When I was a child and had a question about my math homework, I was blessed (although probably at the time felt cursed) that both of my parents were Math Majors.  On these occasions, my evenings would consist of additional math instruction typically accompanied by the ever familiar discussion over which of them graduated from the more prestigious Jesuit campus of Fordham University.  My father claiming he graduated from the ‘real’ Fordham but my mother always held her own in the debate.   In hindsight, I recognize that women from my mother’s generation typically did not become engineers but were encouraged to become nurses, teachers, secretaries.  But, I digress.  What is important is that I was well served by their instruction and encouragement and have since had every math class of an electrical engineer.  For a decade, until I decided to stay home with the children, I was a programmer alongside some of the brightest analytical minds from around the globe.  But now it’s my turn to take the role as a supplementary instructor to my children with their math homework.

So, I’ll admit when I first became aware of the ‘Math Investigations’ program adopted by the County, I wasn’t overly concerned with the program because my children are bright and the fifth grader would be ‘transitioned’.  However, after witnessing the effect this program has had on my children I’m convinced it’s not a productive way to teach math.  In fact, I’m convinced someone with a double ‘e’ major has developed it; and I’m not talking about an Electrical Engineer but rather an individual with an Elementary Ed Degree.

I have told this story before but let me repeat it for the edification of everyone.  During my sophomore year of college, after my calculus class, where I most likely was working on differential equations or something equally as challenging, I went back to my apartment and found my Elementary Ed roommate cutting out squares and lining them up in rows and columns.  She then proceeded to count the squares which completely dumbfounded me because I couldn’t understand why anyone would waste their time with this exercise.  When I inquired about why she would bother counting them, she told that she ‘just wanted to make sure’.  I remember being somewhat appalled at the time, and thinking that someone like her could one day teach my children math. It must have been a premonition of sorts because it IS exactly this same methodology that is now being used on my children.

My fifth-grader has completely forgotten the traditional way of doing double digit multiplication, instead she draws a crazy square ‘lattice’ .  My second-grader is breaking down subtraction problems into ‘number statements’ in multiples of 5’s and 10’s, instead of stacking and subtracting.  These added steps confuse and often allow additional opportunities for mistakes which increase the chances of her getting the wrong answer.

These methods are so strange to parents that the county holds classes to teach the parents how the children are doing math. It’s absurd. Then certain board members think that because the parent classes are well attended that the program is a success? No, it’s because the concepts are so foreign that they need to take the class to understand what the heck is going on.

So, tonight, I will attend the Prince William County School Board Meeting at 7pm to speak out in opposition to the ‘Math Investigation’ program.  I understand there has been a growing resistance to this curriculum for quite some time and I always thought that the school board would realize the folly of their ways and abandon the instruction.  Unfortunately this hasn’t happened.  Now, I believe this school board might not realize the detriment of this program until a generation of children have been branded with this tainted methodology.

There have been a couple informational websites developed where more can be learned and there’s a petition that can be signed to show your opposition.  Please consider adding your voice to those that believe this curriculm is detrimental to our students.

More information can be found here –



160 Thoughts to “Prince William County’s Math Investigations Program”

  1. Sceptical

    Sorry, it’s easy to loose track of who has what. Why don’t you calm down.

    I have read and posted on BVBLs math investigations page. I understand that he is upset with this representative. I have the same representative and the same qualms about him.

    That and math investigations are the only areas where we have crossed. He may have his agenda but I don’t think most of us share that.

    We keep asking about the blended approach because nobody can tell us what they changed when Dr Walts came up with the “idea”. I assumed as you seem to know so much more about the educational system in this country and county that you had looked into it.

  2. Anonymous

    No offense, and it’s not my place to say this so please forgive me if this crosses any lines, but will you two please cut out the bickering?!

    CO clearly believes the program is effective and bases that on her child’s experience and her research into it.

    Sk clearly believes the program is ineffective and bases that on her child’s experience and her research into it.

    I think that sums the positions up pretty succinctly, although I’m sure you’ll correct me if necessary.

    CO – do you believe an alternate instructional track, which your child would not be forced to participate in, adversely affect his / her education? If so, why?

    SK – why do you believe an alternate instructional track is the only acceptable alternative?

  3. Sceptical

    No offense taken; this is a good time to sum up.

    I believe my son along with most of the kids in PWC would benefit from a more traditionally based math education. The previous text was not ideal and some of the explanations in MI are good.
    My main disagreement is with their philosophy where they avoid the standard algorithms, regrouping, lowest common denominators etc.
    Group thinking/working is ok as an occasional method to get the kids working together but it takes too much time away from mastering math facts and practice at “sums”.

    I don’t believe that an alternate track is the only way however, given the maths departments stated belief in math investigations and given that the math department and TERCs guidelines say that MI should not be used piecemeal, I don’t think using MI as the primary text is going to get the results that I am looking for.

    The idea of an alternate track only came about because it was made clear that the board would not abandon MI unless something totally dramatic happened to the test results and with the teachers spending the last couple of months before the SOLs gearing the kids up to take them, that is not going to happen.

    I have grave concerns about kids that have done mainly MI moving into the traditional middle school program that we have or moving to another school district.

  4. pip squeak

    The letter printed on the dark screen shows just how low things get on bvbl. It stands to reason that employees will defend the things they do. It stands to reason that Linda Z would alert people favoring the program.

    Does Letiecq have a low point or should we expect him to go lower? This kind of bottom feeding is unacceptable. He toys with careers and charges people in the math department with violating the acceptable use policy. He would be crying and outraged if someone did the same to him.

    Actually, he is probably talking to himself. Do any of you all know those new people in the tread that attempts to destroy an employee’s career? Funny how they all just landed in time for yet another session of the politics of destroying others. The tools of learning should not be political. Teachers have every right to support that which they do and feel strongly about.

  5. Sceptical

    That’s why most of us have migrated over here to try and have a sensible discussion.
    I don’t like the nasty turn the board meeting took and the divide is going to be hard to fix but I am not after anybodies head.

  6. Moon-howler

    Hi Sceptical, did you get my message about the malfunction? I cannot get those links to come out of the spam folder. I am sorry and I did try. I saw them when someone else complained that theirs didn’t come through. I can force it if you want. Here is what I will require: 1. let me know you are doing it. 2. do 2 posts. leave the links out of one. 3. I will go pick up the links and force them into your post that appears.

    Regarding your above remark, we are glad that you feel this is the place to have a sensible discussion. We often don’t all agree, but I think most of us can have a civil discussion. (most of the time)

  7. Sceptical

    Sure. There are some more videos on youtube that are less chopped up for political reasons; you might want to add them to your other investigations piece.
    Just search for math investigations prince william and you’ll find them.

  8. Moon-howler

    Elena and Alanna might very well want to do that. They are more directly involved than I am. If there is something you want me to hook on to your post, let me know and I might be able to do it. I know I didn’t explain what happened all that well.

  9. […] provided video clips from the January 21st meeting (here).  Here another ANTI-BVBL writer explains why she finds Math Investigations […]

  10. […] Prince William County’s Math Investigations Program, […]

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