Math curriculum authorized by Norwalk BOE

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s middle school students will be using a new mathematics curriculum this year, authorized by a vote Tuesday by the Board of Education.

The “Big Ideas” math  curriculum was hailed by board member Artie Kassimis, who said his wife’s cousin is a teacher in Pennsylvania, where the curriculum is used. “She thinks it’s great,” he said.

The curriculum is part of the conversion to Common Core standards for grades 6-8. Board Chairman Mike Lyons said math instructional specialist Craig Crueller had presented detailed research about the program, including the information that students who get as far as Algebra II are 2½ times more likely to graduate from college than students who haven’t. Lyons referred to the GoMath curriculum used during the last year at Norwalk’s elementary schools.

“(Big Ideas) really does focus down on smaller number of topics but deeper treatment,” he said. “One thing that was a very interesting sort of revelation was how much this entire mathematics program focuses down on algebra. The whole GoMath program aims to get you to the point where you can handle algebra.”


10 responses to “Math curriculum authorized by Norwalk BOE”

  1. Norwalk Lifer

    The Big Ideas curriculum is the brain child of Harcourt, who has been the typical supplier of Math media to school systems for quite a few years.

    The premise is based on this study:


    BUT! as everything tied to bureacratic quasi political organisms, not raw data is available, so I would like to understand the “detailed study” that was presented to the BOE.

    One opinion from one board member does not merit agreement to me, did the BOE do a trade off on the curriculum? what are the Pros and Cons? what are the effects of causes with regards to the curriculum? do they know how to do this?

    We have seen math curriculums and science too, come and go throughout the years in the NPS. Are we looking at yet another “good idea” that will get abandoned once the shine has worn off? Has anyone studied if students going into middle school this year, were properly “prepped” for the Alegbra I graduation goal in 9th grade, and Alegbra II and Geometry graduation goal in the 9th grade?

    don’t play with this, do the research first, it might be a very good idea, but I’d rather hear from an independent group of quality minded professionals who know how to run a Failure Mode Analysis on the program first.

    Norwalk Lifer

  2. 2+2=5

    And just how much do all these new text books cost us? What happens to the old text books. If those were capitalized and they are disposed, then the full expense has to hit this year. Has that cost been factored in?

  3. Don’t Panic

    Maybe that stat contained more info than made it into the article. 2-1/2 more times liklier to graduate from college than whom? Students that get to Algebra II in other programs? Or students that do not make it to Algebra II at all? The former is an endorsement of the program against alternatives. The latter an endorsement of teaching higher math.
    The great majority of students will not need Algebra to succeed in running a business or balancing their checkbooks and the suggestion that they must have a goal of mastering it will scare them.
    A good grounding in statistical math to judge the claims of scientists and politicians as well as financial math to judge mortgages and insurance policies will serve most who aren’t pursuing STEM careers.

  4. M Allen

    That’s right, Panic. We don’t need as many critical thinkers these days. We need more ditch diggers. Who needs that silly math stuff anyway, especially for a running a business… of ditch diggers.

  5. Norwalk Spectator

    I don’t think it is quite that simplistic, M. Allen. The students need to know their math facts and they need to know how math operates on a daily basis.
    The number of times I’ve had to help someone count back change in stores is phenomenal. Ever try handing a cashier at a fast food place $5.06 for a $3.56 order? They don’t understand the concept and don’t know the process, so they can’t do the simple arithmetic involved. (And for those who are math challenged on this, here’s the process – the .06¢ cancels out. That leaves you with $3.50. Take 2 quarters from the cash drawer, which brings the amount up to $4.00. Subtract 4 dollars from 5 dollars and take that amount out of the cash drawer.)
    Lest you think I have condescending attitude about this, please know I am dyslexic with numbers and really had to work hard to learn how to do this. Since then, I’ve had to teach at least three Special Education students how to do it. Most of the time they were reluctant to learn it until I pointed out that this was a great way to be cheated out of money. That got their attention fast. Ditch digger or Ph.D, nobody wants to be cheated.

