Archive for the ‘Research & Data’ Category

The following is history of the EM controversy in the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD):

CVUSD has been suffering declining enrollment since the unsuccessful parent revolt against EM in May of 2005 when a few parents united in an effort to get the school board to provide for a choice of math programs.

CVUSD lost 500 K-5 students in the fall of 2005, after the district refused to offer parents an alternative to the use of EM.  While there are no exit polls to determine the reason for the abrupt drop in K-5 enrollment, certainly a percentage of those students left because of the use of EM. I am privy only to the names of those that took the time to contact me personally over the matter.

The following year (fall of 2006) an additional 400 plus K-5 students left the CVUSD schools.  In August of 2006 (an election year), letters to the editor focused parent attention on CVUSD’s low API similar schools scores which contradicted administrator’s continuous claims of excellent district schools..  CVUSD’s wealthy neighborhood of Meadows was a 1 out of 10 in the 2005 similar schools ranking (10 being best), and other wealthy neighborhoods ranked 2, and 3.

40% of the API similar schools score is weighted to math scores.  Following the disclosure of the poor similar schools ranking, instead of improving CVUSD math scores as had been suggested in the letters to the editor, it appeared administrators instead worked to have the rankings modified so that most CVUSD schools would be measured against districts that used Everyday Math such as Poway and El Segundo.  From 2006 on, most CVUSD schools would not be compared to Manhattan Beach schools which used Saxon Math.

The severity of the decline in K-5 enrollment during 2005 and 2006 was masked by an increase in the number of middle school and High School students that enrolled in CVUSD.  Newspaper reports that spoke of declining enrollment never focused on the existence of a problem with elementary enrollment.  The declines in K-5 enrollment occurred in all grades and all schools.  Job losses due to a poor economy didn’t begin until 2007, so the district’s notion that the enrollment declines occurred because of the high cost of housing in this area don’t hold much water, since enrollment was at its highest when housing costs were at their apex in May of 2005.

The exact number of students comprising the K-5 enrollment declines in the fall of 2005 and 2006 were not made public until October of 2007 when the school board began to hold hearings to close 2 (and possibly 4) elementary schools.  The actual figures for the decline in K-5 enrollment (nearly 1,000 students over a 2 year period) were provided in those hearings by CVUSD’s Jeffery Barstead.

In the spring of 2008, amid an uproar of parent dissatisfaction, Meadows and University Elementary schools were designated for closure.  Parents whose students attended Meadows Elementary organized to form a charter school and in 2008 had their charter approved by the Ventura board of education (CVUSD refused to grant the charter).

Meadows Arts and Technology Elementary School (MATES) has filed a law suit against CVUSD in an effort to locate the MATES charter school at the original Meadows campus slated for closure.  The matter is still pending.  The MATES curriculum director has indicated they will pilot Saxon and Singapore math programs.  The MATES charter school will draw an additional 200 plus students out of the district.

Mr. Dunn indicated in his email that 175 students left for other districts.  I believe this is the current number of students that have applied for permission to attend public school districts other than CVUSD.  The number he gave you does not reflect the over all total number of students lost since the 2005 math revolt.  His figure does not include private, home school, or online charter schools that local students attend.


In the spring of 2008 CVUSD was in the process of reviewing math textbooks for adoption (and contending with outraged parents over school closures).  Of the piloted programs Harcourt and Everyday Math were the 2 chosen for a vote.

While EM has been used for the past 6 yrs in all K-6 grade levels, the 6th grade teachers voted to drop EM for the fall of 2008.  In public comments one CVUSD middle school teacher (a committee member on the 2007 CA DOE Curriculum Review Panel for math textbooks) urged that 4th and 5th grade math instruction should move to a program that would provide a better transition to middle school math and algebra, specifically pointing to the lattice method of multiplication as one problem with EM.

When teachers’ votes for the math textbooks were tabulated by grade, over 60% of the 5th grade instructors voted to drop EM in favor of Harcourt.  4th grade teachers split evenly between Harcourt and EM.  In grades K-3, which has a higher number of teachers due to small class size mandates, the majority went with EM.

The CVUSD vote indicates EM did not have the support of teachers in higher grade levels.  Fewer 4th 5th and 6th grade instructors chose the EM program over a more traditional Harcourt offering.


