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Brevart 1 Timothy Brevart Diane Anderson Teaching the Diverse Young Learner 30 March 2012

Curriculum Analysis of Everyday Mathematics Everyday Mathematics is a curriculum that was developed in hopes of raising test scores amongst American students. Through a review of the curriculum, Everyday Mathematics will be examined in relation to the theory of situated learning, the theory of culture, and the theory of constructivism as well as dissected for it’s effects on children and the learning process behind mathematics. In addition to looking at the effect of this curriculum on “typically developing” students, this analysis will also examine the effectiveness of Everyday Mathematics for students with learning disabilities.

Introduction For the past few decades, the United States has trailed behind the rest of the world in the field of mathematics. Test scores have not been up to par and students continually fall short of expectations. During the 1980s, research was conducted to find the best way for students learned mathematics. From the findings in these studies, the Everyday Mathematics curriculum was created. For years, the University of Chicago worked to create a curriculum that they believe has the ability to help all students learn math, regardless of learning styles, their level of deficiency in math, or their demographic. Overall, the goals of Everyday Mathematics seem reasonable, as they draw from the

Brevart 2 findings of the studies and aim to help students become competent math they use everyday. They attempt to provide students with the tools that they need to score proficiently on standardized tests and become competitive math students. Many schools have adapted this curriculum, some voluntarily and others as a last resort. Over the years, studies have shown that Everyday Mathematics does indeed work. Students who experienced the curriculum showed improved scores and seemed to be able to do basic math. However, Everyday Mathematics leaves out fundamental concepts needed to succeed in higher-level math and does not necessarily help students in the long run. Over the course of this critique, I will analyze this curriculum through three different educational theories and discuss how it both helps and hinders students from a many backgrounds. The first theory is the Theory of Situated Learning and the Theory of Participation, developed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger. A key idea behind Everyday Mathematics is the emphasis on group work and student participation, which directly relates to Lave and Wagner’s theory. Second is the Theory of Culture and it’s effect on students and the learning process. Since students of low socio-economic status tend to be the ones doing poorly in math, Everyday Mathematics is usually the curriculum that they end up with. The theory of culture helps explain different successes and failures of Everyday Mathematics within different socio-economic classes and cultures. Last is the Theory of Constructivism, developed by Jerome Bruner, which helps highlight the constructivist aspects of Everyday Mathematics and their affect on students’ learning. The Theory of Situated Learning, Theory of Culture, and Theory of Constructivism will make clear the apparent faults in the Everyday Mathematics curriculum and will identify where the curriculum needs improvement.

Brevart 3 Description Everyday Mathematics is a controversial math curriculum that is changing the ways that students learn math worldwide. The difference between Everyday Mathematics and other math curricula is that it strives to relate the mathematics of the classroom to real world situations, stressing the practicality of strategies and skills. The emphasis is placed on the application of the math being learned to the real world, not solely the concepts. One example from the fourth grade edition of Everyday Mathematics Student Reference Book begins the chapter about fractions with the statement: “One common use of fractions is in sharing. For example, when two people share something equally, each person gets half of it. When three people share equally, each person gets a third. Another common use of fractions is in measuring.” 1 It continues on to list five more ways in which fractions are used in the real world. These applications come directly after the first paragraph of the section, which introduces the concepts of fraction, numerator, and denominator. It then goes on to introduce a variety of examples where fractions are used in the real world. This curriculum also employs the idea of multiple methods of instruction, through which students of Everyday Mathematics receive a variety of materials to enhance their learning experience. Each student receives a Student Reference Book that can be used to help the student review a concept discussed in class. The Student Reference Book includes summaries of the major topics discussed in each grade so that the students have something to look back to when they are struggling. There is also a section on calculator functions and various reference tables. Students and parents receive a variety of resources to use at home and in class to practice their skills. Some of the resources are access to

“Everyday Mathematics Student Reference Book”, 40.

Brevart 4 worksheets on the Internet, a book of supplemental problems called Minute Math, and various other journals and workbooks. There are various other ways in which the curriculum uses different methods of instruction. One example is that Everyday Mathematics students receive whole group instruction and engage regularly in small group, partner, or individual activities. Group work is a critical part of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum. The Teacher’s Resource Manual for fourth through sixth grade states that “cooperative learning improves attitudes toward learning and academic achievement, improves social skills and time on task, and helps develop speaking, listening, and writing skills…Cooperative learning also prepares students for real-life situations.”2 According to Everyday Mathematics, group work helps students develop a variety of mathematical skills in tandem with a variety of skills used in life. Another goal of Everyday Mathematics is to teach students how to successfully work with each other as well as develop team building and group work etiquette, referring back to the theme of real world application and practicality. The Teacher’s Resource Manual lays out specific things to teach when working in groups while also making clear the duties of the members of the group and the teacher. 3 Everyday Mathematics believes that students should develop the skills needed to work successfully in a group while learning the concept. It stresses communication and the ability to explain how to solve a problem or how to go about solving a problem in the students’ own words. Assessments used in Everyday Mathematics are different from those that children are usually assessed with. The philosophy of Everyday Mathematics says that students should be assessed over a span of time rather than in just one instance, i.e. watching the

2 3

“Teacher’s Resource Manual”, 23. “Teacher’s Resource Manual”, 24-25.

