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>Problems Adding Up At Bayport Schools?

>Problems Adding Up At Bayport Schools?
By:Robert Wargas

When it comes to the basics of elementary education, many may recall the three “R’s” – reading, writing and arithmetic. But some residents of the Bayport-Blue Point School District believe their kids aren’t quite getting the last one.

The problem, they say, lies with so-called “Everyday Mathematics,” a new-age math teaching system that has worked its way into the curriculum of Bayport’s three elementary schools, much to the dismay of many parents, who want it cut out immediately.
Stressing a logic-driven approach to computation, Everyday Math – also known as “fuzzy math” – urges students to estimate and to arrive at answers using different, if unconventional, approaches. This deviates from the more traditional strategy, in which students are instilled with the mathematical principles in a learn-by-rote method that leaves no room for guessing – and little “fuzziness,” according to several district residents.
Everyday Math is currently in place in more than 175,000 classrooms and is quickly spreading across the country, according to the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project, which designed the system.
The university stresses that Everyday Math was designed to help students apply math to “real world” situations instead of learning concepts in isolation. Rather than spend a block of time on one topic and then move on, the teaching method is circular, with students integrating lessons and revisiting topics as they progress quickly – since the university believes “children learn best when new topics are presented at a brisk pace.” The program also encourages calculator use where appropriate.
But for the parents of Bayport children, guessing, estimating and using a calculator are bad habits that bypass real math skills and may even hold the students back from getting to the head of the class.
For Caroline Naluai, a high school family and consumer science teacher in another district, her third-grade son is an otherwise strong student who recently has fallen behind in math. She has had to hire a tutor for him, and she blames Everyday Math for what she believes is its slipshod learning approach.
“I don’t see the benefit,” she said. “Nobody can master anything.”
Another parent, Rita Palma, said her fifth-grader doesn’t know the multiplication tables because Everyday Math “doesn’t stick to the skill-and-drill method. I think they need traditional math as their primary teaching method,” she said.
The “fuzzy” math method has been in place at Bayport schools for five years. It is taught from kindergarten through third grade, and a trial now is in place for fourth and fifth grades.
School officials did not return numerous calls for comment, as of press time.
“Parents have been irate about this for a long time,” said Diane D’Angelo, another concerned district resident.
As of now, a petition calling for the end of Everyday Math bears more than 300 names – the tip of the iceberg for a community bent on getting rid of the program, D’Angelo said.
Several parents also commented that they were tired of spending their own money on tutors to make up for the education their kids should be getting in school.
“When my son entered third grade and couldn’t add, I was alarmed,” said D’Angelo.
But the University of Chicago says Everyday Math students should have a strong hold of multiplication by second grade.
A letter to concerned parents from Bayport-Blue Point School District Superintendent Anthony Annunziato said: “In the last year and a half, the district has been evaluating the program and its implementation over the last five years. On February 12, 2008, the board of education established an ad hoc committee to assess the current K-5 math curriculum.”
The letter also stated that school officials will conduct meetings with teachers “to identify weaknesses in the K-5 math program and to begin establishing [the] best practices used by our teachers.”
Annunziato failed to return repeated phone calls seeking further comment, as did Glen Eschbach, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

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