The CA Dept of Education Curriculum Review Panel approves textbooks for adoption in CA.  In the most recent adoption in the fall of 2007, the CA CRP rejected the 5th grade EM textbook.  The full EM series had been rejected in two previous attempts at gaining approval (1998 and 2001).  I am not aware of the changes that were made to gain approval of EM’s 5th grade textbook, and would recommend extreme care to supplement it heavily in order to ensure student mastery of material.

The shortcomings that I am aware of with EM are as follows:

In CVUSD there has been a wide difference in the math instruction between classrooms.  Teachers that prefer constructivism choose to use only the EM textbooks and avoid supplementation.  Instructors that follow a more traditional approach, such as the ones teaching at Wethersfield Elementary, chose never to use the EM textbooks except as a supplement on occasion.  This creates a wide variation in the type of math instruction students receive.

On one occasion a parent has reported that his child’s entire class (according to the teacher) had failed an exam.  The teacher then decided to give credit for wrong answers (if you got within 10 of the actual answer).  So a child who had initially received a score that would be an F was actually given a B grade.

EM promotes the use of calculators beginning in kindergarten.

EM has inadequate skill and drill practice problems, students can fail to obtain mastery of math facts or standard algorithms, and are weak in computational skills.

The EM spiral moves much too quickly through far too many concepts, leaving students merely exposed to a myriad of math concepts rather than mastering the basics.

EM introduces a multitude of problem solving methods rather than focusing and practicing with the standard algorithms to automaticity.  This causes a great amount of confusion for students.

Parents are not able to help with homework, especially when the unfamiliar EM algorithms are used (lattice method of multiplication etc.)

Previous textbook reviews have indicated that EM failed to provide adequate instruction in fractions, EM did not teach the standard long division algorithm, and EM did not provide adequate instruction of division with decimals.

EM can leave students woefully unprepared and lacking in an understanding of decimals.

The pitfalls of EM suffered by CVUSD students are not due to a lack of teacher professional development.  CVUSD provided ample teacher support for use of EM in order to acquire the waiver to use EM from 2002 -2007 before EM had received state approval for classroom use.


The current controversy over EM has caused significant declines in enrollment, and school closures, and is proof that history often repeats itself.  In an earlier decade, controversy over the adoption of whole language reading textbooks in CVUSD created declining enrollment which resulted in the closure of 2 schools.  Wethersfield Elementary is where many of the teachers who had supported phonics ended up after that decade’s round of school closures.

During CVUSD’s 2008 math adoption, Wethersfield teachers indicated they have never used EM except as a supplement.   100% of Wethersfield’s teachers voted against using the EM program.  Wethersfield is one of only 2 elementary schools in CVUSD’s district of 22,000 students that was able to get a 10 on their similar schools scores in the most recent API listings (other high SES CVUSD schools were below 5).  I would provide a link but the API similar schools reports which were readily available on the CA DOE and CVUSD websites yesterday, has magically disappeared.

Parent participation in the math revolt in Conejo Valley was very minor in comparison to what I gather is occurring in Palo Alto.  Very few CVUSD parents participated openly in the May 2005 efforts to gain an alternative math program to EM.    If CVUSD’s conflicts are any indication of what to expect when a district adopts EM, Palo Alto must be prepared for a decline in enrollment, and the potential for the necessity to close schools.  It will only take a few highly motivated parents to increase the likelihood that a charter school will enter the equation.


Jo Anne Cobasko
Thousand Oaks, CA
Conejo Valley Unified School District

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…then please write to your PAUSD  Board Members now to please ask them to not vote to adopt “Every Day Math” for your child’s math education.


