Monday, November 12, 2012

What Makes a Good Math Program?

What makes a good Math program?

For years, my district has been using Everyday Mathematics as our basic math program.  There are loads of things I like about it, but a few things I don't like about it.

Before that, we used Mathland.  There were loads of things I liked about it, but a few things I didn't like about it.

Before that, I've used Addison Wesley, Math Their Way, and absolutely nothing but teacher made materials.  There were loads of things I liked about all these programs, and a few things I didn't like about each of them.

Because we are adopting the Common Core standards, my district is looking for a math series that closer aligns with the Common Core.

I am lucky to be one of the elementary teachers who is piloting one of the new programs:  enVision Math!

Another group of elementary teachers is piloting Math in Focus.

The rest of the elementary teachers are continuing with Everyday Mathematics.

All the piloting teachers met on Friday for some serious discussion on both series, hoping to lead to some decisions.

Here's what we found:
  • Both series cover the Common Core standards beautifully.  The Scope and Sequence for both programs are nearly identical, although the concepts aren 't necessarily taught in the same order.
  • enVisions has homework and centers that are easily differentiated.
  • Math in Focus tends to be a tad more challenging, especially at the beginning of the year.
  • Both programs are accessible online.  (The Math in Focus people weren't sure how accessible because they were still having some issues getting there.)
  • enVisions has tests online which gives nice print outs for parent communication.  It also has cute videos to introduce every lesson.
  • Math in Focus is based on the well-known Singapore Math.  The Common Core Standards for math are also based on Singapore Math. The enVision program is based on the Common Core Standards.
  • enVisions has easily differentiated materials, but none of the teachers using it felt it was differentiated enough for the highest students.
  • Children in classes for both programs are feeling good about math and having success.
Clearly, no decision has been made yet for next year.  What do you think makes a good math program?  What would you want to see?

31 comments:

  1. I teach 4th grade and have been using EnVisions for the last few years. I'm interested to see how the new Common Core version lines up with the new Common Core Standards. We have had a lot of issues aligning our current version of Envisions with the new standards. We've had to create a lot of worksheets on our own in order to match the standards, increase rigor, add inquiry, and expose students to more word problems. I can't wait to hear which program your district chooses. We will also be getting a new math program at some point.

    Jennifer
    Elementary School Garden

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    Replies
    1. Jennifer,
      The teachers who are using the Common Core version of enVisions are very happy with how it aligns. I'll be sure to post when the district makes a decision!

      Sally

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  2. I use EnVisions in California, and I'll tell you as a K-3 teacher I love, love, love that the chapters are separate books (can you imagine lugging home four grades worth of teacher editions?) and each has a little portfolio of blackline masters for the chapter. No pulling from the testing book, and the ESL book, and the reteaching book, and the enrichment book, etc. Grab and go to the printer. I made myself a blackline master set prepped the way I want for the chapter the first year, and now I just plop that in, put how many copies I want, set it for collated or grouped copies (depending on the grade level) and go. It has a lot more problem solving woven in than our past programs, but the text difficulty is too hard for the K-1 kids. It is not ideal by any means, but pretty good. FYI second grade needs to cover multiplication way before the end of the year for most standardized testing, but they put it as the last two chapters. So I bump 3 digit addition and subtraction back. If they can do two digit, they get three pretty easily.

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    Replies
    1. sassygirl,
      Thanks for the great input! I love the thin teacher additions as well! Some of my second graders struggle with the reading part of the problem solving, but I love the emphasis on problem solving.

      Sally

      Delete
  3. We use EnVisions in our whole county and NO ONE LIKES IT!!!!!!! There is no "depth" to it at all and only has a few examples of each topic. I teach 2nd grade and we have to go elsewhere to find materials to teach the Common Core. Maybe we don't have all the resources to go with EnVision, but what we do have, we hate!!
    susanlulu@yahoo.com

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    Replies
    1. Susan,
      The edition we're piloting was designed around the Common Core, so I suspect they've made quite a few changes!

      Sally

      Delete
  4. We looked at Envisions and ended up going with Go Math because of the spiraling and technology component of it. The first few chapters have been very foreign to the kids, but we are starting to see a lot of progress in the knowledge and understanding of number sense. This was said to be written TO the common core instead of adapted for the common core. So far, we like what we see.

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  5. Our district started using enVisions this year. We had little to no training before starting the year with children; we also had nothing to see but the teacher booklets until the first day of school! Last week after ten weeks of school, we had 3 hours of training. This was a poor way to implement it. The primary teachers can't stand it, but the 3-6 teachers seem to like it. I teach K, and I don't like it at all - it seems to force Concrete-Representational-Abstract all at once instead of scaffolding in a developmental way up to the abstract. It's difficult to fit everything in during the block that we have allotted for math with no support staff and a room full of frustrated children. It takes a lot of time to adapt the lessons to make them understandable to my students, finding supporting materials and activities, and now putting screenshots of the student mats, practice pages and common core review pages on my SMART Board. All in all, we could have done with a LOT more training from instructors who speak to us at our own specific grade levels instead of trying to generalize to the whole school, and more prep time to understand how to structure the lessons best for the students, use the resources that are available (there are a lot), and develop supporting lessons and activities so that students reach their goals.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Erin,
      Thanks for the input!

