In an effort to better understand the decision to adopt the Investigations math curriculum, I sought out input from practicing educators and education administrators.
One important thing to note is that both studies that are being circulated and posted are focused on disadvantaged school districts. River Forest is not a disadvantaged school district. These studies are not relevant or useful in the selection process for our math curriculum.
District 90 engaged in a systematic and extensive process to select the current math curriculum. While I agree that it is important to ask questions, I also think it is important to listen to the answers. Please feel free to share this information with anyone who may be interested in learning more about Investigations (D90's K-5 math curriculum) and the decision-making process. I encourage you to reach out to Dr. Hawley if you have any questions; I have always found her to be very willing to chat.
-Investigations allows for high rigor and conceptual thinking, and therefore is better suited for River Forest
-Teachers continue to deliver instruction in the classroom, students are not “teaching” each other
-Investigations is a rigorous curriculum that allows for multiple entry points, thus allowing to meet each child at their individual level and challenge them appropriately
-D90 teachers requested a review of curriculum and then engaged in a multi-step process over multiple years to find the best option
Statement: Saxon and Math Expressions are superior math programs and could lead to greater gains in River Forest.
Fact: Investigations allows for high rigor and conceptual thinking and therefore is better suited for River Forest.
Both Saxon and Math Expressions are math programs that are better suited for children who need basic instruction and basic skills strengthening. The abstract below summarizes the 2013 study that has been circulated and it clearly discusses how the study is focused on disadvantaged schools and on students who need basic instruction. River Forest is not a disadvantaged district and the majority of our students do not have weak math skills that require basic instruction thus, this study is not relevant.
From the 2009 study, it specifically says on page xxi in the Executive Summary: “Lastly, because the participating sites are not a representative sample of districts and schools, the design does not support making statements about effects for districts and schools outside of the study.”
Investigations was chosen by our teachers because it allows for both foundational instruction and exploration of concepts. Investigations works on key math skills but also allows for higher level thinking and is thus better suited for a high achieving district like River Forest. In the 2013 study, the authors note that Investigations is a more rigorous curriculum and that is most likely why it did not lead to greater increases in the disadvantaged districts that they were studying. Investigations was not right for disadvantaged schools where students needed help with basic math skills – but it is right for River Forest schools and River Forest students because it allows for high rigor and conceptual thinking.
Statement: Investigations relies on students teaching students.
Fact: Teachers continue to deliver instruction in the classroom students are not “teaching” each other.
Teachers begin lessons with direct instruction to the whole group. Students then engage in class-wide and small-group discussions, hands-on learning as well as individual work and skill practice. This does not constitute peer-to-peer instruction and is consistent with how teachers in this district have taught for years.
Statement: Investigations has low ceilings and is dumbing down instruction.
Fact: Investigations is a rigorous curriculum that allows for multiple entry points, thus allowing to meet each child at their individual level and challenge them appropriately.
Investigations teaches foundational skills but also allows for higher level conceptual thinking. No math program on the market provides materials that will challenge every student at every grade level. District 90 is encouraging teachers to complete curriculum hours to create and plan enrichment opportunities in math. As such, this additional work would be a necessary supplement to any curriculum that could have been adopted. One example of supplemental materials are the Three Act Tasks that teaches kids about identifying the problem, determining the information they have, and figuring out the information they need to solve the problem.
Three Act Tasks: https://whenmathhappens.com/3-act-math/
Statement: The adoption of the new math curriculum is driven by D90’s Vision for Equity and was a rushed process.
Fact: D90 teachers requested a review of curriculum and then engaged in a multi-step process over multiple years to find the best option.
D90 teachers requested a review of curriculum because they were not happy with EngageNY and wanted to find a better option. The D90 Math Leadership Team (K-8 math teachers, math specialists, and administrators) worked under the guidance of University of Illinois at Chicago's Metro Chicago Math Initiative (MCMI) in selecting a new math curriculum. MCMI selected from a larger body of research in the field of math education to inform our D90 Vision of Mathematics Education; much of research looks at the big picture of a K-8 math education to ensure the long-term success of all students. The district also used CCSSO Mathematics Curriculum Analysis Tool. It is 103 pages total and MCMI helped pare that down and focus on the priorities that best match D90’s needs. This tool was used to vet the original five programs we started with in order to narrow it down to two programs for the classroom pilot. Those five programs were Engage NY, Everyday Math 4, Investigations, Trailblazers, and Math in Focus.
Sample of resources used by the district
Adding it Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics:
National Research Council. Helping Children Learn Mathematics. Jeremy Kilpatrick, Jane Swafford, eds., Center for Education, Division of Behavioral And Social Sciences Education. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press, 2005, Seventh Printing.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (book)
Principles to Actions: Ensuring Mathematical Success for All (2014).
Common Core Standards for Mathematics, Appendix A: Designing Mathematics Courses Based on the Common Core Standards
Starting on page 80, Appendix A addresses high school mathematics in middle school and middle school acceleration. The middle school focus on acceleration is in Grades 7 & 8.
Fluency Without Fear: discusses building conceptual understanding of math concepts, moving beyond rote memorization, and moving away from narrowing the focus of math to only procedures.
Raising the Expectations: A study that examines the impact of de-tracking.
The Rush to Calculus: Examination of the extent to which students persist with mathematics over time and the impact of students entering into STEM and mathematics careers.