Why are so many people in Georgia mad about math?

mikeOf all the curriculum debates, the ongoing sparring over Georgia’s new math standards is the most vigorous. A while back, I ran two related articles on Monday AJC education pages. I am rerunning them here in response to the comments Wednesday about the math standards. Warning, these are long essays so they may only interest those concerned about math.

The first is from parent Kim Learnard and the second is from Laurence  Peterson, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at Kennesaw State University, and Arlinda Eaton, dean of the KSU College of Education.

Kim Learnard said:

The long-awaited 2008 SAT scores and national rankings have been released. Six years after state schools Superintendent Kathy Cox took the helm, Georgia students have advanced from 47th in the nation to — drumroll, please — 47th in the nation. And Georgia students scored 22 points lower than the national average in math. Clearly, it is time for a change.

But going from bad to worse isn’t the answer. Three years ago, Georgia implemented a new math curriculum that has no track record of success — anywhere. It is based on group discussion.

That’s right, we’re all going to sit around and watch while adolescents learn key math concepts by discussing them in peer groups. Speaking as an electrical engineer who has practiced her profession for 25 years, I am sickened.

We now have students sitting in groups twiddling their thumbs waiting for one of their peers to teach them math. We have teachers expressing frustration to parents that they would like to teach the material but they are “not allowed to.” We have precious class time thoroughly wasted.

One of the first things I learned in my master’s degree in education curriculum at the University of Georgia is the stark difference between adult and child learners. Adults are more self-directed; they learn better when they have an immediate real-world problem to solve or a task at hand; they have a rich reservoir of life experiences from which to make meaning of new ideas. None of these concepts applies to children.

Yet Georgia’s new math program is based on the premise that adolescents seated in groups will self-motivate in order to discover and critically examine key math concepts, their applications, their differentiations and their meanings in the real world. This is preposterous.

Math proficiency comes from the ability to individually solve problems to get correct answers.

Remember textbooks? Math textbooks provide a vehicle for the student to review technical concepts and methods for solving problems. Math textbooks provide answers in the back so a student can make sure they worked problems correctly. Georgia’s new math curriculum has no textbooks. There is no vehicle for parents to review methodology and reinforce methods and concepts at home. There are no answers listed so students can assure themselves they worked a problem correctly.

Georgia’s new math curriculum is designed to reduce the number of participants in the accelerated classes. Fayette County’s participation rate in eighth-grade accelerated math dropped by 82 percent in the last year. These are students who did very well in sixth- and seventh-grade accelerated math classes and scored high on the CRCT.

The math coordinator has stated that unless a child eat, sleeps and breathes math, they should not be in the accelerated class. In fact, adolescence is a time of exploration and multi-tasking. The idea that an adolescent would eat, sleep and breathe any single topic has no basis in fact. Never in my life have I witnessed such a massive effort to discourage students from learning and loving math.

It’s great that we have decided to adopt what we think is a rigorous curriculum. But having a rigorous curriculum, in and of itself, is meaningless. What we’re supposed to be doing — is this news to Kathy Cox? — is teaching our students to the extent that they can meet the challenges of a rigorous curriculum. To do any less is to sell them short. And that is what we are doing every day we hang onto this pie-in-the-sky, untried, unproven, experimental, nontechnical conversational math curriculum.

It’s time for a change. It’s time we implement a math program that gets back to the basics; that empowers eager learners to explore the technical, satisfyingly irrefutable nature of math in its purest form; and that has a proven track record of success, perhaps in another state. After all, we have 46 from which to choose.

Drs. Peterson and Eaton responded:

We read with interest and concern the guest column by Kimberly Learnard, “Let’s discuss how bogus new math coursework is”

Georgia’s low SAT scores are precisely the reason the 22-year-old Quality Core Curriculum in mathematics was replaced. The QCC was based upon the philosophy of including as many topics as possible, without recognizing that our students would have very little subject depth in contrast to the results produced from the best international programs. The disappointing SAT scores reported recently were from 2008 graduates who learned their mathematics under the old curriculum, not the new Georgia Performance Standards.

The claim that the Georgia Performance Standards were adopted with no proof of success is incorrect. The GPS were developed after extensive study of curricula by a panel of 15 leaders in education, government, business and industry across Georgia. The panel recommended the leanness, rigor and coherence of both Japan’s and North Carolina’s curriculum. Japanese students consistently score near the top in any international comparisons.

North Carolina is an excellent benchmark because of demographic similarities and consistent improvements in their students’ mathematics SAT scores that now approach the national average.

A team of Georgia’s most respected teachers used these sources to write the initial version of the Georgia Performance Standards. The Georgia Department of Education then assembled a team of teachers and administrators to work with university mathematicians and mathematics educators across Georgia, including Kennesaw State University, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia, to review and finalize the curriculum. The curriculum was made public for review for 60 days in 2004, revised further and posted for public review for 60 additional days before final approval in May 2005.

The resulting mathematics curriculum has been endorsed by the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Georgia Regents Academic Advisory Committee on Mathematical Subjects.

At the national level, the Georgia performance standards are consistent with the guidelines of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the College Board, the American Statistical Association and the American Diploma Project, a coalition of 33 states dedicated to aligning standards, graduation requirements, assessments and accountability policies.