Brevart 5 student versus testing them periodically. The process of assessing how a child is doing in Everyday Mathematics involves looking at the class’s collective progress, the individual’s progress, how the teacher can adjust their teaching to help the student and how the teacher can communicate with the students’ parents about their child’s progress. Everyday Mathematics provides teachers with a checklist in order to evaluate if a student has met the goals of the section. Teachers are also obligated to observe how a student performs in class and small group activities along with individual activities. Each unit includes a set of masters that are used as ways of evaluating a student’s abilities and mastery of the unit. The unit review masters ask students questions about the material learned in the unit. There are only a few questions on each review sheet and they are not too different from the rest of the problems in the unit. Parents and family members are highly encouraged to take part in the child’s learning process through Everyday Mathematics. There are a variety of resources set out for parents so that they can become a part of their child’s math education. For example, Study Links is an online resource for students and parents that provides worksheets and alternate problems and methods to practice the different concepts being taught. Every grade of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum provides letters to be sent home to parents informing them of their child’s mathematical experience and what they have learned as well as upcoming material. Everyday Mathematics instructs students how to use calculators to solve various types of problems. The curriculum has many activities that involve or require the use of calculators in order to further enhance the learning experience. However, when it is time

Brevart 6 to review basic concepts skills, a “no calculator” sign is placed next to the problem so that the student knows not to use a calculator.

Analysis The Everyday Mathematics curriculum incorporates many different educational theories. Most prominent are the theory of situated learning, the theory of culture and its effect on education, and the theory of constructivism. Different aspects of the curriculum directly relate to each theory and will be analyzed accordingly in the following pages.

Everyday Mathematics and Situated Learning Social interaction, participation and learning are key ideas amongst educators and scholars. Jean Lave’s theory of Situated Learning encompasses all of these ideas and describes how they can play a vital role in a child’s education. Situated Learning “takes as its focus the relationship between learning and the social situations in which is occurs.”4 Learning takes place through participation as a novice learner works to become an expert through social interaction with peers while mastering skills. The new expert learner then becomes a full participant of their social community. 5 Situated Learning incorporates the idea that “activity, concept, and culture are interdependent.”6 The theory of situated learning is derived from the ideas of Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky theorized “a child’s speech is as important as the role of action in attaining a goal.” 7 According to this theory, socialization plays a key role in a child’s development and is also an important

4 5

Lave, 14. Lave, 29. 6 Brown, 33. 7 Vygotsky, 25.

Brevart 7 tool to use to solve a problem. Through interaction with others, children learn about themselves as well as their peers to help them master concepts and become a full participant of their community. Everyday Mathematics embraces and practices the idea of participation throughout many of their lessons. The creators believe that it helps students learn from one another and become experts on topics by sharing their ideas - a key concept behind Lave’s theory. One of the core ideas of Everyday Mathematics is that children should work in groups and discuss together. The curriculum does not supply students with textbooks, as almost every lesson is based on discussion. A typical lesson plan begins with a group discussion followed by a partner/small group activity. Sometimes the lesson ends with independent work. The creators of Everyday Mathematics believe that “discussion promotes good listening habits and fosters a receptive attitude to the ideas of classmates” and that “students gain important insights about mathematics by building on one another’s discoveries.” 8 Essentially, speech and group activities are crucial to the Everyday Mathematics curriculum in the sense that children can explain their thinking to help promote a deeper understanding. Discussing one’s work with another student gives a student “the chance to clarify their thinking and gain insights from others.”9 The environment created from working in groups both enables and requires children to participate. In the Everyday Mathematics, there are multiple types of group work which create different environments. Through this group work, children are encouraged and required to share their ideas and to learn from others. They work together to reach a goal while the teacher facilitates the activity. This allows “the less skilled [to]

