Letter: Portland math decision needs lots of input

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Choosing a mathematics program for K-5 students is never easy. Therefore, it is critical that parents, teachers (elementary, middle, high school, and college), and taxpayers be involved. Elementary level math, after all, is the building block for success.

The history of math programs might be helpful since in the ’60s all schools adopted “new” math programs and in a few years had to return to the more traditional approaches. We are repeating the mistakes of that era by again using “fuzzy” math programs which have been “sold” to committees because the content is “spiral.” Spiral is great for review, but each skill or concept must be taught in depth and not one day now, another day next month.

The Student Reference Book for the elementary Chicago Math program Everyday Mathematics contains about 350 pages: 184 pages, math skills and concepts; 42 pages, calculators; 39 pages, games; 49 pages, a “World Tour.” Over-emphasis on games and calculators can lead to less mastery of basics.

Some of these non-traditional programs may be great for the mathematically talented students but when Superintendent James C. Morse Sr. pledges that “all of our students …” and “all of our graduates …” and “all students …” are going to meet with success and are going to graduate, programs can’t just be fun and games and selected by a chosen few.

The adoption of a K-5 math program for Portland schools must be done very carefully, with lots of solicited input.

Audrey V. Buffington
South Thomaston

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