From the NYCHOLD (“Honest Open Logical Decisions on Mathematics Education Reform”) Website (http://nychold.com/em-arith.html):

These are the various EDM methods your child will use to do Addition and Subtraction, for example.  (Multiplication, Division samples are in the above link) – Hope you will know how to help them.  (More info on the website link for NYCHOLD):


Partial Sums Method (EDM Method)

     148            678
   +  67          +  67
   + 266          + 266
     ---            ---
 ->  300        ->  800
   + 160          + 190
   +  21          +  21
     ---            ---
     481        ->  900
                  + 110
                  +   1
               ->   etc

Column Addition Method (EDM Method)

       1| 4| 8
     +  | 6| 7
     + 2| 6| 6
   ->  3|18| 1
   ->  4| 8| 1
   ->  481

Opposite Change Rule (EDM Method)

    185   ->    200
  + 266       + 251
    ---         ---

–  –  –  –  –  –  ————————->>>  Or just have your child learn the…


       (12 )
      +  67
      + 266


Left to Right Subtraction

     - 50
     -  8

Counting Up

      58      and then
   +   2
      60             2
   +  40         +  40
     100         + 200
   + 200         +  25
     300           ---
   +  25           267

Partial Differences

      - 58
      - 30
      -  3

Same Change Rule

    325   ->   327
   - 58       - 60
    ---        ---

–  –  –  –  –  –  ————————->>>  Or just have your child us the…

Traditional Method (Carrying  & Borrowing – called ‘regrouping’ these days)

      | 1|15
     3| 2| 5
   -  | 5| 8
     2| 6| 7

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This is an Open Letter sent from Stanford Professor (Department of Mathematics), Gunnar Carlsson.  It is being republished here with his permission.

You can download the letter below (PDF File) or view it below (slightly unclear version):

Carlsson-Letter (.pdf file)



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 Dear School Board Members:

Many districts have abandoned the EDM after using it for a number of years.  Here are some examples that we discovered:


Notes from St Joseph’s School in Menlo Park re Everyday Math ( based on a telephone call last week with the Menlo Park  curriculum director)

St. Josephs recently decided to drop EDM after using it for 7 years, a change that was made at the behest of its teachers.  While the teachers were initially drawn to Everyday Math because of its focus on higher order thinking, the negatives of the program once brought into the classroom outweighed the positives.

Problems identified:

– Per middle school teachers, students who have learned EDM in elementary schools were not prepared for

middle school math.

– EDM does not provide good mathematical foundations, this was not obvious in lower grades but became a problem by 5th or 6th grade


          In Grades 1-3, teachers ended up having to use EDM very loosely because it required lots of supplementing for students to be able to master grade level math. 


– Other problems teachers found with Everyday Math:

   – The spiral was quite problematic and, though teachers supplemented to try to make it work for them, there was no way to standardize the supplementation between classrooms so what was taught and how it was taught was very difficult for the administration to monitor for consistency.  Also, it spiraled too quickly.  The spiral was particularly problematic for struggling students.

  – EDM takes a lot of time to implement.  Because their school has a rich program that focuses on subjects in addition to the standard 3 Rs, their teachers were not able to give it the time needed to do it well (i.e., time needed to finding and teaching with supplemental materials)

   – Everyday Math does not teach basic math facts well, which need to be really strong for the student to succeed in math.  The calculator is introduced too early.  For example, the brain v. calculator game is used in 2nd grade when students should be working on mastering automaticity with basic math facts (intimated that some children’s take away from this game was that since the calculator does it so easily there is no need to memorize the facts on your own).

– EDM has its own vocabulary which did not transfer well when students had to be familiar with common terms for standardized tests.


2. New Jersey’s Bridgewater District




New Jersey’s Bridgewater-Raritan school district’s has abandoned EDM just recently. Please see the cons they have found after many years of using EDM.


     1) Language-intensive-based program

     2) Stresses the use of calculators

     3) Does not teach the traditional algorithms,

     4) Does not advocate drill of basic facts in any form

     5) Does not fit into the time constraints of a school

         day on all grade levels

     6) Some topics are covered quite well, while other

          topics are given weak treatment

     7) Not all topics are intended to lead to mastery


3. Texas sinks Everyday Math


In Nov 2007, the state of Texas has dropped a math curriculum that is mandated for use in New York City schools, saying it was leaving public school graduates unprepared for college.


One board member, Terri Leo, who is also a Texas public school teacher, called the textbook “the very worst book that we had submitted.” This year, the board of education received 163 textbooks for consideration.




“EM has been implemented district-wide since the 1993-1994 school

year Results from the 5th and 8th-grade level PSSAs show that only

37% of district 5th-grade students and a meager 28% of its 8th-grade

students could demonstrate math proficiency at these grade levels

last year

It’s clear that the math programs in the Pittsburgh

Public Schools have woefully failed to prepare many of its children

in mathematics for years

2008 the Pittsburgh math committee dropped Every Day Math and selected enVisions instead.