Learnard states that teachers have expressed “frustration to parents that they would like to teach the material but they are ‘not allowed to’.” We wonder if these teachers were able to participate in the many statewide professional development workshops designed to assist teachers in implementing the new standards. A typical classroom day using the new, more rigorous curriculum would involve the teacher presenting a mathematical task to students, questioning them to think about the mathematical concepts and subsequently encouraging them to explore options for solving the problem.

Communication of their mathematical ideas not only helps students solve problems but prepares them for working in a global economy where quantitative skills are more important than ever before. Thomas Friedman, in his book “The World Is Flat, ” says that the ability to understand, problem-solve and communicate effectively about quantitative topics will be among the most marketable skills in the future and be important factors in maintaining our global competitiveness.

Learnard also decries the lack of a textbook for the new curriculum. She states that “Georgia’s new math curriculum has no textbooks.” Isn’t that the tail wagging the dog? The curriculum is paramount, whereas textbooks are the resource for teaching the curriculum. We don’t teach the textbook; we teach the curriculum. We don’t assess what’s in the textbook; we assess what’s in the curriculum. Each local school system has adopted textbooks they judged to be most effective in teaching the new Georgia Performance Standards.

Clearly, we need to monitor and support implementation of the Georgia Performance Standards over the next several years. Essential to the success of this new curriculum will be ongoing teacher education and development. If we stay the course with our strong, cohesive and coherent mathematics curriculum, student achievement by all metrics will steadily improve.

Maureen again: If you read down this far, you are interested in math and probably have your own opinion. Please share it with the rest of us. Thanks


94 comments Add your comment


September 24th, 2009
5:29 am

As a certified math teacher (but currently teaching another subject), I’m optimistic about the “new” math model. One issue I see are some of the “old model” teachers. They change to the new style with great reluctance, which becomes indirect sabotage due to the lack of buy-in. As for SAT scores, that’s unrelated. That test measures trickery, I can teach a kid to raise their math score 100 points no problem, have done it for 15 years. How? Tapping into the meaning of the test, as something to beat. The new math also tries to tap into the meaning of things, to inspire kids. Letting kids get more active is so much better.

elementary teacher

September 24th, 2009
6:53 am

I think it will help the discussion if we are much clearer about what it is that we are criticizing. We should at least first read the math standards:

There, you see standards, math frameworks, and other resources.

There are many things to criticize about the current state of mathematics teaching and learning in GA. But let us be clear about what we are criticizing when we do indeed criticize some aspects of GA math. If we complain about low test scores or high failing rate, what exactly are the sources of the low achievement? Is it the bad standards – perhaps it is too demanding or it is too incoherent? Is it not so good teaching? Is the test poorly constructed? Do we solve all of the problems by throwing out the standards? When we complain that we don’t have textbooks to teach the GA standards, is throwing out the standards the solution? Are we just going to teach textbooks no matter what contents are included?

When teachers complain about not being able to teach, what is really the problem? Is it the standards? Is it a mandate by district supervisor who, perhaps, misinterprets the standards? Is it teachers’ lack of professional competency – they can teach in only one way and that’s it? Or is it the problem with the teacher education programs which aren’t preparing their graduates to teach the standards effectively?

I found the new standards very organized and helped me to teach math much more effectively. Yes, I do have students discuss, and students learn from the discussion. I see students THINKING. Isn’t our goal to help students become better thinkers?

There are many resources out there – not all are associated with the state DOE. Just google “Georgia Performance Standards math” and you get a number of helpful resources.

MIT Parent& Educator

September 24th, 2009
7:06 am

As my daughter completes enters her junior year at MIT and as an educator, I want to comment on the “new math”. My child learned the concepts in one math class before she moved into another math class. By learning the concepts, she was able to apply them. She attended a Georgia Public School, and she learned the “old math.” I feel that with the new math the state introduced it without enough training for the teachers. Now the state is planning to increase class size. Of course, this will help the performance in Ga a great deal. Also, there needed to be time to get the information to parents and support and help for parents. Having information On Line is Great, but that does not take the place of an individual talking and explaining and demonstrating. I am a special education teacher. As an individual sitting in some of the training sessions by the State of Georgia, it was not clear that all of the state people understood it and articulated it. They sure could read well. Peterson and Eaton list all these great things about the new math. May I make a suggestion? Let each of them go to a school that has students with many challenges. Let each of them teach classes at that school for an entire year. I do not want to hear that they taught in the past. I am speaking of now in 2009. They must teach a full teacher load and deal with all the other duties of a teacher.After doing that for a year, then come back and share with us. I always love to get advice from people that have not been in a classroom. They are always the ones that can help you solve all of the problems.


September 24th, 2009
8:07 am

Kids discussing math ? Huh ?

Some pretty darn smart parents are saying that their kids are now failing math. It sounds like for many, the in class instruction ais inadequate and without textbooks or study aids for home they cannot assist their children. Our local high school just shared with me that there are huge issues with math remediation needed, so much so that schedules for Spring for the students are in flux. It sounds to me like someone dropped the ball and now we are going to have at least several years worth of kids who are going to suffer because of the new math implementation process.