8 9

“Everyday Mathematics Teacher’s Reference Manual”, 4., 1

Brevart 8 benefit by drawing support from the more skilled.”10 In terms of Situated Learning, it allows the novice learner to learn through participation from the expert student. Everyday Mathematics also actively promotes group work because it prepares students for real life situations. “Children are, after all, quintessentially legitimate peripheral participants in adult social worlds.”11 In addition, through cooperative learning, students are learning how to become a member of the adult world and this method of teaching is allowing them to participate in typical adult social world scenarios. By requiring children to participate, Everyday Mathematics is allowing them to develop life skills and share ideas in a safe environment where students can learn from each other. One of the central ideas behind Everyday Mathematics is that students should learn in ways that interest them and for the future.12 It is believed that through group work, students will be introduced to typical future scenarios while interacting with peers in a new way that will spark interest. These environments, which are supposed to be interesting and engaging for students, demand that students participate. Through this philosophy, in order to succeed in Everyday Mathematics, a student must participate, seeing as it is a fundamental value of the curriculum and is one of the ways that children are evaluated. Situated Learning and the Everyday Mathematics group work philosophy go hand in hand in the context of participation. While the theory of Situated Learning can easily be related to Everyday Mathematics, the group work method is not the best way to foster the ideas behind Situated Learning. At first glance, the idea of working together to complete a problem seems decent. However, that is not what the Everyday Mathematics’ idea of group work
10 11

“Everyday Mathematics Teacher’s Reference Manual”, 4. Lave, 32. 12 “Everyday Mathematics Teacher’s Reference Manual”, 2.

Brevart 9 is. “The teaching philosophy of Everyday Math is that children, through active participation and experimentation, ‘construct’ the algorithms required to solve a mathematical operation, such as the addition and multiplication of 2 multi-digit numbers” 13 which they then use to teach each other and solve problems as a group. Students are teaching each other, but are they teaching each other correct information? Everyday Mathematics promotes the idea that students invent their own way to solve a problem, a way that they are comfortable with. When students get into small groups and teach each other their methods or solving a problem, sometimes these methods are not the most efficient nor most accurate. The majority of Everyday Mathematics is based on work done in groups. For some students, group work is an effective way to learn, but for others it is not. How are students who do not function well in groups supposed to keep up with the curriculum? Moreover, the curriculum groups students together not similar ability levels, but instead by placing a stronger student with a weaker student so that the former may assist the latter. This structure essentially penalizes the stronger student and can discourage both students from wanting to learn. In addition, there are some cultures with which group work does not work so well. Matthew Clavel, a teacher in the Bronx, say that he would “derive bitter pleasure in watching an [Everyday Math] ‘professional-development” expert try using [cooperative learning] in an inner-city classroom, filled with kids whose often unstructured home lives make self-restraint a big problem.”14 Some students need to be trained to work in groups, as it may not come easily to them. Many students do not have experience with group work, which makes it difficult to keep up with the demands

13 14

Wang, 4. Clavel, 2.

Brevart 10 of Everyday Mathematics and to actually learn when working in groups. For students with behavioral issues, working in small groups is not the best way for them to learn. In a school like Clavel’s, where students have a lot of issues in and outside the home, it is not easy to get the students to sit down and work together nicely to reach a common goal. When an art teacher in Clavel’s school tried to use the cooperative learning method, “by the second session, students were getting out of their seats, calling out without raising their hands, yelling to each other, and, in a couple of cases, throwing punches.” 15 In this case, the Everyday Mathematics cooperative learning strategy would be disastrous and be a total failure. Overall, Situated Learning can be woven into the Everyday Mathematics philosophy. Group work and social interaction are key components to the Everyday Mathematics curriculum as well as the theory of Situated Learning. Everyday Mathematics promotes the idea that students should work in groups to share their ideas, be exposed to future scenarios, and develop who they are in the classroom community. Cooperative learning can, and has been, an effective learning strategy employed nation and worldwide, however it is not the ideal and has been proven to be extremely ineffective in certain demographics.

Everyday Mathematics and Culture “Children growing up in remarkably different settings develop similar mathematical knowledge…at the same time, there is substantial evidence that mathematical knowledge varies across social classes and cultural groups.” 16 Different

15 16

Clavel, 2. Guberman, 1

Brevart 11 countries, cultures and social classes have different values, ideas and principles, which in turn shapes the education of their children. The customs of a culture construct the system of educational within that culture, leading further to the variance of mathematical knowledge across cultures. Studies have shown that children of lower social economic status (SES) tend to perform more inferior to children of higher SES. 17 In schools of lower SES neighborhoods, the quality of teachers tends to not be as high as those of high SES schools, leading to an achievement gap between the two statuses.18 Certain cultures, such as the one discussed in “Mathematics in the Streets and in Schools,” by Terezinha Nunes Carraher, value different things than the American culture. The culture in this article is a migrant worker culture in Recife, Brazil, in which this community values survival as the main goal, which means finding a job as soon as possible. Many children in this culture help their parents, who are street-vendors. “In their work these children and adolescents have to solve a large number of mathematical problems, usually without recourse to paper and pencil.”19 In this society, formal schooling is not valued as highly as work, and so children learn to do math in a different way than children who go through formal schooling learn math. The placement of importance in this culture has determined how these children learn. A documentary made on this culture and the styles of learning that the children of this culture use reveal just how intelligent these students are. Even thought they are not using formal algorithms to solve problems, they can easily compute sums and differences as well as move back and forth between currencies. The math is done in their head, and when given a pencil and paper to complete problems, students appear helpless and left without clue. When they complete problems on paper, they
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Guberman, 1. Lee, 9. 19 Carraher, 22.

