Z:\DOC\WEB\2003\11\antisax.txt
Victor Steinbok [Victor.Steinbok##verizon.net]
At 7:39 -0700 11.11.03, Becky Schaller wrote:
I know Saxon Math has been discussed here before, but for some reason
I'm having trouble navigating the archives. I keep getting the same
few messages.
Does anyone know of any long/middle term research on Saxon math. For
example if students use Saxon math in elementary school and their test
scores go up, do those test scores remain up in middle school? Or is
the gain temporary?
Generally, this kind of "research" is only done by publishers
themselves--they proudly announce the "success stories" and quietly
sweep the rest under the rug. What is otherwise compared in
quantitative studies using test scores is methodology. Generally, the
research consensus has been that if the teachers "buy into" the
program--ardently believe in and support its goals and methods--the
success rate will be higher NO MATTER WHAT THE METHODOLOGY. The
classes that match teachers ideologically inclined to one side with
methods from the opposite camp tend to do a lot worse. If you browse
Education Researcher a few years back, you will find several such
reports plus bibliography to back them up, but I don't have the list
handy. A secondary outcome from these studies--rather similar to the
all-but-forgotten "Eight Year Study" from the 1930s (or was it "Seven
Year"? ;-))--is that the "progressive" methods' effects tend to
linger longer than the alternatives (I loathe to call them
"traditional"--they are anything but).
I vaguely recall of a couple of published reports contending just
what you are asking for--Saxon non-effect in long-term--but don't
have the references.
I ask this because our elementary school is being "encouraged" to adapt
Saxon Math.
"Encourage" to get those responsible fired. Saxon might work for
homeschooling parents with feeble math backgrounds (the more ardent
and the better educated ones will move up to Singapore, which is
night and day compared to Saxon), but no SCHOOL should be using this
drivel--in fact, many homeschooling parents tried Saxon on the advice
of other homeschoolers and dumped it right away. It is heavy on drill
and hand-waving but short on math--so much so that even the
California Math Nazis have initially disapproved Saxon, but a part of
the program sneaked in through a back door (it IS a multistage
process, even if all the stages are controlled by the same cabal--one
reason why Saxon was not initially approved was precisely because
they insisted on "math PhDs" running the initial screening and, those
same "math PhDs" took one look at Saxon and wretched). I should have
some specific comments by Hung-Hsi Wu about elementary Saxon lying
around somewhere or you can try searching this list or
mathforum.org/epigone/math-teach for "saxon" and "wu". Some of the
stuff that comes up is quite contentious (and, of course, I was in
the middle of it, so I know).
In any case, here's Wu's statement accompanied both before and after
by partial comments by Bill Jacob (another California mathematician,
but from, one can safely say, the opposite camp). Wu's comments are
offset by lines of "=" both above and below.
[To George Cunningham: if you are tempted to "share" this with your
Kto16 friends, don't bother--this has been discussed repeatedly on a
number of lists, so there is little new here.]
Prof. Hung-Hsi Wu Speaks about Saxon Mathematics
On October 6, 7, 2000 the Mathematics Content Review Panels met
to offer recommendations to the California State Board of
Education. All CRP members are required to have a Ph.D. in
mathematics and their job was to compare submitted K- 8 materials
with the California Mathematics Content Standards and determine how
close the fit was. At issue was not simply if a list of topics was
covered, but whether or not the mathematical content and reasoning
presented to students was sound.
What follows is the discussion by Prof. Wu taken from a video-tape
of a conversation about Saxon Mathematics with other CRP members.
(The text here is close to verbatim, but since it was an oral
presentation some incomplete sentences or repeated words were
deleted to increase readability.) The CRP discussions are governed
by California's Bagley-Keene public meetings act, and as such all
statements are public documents.
Consequently this text may be disseminated. Here is Dr. Wu's statement:
==========================================================
"But I think that what perhaps disturbs me the most about Saxon is
to read through it, I myself do not get the feeling that I am
reading something that when that the children use it they would even
have a remotely correct impression of what mathematics is about. It
is extremely good at promoting procedural accuracy. And what David
says about building everything up in small increments, that's
correct, but the great pedagogy is devoted, is used, to serve only
one purpose, which is to make sure that the procedures get
memorized, get used correctly. And you would get the feeling
that-I think of it as a logical analogy-you can see the skeleton
presented with quite a bit of clarity, but you never see any
methods, your never see any flesh, nothing-no connective tissue, you
only see the bare stuff.
A little bit of this is okay, but when you read through a whole
volume of it really I am very, very, uneasy. There are lots of
things in it that I admire, but something that is so one-sided-you
think once more about yourself and you think about what happens if
this thing gets adopted. There might be lots and lots of children
using it. And suppose that hundreds of thousands of students are
using this book and they go through four years of it. Would you be
willing to face the end result? That here are hundreds of thousands
of students thinking that mathematics is basically a collection of
techniques.