September 24th, 2009
8:09 am

I often hear/read about teachers complaining to others who make any suggestion about education by saying, “well teach a year then come back to talk to us.” I find this attitude very perplexing. Are teachers the only ones who can talk about education? Is teaching full time the only way to learn about what is going on in classrooms today? How is the experience in one classroom (one’s own) generalizable to all other classrooms? Could people who have opportunities to see tens and hundreds of classrooms develop a broader understanding of what classrooms are like today?

Also, when someone makes this argument, an underlying assumption is that today’s students are different and we need to adjust what/how we engage our students. So, you are saying the necessity of new curricula and new programs. Yet, many of these people then turn around say, “what was good enough for me is good enough for my students.” If that’s the case, what’s the problem of having experiences in classrooms 15 years ago?

I think MIT has a good point about teacher training. On the other hand, the new standards were published several years ago, and teachers had a few years to prepare for it. How much of it (lack of preparedness) is the state’s responsibility and how much of it is teachers’ own professional responsibility?


September 24th, 2009
8:10 am

Georgia’s new math curriculum is an excellent model that is based on models from other nations that have very good track records for students’ learning mathematics.

Kim Learnard’s essay is so far off-base and filled with disinformation that it should not have even been printed. If there is any truth to the points she made about students sitting around waiting for another student to teach them, that teacher is at fault. If a school leader has implied that the teacher cannot teach the necessary content, that school leader is at fault. Unfortunately, we have incompetent people is some positions like these in our schools.

There is an organized effort to discredit Georgia’s math curriculum. The attempt to do this is based on the use of scare tactics like those presented in Ms. Learnard’s letter. Emotion is a much more powerful force than facts and research.

Finally, the main problem with the implementation of the new Georgia curriculum is the lack of adequate training. Since the current governor has been in charge, staff development funds have been cut to the bone. It is impossible to provide teachers with the necessary training without a resource to do so. Whose fault is this? Our legislature and governor are the main ones to blame, and our state DOE carries responsibility, as well.

To effectively implement new curricula requires massive training and support efforts for the teachers. What a shame that our politicians will not put the money where their mouths are.


September 24th, 2009
8:13 am

perplexed – you have hit one of the nails on the head. Teachers’ responsibility to stay informed and up-to-date in their field. I have seen too many that resist efforts to improve the quality of education in our schools.


September 24th, 2009
8:14 am


So, what grade do you teach? I’ve seen second graders conduct amazing mathematical discussion. They used their own understanding of numbers and operations to tackle computation problems that they haven’t formally studied – in their heads.

“Remediation” may be needed because the grade level expectations are higher now than before – much of old Algebra I content is discussed in Grades 7 & 8. Perhaps kids didn’t have the necessary foundations to tackle those challenging topics. Perhaps teachers weren’t ready to teach those challenging topics. Is the problem really standards?

Jim Arnold

September 24th, 2009
8:24 am

Georgia Educators have listened to the “low SAT lament” long enough. Every Georgia High School receives a yearly report from the College Board on the performance of their respective students on the SAT for the previous year. On the front cover of the report is this message:
“Media and others often rank states, districts and schools on the basis of SAT scores despite repeated warnings that such rankings are invalid. The SAT is a strong indicator of trends in the college-bound population, but it should never be used alone for such comparisons because demographics and other nonschool factors can have a strong effect on scores. If ranked, schools and states that encourage students to apply to college may be penalized because scores tend to decline with a rise in percentage of test takers”. Since this information comes from the people that created and administer the test why do we continue to listen to those – from the Governor on down – that insist on making exactly the comparisons the College Board says not to make? Even more puzzling is why Educators seldom challenge those erroneous comparisons and spend time and money in futile attempts (see The Governor’s Cup Challenge) to increase state SAT scores. If we were genuinely serious about increasing SAT scores – and raising Georgia’s “standing” above 47th – the only statistically viable way to do that is to limit the students allowed to take the test. Perhaps a more intelligent solution would be stop making the silly comparisons and rankings the College Board warns against.


September 24th, 2009
9:26 am

I suspect that the new math has been implemented differently in different places, so we all need a common frame of reference in order to have a coherent discussion. Low math scores in GA probably reflect societal issues (absent fathers, poverty, etc.) and will not be fixed by the new curriculum. Having said that, Kim Learnard has got it mostly right. I don’t contest the “New” standards (geometry has been around for thousands of years!). In fact, my 10th grader has a well written textbook and accompanying workbook. I contest how the material is being taught. Last year we often spent 1 to 1.5 hours completing worksheets several nights a week, because the teachers weren’t covering the material in class. This meant much less emphasis on other subjects, and it is the teachers of other subjects who should be asking math educators to get their act together. Educators should shelve the group discussion format and worksheets, and teach directly from the textbook in the traditional model. In the future, Georgia would be smart to include parents in the implementation of “new” programs, since educators are not seeing the overall impact.


