After complaints, School Board will discuss math program

Many parents say they can't stand Everyday Math, but consultants have recommended that the Anchorage School District stick with the controversial math program in the city's elementary schools.

There are several reasons for keeping it, said Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, which studied how the program works in Anchorage.

One is that it centers on real-life problem-solving skills that students will need to know, he said.

"If the math program is the same as the old one, the chances of students today being career-and-college-ready are mighty slim," he said.

Other reasons:

• The district is in a financial crunch, and it would cost a lot to buy new materials, train teachers, match the new system to state standards and fill in any gaps with supplementary material.

• The consultants believe the problem with the Everyday Math program is that it's not supported as well as it should be; and the district hasn't explained it well to parents. Any new program would need the same sort of support and communication.

• National math standards will soon spawn new math programs based on learning the ideas behind the math, as Everyday Math tries to do. The district, if it changes now, could have outdated texts within a few years.

Still, many parents feel strongly that Everyday Math is a mistake.

"Why is the school district even considering maintaining a curriculum that is so difficult to teach and requires continuing education for parents to help their student with homework?" asked parent Rachel Saxby.

Saxby said she voted against school bonds because she's upset about the district spending money on "misguided experiments in curricula," among other criticisms.

Saxby was one of more than 15 parents, grandparents and a teacher who sent emails to respond to a Daily News question about the math program.

"When my son was at Susitna Elementary, he brought home the book," said Mike Carrier, "The math curriculum was so crazy. It seemed to go around eight to 10 more hoops than was necessary to come up with the proper answer to what should be easy math equations."

The program teaches kids three or more ways to multiply and divide, said parent Jim Miller. "If you are a student struggling to learn just one way to multiply or divide, trying to teach you several different ways of doing it just confuses you!"

"Everyday Math is an awful educational tool and very hard to understand," said Yvette Miller, another parent. "After re-reading the instructions on some of the homework my daughter has brought home I felt as if I was unable to help my child with having a better understanding of this type of math."

She said she agrees with the thought others have voiced: "'Teach math the old way.' This is the way I've taught my children at home."

Airport Heights Elementary teacher Emily Becker is also critical of Everyday Math. "It's not a bad curriculum by any means," she wrote. "However, it is disastrous for English language learners, students who struggle with reading comprehension and students who struggle with abstract concepts."

"I dearly wish they would ditch EDM."

School Board President Gretchen Guess said the board will discuss whether to do just that.

"We need to make that decision," Guess said. "But I don't think you see a report like that (the math program study) and make a quick judgment."