Another Reason to Homeschool: Everyday Mathematics

(Cross-posted from The Homeschool Apologist):

Remember when you were a kid and your parents complained about the “New Math” you were being taught in school?  I don’t know about you, but honestly, I just thought my parents weren’t all that smart.  How on earth they managed to do their jobs (my dad was an engineer and my mom was a nurse) with their incredibly limited math expertise was beyond me.

Interestingly enough, my parent’s intellectual capabilities grew by leaps and bounds as I got older. It’s funny how that happens isn’t it?

I was reminded of my own math education (and my parent’s reaction to it) last week when a friend posted this video on Facebook.

In Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth, M.J. McDermott exposes some rather alarming trends in math education which are clearly demonstrated in two popular math programs. (The video is long, but well-worth the time spent watching it!)  Everyday Mathematics and Investigations in Numbers, Data, and Space are examples of “new-new math,” or what has become more descriptively known as “fuzzy math”.  I was first introduced to Everyday Mathematics (also known as Chicago Math) several years ago when I was substitute teaching in our local school district.  At first, some aspects of Everyday Mathematics seemed to make sense.  It made math fun.  And practical.  Great for use in…well…everyday life.  But then I started to notice how much in the book wasn’t even really about math.  Huh?  And I began to notice language and methods that seemed completely ludicrous.

My initial exposure to Everyday Mathematics led me to a quick investigation which revealed a virtual boatload of negative “press” about this highly acclaimed curriculum.  I found numerous critical reviews written by everyone from math experts to parents to journalists.  Even a number of system-bucking teachers jumped bravely into the fight.  Many of these critiques provide passionate testimony and firsthand knowledge of the damage that Everyday Mathematics has done (and continues to do.) In fact, just about the only vocal support I could find seemed to come from the program’s own creators and from a few educational bureaucrats desperately trying to justify their own misguided decisions to inflict Everyday Mathematics on the unsuspecting parents and children in their districts.

After this initial exposure to the world of “fuzzy math”, I began to encounter something else that I found very interesting.  As a representative of a homeschool curriculum company, I attend about 10-12 homeschool conventions each year.  The company I represent publishes a spiral-based math program that is quite popular among homeschoolers.  Over the last several years, I’ve had a surprising number of parents indicate that the single most important factor in their decision to homeschool was Everyday Mathematics. More than once, a parent has done a double-take when I use the word “spiral-based” to describe our math program.  The concerned look was followed immediately by a question:  “If it’s spiral-based, does that mean it’s like Everyday Math?”

People homeschool for a lot of different reasons.  It turns out Everyday Mathematics is more than just a “highly acclaimed” math program.

It’s also become a GREAT reason to homeschool.

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6 responses

  1. All of this fuzzy math is one of the reasons I created “Arithmetic Village”. It is very back to basics with easy to understand manipulatives. It helps to solidify the concepts of Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division early.

  2. I just stumbled on M.J. McDermott’s video and am almost giddy. Thank God there are still some sane people in the world. She lays bare the problem with the state of math education with profound professionalism and conviction. Brilliant! I want to shake her hand, buy her a drink, and mow her lawn.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this blog and posting Ms. McDermott’s video. I am four weeks into my student teaching in a third grade classroom. I have watched my mentor teacher use Everyday Math with the students, and I began teaching it myself this week. Thirteen years ago when I was in third grade, I learned math very traditionally. Once I reached college, I was very confident in math skills, but the past few days I have been second-guessing my education. I have no idea how to teach the concepts in the “fuzzy math” curriculum! My students are expected to do a lot of guesswork and calculator work. The one thing I’ve always loved about math was the very fact that it had a system and an order. Everyday Mathematics has taken that stability out of math. Third graders are very concrete thinkers, and I find that EM is even more abstract than traditional math.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your experience! My own daughter was an education major and had some less than wonderful experiences with teaching math during her student teaching experience! This should teach you how NOT to do it!!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Good luck in your student teaching!

  4. Thank you for this video! It really scared me because I was looking into both TERC and EM because of the book “What’s Math Got to do with it?” To think I could have been a part of teaching fuzzy math to my child makes me feel ill. I will stick with my current math curricula!

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