Monday, June 23, 2008

Stone Soup Math

I have been baffled by the recent avalanche of reform math materials making their way through public schools lately. I knew about the concept when my oldest son was in elementary school in California, and I went through California "Math Wars" until in ended in 1999, with a set of standards most scholars agreed were world class. I thought it was the same story in other states. Wrong, my dear Watson! Reform math resurfaced as Connected Math Project(CMP) in Oregon, and then again, in Washington, where I live.

My first introduction to CMP/CMP2 was about 2 years ago, when my daughter was taking it in the International School of Beaverton. I was already alerted to it by others in the Beaverton Math group, but nothing got me like dealing with it on a daily basis. After a few months, I was convinced that it was the modern equivalent of the Aesop's fable about the "stone soup". Let me explain:

* I would start with a chapter on CMP, which was supposed to be strong on explaining concepts, but irony of ironies - I could not find many good explanations of concepts that made sense to my "cursed" logical mind. So I decided to start with the base of Heymath! and had my daughter go through the many excellent animations of concepts. Voila! She would come out with a great intuitive grasp of the concepts. This was especially true for geometric concepts.

* I would look for examples of solved problems in CMP books, so that she can learn standard ways to solve them. Again, no go. So, I added a dash of examples from my old Glencoe California text books, that had worked out examples on the concepts. She had no trouble figuring out how to solve the problems after that. That took care of the examples issue.

* Then I noticed CMP was weak on skill building, since there were too few exercises that honed in a specific concept. So we added a healthy serving of Kumon exercises, and that took care of her skill building.

Pretty soon, we were sold on the concept of discovery based learning. We "discovered" that we could build an excellent math program with right proportions of Heymath, Glencoe, and Kumon, and did not need the CMP2 books at all. So we threw it out of the "stone soup".

We still keep our "recipe" handy for home schooling :-)

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