Brevart 12 struggle to complete them via traditional methods and know that their answers are incorrect. These children would not pass standardized tests, yet they can do mental math faster than most American adults. 20 Everyday Mathematics tries to incorporate real-life applications into the curriculum. It “emphasizes the application of mathematics to real world situations. Numbers, skills and mathematical concepts are not presented in isolation, but are linked to situations and contexts that are relevant to everyday lives.”21 The idea grounding this is that children will be better able to relate to what they are learning if they can see the applications of what they are learning to the real world. In the math journal that students are given, there are a variety of activities that relate to the real world. There is an activity that has children calculate how much a trip to Cairo will cost in terms of airline tickets and how far it is to Cairo from Washington D.C. 22 These types of activities allow students to see how addition and subtraction relate to issues faced in everyday life. While many traditional math curricula have problems like this, these types of problems are more frequent in Everyday Mathematics. Additionally, in everyday life, technology is used to solve problems. The Everyday Mathematics curriculum embraces this fact and uses calculators frequently throughout the curriculum. “Calculators enable students to think about the problems themselves, rather than focusing on carrying out algorithms without mistakes.” 23 The curriculum was designed to reflect that technology has become an important part of our culture, and Everyday Mathematics incorporates calculator usage into the curriculum in order to prepare students for the future.

20 21

“Maths On The Street”, 5:35., 1 22 “Everyday Mathematics Teacher’s Lesson Guide”, 177. 23 “Everyday Mathematics Teacher’s Reference Manual”, 35.

Brevart 13 Another important aspect to note of Everyday Mathematics is the frequent amount of communication with the home. Letters are sent home during each unit to inform parents what their child is learning and there are a variety of activities that children need to do with their parents. This invites the family to participate in the child’s learning and keeps them involved in what their child is doing in school. To many parents, it is very important that they know how their child is doing in school. In this sense, Everyday Mathematics is respecting the cultural trend of many American parents by keeping them involved in their child’s mathematical education. While the Everyday Mathematics curriculum embraces culture in some aspects, it is completely blind to culture in others. As mentioned before, the aspect of group work did not work out well for Matthew Clavel’s classroom in the Bronx. For kids who come from low SES communities, self-restraint and good behavior do not come easily. Children in these communities come from hectic homes and usually unstable lifestyles, sometimes leading to behavioral issues which make it difficult for them to sit down and engage in group work - one the key features of Everyday Mathematics. In addition, Clavel comments about other cultural issues within Everyday Mathematics. While it is great that Everyday Mathematics wants parents to be a part of their child’s education, there are many issues with this for children from low SES homes. “What if the parents (or parent: many of the kids belong to single-mother households) worked long hours? What if they lacked college educations? Or barely spoke English? Or just weren’t interested?” 24 Everyday Mathematics does not take into account these families nor the effects that the curriculum has on them. Many assignments require


Clavel, 3.

Brevart 14 parental participation. How are student from these homes supposed to get these assignments done? Technology is another cultural issue. Everyday Mathematics heavily incorporates calculators into their systems. While technology is a great tool, it should not be valued over basic logic. One report states that a quoted passage from an Everyday Mathematics parent letter says that “the standard long division algorithm is not necessary to learn in part because of the availability of calculators.”25 Everyday Mathematics encourages and requires calculators in Kindergarten. Even though calculators are important in today’s society, basic math is needed for a variety of tasks. When these children get older and need to split a check for dinner between a group of people, or figuring out a tip, they will need these basic skills, as it is unlikely that they will have a calculator on hand at all times. Knowing the long division algorithm is essential in a variety of cultures and societies, and Everyday Mathematics deprives children of learning this essential skill. Culturally, “minority kids…are turning to calculators the most” and “half of all black school children used calculators every day, compared with 27 percent of white school kids.” 26 “According to a 2000 Brookings Institute study, fourth graders who used calculators every day were likely to do worse in math than other students.”27 According to these findings, students of minority communities that are encouraged by the Everyday Mathematics curriculum to use calculators frequently are being set up to do poorly in math, thus decreasing their interest in math. Additionally, it may not be possible for every culture to have access to calculators. In poorer countries and low SES areas, calculators may not be available to students and the students may not be able to afford their own.
25 26

Klein, 4. Clavel, 3. 27 Clavel, 3.