September 24th, 2009
9:33 am

As the mother of a freshman at UGA and a sophomore at a public school, I have a few observations about math instruction which may or may not be pertinent to this discussion.
Both of my sons were in gifted classes in elementary and middle school. Both took Algebra I in eighth grade for a high school credit. My older son then progressed through (honors) Algebra II, Geometry, Trig, and AP Calculus. Math is not his strongest suit but he managed to make A’s. Because of the switchover in math courses (I don’t know if this is statewide or just our county), my younger son received an elective credit for his Algebra I class and was enrolled in “accelerated Math I” for 9th grade. Unfortunately, the teacher, while being a smart man (he has a doctorate), was not a good teacher. In fact, his contract was not renewed for this year and that decision was made before the budget cuts made their effects known. My son made an A but says that it was only due to what he learned from his eighth grade math teacher. Now my son is in accelerated Math II and is struggling as are many of the other students who had this same teacher last year. Granted, last year was the inaugural year for this new concept of integrating Geometry into all of the other math classes. They have worked from as many as 5 textbooks and all of the teachers seem to be feeling their way through the courses. But the subject matter itself has not changed!
The point is that just because you are personally good at a subject doesn’t mean you will be a good teacher.
Additionally, our system is on the block schedule. I, and many teachers to whom I have spoken, believe that block scheduling is especially bad for math instruction. You may not have math for an entire year and, as you know, math directly builds on what you have learned previously. Many subjects, such as science, are separated into specific areas such as life sciences and physical sciences and do not need continuity of instruction.
I personally am tired of my children serving as guinea pigs for the education system. This problem also occurred when my older son was in early elementary school and some “bright” administrators decided that Georgia should use the “whole language” approach to teach reading. What a disaster! We lost a lot of instructional time and I had to teach phonics to him.
If my children, who are fairly intelligent and have parents who can tutor them in most subjects (a mechanical engineer and a biologist), have problems, I can only imagine the plight of the kids whose parents are incapable of helping due to a lack of education or interest!
And before you teachers start railing about lack of parental involvement… Teachers must take some responsibility in the success or lack thereof of their students! Yes, parental involvement is necessary but I have seen plenty of teachers who must either be burnt out or went into the field for reasons other than a love of teaching. It is much easier to teach the bright and eager student. It is much harder to reach and teach the student who is not “ideal”. You know, the ones who come in with instructional deficiencies or attitude problems. Yes, I know that you can not be all things to all students but if you don’t have an enthusiasm for teaching, a drive to be innovative in your teaching methods, and a desire to be of service to the students you teach, then take a sabbatical to recharge your batteries or RETIRE.
My sincerest thanks go to the awesome teachers that my children have had and a big raspberry to the substandard ones!


September 24th, 2009
9:52 am

1) I’ll admit that I worked indirectly for Peterson for 5 yrs.

2) My animosity towards my alma mater’s College of Education is well known and epic.

3) I completely agree with the Peterson/Eaton commentary.

On the issue of textbooks: Particularly in math class, they are truly irrelevant. I am an education-trained computer scientist/mathematician, and even *I* can barely read a math textbook. How then does a normal parent/student expect to be able to actually read one?? No, the only “textbook” a student needs is to sit there, shut up, and copy the teacher’s notes from the board, asking pertinent questions as needed. After the notes are coped, DO THE ASSIGNED EXERCISES!!!

Trust me. Been there, done that, got the freaking t-shirt AND the scars. The ONLY way you will truly learn math is by DOING IT!

Dr. John Trotter

September 24th, 2009
9:53 am

People are still operating upon this utopian philosophy: If the teachers teach, the students learn. No, there is an intervening variable…the student’s motivation or lack of motivation to learn. It’s just that simple but the Educational Flat-Earthers don’t seem to understand this. I have to agree with one of the above writers…this small group stuff (with students essentially supposedly teaching each other) is preposterous.

Do you think that “higher standards” would have kept Mr. Henry from being killed by one his students yesterday in Tyler, Texas? Hardly. Nothing will improve until the educational policy-makers (school boards, etc.) get a grip on student discipline. As long as discipline is out of control, the schools will languish. In the fewer and fewer schools where there is strong discipline, the academic performance usually correlates with the strong discipline. You have to want to NOT see this. (c) MACE, September 24, 2009.


September 24th, 2009
9:59 am

Please bear in mind that jeff is/was a failed teacher who lasted all of one year. Please take his comments with a grain of salt.


September 24th, 2009
10:07 am


Funny, Jenkins and Cook were thrown in JAIL this year because of their illegal activities with the schools there. That you still defend them says FAR more about you than me.


September 24th, 2009
10:17 am

Sorry, but did I miss something? Jeff? Randolph County? Jail? Was this discussion taking place somewhere else in the blogosphere and then just jumped onto this blog? Perhaps I have a blindspot.

Been There. . . Done, well. . . just done!

