Thursday, April 23, 2009

Math Wars

I have been spending most of the day and evenings learning about the various math textbooks available for K-5 graders.  Our school district is going through a new math textbook adoption cycle, which will be for the next 7 years.  Frankly, I was not that concerned about it, but my wife began to do research.  You see, my wife is much more detailed and focused than I am.  When she focuses on a topic, she wants to know everything about it, but unfortunately when their are actions to be taken, that is when I enter the picture.  "Have you seen what is going on with the Math Adoption at school?"  "Nope, I think it will be fine" I respond.  "No, you need to read this and I want you to call the Superintendent and the School Board and attend these meetings...." she responds.  So you see, I have been spending the last two weeks doing just that.  I know more about math textbooks and the process of adopting a new textbook, than I ever wanted to know.

I am on our elementary school's site council, so I felt it was my duty to help address some of the issues with the particular "controversial" textbook that the committee chose.  Being the go between when you have teachers/staff on one side and parents on the other is no small task.  It's like those police negotiators that wear a bulletproof vest and enter a bank to negotiate for hostage release with the bank robbers.  In this case, the stakes are much higher.  Mine, my wife's, and our children's reputation in the community are on the line as I attend board meetings and present my thoughts.  The good thing that came out of this process is a realization of just how many parents care about the education of their children.  Not all, but many parents have spent hours and hours researching the various textbook curricula and the data supporting the teaching methods of other districts around the country and the world.  

At the end of day, however, I know that our boys are going to do just fine in Math no matter what textbook they choose for the district.  The reason I know this is that I'm sure we will supplement ourselves any shortcomings as well as provide outside tutoring if necessary.  We are a very privileged community and I am more worried about those family's will special financial or learning difficulties that may not be able to make up for curriculum shortcomings with additional tutoring or summer programs.  At the end of the day, it is for those parents and families who cannot or unwilling to speak up for themselves that I must present their cases to the board.  I remember when I first came to America and I could not speak English.  It is a good thing that my parents always taught us to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.  It is a good reminder of our responsibilities.

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