  6. M Allen

    Spectator, I hear you. God knows the basics have to be both taught and mastered. I’m just saying that algebra teaches far more than how to solve a simple math equation. It is part and parcel of learning critical thinking skills. I’m not saying everyone will use those skills later in life, but to discount something as elementary as algebra, as Mr. Panic seemed to do, is a bit short sighted.
    To me, just my low-level opinion, the curriculum doesn’t matter. My parents learned, I learned, my daughter is learning today and we all had different curriculums along the way. Perhaps not every student is going to learn what needs to be learned in the same amount of time. Maybe we need to stop putting a time limit on what we consider to be the fundamental basics. But we need to stop advancing students who don’t show a mastery of the subject matter we require to be the baseline material.

  7. Anne Sullivan

    I believe the textbooks are being paid for out of a grant.

  8. jlightfield

    @M Allen, your observation about curriculum systems is spot on. Too much time and energy is spent obsessing over textbooks and what is being taught instead of investing in how a person is taught to learn. More than ever, life in a disruptive economy, tech based and global requires critical thinking skills and the ability to engage in continuous learning, experimentation and risk taking. My only objection to new textbooks stems in corporate goal of producing new textbooks with little to no new content (more at the collegiate level) and a trend away from primary source material.

  9. Don’t Panic

    My point is that some kids will be put off by the notion that they are going to be forced to master algebra. Kids struggling with the foundations for higher math might be motivated to drop out rather than admit they don’t get it, which explains the correlation with going on to college.
    I’ve known plenty of small business owners earning a good living without having learned algebra. Not everyone is tempermentally suited to the kinds of occupations requiring this level of education.
    I’m guessing that this might just be an observation, not the overriding objective of the program, but I’d hate to see the teachers getting the blame for it if the completion rates go down after this is in place.

  10. Since I chair the Board’s Curriculum Committee, let me try to bring some facts to bear here.

    First, we are not adopting a “Big Ideas” CURRICULUM, but rather are extending our adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to middle school, a process that has been underway for many years in America and for two years here in Norwalk. The new CCSS national standards were officially adopted in July 2010 by the State of Connecticut. CCSS is a voluntary, 46-State movement designed to make America globally competitive and to restore rigor and confidence in our schools. We are working to get ahead of the curve in preparing for the new national testing that begins with the 2014-15 school year. Big Ideas is just a very good resource that will help us teach and achieve our Common Core curriculum; it is not the curriculum itself.
    See http://www.corestandards.org. Note that “Big Ideas Learning.com” is NOT a subsidiary of HMH; they only distribute the books for the author, Ron Larson. Larson split off from HMH years ago because he wanted total creative control over his math programs. The man is a living legend in the math world. His focus (and his company’s) is now on middle school math.

    Second, we have fully-articulated Curriculum and Pacing Guides for Grades 6-8 that will soon be on the Norwalk schools’ website (just as the K-5 standards are now) for public review. These guides will detail exactly what is going to be addressed for each mathematics unit from September thru June. The Guides determine what is to be taught, not the textbooks. The textbooks are tools – one of many – which will be used to teach that curriculum.
    See http://portal.norwalkps.org/curriculum/K12/math/Pages/Common%20Core(Math).aspx

    Third, the Algebra statistic is real. It was first documented by Achieve.org during the American Diploma Project (ADP), and it has been duplicated in other independent research as well. Taking Algebra II does not GUARANTEE a college degree, but the correlation is striking. Mike Cohen from Achieve.org regularly presents at the GE Developing Futures CCSS conference in Florida; and both he and his organization are reputable researchers. It is interesting to note that the American Diploma Project (ADP) was started in 1996 by the National Governors Association – the same group that brought us the Common Core State Standards.
    See http://www.achieve.org/american-diploma-project

    Finally, all of this information (and much more) is available on our own NPS website – simply click on the CCSS link/logo on the right hand middle of our home page and take advantage of all of the resources available to our stakeholders. This page also includes a direct link to the new SBAC test where people can take a sample and see the level of rigor now required of our students.
    See http://portal.norwalkps.org/curriculum/ccss/Pages/default.aspx

    I hope this helps.

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