September 24th, 2009
10:54 am

Unfortunately, even with all of the changes, curricular revisions, and other directives, the state’s overall education system rankings, test scores, and SAT scores still have not risen high enough for us to start making headway versus the national averages and the competition, i.e. the other 49 states. Having been a teacher, I agree with another blogger on teacher training and have this to offer: those charged with training the classroom teachers have more of a central office bent (ALTs, ILTs, teacher-trainers whose jobs have to be justified via the amount of paper & number of packets they generate); thus, they’re at the whim of the upper-level managers who say THEIR version of how the curriculum should be taught is THE best! Why doesn’t the state BOE have staff members specifically charged with training teachers, administrators (yes, these folks ABSOLUTELY need to be trained as though THEY’RE in the classroom as well), and parapros on a ad-hoc and/or consistent basis?! Some may reply, “There are state staffers charged with such duties – did you not pay any attention to those folks sent to your in-services?!” Those state staffers, unfortunately for us, spoke for 1-5 minutes (in an introductory capacity), sat down, and allowed the county higher-ups and ALTs to talk about it. Our comments? Without saying anything to most administrators (a majority of whom do NOT encourage critical comments on the delivery of curricular changes to us, especially when county office officials are presenting), approximately one-half of their session was fluff, and. . . again. . . left many of us with the impression their “job” was to make sure they found a way to take up as much of the allotted time as possible. Why am I not talking about the math curriculum and how to implement it (especially in THIS blog)?! Simple: our teacher workday time and in-service time could EASILY be more efficient with more, but shorter, sessions, allowing the classroom teachers more time to. . . discuss more ways to match our delivery to the objectives of the math curriculum! If newer, shorter in-services don’t collectively take up as much of a teacher workday as before, then GREAT! This leaves us MORE time to work with the other subject-area teachers to role-play, implement strategies into our lesson plans, etc. My point? Administrators (to a degree), central office staff (to a LARGE degree), and state “figureheads” collectively blunt the efforts (some knowingly, to protect their own power base) we undertake to implement these curricular changes in the most efficient and effective manner! Make it “short and sweet”, show us what other teachers have accomplished with these changes, and let us work with our COLLEAGUES to make sure these work for our STUDENTS!


September 24th, 2009
10:57 am

My daughter’s school in East Cobb has excellent test scores. Please refrain from lumping all of us into this failed bucket.

School success reflects the community. Because Georgians elect politicians who care not for communities that need help, we will always struggle collectively as a state.


September 24th, 2009
11:18 am

In my opinion, I think the new math is a bunch of bull. After viewing the “new” GA math curriculum, there was nothing listed that I did not have available to me as a K-12 student in the Atlanta Public School System. As a 2004 high school graduate, the teachers that were available to me were already doing what the “new” curriculum currently suggests. As a young child, I was consistently among the 95-99 percentile in math, scored a 610 on the SAT (when max was 1600) and made a perfect score of 600 on the GHSGT. My math teachers first taught the traditional ways because those ways will provide the correct solution every time, then taught creative way to retain the same information. We were allowed to play interactive games such as math quiz bowls and have discussions, which were created by the teacher and covered the lesson over the past week (in both middle and high). I loved school (once I was there). I had fun but still learned if not mastered the knowledge for the next grade level. I did not start to dislike school until the implementation of NCLB, but I digress. My teachers did not teach for a test, they taught for the understanding of the subject. We did not proceed to the next concept until we mastered the first, since the following concept usually relied on knowing the previous one.

However, since it has already been implemented, the main issue with the new math is that it was never introduced in the right format in order to make it effective. Yes teachers must have some responsibility to learn the new curriculum, but more sessions should have been provided so they could learn how to successfully cover the wide range of material. If there are no textbooks available for students, how do they expect parents to be able to help their child(ren)? Most of my teachers taught from multiple recourses using the textbook as another resource. At the beginning of a new lesson, my teachers would make a reference of the section they were teaching from so if we had problems at home our parents could help. Even in this technologically advanced, economy challenged age, everyone does not own a computer and/or have access to the Internet. With the lower level classes most parent do not usually have problems, but with the upper level classes such as Algebra 1 and Trig parents might have a problem.


September 24th, 2009
11:23 am

Why am I mad about the new Georgia math? Because Georgia’s low test scores are a reflection of Georgia’s social problems not of their math program. Did we really need to spent the money on a new program? For many parents (who are involved in the childs education) the traditional method works just fine.


September 24th, 2009
11:32 am


Long story short, I worked in Randolph County for the last 7 months of my teaching career, and the racist Superintendent there made my life a living hell so that I would quit and he could hire his daughter (who graduated college as a middle school math teacher in December of that year and needed a job).

Whoever this ‘RandolphCountyTeacher’ is has never set foot in Randolph and continues to attack me any time I appear on this board.

Bobby Jenkins, the racist Randolph Superintendent, had his tail thrown in JAIL this year over contempt of court because he refused to attend School Board meetings at the time the 2 white and one of the black school board members had voted in an open meeting of the school board to change the meetings to. Thus, he was finally officially exposed as everything I had been claiming him to be for 3 years.

jim d

September 24th, 2009
11:48 am


Naw, just a bit confused.

for years i’ve heard from the establishment that parents must become more involved with the daily education of their children. Now the establishment has removed much of the possibility of that happening.

Reality 2

September 24th, 2009
11:57 am

My Opinion,

So, you say Georgia’s “new math” isn’t really new, and I agree in general – there are some new topics and some old ones (from, say 20 years ago) are gone. The teaching you experienced is consistent with what the new standards are emphasizing – good teaching is good teaching. It’s not that all discussion or group work is bad – poorly executed discussion or group work is bad – just as much as poorly executed “old” math was. Unfortunately, your experiences haven’t been the norm in GA, thus we need to keep emphasizing it.

I think a common theme in many of the posts here today is the need for more teacher training. The training they need isn’t superficial one, and they haven’t been doing that well (on average) in GA under the old standards. So, there is no reason to believe going back will somehow solve the problem – we didn’t have a “good old days” under the old standards.


September 24th, 2009
12:11 pm

As a mother of a 4th grader and 11th grader, I can say that I am not a fan of the new math cirriculum.