Brevart 15 The idea that culture and social class affect the education of a child has been acknowledged and embraced by the Everyday Mathematics curriculum. A philosophy of Everyday Mathematics is that math should relate to real world and everyday activities an idea valued by many cultures. Additionally, calculators are a fundamental material of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum, which stresses that technology is becoming an important part of society. Many students do not have access to technological resources and many do not work well in groups, thus causing the effectiveness of Everyday Mathematics to vary from culture to culture.

Everyday Mathematics and Constructivism Constructivism is the idea that children construct their own knowledge from past experiences and through discovery, and the theory of Constructivism stems from the ideas of Piaget and Vygotsky.. Under this theory, learning is an engaging process and the teacher should take on the role of facilitator, helping children discover their own ideas and create their own knowledge. 28 Teachers should not simply feed students the information and expect them to regurgitate it later, but rather question students and set up situations where students can discover things for themselves. For example, in Deborah Schifter’s article “On Teaching and Learning Mathematics”, two teachers teach different lessons on measurement. One teacher, Schweitzer, told her class how to do every step of the experiment in order to help her students understand. The other teacher, Hendry, gave her students a problem and let them figure out how to solve it, instead of telling them how to do it. Schweitzer taught by the traditional theory that students should be given knowledge while Hendry taught by the constructivist’s theory that student construct their

Orange, 113.

Brevart 16 own knowledge, allowing her students to explore while she facilitated.29 In his article, Irving Sigel describes a central idea of Constructivism: The constructivist’s fundamental assumption about the child is that knowledge is an end product. The child’s mind naturally and actively perceives and constructs relationships about surrounding objects, events, and people: in so doing, new knowledge is integrated with previous experience forming an ever-increasing knowledge base.30 Children learn about the world and construct their own theories about it through their learning and from their prior knowledge. The concept that children learn from the past is where the idea of a spiral curriculum comes from. A spiral curriculum is one where a curriculum touches on a concept then comes back to it later on, essentially spiraling back to the concept. It is generally built around “the great issues, principles, and values that a society deems worthy of the continual concern of its members.”31 A spiral curriculum allows students to use the new knowledge to build on what they already have learned by revisiting topics. This type of curriculum incorporates the core ideas of constructivism. Constructivism is laced throughout the Everyday Mathematics curriculum. First, all of the Everyday Mathematics lessons offer hands-on activities that require children to communicate with each other and construct their own knowledge. Group work and partner activities require the students to be “responsible for defending, proving, justifying, and communicating their ideas to the classroom and the community.” 32

29 30

Schifter, 84. Sigel, 20. 31 Brunner, 360. 32 Fosnot, 34.

Brevart 17 Everyday Mathematics believes that group work teaches students how to work in a group and “creates an atmosphere in which students can share ideas and ways of thinking as they solve problems.”33 It also exposes students to others ideas, which are often different from their own. Similar to constructivist theory, Everyday Mathematics believes that teachers should be facilitators within the classroom. During group work, teachers should “monitor groups to make sure that they are working in the right direction” and [answer] groups’ questions and provide assistance as necessary.”34 While there are points in every lesson where the teacher is required to provide direct instruction, much of the curriculum is centered on students forming their own methods for how to solve a problem. Due to the constructivist theory and the idea that students should create their own knowledge, “the mathematics classroom has become a community of inquiry, a problemposing and problem-solving environment in which developing an approach to thinking about mathematical issues is valued more highly than memorizing algorithms.” 35 The Everyday Mathematics classroom is a perfect example of this type of mathematics classroom. Children in the Everyday Mathematics are taught a variety of strategies and processes to solve problems. When learning multiplication, Everyday Mathematics students are taught three different ways to multiply and are told to choose which method they like the best. In addition, children are encouraged to create their own ways of solving problems. Critical thinking is valued higher in this curriculum than being able to regurgitate an algorithm.

33 34

“Everyday Mathematics Teacher’s Reference Manual”, 23. “Everyday Mathematics Teacher’s Reference Manual”, 25. 35 Schifter, 85.

