One of our area’s few private elementary school options, the Willowwind School, announced this week that it was changing its math curriculum from Everyday Math, which our public schools use, to Singapore Math.
Carly Andrews, the Willowwind Head of School, told me that teachers had “expressed concerns about the limitations of Everyday Math and the effect it was having on student’s math interest and achievement. . . . We wanted an approach that provided more depth and more focused practice, rather than a fast-paced cycle through multiple lessons and infinite problem-solving strategies.”
Over at Kid-Friendly Schools, FedUpMom has posted frequently on the topic of math curricula; she’s a believer in Singapore Math, and a critic of Everyday Math. NorthTOmom has also posted on the topic, and I believe she is partial to Jump Math.
I’m not well enough informed to have a strong opinion about one math curriculum versus another. But I can certainly testify that my kids have found Everyday Math unnecessarily frustrating and unclear at times. It’s not hard to imagine that a different program might be better.
At the same time, I wish people would give more thought to whether it’s a good idea to push math on young kids to the extent that we do. It seems to me that any attempt to make elementary-age kids develop a deep understanding of a subject that they may not be interested in, at a level that is of very limited use to them in their daily lives, and at a pace not of their own choosing, is starting off with two-and-a-half strikes against it, and I wish I had a dollar for every math program that was enthusiastically heralded as an improvement over the one that went before.
Given how little math is retained by our adult population once they’ve been out of school for a few years, it’s hard for me to share the sense that we urgently need to ensure, for example, that every ten-year-old can divide by fractions -- to the point where we make our first-graders sit through an hour of math every day, but give them fifteen minutes or less to eat lunch. I can’t help but wonder whether a lot of math concepts could be learned more easily and with less frustration if we just put them off until the kids were a little older (an idea discussed here), and instead used elementary school just to allow the kids to be exposed to math without the same obsessive focus on achieving certain arbitrary benchmarks by certain ages.
In some places, after all, Every-Other-Day Math seems to work just fine.