I believe that a child/class should master certain skills before moving on to others. My 4th grader is being taught algebra but they can’t call it algebra.. just introducing the concept. For example: 14 – ^ = 7. What is the value of ^? Now, this is algebra and most of the kids in her class haven’t mastered multiplication and the class hasn’t studied division but they are starting algebra. In 3rd grade they were added and subtracting fractions while still learning multiplication. Go figure.

I have had to teach my 11th grader math since the 6th grade (minus geometry).

Why are they allowing calculators in the classroom??? I majored in math and didn’t need a calculator until my senior year of college.

Math does not change. 1 + 1 = 2. There are no new discoveries. No new formula’s to learn, just the language and yet, we change how we teach them all the time. I just don’t understand.

Not buying the new curriculum

September 24th, 2009
12:17 pm

RE:”The claim that the Georgia Performance Standards were adopted with no proof of success is incorrect. The GPS were developed after extensive study of curricula by a panel of 15 leaders in education, government, business and industry across Georgia. The panel recommended the leanness, rigor and coherence of both Japan’s and North Carolina’s curriculum. Japanese students consistently score near the top in any international comparisons.”

There are so many oher societal factors in play in Japan besides curricululum that affect student performance. To think that adopting their math curriculum will duplicate their results is naive pure and simple. If this curriculum is so great, Why has NY State already dumped it? As for NC, here is a link to Wakefield High in Raleigh. Scroll down to view their course offerings in math. I see the traditional Algebra I, Geometry, etc. I don’t see that they are teaching Math I or integrated math, so how can North Carolina be held up as a success story? http://wakefieldhs.net/academics/math/courses.php

The fact is students in the class of 2012 in particular have been guinea pigs. They started the new curriculum as sixh graders. They were not properly scaffolded for this curriculum in the years leading up to sixh grade and have suffered ever since. Their teachers EVERY YEAR since sixth grade have beeen teaching a new curriculum for the very first time. How is that a good thing?

Maureen, while it’s true SAT scores can’t (and shouldn’t) be used at his point to measure the success/merit of the new math, let’s look at student success rates with MATH I. How many ninth graders failed
Math I last year? How many were enrolled in summer school for Math I this past summer? How many tenth graders are taking Math I again this year? I would love to see these numbers!


September 24th, 2009
12:37 pm

It would have been nice if the BOE published the results of the EOCT’s for Math 1. Or if they didn’t have any confidence in the test, they could have given the students the Algebra1 and Geometry EOCT’s.

Not buying the new curriculum

September 24th, 2009
12:48 pm

To parent- The Math I EOCT didn’t count. I don’t know if the school districts even received results. I could be wrong, but somehing tells me the scores weren’t released and are being used to “norm” the test.

A Parent that Cares of All Children

September 24th, 2009
12:49 pm

I am a mother of a 9th Grader and a 7th Grader. The math curriculum leaves no time to learn the concepts or the proper order of math. The powerpoint slides are missing the full formulas and is just jumbled together, but does not give actual instructions on how to complete the math. The textbook is just exercises, that also does not show direction on how to complete the math. In a high school class, the teacher distributes one sheet of paper with the homework for the Unit (2 months) and does not collect the homework until the end of the unit. How are the children going to progress is they do not know their progress, because the teacher does not allow anybody to go over the math homework to correct or learn from their mistakes. How can a parent who just has 12th grade education in the year 1981, and who has not seen that kind math in his/her life, learn from all the resources given to the student to reteach the information to their child, but they cannot, because it lacks examples or the true example on how the answers are generated. There are some parents who can look at a example and get it. Oh, every 2 to 3 days a new form of math not related to the first concept taught is introduced, at this time the child has 10 or more powerpoint slides which are filled with information not complete with instructions. A quiz is given after three to four days and whatever happens, happens. In addition the the math class, there is a math support class that also test the students on the math. What happens with teaching the students on how to look for special words so that they can pick out the right concept. Oh, tutoring available for some mornings and afternoons. Every math tutoring class if full to the hills, but these children are in their regular class for 90 minutes.

Why do we have state ran curriculum, math is math, reading is reading, History is History, and Science is Science. States should stop generatoring their own curriculum, because the States are spending unnecessary funds on trying to remake math and other subjects in to their way, but if they stick to the basics, these children will actually learn. Stop throwing away time and money on a math curriculum that is based concepts that has been around before school buildings. Stop making these teachers confirm to your curriculum, and allow them to teach phonics, spelling, reading, comprehension, math, science and the real history that actually happened. My 7th Grade son in Cobb County does not have a 7th Grade Science Book or History Book, he is using his 6th Grade book and is not moving on to something new. Parents also need to speak up to our GDOE, Superintendents, etc, and also start using their PTA or PTSA for advocating for their or all OF children’s education, and not for FUNDRASIERS. SPEAK UP TO THE PERSON WHO WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE.


September 24th, 2009
12:58 pm

There are 10 kinds of people in this world. Those that know enough math. to understand binary numbers and those who don’t.

jim d

September 24th, 2009
1:02 pm

New Math explained.


it is really quite simple.


September 24th, 2009
1:11 pm

I agree Parent. The state BOE should be required to release the EOCT results from last year. Then we would know how successful Math I was last year for our students. That might have an impact on using these students as guinea pigs since the sixth grade. I am very concerned that this year’s 10th graders will graduate with very poor Math skills compared to the grades ahead of them. How is this good for our students.

