 10X20 = 200
The real answer: = 9X17 = 153 (Isaac’s answer was closer)

I understand that the idea is to round numbers so you can get an easier problem that is doable in one’s head…but let’s give a little credit here…most 4th graders can handle 10X17!

Problem B:  In the next hour, French people will save 12,000 trees by recycling paper.  About how many trees will they save in two days?

Isaac’s number model: 50X12,000 = 600,000
This answer was marked wrong
The “correct” answer:  50X10,000 = 500,000
The real answer: = 48X12,000 = 576,000 (Isaac’s answer was closer)

There were 5 problems and Isaac “missed” 3 of them.  Now, I love learning to estimate.  It’s super helpful when I am at the grocery store, but this stuff is absolutely ridiculous!

I learned to estimate very well after I learned how to actually get the right answer!  Isaac and most of the other kids do know how to get the right answer, but they are definitely not as fluent with it as they should be.  So, as long as the kids need to estimate their grocery bill, they will be well equipped (although Isaac may be too accurate).  However, if we need to build a bridge or send a woman to Mars, she is out of luck…though I figure we can get her close…

I don’t often rant on here but why on Earth are the powers-that-be messing with math programs that taught engineers and scientists to build great dams, and discover new medicines and send men to the Moon?  Surely the times have changed since then, but those “old” techniques worked.  Update the problems…kids don’t need to know how to calculate how many bales of hay can fit on a hay cart, but they do need to know how to calculate!  I truly don’t blame teachers.  Most of them are disgusted by it as well.

Okay, I am going to stop at that…there are other similar examples of how the new curriculum is making math less useful and more difficult, but I’ll save that for another day…

19 thoughts on “Everyday Math

  1. I feel the same way we use Everday Math here in Indiana also. It only gets more confusing for the parents in the upcoming years. I was blessed with one child that caught onto it easily. She is now helping her other 2 sisters with it. I don’t see what was so wrong with the math we were taught. We have made it through Everday Life with our Math. Good Luck & Have Fun Learning it makes me feel like we as parents need to go back to school just to be able to help our children.

  2. Try ‘the country.’ My children are getting the same garbage curriculum in Texas. Rather than spend time memorizing/learning their times tables they have spent 2 years working on this crapola. I’m so aggravated that I can’t even put into words. Meanwhile, they’ve tossed cursive and shortened recess. So they are essentially not learning math, not improving their ability to legibly express their ideas on paper, and not getting enough time out of doors so that they will learn/sleep/generally function better. Bravo, No Child Left Behind, they are all behind.

  3. My husband worked for an “educational” software company and got a big-eye-opening lesson in text books, educational programs, and the mafia. Yes, the mafia. Think about all those piles of tax dollars just waiting to be spent for the benefit of our children.
    Max was in 4th grade last year and we were estimating our way though math too. It makes me #$%ing *&^%ing … well you get the idea. With No Child Left Behind we can hope to have children as educated and capable as the administration that backed it… oops political rant-off topic.

  4. I don’t get it. We all learned how to estimate just to survive but we used the right numbers first and got an answer. Estimating is good but only after you learn math the right way. This is about the dumbest thing I have ever heard of. I guess I’ve been out to school too long. How will these kids ever get it.

  5. I taught with the Everyday Math curriculum for several years before staying home with my kids. The curriculum had nothing to do with why the teacher marked it wrong. The teacher marked it wrong because if those estimating questions came up on a standardized test the right answer would be 10X20=200 because that would be rounding to the nearest ten. Sad, but true – our schools now have to live or die by NCLB.
    Everyday Math is not a completely awful curriculum. Done right, it does teach kids the reasons behind a lot of math concepts instead of just memorizing times tables, answers,etc. Unfortunately this part does not always make it home.

  6. Sara – thanks for your perspective on it. I do like the possibility that students will learn concepts behind why/how certain things work, etc though I sometimes think it must be lost on kids. I see the way my son now does multiplication (for example). I can do multiplication faster “the old fashioned way” faster than he can set up his matrix to do the same problem with EM. I certainly believe in public education and I give teachers a ton of credit so I am not getting on that “teachers are awful” bandwagon that some folks get on (heck, my wife is a teacher)…but I wonder if all of the other stuff they have to learn (e.g. like how to set up a matrix for multiplication and the rules for how to do it) is any better than just memorizing times tables and learning the “old fashioned way”.

    I know schools are held to the fire with NCLB and that standardized tests are the way that is tested, but it really frustrates me that a less accurate answer is ever more right than a more accurate answer, especially if both are equally easy for a kid to do. I guess when it comes down to it, there are very few real world examples of when an answer that is estimated is going to be acceptable. I mean, bankers and accountants must be exact, engineers and pharmacists must be exact. The computer software I design has to be exact. I can only see trivial uses for estimating things (like my grocery bill)…so I’d rather that kids actually calculate the correct answer…that can still be evaluated with a standardized test.

