Handout for the May 12, 2003 Meeting of the Guilford Board of Education

Prepared by Bill Quirk ( wgquirk@wgquirk.com)

Note:  This is a slightly expanded version containing some illustrations that couldn't be given in 3 minutes.

About one week ago we first heard about the proposal to adopt the CMP middle school math program.

I'm here tonight to ask you to delay this decision.

Guilford parents need time to understand why parents elsewhere are fighting so hard to get rid of CMP math.

We've been told that an Expert Panel of the US Department of Education has endorsed this program.

Two weeks ago you adopted the new Guilford math curriculum.

One curriculum highlight was listed for each grade in a May 3rd New Haven Register article.

The Register reported that Guilford sixth graders will study " the origin of pi."   That may be interesting history, but such "math appreciation" activities reduce the time available for learning real math.

The Register reported that Guilford eighth graders "will compare experimental and theoretical probabilities."  In reform math programs this involves hours of busywork, tossing coins or bottle tops, or spinning metal arrows on so-called spinner devices.  There's more busywork carefully recording hundreds of results.   This again reduces the time available for learning real math.

The New Haven Register article also reported that the Guilford "school system has adopted a wide-ranging and aggressive new math curriculum . . . that includes algebra-type problems as early as kindergarten."

Sounds impressive, but the truth is in the details.  For grades 6 and 7 the new Guilford math curriculum states that "the student will be able to solve simple equations using "models" or "guess-and-check."   Such equations must be very simple.   These two methods only work for equations where the solution is a small whole number.

Consider the equation 3x + 2 = 11.  Using guess-and-check the student will first try x =1, then x = 2, and finally bingo with  x = 3.  But if you change the the equation from 3x + 2 =11 to 3x +2 = 12,  it's a different ball game.  The answer now,  the improper fraction 10/3, is difficult to guess.  In reform math the student is encouraged to estimate the answer as "a little more than 3."   This isn't 7th grade math.

The new Guilford math curriculum leans too heavily in the direction of reform math.  It opens the possibility for bringing in dumbed down programs, such as CMP math.

In CMP math, long division isn't used to convert fractions to decimals.  Instead, students use models.  These are paper fraction strips and a paper hundreds strip.  To convert 7/8 to a decimal, the student first selects the "eighths strip," and then places it alongside the hundreds strip.   The student then eyeballs to see where the 7/8 mark on the eighths strip hits the hundreds strip.   The likely answers are either 0.87 or 0.88.   There's no right answer in reform math.

In CMP math students are told to find their own method for adding fractions.   SInce the use of models is greatly encouraged, students will turn to the paper fraction strips.  To add 1/4 + 1/5, the student folds the fourths fraction strip at the one quarter mark, folds the fifths fraction strip at the one fifth mark, and then puts the folded strips together, looking for a match for the combined length on another strip.

Now the precise answer is 9/20.  But there's no fraction strip for the denominator 20.   So the likely answer is 1/2.  Perhaps the student will recognize that 1/2 is an estimate.  Perhaps not.

These hands-on methods are obviously very limited and don't yield exact answers.

CMP math doesn't cover the standard ideas and methods of genuine middle school math.

It promotes the heavy use of calculators.

It doesn't prepare students for genuine high school math

CMP math is grossly inadequate for future farmers, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, chefs, nurses, doctors, engineers, and countless other professionals.

We've been told that CMP math is to be used only as a supplement, supposedly to gain access to rich problems, so that students might be better prepared for the Connecticut Mastery Tests.

But we've seen no examples of such rich problems.  Most importantly, no one has explained what methods students are expected to use in order to solve these problems.

Guilford parents need to see such examples.  Please show us the details.