Brevart 18 Everyday Mathematics is based around the idea of a spiral curriculum. Throughout the year, the curriculum circles back to previous concepts in order to help students better understand them. “Students using Everyday Mathematics are expected to master a variety of mathematical skills and concepts, but not the first time they interact with them. Mathematical content is taught in a repeated fashion, beginning with concrete examples.”36 Everyday Mathematics believes that “if newly learned concepts and skills are not periodically reviewed, practiced, and applied in a wide variety of concepts, they will not be retained.” 37 The spiral approach allows a student to see concepts multiple times, retriggering and further solidifying them into their memories. If a child does not understand a concept fully the first time, spiraling back allows the child to pick it up at a later time and allows for deeper understanding. The Education Development Center talks about the idea behind the Everyday Mathematics spiral curriculum: The Everyday Mathematics curriculum incorporates the belief that people rarely learn new concepts or skills the first time they experience them, but fully understand them only after repeated exposures. Students in the program study important concepts over consecutive years; each grade level builds on and extends conceptual understanding.38 The spiral curriculum is a core concept behind the Everyday Mathematics curriculum and is a major component of the constructivist theory. To both constructivists and to Everyday Mathematics, a spiral curriculum benefits children by helping them create a deeper understanding of a topic.

36 37

“Everyday Mathematics Teacher’s Reference Manual”, 3. “Everyday Mathematics Teacher’s Reference Manual”, 3. 38 Education Development Center Inc., 3.

Brevart 19 The constructivist ideas behind the Everyday Mathematics curriculum sound helpful, but have been proven to be everything but helpful. As mentioned earlier, the group work aspect does not work in every classroom and is often detrimental to a student’s understanding of a concept. The spiral curriculum method used by Everyday Mathematics tries to incorporate larger ideas before the basic ones are learned causing for further confusion. In Clavel’s classroom, none of his students knew their times tables, however they were expected to do algebra and geometry. When Clavel approached the school district, they said that he “should just keep going” even if none of his children understood what he was talking about. “We are going to spiral back to each topic later in the year, they reassured us” Clavel said.39 The spiral curriculum leads to an odd topic arrangement and has teachers making broad jumps between topics as they move through the curriculum. “New concepts are introduced one after another assuming children will pick up on the material as it is sporadically revisited throughout the year.” 40 These punctuated leaps cause students to miss the essential connections between topics while the spiraling curriculum leads students to confusion. Although the idea behind the Everyday Mathematics spiral curriculum is well thought out, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. In the Everyday Mathematics curriculum, children are encouraged to invent their own ways of solving problems and are presented with a variety of ways to help form their methods. “Everyday Math is not concerned with correct answers. This program prefers to emphasize the creative processes used to arrive at any answer.” 41 As mentioned previously, Everyday Mathematics teaches students several ways to multiply.
39 40


Clave, 3. Tsicouris, 1. 41 Tsicouris, 1.

Brevart 20 methods, while logical, take much longer to do than the basic multiplication algorithm and can make multiplying in higher-level math difficult. A parent letter home says “children will have a choice in selecting algorithms that work best for them.” 42 This means that no matter how abstract or time consuming the algorithm, if the student likes it, they can use it. This curriculum claims to teach children how to use math in everyday situations, but if someone needs to figure out how many eggs are in 14 dozen, they are not going to tediously shuffle through lattice multiplication to determine an answer. Allowing student to choose their own methods is setting them up for difficulty later in math and in life. “Everyday Mathematics believes in children sharing their own invented algorithms rather than teachers continuing to teach the standard paper-and-pencil algorithms.”43 While inventing algorithms promotes the students’ creativity, it can lead to further confusion about concepts and will lay the groundwork for an ominous future in math. Constructivism is a pillar supporting Everyday Mathematics. There is special emphasis placed on “establishing links from past experiences, activities with concrete materials, pictures, oral statements, and symbolic arithmetic.”

The Everyday

Mathematics philosophy incorporates many valuable constructivist ideas, but the way that they are conveyed may cause more harm than good to students in the long run.

42 43

Klein, 4. Klein, 4. 44 “Everyday Mathematics Teacher’s Reference Manual”, 6.

Brevart 21 Everyday Mathematics and Learning-Disabled Students As classrooms take on Everyday Mathematics, learning-disabled students are exposed to the curriculum. For students with a learning disability, the effects of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum can be potentially positive and negative, as there are aspects of the curriculum that both benefit and harm the mathematics education of this demographic. Since this curriculum is only available to students from kindergarten to sixth grade, students considered in this section are in the same age range. “Learning-disabled is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities.”45 “Learning disabled” can be used as an all-encompassing term for a variety of learning conditions. In all uses of the phrase, students with learning disabilities show similar issues when it comes to learning mathematics. Learning-disabled (LD) students can have difficulty with attention, visual-spatial processing, auditory processing, memory and retrieval, and motor problems when it comes to learning mathematics.46 In one instance, students with dyslexia may have difficulty identifying the differences between numbers and number symbols. Mathematics is a subject that builds on itself and requires frequent movement back and forth between concepts, often seeming abstract and irrelevant to a lot of students47 and making it very difficult for LD students to learn mathematics. Unfortunately, problems relating to other learning difficulties, poor instruction, and psychological problems contribute to poor mathematics performance amongst LD students.48

45 46

Blackhurst, 496. Lerner, 489. 47 Levine, 199-200. 48 Wong, 427.

