Traditional Math in Elementary Schools

school.pngAs I mentioned here,  at the March 4th meeting of the Prince William Count School Board, Dr. Michael Otaigbe introduced a motion to implement a consistent and blended approach to elementary school mathematics education that includes both elements of Math Investigations and Traditional Math. Here is the text of Dr. Michael Otaigbe’s motion after it amended by Gil Trenum’s motion (from here).

Under the direct supervision of the Superintendent, Prince William County Public Schools will implement a consistent and blended approach to mathematics education with the following elements:

1. The goal at each grade level is to achieve the mathematics objectives of the Virginia Standards of Learning and the PWCS curriculum. The PWCS elementary curriculum shall ensure that all SOL essential knowledge and skills standards are covered at the grade level indicated in the SOL framework.

2. All students are expected to achieve conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and automatic recall of facts. Pacing guides shall designate practice for mastery of basic facts and for efficient execution of standard algorithms.

3. Math Investigations handbooks and activity books and traditional mathematics textbooks and workbooks will be provided for teachers and students as necessary to support a blended approach to the teaching of mathematics.

4. Classroom teachers shall have the flexibility to use instructional materials and strategies and to adjust pacing recommendations to achieve learning outcomes for all topics and SOL objectives. Classroom teachers will have discretion over the amount of time dedicated to direct instruction and inquiry-based methods.

5. The mathematics program shall be implemented within the structure of site-based management. Principals shall work with their staff and the parents in their school community to implement a specific balanced approach to the mathematics instruction that meets the needs of all learners in their school.

6. Success of the program will be evaluated by scores on the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests and other achievement tests, by student readiness for advanced math courses such as extended math in sixth grade, and by survey responses from parents and staff members. SOL results will be evaluated and reported by grade level and by sub-groups. SOL results, including information on trends, will be compared with surrounding school divisions and with statewide results.

7. Advanced students shall be challenged with additional or more complex problems and activities offered in each classroom. These students shall be provided the opportunity to learn and practice more advanced concepts as they are ready.

Recorded Vote: Yes, Unanimous

I commented here as to how well I think the proposal will work.


2 thoughts on “Traditional Math in Elementary Schools

  1. Ed

    The math department gave Ms Ramirez very conflicting information about math investigations results in Woodbridge and she chose to interpret that as “math investigations is working in my district”.
    Scores are down in 7 out of 9 schools in her district following the implementation of MI and AYP gaps have widened.
    Who should we trust? Does it look like it’s working?

    The results are available here:

    To summarize, pass 07 to 08 (06 to 08 for Featherstone, early adopter)
    Belmont 94% to 95%
    Featherstone 88% to 78%
    Kilby 96% to 85%
    Leesylvania 83% to 80%
    Marumsco 92% to 88%
    Porter 97% to 99%
    Potomac 95% to 93%
    River Oaks 82% to 72%
    Vaughan 89% to 85%


  2. I believe at the school board meeting on March 18 Mrs Ramirez was provided with an overall pass rate for 3rd graders in her district of 82.2% in 2008 (the first year of the county-wide Investigations mandate). Mrs Ramirez cited this pass rate as evidence of the success of the program.

    Unfortunately, what Mrs Ramirez failed to ask for or present was the overall pass rate for Woodbridge District from 2007. That rate was 86% – 4% fewer students in Woodbridge District passed the SOL after Investigations was mandated than before.

    That’s outside the standard deviation and not evidence of success.

    Furthermore, a number of school board members and PWCS officials, like Mr Lattin, Mr Richardson, Mrs Ramirez, and Dr Walts, have asserted that test scores for disadvantaged and LEP students have improved under Investigations. That is absolutely not true.

    Of all of the AYP sub-groups, disadvantaged and LEP students have fared the worst under Investigations. Pass rates for disadvantaged students are down in 63% of schools since Investigations was mandated; pass rates for LEP students are down at 60% of schools.

    Even more concerning, to me, is how willingly district officials appear to be to misrepresent the truth. Dr Walts stated emphatically at a recent board meeting that the SDMT indicated that the achievement gap was decreasing under Investigations. That is absolutely not true. The SDMT was never give prior to the Investigations mandate so comparative data from before the Investigations mandate is not available. Additionally, the SDMT only provides two breakdowns – disadvantaged students and overall. The achievement gap is the difference in rates between white students and the NCLB sub-groups. While the SDMT does allow districts to determine the difference in pass rates between the district overall and disadvantaged students, the gap that is being calculated isn’t the achievement gap. Dr Walts ought to know that.


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