    If this is a lesson on rounding and estimating, then this worksheet makes sense…but I look at almost every piece of paper he brings home and I have to tell you, they have spent a tremendous amount of time on this sort of stuff…and a lot of kids in his class still don’t know their times tables.

    We’ll enrich the kids at home as every parent who is capable should but I worry about the kids from whom that is not an option.

    Anyhow, Sara, I don’t intend my comment to be a rant against your comment. I certainly appreciate thoughts from you since you’ve been on the other side of the table…

  7. I have been concerned about the Everyday Math. I was very confused when my 2nd grader taught me how to add from left to right
    23
    +58
    ____
    70
    +11
    ____
    81

    I know that carry the one may be difficult but it is really easy for a messy 2nd grader to get things out of line and get the wrong answer.

  8. Sounds like things have gotten even worse since my daughter was in school. The math du jour was taught as a “spiral” which seemed to mean that kids would be exposed to math facts but could advance without actually learning them. They were then supposed to finish picking up the skill the year after while not quite learning the new math facts. This resulted in about eight months of review and two months of new work which never really got absorbed. Arrgh.

    Estimating mentally is a useful trick to verify that a precise answer is reasonable, especially when using a calculator. For instance, is the order of magnitude correct? That, and shopping tabs. Love the rant.

  9. This is Michigan curriculum as well, and the third and final math curriculum used during our 3 kids school years. Poor Abby went through all 3.
    I hate math and cannot speak intelligently about it, but I know that it frustrated Honey Butch NO SMALL AMOUNT. I believe his comment was “math never changes, why all this crap?”
    .-= Capri Kel´s last blog ..More Kisses On the Cheek =-.

  10. We use every day math in New Mexico as well. It is a “spiral” program and as an elementary school teacher, I am not a fan. I teach special ed, so I am able to choose from several options for my curriculum and have not chosen EDM. The idea behind it was good, teach the children through multiple exposures over a period of years, etc…The problem I see is that children are expected to perform higher level math at a younger age without additional time to practice. So EDM is hoped to be the magic solution. I dislike the sprial, but I also think that some of the newer instructional methods confuse more than they clarify. The matrix is one of these. Wait till you get to two digit division. The middle school teachers I know are not fans of this system and do not use it in my state. Many of those that I know reteach traditional methods so that children will be more effective in highschool and college. But, like all educational trends…this too will pass…

  11. I read the posts concerning Everyday Math. I used to be the Saxon Math representative for West Virginia. For those who are fond of a basic math program that works, the author of the primary Saxon Math program, Nancy Larson, has written a Science program. She started her own company for this project. Go to http://www.nancylarsonscience.com
    She has school and homechool and it is fantastic!

  12. As a Kansas teacher who used both Saxon Math and Everyday Math, I can tell you there is no comparison. I loved teaching Saxon Math and my students had such a great understanding and appreciation for math. Everyday Math tried to say it was doing the same thing as Saxon Math by building upon concepts but was so confusing for my students. Once again, the publishing world took an old, disliked program called Chicago Math, renamed it Everyday Math and got everyone to buy in to it across the country.

  13. Judy and Kelly – I am glad others like Saxon so much more than EM. My son in particular is now trying to do math problems outside of school stuff and is finding that his EM stuff just doesn’t really work…or at least makes it harder. I know it is supposed to make things easier but I would argue that it does quite the opposite. Anyhow, we did order Saxon homeschool stuff and we are working through it…gee whiz is it nice!

  14. As a parent of two girls, one who got it and one who doesn’t I am very angry with Everyday Math for the kids who don’t quite get it.
    The main issue is, for kids who need facts drilled into their heads ie: times tables, basic subtraction and addition, Everyday Math leaves them in the dust by 3rd grade when only standardized testing material is focused on.
    I have a 2nd grader who should move on to 3rd grade, but we are holding her back because she still mistakes the ol’ subtraction with borrowing (as WE used to call it) and still has a hard time thinking too much when asked what’s 17 – 3….
    The problem is that “spiraling” does nothing for some kids. The concept is great, but the fact is, when a kid sees it the second time around, some kids (like mine) are like “What the heck…” and don’t remember simply because it was not focused on enough. ONE day or two isn’t enough for these concepts.
    Just when my daughter was finally getting those in out tables, we move on to something completely different like measuring.

    As a working parent, I simply don’t have the time to supplement my daughter each night with basic addition and subtraction, AND Everyday Math concepts she didn’t get on the first time around.

    I’m sending my child to school to learn, she’s there for 8 hours. I shouldn’t have to do MORE work at home.
    I wish we had a back to basics program for K – 3rd and THEN, once the kids GETS IT, go ahead and mess around with “new” concepts and teaching the test.

  15. If you ever wonder where all of this garbage (EM) comes from, just look at the publisher, McGraw-Hill. The family connections between the McGraws and the Bushes go back three generations. It is my understanding that they summer together in Kennebunkport. This isn’t about children understanding math. It is about money and power.

    There is big money for publishers when a state adopts these programs. No Child Left Behind is really a cover for No Millionaire Left Behind.

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