Brevart 22 In order for a learning disabled student to succeed in math, they first need to work with concrete materials that can be manipulated and that relate to his experiences.49 Only after a student masters problems with concrete materials can he move onto the abstract of pencil and paper. “It is important to reduce the complexity of the task and increase the student’s attention to detail.” 50 For students who have trouble writing numbers or following processes, writing should be kept to a minimum. Students with a learning disability benefit from a structured curriculum where there is little room for misconception. Additionally, for learning disabled students, student involvement is encouraged as it allows a student to have a sense of ownership over what he is learning.51 For some learning disabled students, memory deficiencies can affect their ability to recall math facts and conceptualize algorithms. In the steps below, Janet Lerner outlines the steps to build a solid math-concepts foundation: 1. Emphasize answering questions rather than merely doing something. 2. Generalize the teaching to many different kinds of applications and experiences with different ways of handling the problem. 3. Provide thorough instruction so that students receive the practice they need. 4. Help students gain confidence in their mathematics ability.52

Everyday Mathematics can help conquer a variety of these problems. For example, Everyday Mathematics frequently uses various types of manipulative materials. While most of the lessons revolve around abstract pen and paper activities, several

49 50

McNamara, 116. McNamara, 116. 51 McNamara, 117-120. 52 Lerner, 511.

Brevart 23 activities involve materials that students can manipulate, such as playing cards, dice, egg cartons, compasses, straws, scales, blocks, and measuring sticks.53 Many of these tools become the center of the lesson, if the lesson is properly altered. When demonstrating a concept, a teacher can use these tools and have the students use these tools. This is beneficial to the LD student because it allows him to work with the material in a handson environment to connect math to objects. “Recent research has demonstrated the positive effects of the use of concrete, manipulative materials to increase computation ability.”54 Using materials allows a student to become part of the math and helps to spark engagement. This is key for LD students because it helps them relate the material to things that they know and are interested in while giving them a hands-on learning experience. Another thing that allows LD students to master mathematics is student involvement - a significant aspect of Everyday Mathematics. Student involvement allows students to “feel a sense of ownership” over the material.55 The curriculum is strongly grounded in the idea of group work and involvement, with group work consistently used across the curriculum and requiring students to be active participants in their learning. This aspect of the curriculum is extremely beneficial to LD students who need to feel like the work is theirs. In this sense, the Everyday Mathematics program is ideal for LD students. For many LD students, the process of learning algorithms or abstractions poses a large challenge.56 Since Everyday Mathematics does not focus on learning the traditional

53 54

“Everyday Mathematics Teacher’s Reference Manual”, 41-51 Wong, 435. 55 McNamara, 120. 56 Wong, 427

Brevart 24 algorithms and instead focuses on a child solving a problem in the way that best suits the child, this curriculum is beneficial for LD students. It does not force them to memorize algorithms, allowing LD students who have difficultly with memorization learn in an alternate way to the traditional process. On the contrary, the lack of structure in developing these algorithms can be detrimental to LD students. A main issue with the Everyday Mathematics curriculum in relation to LD students is that it is largely based in reading and writing. For students with reading disabilities, the Everyday Mathematics curriculum will fail them. One man who had a LD daughter in Everyday Mathematics talks about the curriculum in relation to his daughter: “Chicago Math has failed her completely, primarily because it entails a great deal of writing and copy. Intermediate results are scattered all over the page, and you have to be an accountant to keep track of everything. For a girl who is borderline dyslexic, every scratch of the pen is an opportunity for error.”57

For LD students, a curriculum based primarily on reading and writing is not ideal in the sense that it forces the students to learn through their area of difficulty. For students who suffer from dysgraphia, meaning difficulty with handwriting or written expression, 58 the writing aspect of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum is a large roadblock that the student needs to overcome in order to learn math through this program. Many times students with dyscalculia struggle due to the rapid rate of pace for introducing concepts, the lack of guided practice, and an insufficient amount of review.59 In some aspects, the Everyday Mathematics curriculum helps students with dyscalculia,
57 58

Dahlke, 2. Blackhurst, 494. 59 Lerner, 485.