      Sally

      Delete
    2. I have to agree. The k version is developmentally inappropriate. I was doing teacher made lessons based on brain based learning and the common core and both my children and I loved math. Now that we have to revert back to envisions (used it before and stopped because we didn't like it) my students hate math and our learning has come to a crawl instead of growing by leaps and bounds.

      Delete
  6. We use Envision...and since we are still taking the California State test..we have had to rely on making our own tests to better fit the CST. Unfortunately, Envision does not question or present lessons the way the CST does. It will be interesting to see how it ties with Common Core. We have two more years though, until it becomes a reality in our district.

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    Replies
    1. Jennie,

      I'm glad the kids in our district aren't tested until third grade!

      Sally

      Delete
  7. I have been using Envisions in first grade for the past 5 years. My team and most of the first grade teachers in my district HATE IT!!! As mentioned above, there is very little review. We have the digital path online and on DVD. The lessons are pathetic. The vocabulary shown in these videos have nothing to do with math. If the story has a frog as a character than frog is one of the vocabulary words. The reteaching and practice pages also come in a homework booklet that we must send home for homework, so no chance of using them in class. The differentiated games are awful. Pearson could have done better. If you are using it now or will be soon, beware of Topic 2 (ordering and comparing numbers.)The test for that topic is not well written and almost none of our students pass it but will do just fine on our district benchmark test were those concepts are presented again.

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  9. I noticed that with our enVisions manipulatives kits, the materials seemed much more cheaply-made than in kits we received in the past, and not always the first choice for what the teachers would use with the recommended lessons. If you have the time, I would advise looking at what manipulatives come with each grade's kit (there are classroom kits and center kits with enVisions), and then doing a classroom inventory and supplementing with outside vendors if necessary to make up anything you need. It would be more cost-effective unless your school really doesn't have much in the way of manipulatives.

    There are a few positives about enVisions. The online components are really helpful and numerous, although they are easier to use when planning than with or in front of the class (cumbersome to navigate). As a previous comment mentioned, they make it nice for a teacher who doesn't want to lug around a lot of manuals and materials. And, it does a really good job of aligning to the CCSS and building K6. But, as a K teacher, too much, too fast! I'm still figuring it all out. Growing pains.

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  10. Our district is talking about piloting a new math program next year (we got a new Literacy program this year and they felt it would be too much). Right now we are using Growing with Mathematics, which is very literacy based (and nowhere near CC aligned), and is not even made anymore. (Try to find replaceables for that!)

    I've used Everyday Math before and it is so not my favorite. I'm hoping they decide to test out EnVisions or Singapore Math (I'm also hoping to be one of the teachers to pilot!). But right now it is all up in the air...hopefully they'll make a decision soon so we can do a full-year pilot (with picking the Literacy series last year they did a 1/3 year pilot).

    Definitely things to think about as curriculum gets more rigorous!

    :) Kaitlyn
    Smiles and Sunshine

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  11. We have been using Envision in our district for 5 years and I am one of the few teachers that actually like it. A big part of that is because I was lucky enough to have the 40 hour training because I was at a Title One school at the time, but all the other teachers in my district had a 3 hour training! Can you imagine trying to learn all that in 3 hours? So they don't really understand the program. One thing it doesn't do to well is differentiate for your high kids. I have to do a lot of extra. Our district is up for a new adoption in two years and I hope we go with Singapore Math:)

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  12. This is the first year my district has utilized EnVision Common Core math. With it being a transition year, upper grade students (3-6) are struggling to make the transition from our previous program to this. EnVision CC really stepped it up for the students in my district. The teachers LOVE the materails online, especially the student activities and the ability to track individual student progress. As a special education teacher, I love having access to all materials without having to have additional teacher guides. And more importantly, I LOVE being able to log on and see how students are doing with material and in compared to other kiddos. The reteaching materials are great. The fifth grade teacher has noticed a lot of problems with her online materials and sometimes the tests. There are many days we end up with sixth grade material being presented instead of 5th grade. Overall, though, our district really likes the EnVision for common core. We also were doing well to make AYP in our district before changing curriculum material. We only switched, I feel, to meet CCSS requirements which our state is not fully adopting for several more years.

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  13. My county adopted the Common Core version of EnVisions this year and I TOTALLY agree with Erin and Christina - we all hate it! I am still trying to find a system in my classroom that will allow success for everyone, including myself, with this program. My firsties BOMBED several of the first few topic tests because I had taught them so much in so little time, they didn't know what to do with it all!

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  14. sorry, it wasn't Christina I agreed with, it was Gina. :)

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  15. We use EnVisions in Memphis, too. We end up making our own tests for the topics. I always think I've gotten the lesson across and then when we take the tests, it's a disaster!

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    Replies
    1. Cindy,

      So far, my kids are successful. I hope it stays that way!

      Sally

      Delete
    2. I totally agree. The tests are terrible!

      Delete
  16. enVision Math is very useful but very sad to say in my country Bangladesh teacher are not used to about it. they teach elementary math from indian writer. i still waiting when our teacher will be intelligent.

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  18. I am wondering which program your district adopted. We are faced with the same choices.
    Tara

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