Some of the problems that Pittsburgh teachers and parents found were:


– Many teachers were unprepared to teach the curriculum and needed “substantial content preparation”
– EDM can exacerbate weaknesses in classroom management that principals could not help with
– Pittsburg had to provide support to parents who didn’t understand the program


5. When Maryland removed Everyday Math from 14 of their poorest performing districts and substituted a traditional program, the scores in every district climb dramatically in one year.


"Reading's math performance was in the 80 percentiles in the years 
1993-1995.  A downward trend appears in 1996 and 1997.  The first 
students utilizing the "Chicago Math" program were tested in 1997 
with the Stanford 9.  This downward trend continues in the Everyday Math program with computational skills dipping to 67% in 1997 and 
Total Math dropping to 73%.  The same group of 1997 students were re-
tested in 1998 and the data shows a continuing drop in computational 
skills."  (Dr. Robert Mandell, Concerned Parents of Reading, 2-13-
2000 @ http://mathematicallycorrect.com/cpr.htm )


"As far as the nation-wide Iowa testing system is concerned, 
Stoneham students in grades 3, 5 and 7 are at the 35 percentile when 
it comes to math computation, announced Michael Kennedy, program 
supervisor of mathematics  "  ("Calculators Add Up Trouble," 
Stoneham Sun, 11-3-1999).
 "In Stoneham, Michael Kennedy, program supervisor  for math in 
grades 6-12, said they're replacing the more exploratory University 
of Chicago math program with "more of a meat and potatoes, more 
drill and practice" texts.  ("Old Arithmetic Returns to Classroom," 
Boston Globe, April 7, 2002).  


Rocklin has been listed as a "success story" by EM.  However, the 
School Board voted to discontinue EM in February 2002.  ("Math 
Divides Folks in Rocklin," Sacramento Bee, 2-5-2002; 
http://www.sacbee.com/content/news/story/1584075p-1660349c.html )
"Myself and two colleagues are now elected school board members 
because our district had "Everyday Math" for 6 years; that's also 
part of the reason we are getting ready to hire a new 
superintendent.  It took 4 years, but the community was finally 
outraged.  Parents got no straight answers  Students who have an 
engineering bent and who already know the multiplication tables will 
do ok with EM; most others will fail miserably."  ("David Coffey: 
Everyday Mathematics, Fad or the Future," Oak Ridger Online, 4-6-



10. ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, ILL.  (Chicago area)
"In a recent study of the [EM] program done by a consultant, nearly 
30% of parents of 3rd, 4th and 5th-grades said they were concerned 
their children were not learning basic computational skills such as 
multiplication and division tables."  ("District 54 Board to Review 
Six New Math Curriculums," Elk Grove Times, 1-7-1999).
"EM is still controversial among parents.  In particular, parents 
have objected to the nontraditional teaching methods and the use of 
calculators in the classroom."  (Arlington Heights Post, April 22, 
1999, posted @ http://www.illinoisloop.org/chimath/html )
DISTRICT 109  (Chicago area)
School math committee voted to drop EM in fall 2001.  "District 109 
officials found that the Everyday Math spiral was steep.  "One of 
our biggest concerns was that spiral," [Ina] Kerrigan [assistant 
superintendent for curriculum and instruction] said."  ("Committee 
Proposes New Math Program, Deerfield Review, 5-10-2001).


"Since the UCMP emphasizes higher level thinking skills, it has 
become clear that children's computational skills have suffered.  
The district plans to provide additional help to children in grades 
2-4 through after-school math clubs for remedial work, and 
recommendations of computer programs and other resources.  Dr. 
Griffith stated that reinforcement of "math facts" by parents or 
other programs (i.e., Kumon, SCORE, tutoring) would be extremely 
helpful."  (Minutes of the Cherokee APT Meeting, 2-21-2001;
http://www.lfelem.lfc.edu/schools/apt/chaptmin2-2l.html )



ST. CHARLES, ILL.  DISTRICT 303  (Chicago area)
Parent group opposed EM.  See web-site @ 
School board voted to stop using EM in 2-2000.  Reported at 