Brevart 25 and in other aspects it does not. For example, the rate of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum can be slowed down to the rate of the student. This is beneficial to the student with dyscalculia because it allows the teacher to move at a slow enough rate that the student can absorb the material and does not get overwhelmed. On the other hand, some of the instruction in the Everyday Mathematics curriculum is ambiguous and makes it difficult for LD students to understand at any rate. The group work aspect of the curriculum deprives students of guided practice from the teacher, making students with dyscalculia fall behind. Finally, since the Everyday Mathematics curriculum is a spiral curriculum, it allows students to come back to concepts, increasing the amount of review needed for dyscalculia students. However, the time spent reviewing topics when initially seen has proven to be insufficient for typically developing students and will thus be detrimental to student with dyscalculia. The Everyday Mathematics curriculum has its strengths and weaknesses in relation to the education of LD students. It is beneficial because it allows students to work with concrete materials, maximizes student involvement, and does not force students to memorize algorithms. However, it is detrimental because it is very reading and writing based and sometimes has ambiguous instruction on basic concepts. In an inclusion classroom, it can be very difficult to adjust the curriculum to accommodate everyone. While the “Everyday Mathematics Teacher’s Reference Manual” offers ways to adjust the curriculum to fit the needs of students with special needs, the ideas presented by the writers of Everyday Mathematics do not appear to be beneficial. For example, it encourages teachers to “not dwell on one skill area or concept, even if some have yet to

Brevart 26 master it.” 60 This is directly contradictory to the idea that LD students need to fully understand a concept before they move on to more difficult concepts. In an inclusion classroom, if a teacher were to use the Everyday Mathematics curriculum, LD students would get left behind.

Effectiveness of Everyday Mathematics Throughout this analysis, both the beneficial and inhibiting aspects of the Everyday Mathematics curriculum have been highlighted and critiqued. The theory of situated learning has shown that the participation aspect of Everyday Mathematics encourages students to think for themselves and that the social aspect of learning in Everyday Mathematics helps students prepare for the real world. On the other hand, forced participation is not the ideal vehicle for every student to learn by and sometimes the amount of participation in Everyday Mathematics takes away from the amount of time for reflection to develop a deeper understanding. The theory of culture has shown that Everyday Mathematics can help students of low socio-economic status as it relates to the real world. However, the curriculum does not meet the needs of every culture and some of the activities are ineffective with different groups of kids. Last, the theory of constructivism has shown us that the spiral curriculum of Everyday Mathematics is an effective idea that can be used in the classroom. On the other hand, the spiral curriculum has not proven to be a good means of teaching math and the idea of one constructing his own way to solve a problem has proved detrimental to the future of the child. While there are a large amount of both positive and negative points, the negative outweighs the positive. Everyday Mathematics is scattered, unclear and detrimental to the

“Teacher’s Reference Manual”, 29.

Brevart 27 future of students. The spiral curriculum is often confusing, even though educators are reassured that students will understand once the curriculum circles back. There is no clear connection between the topics as the curriculum jumps between concepts and prevents students from establishing crucial connections linking these concepts. Finally, the lack of essential algorithms and a textbook do not allow students to build the foundation that they need to succeed in their futures as math students. Various studies have shown the negative outcomes of Everyday Mathematics. Throughout this analysis, these outcomes can be clearly seen. The ideas behind Everyday Mathematics are strong ideas and could be very effective, but the ways in which this curriculum aims to enforce and present these ideas has failed many students. Educators and parents across the nation reject the Everyday Mathematics curriculum for their children, and will most likely continue to reject the curriculum as more and more children are academically harmed.

Brevart 28 References Bell, Jean, Max Bell, Amy Dillard, Robert Hartfield, John Bretzlauf, Andy Isaacs, James McBride, Kathleen Pitvorec, Peter Saecker, Robert Balfanz, William Carroll, and Sheila Sconiers. Everyday Mathematics [4]. Teacher's Lesson Guide Volume 1. Chicago: SRA/McGraw-Hill, 2004. Print. Bell, Jean, Max Bell, John Bretzlauf, Amy Dillard, Robert Hartfield, Andy Isaacs, Deborah A. Leslie, James McBride, Kathleen Pitvorec, and Peter Saecker. Everyday Mathematics [4]. Student Reference Book. Chicago, IL: Wright Group/McGraw-Hill, 2004. Print. Bell, Max, Jean Bell, John Bretzlauf, Amy Dillard, Robert Hartfield, Andy Isaacs, James McBride, Kathleen Pitvorec, and Peter Saecker. Everyday Mathematics [4-6]: Teacher's Reference Manual Grades 4-6. Chicago, IL: Wright Group/McGrawHill, 2004. Print. Blackhurst, A. Edward., and William H. Berdine. An Introduction to Special Education. New York, NY: HarperCollins College, 1993. Print. Brown, John S., Allan Collins, and Paul Duguid. "Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning." Educational Researcher 18.1 (1989): 32-42. JSTOR. Web. 30 Nov. 2010. Bruner, Jerome S. "The Importance of Structure and The Spiral Curriculum." Ed. William H. Schubert, Robert V. Bullough, Craig Kridel, and John T. Holton. The American Curriculum. Ed. George Willis. Westport: Greenwood, 1993. 355-61. Print.

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