As a follow up to the various endorsement comments,how about a survey of all high school Math teachers in the state to see how this curriculum working. But, that might reveal the truth from the teachers who are actually teaching this new Math approach.

Tony, your comment was unfair. I know many teachers who are working relentlessly to teach this Math. They are tutoring before and after school and trying to provide students with the skills they need to pass this course. Also, I find your comment interesting about an organized group trying to discredit this Math approach. Why would any one waste their time discrediting something that was working? Is the true answer that many of us are parents who are living this New Math on a daily basis trying to help our children succeed with a new confusing approach that is not highly accepted with few to no resources to assist us in helping our children while contending with a block schedule that makes the relearning process difficult at best. Again, if it was working, whye would so many “stakeholders” in this situation be opposed?


September 24th, 2009
1:23 pm

A Parent that Cares of All Children

My mother had problems helping me once I reached the upper level classes, however my teachers usually devoted the first few minutes to address homework problems (after it was graded). But I see this is no longer the norm. I do not know if you are talking about yourself or any parent in general, but just in case you are discussing yourself a few good websites to use to learn math (any level) are:


http://www.math.com – will provide examples, in-depth breakdown, and workout problems at the end of the lesson with an opportunity to check answers (when the website is running correctly).

http://www.webmath.com – allows the student to input the equation to solve. The website provides the answer and instructions on how they arrived to the answer.


September 24th, 2009
1:47 pm


I understand :)


Black Girl

September 24th, 2009
2:21 pm

FYI – 9th grade EOCT scores were not counted because they knew they would be low!


September 24th, 2009
2:21 pm

It is absolutely astounding that ANY one reading this can muster up the nerve to blame teachers in this state of the problems it has. Learning starts with the parents, and the vast majority of parents today take zero responsibility with their childs education. They ship them off to school and think that they are supposed to magically learn through osmosis, and then get upset when their kid doesn’t so well.

Teach some discipline in your house, raise kids that aren’t worthless and lazy, and actually have the desire to learn. Don’t call your kids teacher the night before an assignment is due (that they have had four weeks to complete) and ask for an extension. You are enabling your child’s failure, plain and simple. Establish consequences, teach kids that if they don’t try, if they don’t do the work, then they fail.

We are facing a serious, serious problem in this country, and that is the complete apathy that our youth, and more importantly their parents, have towards education and success.


September 24th, 2009
2:33 pm

Dan – Many of the parents responding to this blog are trying to help their child(ren) learn the “new math”. The reality is that math homework is taking up too much time in some homes. I’m not sure what the problem is – poor teacher preparation, a confusing curriculum, parents who don’t know this type of math and can’t help with homework or all of the above. But we really need to straighten this out sooner rather than later.


September 24th, 2009
3:34 pm

I have not seen what this “new math” entails, however I know that math is not any different than it was 50 years ago. Arithmetic and Algebra is pretty much the extent of what any student learns unless they elect to take calculus.

A Parent that Cares of All Children

September 24th, 2009
4:06 pm

Not buying the new curriculum

September 24th, 2009
4:30 pm

I implore you(and anyone else posting here who is not familiar with the new curriculum) to take a look at it. It is NOT the math we grew up with. Concepts that used to be part of math courses taken in the jr. or senior year have been pushed into 9th and 10th grade math without the proper building blocks. This is a huge problem and Georgia’s kids are being sacrificed.


September 24th, 2009
4:42 pm

Dan, you’re making our point for us. You’re right, math hasn’t changed. What’s changed is the way it is being taught. I understand Georgia feeling that something had to be done to improve the math ability of our students. But to somehow expect our students to learn math through group discussion is silly. I get the impression that the “new” math is being taught differently at different schools, so others’ experience may vary and maybe some out there can’t figure out what the fuss is about. My experience last year with my daughter, who was a ninth grader at the time, caused me concern on good days and anger on bad days because of the work load. I felt like I was back in school. Several days per week, there were traditional homework problems to complete from “math supplement class”–that wasn’t the problem although I’m not sure why this couldn’t be done in class. The real problem was the packets. The packets are pages of word problems which are pretty complicated. This time last year, we (my daughter and I) would spend anywhere from 1-2 hours (sometimes 2-3 hours) completing the assignment for the night. My understanding from my daughter was that she would sit with 3 other students in class and try to figure the problems out. Of course this never worked, so she would come home with an empty packet for me to coach her on. I have degrees in Math, Chemistry, and Medicine, and I often struggled with the packets. This make me worry for other parents who may not have the resources to teach their children math, when their school system fails them. I have a full-time job and I pay taxes to the state and county to teach my child math. Is it asking too much to have them do it competently?

A Parent that Cares of All Children

September 24th, 2009
4:47 pm

How can the schools teach delivery, design and how can teachers use the explicit method to teach the Math to all students?

