So the new school year has started (Hello Second Grade!) and along with it, homework. Every night. Homework. And it’s really no big deal, this homework. Except… EVERYDAY MATH. It’s a math curriculum that was supposedly developed by the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project. From what I can tell, the University of Chicago is a place where they apparently don’t know shit about math, or how normal people use math in everyday situations.

Case in point, my son’s most recent math homework: a review test to cover the topics that he learned in EVERYDAY MATH back in First Grade. Topics like telling time, and using hatch marks to count, and filling out number grids, and counting by 2’s and by 5’s, a little bit about money, and simple addition and subtraction.

Here’s the rub. The simple addition and subtraction problems? Each one is accompanied by a drawing of a domino with a corresponding number of dots on it. So 5 + 3 = fill in the blank, has a picture of a domino with 8 dots on it. Too dumb to memorize or add in your head or count on your fingers, well, search your house for a domino and add up the dots to get your answer. Because, yeah, that’s how normal people do math everyday, right? Calculator’s be damned! But if you can’t find a domino, don’t worry, your math test will have a picture of one on it and you can simply count the dots to get your answer.

When *I* was in school, they didn’t put the answer right on the test like that. If they did, that would have probably been called CHEATING.

But perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe that’s how you do your taxes every year? You swipe your child’s train game domino set and start counting the dots while they are wailing in the background about the unfairness of it all?

I say this: you want to teach a child real math? Math they can use? Math they can use every day? Teach them to count on their fingers or give them a calculator. Both are easier and more portable than a set of dominoes. Did they not sell calculators in Chicago when they developed this program? Had the creators of the program lost their fingers in some grisly accident? If so, how did they pick up their dominoes?

And the number grids? They look like a chunk removed from a blank crossword puzzle, with one number filled in somewhere along all the empty boxes. Somehow, don’t ask ME how, my son knows that you fill in the horizontal boxes by increasing the numbers by 2 or 5 or something, and the vertical boxes by increasing or decreasing the numbers by 1 or something. Or maybe I’ve got it reversed. Or totally wrong. I don’t do this everyday, so what do I know? I just know that NEVER IN MY LIFE have I been told to fill out a funky grid like that.

A giant plain number grid that looks like empty graph paper is to be filled in by columns, rather than rows. It teaches the children to look for patterns. I contend it’s far easier to count by ones and just go ahead and write: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12…. My son insists THAT TAKES TOO LONG, and instead spends precious minutes (hurry up and finish your homework it’s dinner time and then you’ve got swimming practice!) calculating the number directly under each number. So the number under 10 will be 20, and directly under that will be 30. The number under 8 will be 18, then 28, and so on and so forth until he’s filled out each column. OMG THE INSANITY! My friend’s son, who also contends it takes too long to count by ones, fills out each square several times. If the number grid goes from 100 to 199, he writes a 1 in each square, then goes back and writes the 2nd digit in each square, and then finally gets around to writing the 3rd digit in each square. To that I say, what the hell? and how is that faster?

Oddly enough, they seem to be teaching the children how to tell time on a clock the normal way, by looking at the hands of the clock. I’m not sure why they aren’t using sundials or a pendulum clock for this exercise, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did.

And money? They’ve taught the kids to represent money by drawing circles with letters in them. A penny is represented on paper with a circle with a P in it. Or sometimes, just the letter P. A dime, a circle with a D in it, or sometimes, just the letter D. Learn this, because if it’s truly EVERYDAY MATH, then I suspect the next time you venture into a Walmart, that little smiley face on the blue sign is going to tell you that the dominoes you’ve come to purchase to help you with your child’s math homework cost QQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQDDPPPP, and not $7.99 as you’ve come to expect.

This is SO true…but I was just rolling upon reaching that part about “QQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQDDPPPP, and not $7.99 as you’ve come to expect.”

Sorry to hear your school has fallen for Everyday Math. I have experience with that program and wrote about it here:

http://www.ednews.org/articles/one-step-ahead-of-the-train-wreck.html

Heh, heh, heh…Oh, you have my utmost sympathy. Really. I’ve dealt with this deplorable program for 7 years now. I consider it crippling to say the least. Just wait until they give your child not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, but 5 different ways to subtract and then give what IMHO, is tantamount to 2 practice examples before they go skipping off to algebra for 10 minutes before skipping off to geometry for another 10, statistics for around 15, and measurement for around 5. Don’t worry ‘tho, he’ll “spiral” back to it eventually – hopefully he’ll be one of the chosen few who actually remember how to do it without having to be retaught it yet AGAIN. Be mindful that he will be told not to solicit your help because you “won’t know how to do it.” If he struggles, rest assured that it will be you who doesn’t “get it,” his teachers who “don’t know how to teach it” or him because he “lacks motivation.” Funny, it NEVER seems to be because it’s a horrible program developed by people who consider themselves “experts in pedagogy.” Well, perhaps they’re experts in pedagogy, but as near as I can tell, they’ve got a lot to learn about child psychology, and what stress does to a family seated around the kitchen table at night doing homework.

As far as calculators go, be careful what you wish for. My DH is of “mentor age” of many of the younger men who work with him. It’s appalling to him to have to wait for a charge to locate a calculator to do a simple calculation. These are young men who “came of age” in the constructivist mathematics period i.e. the “New, New Math.”

As far as multiplication and division algorithms go, prepare the bottle of Tylenol for the impending headache you’ll have as you calculate from left to right vs right to left of traditional algorithms. You can do it, but prepare for a level of frustration beyond what you think it’ll be.

I wish you good luck on your endeavor. I suggest that you approach your child with the utmost caution, but make sure that he knows the easiest way to find the correct answer, and try to be sympathetic to his plight to avert sheer frustration. If he’s talented in math, you are lucky and he may do alright, but if he’s like the rest of us “regular schmucks” who need one way to solve a problem to mastery before throwing 4 other ways to do it, he may well learn how to despise math.

One small note of hope if-you-will. EDM is on its third revision. With each revision, it seems to be ever-so-subtly becoming more like traditional math. Fractions for example, are now delved into more than two pages of two workbooks. This is a good thing.

Again, I wish you good luck, and I wholeheartedly advise you to speak up – loudly if necessary – should you find your son lacking in the basic skills he needs.