Pelham Math Night to feature three prominent professors Jan. 24

Three prominent university professors, experts in math education, will talk during the first Pelham Community Math Night on Tuesday, Jan. 24, starting at 7 p.m. at Daronco Town House at 20 Fifth Avenue. The event, sponsored by the Pelham Math Committee, is designed to give parents and all Pelham residents insight into the math skills needed in elementary and secondary school to build a solid foundation for college.

Dr. Alan Siegel of  New York University and Drs. Stanley Ocken and Ethan Akin of City College of the City University of New York will each give short presentations and then the forum will open to questions from those in attendance. A representative of the administration of the Pelham Union Free School District has also been invited and encouraged to attend. Admission is free to all.

The Pelham Math Committee was founded in December by Jennifer Slattery, Angela Burton, Christine Rosskopf, Rich Zahradnik and other Pelham parents with the goal of working for the highest quality math education in Pelham schools.

Dr. Siegel is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the Courant Institute of NYU. He received his PhD in computer science from Stanford University. Over the course of 12 years, he has investigated K-12 school mathematics teaching and mathematics content in the U.S. and abroad—including classroom visits, research and deep analysis of best practices. In 2006, he spoke at the International Congress of Mathematicians about his paper, “Understanding and Misunderstanding the Third International Mathematics and Science Study: What Is at Stake and Why K-12 Education Studies Matter.”

Dr. Ocken is a professor of mathematics at CCNY. He received his PhD in mathematics from Princeton University. He has spent considerable time over the past 15 years examining K-8 mathematics education, mainly looking at the way current math curricula do and do not prepare students for success in college mathematics courses. His paper, “Why Students Fail Calculus,” looks at the missing links in some math curricula that fail to get students ready for college and careers that involve math—from engineering to medicine to finance.

Dr. Akin is also a professor of mathematics at CCNY and also received his PhD in mathematics from Princeton. He has spent time over the last decade considering teaching pedagogy in K-12 mathematics and has written about the importance of learning core math skills and the need for students to be able to quickly complete algorithms in order to advance to higher math.

“The math our children learn in elementary school is critical for creating the foundation they need to excel in middle and high school math and science, as well as college, careers and life. By bringing in three professors who have studied K-12 curriculum and have a deep understanding of the math our kids need to know, we hope that parents will get a clearer picture of what high-quality math looks like,” said Jennifer Slattery, a member of the Pelham Math Committee.

The emphasis on engaging other parents in the topic of math education was echoed by another member of the Pelham Math Committee, Angela Burton. “We decided to host this event for the community because many parents have questions and concerns about the state of math education in Pelham schools, and whether our children will measure up to their global peers when it comes to success in college and beyond,” said Burton.

When it launched last month, the Pelham Math Committee started an online petition asking that the district replace “Investigations,” the current elementary math curriculum, by the fall of 2012:

The committee also launched the Pelham Math Facebook group and this website, which hosts news stories, reports, research and links about Investigations and other curricula, and best practices in math education from Kindergarten through the high school years.

Committee members spent several months researching “Investigations” and have presented their findings to the Pelham Board of Education and Dr. Dennis Lauro, superintendent of schools, at several meetings this fall. All of this work is available on the website. The Pelham Math Committee’s concerns about the inadequacies of “Investigations” are shared by other school districts and hundreds of university professors. Schools across the country have abandoned the program—including more than 60 percent of the districts that the textbook’s publisher cited as “success stories” just four years ago. A report on these districts is available here. Several states no longer allow “Investigations” to be chosen as a math curriculum. In Pelham, many parents use tutoring services, workbooks and extra math classes to ensure their children learn math.

It is clear why this is happening: Only three sessions out of 959 in all six years of the K-5 “Investigations” workbooks teach standard algorithms for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Because of this, “Investigations” fails to meet the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) focal points for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division or the National Mathematics Advisory Panel 2008 Final Report requirements for fluency with standard algorithms.

If you want the highest quality math for the children of Pelham, click here to see and sign the petition to replace “Investigations.” For copy-and-paste fans, here’s the url:

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