School dropped EM after two years.  "When teachers started to review 
the materials from EM, they felt [another text] provided more 
practice and drill."  ("District 204 Launches New Math Text, Sun 
Publications, 3-8-2002).
"Edison Schools Inc.  has published test results revealing that 
elementary school math scores declined at an extraordinary number of 
the company's schools from 2000 to 2001  Chicago Math, the program 
used by Edison, has drawn criticism from activists who deride it 
as "fuzzy math.
               -- 2nd grade math scores declined at 5 of 23 schools (21.7%);
               -- 3rd grade math scores declined at 12 of 28 schools 
               -- 4th grade scores declined at 16 of 49 schools (32.6%);
               -- 5th grade scores declined at 6 of 41 schools (14.6%);
               -- 6th grade scores declined at 4 of 21 schools (19%)."  
Dodge-Edison School has been listed as a "success story" by EM on 
its website.
"At Dodge-Edison  math performance is below the average for 
comparable schools and shows no progress since 1996."  ("American 
Federation of Teachers Study of Edison Schools Shows Mixed Results," 
AFT press release, 10-19-2000.  See

16. Conejo School District in Southern California

Conejo school district in Southern California, which includes Thousand Oaks has been using Everyday Mathematics for several years.

Parents started a group called “Save Our Children from Mediocre Math”



These websites date back to 2005. Since then, Everyday Math managed to get approved by the state of California by adding standard algorithms into the program. However, all the other concerns about the program still apply.

Conejo stayed with Everyday Math. Elementary enrollment has been dropping despite growth in overall population. In 2008, Conejo had to close 2 elementary schools.

17. Columbia,  Missouri

District decides to go back to traditional math



Wednesday, September 24, 2008 | 10:39 p.m. CDT

BY Stephanie Call

COLUMBIA — As early as next fall, students in Columbia’s elementary classrooms will learn math with a traditional approach. After years of debate and discussion about the district’s math curriculum, the “investigations” program won’t be considered the district’s everyday math program anymore. The curriculum was under review as part of the district’s six-year curriculum revision cycle.

Linda Coutts, the district’s elementary math coordinator, told math curriculum committee members that the decision came from Interim Superintendent Jim Ritter. He met with Coutts and secondary math coordinator Chip Sharp on Sept. 9 and said he was concerned that the district’s math issues had divided the community.


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The following are some stated facts which are part of the Minutes of the Math Committee Meetings (October 2008)

It is clear here that there was some reservation about the text selection by some teachers.  Also, it appears that additional texts were to be piloted, which did not get the opportunity to be shared in this process.

From the PAUSD Math Committee Minutes:

On October 7th , the committee took a poll to indicate which books it liked best.  In order:

(Link to the October 7, 2008 Minutes)


1.  SRA (all 6 yeses) (“was the publisher with the most yes votes and best met the criteria

according to every grade level”) (“Based on the above chart, it was clear that the group wanted to further review …SRA.”) (“majority agreed to focus on …SRA”)

2.  EDM (4 yeses and 1 maybe) (“was the next choice for further review according to the majorityof grade levels”)

After discussion, the group agreed to invite four publishers to present (per April 3rd Q&A) and then, after the presentations, decide which to pilot.  It voted to take a closer look at Envision, in addition to SRA and Everyday Math.

On October 16th [Presentations Meeting], 4 presentations were made:

(Link to October 16, 2008 Minutes)

–  Three textbooks the committee requested: (SRA (via Powerpoint), EDM and enVision), and

–  Harcourt

Group Vote Results:

Before Discussion/After Discussion:

Everyday Math 22/18
Envision 24/ 21
SRA 11/ 6

“A handful of teachers were not comfortable with piloting just Everyday Math and Envision. It was suggested that Everyday Math would be rejected by teachers as being too hard for them to read and prepare lessons. There might also be an issue with Envision; it comes with Investigations and buy-in for that program could be difficult. Teacher buy-in is crucial. Will adequate professional development be available? This group may not be representing those who are apprehensive about changing to a new text. Can all three texts be piloted if fewer units are tested? While Ginni Davis suggested piloting only two texts, she did not say that only two texts could be piloted. It was decided that Everyday Math, Envision, and SRA would be piloted.”

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