The Sarge

September 24th, 2009
5:17 pm

I would like to openly admit that I was always a rotten scholar; in hs, I strongly suspect my overall gpa was enhanced by my excellent grades in citizenship and deportment. College wasn’t much better, for my best grades were in beer guzzling and beach trolling. The fact that I managed to maintain dean’s list status in grad school only verifies the probability that I finally started to grow up in my late 30’s. All that being said, I feel that the math disciplines have always been one of my few academic strengths for the simple reason, I think, that my basic grounding, back in the days when Nuns struck fear in the hearts of little boys, was based on sheer repitition of procedures. I had no idea why you had to drop the “X” and carry the “Y”, or borrow from the number to the left…all I knew was if I didn’t do it, Sister Mary Mean Face would rap me on the knuckles until I had the procedure down pat. Years later, those very basic procedures formed the bridge which enabled me to understand the more complex math functions, and their applicability to “the real world”. Perhaps this is where the “modern” philosophy of teaching concepts at such early stages of mental maturity has become almost a fallacy of sorts. In order for the kid to form, and to gel, the concept, I would imagine, requires a form of “mental media”…this media is what I refer to as the basics of procedures. Who knows, If the educators, with an “alphabet soup of letters” following their names, went back to the teaching methods of yesteryear, these kids might actualy learn a few things…it certainly couldn’t hurt!


September 24th, 2009
6:28 pm

GeorgiaRat–great joke! Most will never get it.

I have a mathmatician daughter. Her take on the new math (she has been out of high school 6 years) is–hogwash!

As a teacher I can tell you there is too much skipping around and not enough MASTERY. Some of that is my county’s take on how to “make” children “successful”. Also, they have to be “explosed” to all the GPS, even though they have not mastered the GPS from 2 years previous. If they cannot do 6×7, how do they do 42×7 or 4.2×7? If they don’t understand borrowing and regrouping, how do they do division problems? The answer, of course, is they DON’T.

Until ACTUAL, TEACHING TEACHERS of REAL STUDENTS have significant input, it will remain a mess. And until we ditch the feel good approach to “success”, none of this works.

Fulton Parent

September 24th, 2009
6:30 pm

When we talk about the math curriculum, do we mean the GPS, the Instructional Frameworks, or both?

The activities in the Instructional Frameworks are not sequential and do not provide the examples, explanations, and practice most students need to learn new material and to connect the material to concepts already learned.

Also I believe (based on database searches) that Kennesaw State receives numerous grants for advocating the new math curriculum and helping design the math EOCT. This financial relationship should be disclosed when their faculty opinions are being cited.

Forsyth County Parent

September 24th, 2009
7:23 pm

My two cents from up here in Forsyth County…overall great schools and great teachers and we are thankful. BUT, this math program is nuts. Both my kids (10th and 8th)said in unison that this group teaching is a “joke” and all the kids do is copy answers off the supposed “smartest” kid in their group. We have no clue how to help either with homework and we are both college-degreed (I have J.D.) I am grateful we can have a tutor once/week @ 50 bucks/hour but feel for those that can’t. I assure you we won’t see test scores rising anytime in the near future…


September 24th, 2009
7:30 pm

After reading all of this I am more thankful than ever that I homeschooled our son. I never had an education course. I chose one curriculum and stuck with it . Only occasionally did I use material from other curriculums as suppliments. My son did not enjoy math at all – ever – but he still HAD TO learn it before he moved on to any new concepts. He went to UGA in the Honors program his freshman year of college. He took 3 levels of honors calculus at UGA and received all A’s. When he had a problem comprehending the material, he worked hour upon hour until he understood it. He learned not only foundations of math in homeschool, but to persevere, study hard and do all of his work well, which is what he did in college – instead of “socializing” = drinking and sleeping with the girls. He transfered to University of Pennsylvania in his sophomore year and this May he graduated summa cum laud in economics (which happens to require alot of higher level calculus). He was asked to begin work for a company on Wall Street this summer right after graduation. He was hired not only for his knowledge, but his work ethic as well. Foundations in math are important, moral foundations such as a desire to persevere and do work well are equally important. I question whether either one of those are being taught in government schools. (He went his first two years of school to a private school. His ITBS and Stanford scores dropped the longer he was in school. He developed a negative attitude to learning and any correction as well while enclosed in the school room with his peers. He was not an exceptional student at all. In fact due to a premature birth he was slower than most peers.) He needed discipline and close monitoring as well as appropriate instruction to learn to be a productive citizen – which does not even seem to be on the radar from what I have read by these “professional educators”!!!

Food for thought

September 24th, 2009
8:06 pm

LOL, Georgia Rat – I have a T-shirt that says something similar :-)

About 10 years ago when my niece was in the 2nd grade, my sister called me to talk about some trouble my niece was having in math. she described to me this spiraling exposure to which I replied “that’s crazy.” Well, flash forward to now, and my niece’s school system up north has gotten rid of the system – meanwhile we have adopted it.

To a certain extent I think “math is math.” The new standards have some good things, this this concept of exposure is silly – teach them to mastery build their skills, then move them up. Of course parents need to be involved in their kids’ education, and we all know what happens when they’re not – that’s the kid your kid doesn’t want to sit next to in class.


September 24th, 2009
8:19 pm

Where is my comment on the math websites that can help parents and students?


September 24th, 2009
8:20 pm


September 24th, 2009
9:08 pm

FWIW, I do know there are significant limitations to using the PSAT or SAT for comparison purposes, but those will be the only national (as opposed to Georgia-created) tests a significant number of the current batch of high school students are likely to take.