That impression by the way is very easy and is almost obtained-you
get it by looking at the topics. There is no rhyme or reason about
the sequencing of the topics. For example, the things are really
broken up. The report gives the examples. One of the grade levels,
grade four or grade five, has exactly two sections on probability
(that's right two sections). They belong together and without a
doubt there is no increase in sophistication or techniques, and yet
I think they are separated by 200 pages. When I do this I want to
emphasize that I do not single out one or two examples. I am trying
to describe through one or two examples the overall the overriding
impression that I have. And when that happens, you get the feel
that if my students use this, how could they not get the idea that
mathematics is just a collection of techniques? If that is the case,
what happens to them when they go on to middle school, and then to
high school, and after that, God forbid, you might be facing them in
your freshman calculus classes. And that is a frightening thought!
Now I think that Saxon definitely has a capability of doing a better
job. Those guys, there is at least one guy there who knows enough
mathematics to do it. It's a matter of a decision. And now I want
to say something about our decision. Now this may be extraneous and
I may be overstepping myself. I think that this program is probably
as good as it comes in dealing with the existing standardized tests.
For sure if you go through this program you can raise test scores.
Not so much the SAT anymore, but at least for the other tests you
see before high school, like the SAT 9.
Again I don't know if I am overstepping my bounds, but I think
students who have probably sort of lost interest in mathematics, and
you want to bring them back, what you could do, they need a very
firm structure to direct their energy and attention to something
they can do immediately. For that purpose, I can conceive of nothing
better than the Saxon approach because they provide small increments
and at each step they show them there is something they can do.
But now unfortunately, we are not free to say that some school
should do this. The Framework gives the description and we don't
have much freedom in this matter. I would say that if I had a
choice, if I was God, I would go to each school and make a
judgement. And I would say that if the overwhelmingly majority of
the students are basically at risk, mathematically that is, then as
something to get you started I might prescribe Saxon for the first
two years. But after that, to go on to a better book. If there is a
better book, which my impression is that there are some on a higher
level. I would do that. I think that is a definite place for the
Saxon book. But unfortunately, I am being called upon to make
judgement based upon the Standards and the Framework. And if this
is what I have to do, I cannot with a good conscience, I cannot do
it, to say that this is passable."
==========================================================
***Suggestions for California Parents and Teachers.
If your students are studying mathematics using this program, you
should ask (as Dr. Wu does) if the majority of the students in the
class are at risk mathematically. And if not, you must demand that
the district immediately move them into a college preparatory
mathematics program.
It may be that the district is using the program to raise test
scores-and in fact, the intensive work with computation found in
this program may increase students' scores on computation items.
But students will not be prepared for high school mathematics if
they are confined to a program that consists of an incoherent
sequence of computational techniques that is devoid of the
mathematical reasoning and conceptual development required by the
California Standards and Framework. This is why Saxon was rejected
in grades 4-6 for by California's Content Review Panel.
Special note for California Teachers: You should also keep in mind
that the same criticisms apply to other computation-only programs
approved by the State Board during summer 1999. Some districts are
using programs labeled by the Board as "partial programs" (for
example, MathSteps) as their full instructional program. If this is
the case, students are being severely short-changed by a lack of
conceptual development. These programs are merely skill
supplements, and if used as a full program, the same criticisms Wu
has of the Saxon program apply. If your students are in this
situation, as teachers and parents you should immediately demand
they receive a full college preparatory mathematics curriculum.
--
VS-)
"I'll play it first and tell you what it is later."
Miles Davis
PAVURSOL.aol.com
Please post any negative experiences you had with Saxon, because
I haven't heard any specific criticisms other than it's not
compliant with NCTM philosiphy
My kids are pretty good students. Saxon was deadly boring; all kids on
the same page at the same time. One page was done with the teacher
(reading the script provided); the back page came home for homework.
The pages repeated skills over and over. One page might have measuring
on it, addition and subtraction, a graph, and a word problem. The
back page would be a mirror of the front page. My sister's kids in FL
were in Saxon but had started back to school 7 days ahead of us so
they were 7 pages ahead of us; they would call and give us heads up
for anything tricky.
For kids who struggle, the jumping from one thing to another was hard
and there wasn't enough practice examples for them to really get it.
Additionally, there were only 6 or7 questions on the page so missing
one got you a bad grade. My kids would miss, not because they didn't
know, but because they only used a small portion of their brain on the
boring stuff. We dumped Saxon because it wasn't aligned with SOLs
(okay, so there's a benefit of SOLs).
Mickey