March 23, 2010

Will Issaquah Pick Poor Math Books?

Issaquah and Sammamish are home to a well educated population, many of which are employed in professional and high tech occupations. Thus, it is surprising that the Issaquah School District administration is doing everything possible to place very poor math books in its schools.

Tomorrow (Wednesday, March 24) night the Issaquah School Board will vote on the administration's recommendation for the Discovering Math series in their high schools. These are very poor math texts:

(1) Found to be "unsound" by mathematicians hired the State Board of Education.
(2) Found to be inferior to a more traditional series (Holt) by pilot tests by the Bellevue School District
(3) That have been rejected by Bellevue, Lake Washington, North Shore, and Shoreline (to name only a few)
(4) Whose selection by the Seattle School District was found to be arbitrary and capricious by King County Judge Spector.
(5) That are classic, weak, inquiry or "reform" math textbooks that stress group work, student investigations, and calculator use over the acquisition of key math skills.

The Issaquah school administration is trying to push these books through with little input from parents or other interested parties. Their curriculum committee has only teachers, and fairly inexperienced ones at that, with no parents allowed. The Superintendent is actively lobbying for the books. One of his big arguments is that Discovering is consistent with the current (very poor) math books they already have.

If you want more information on this potential disaster for district kids, please go to:

If these books are approved, it will be very, very difficult for any Issaquah child to secure a decent math education. It is critical that parents and interested parties attend the board meeting tomorrow night and email their board members ( and the Issaquah Superintendent. If the wrong books are selected, the damage will continue for another decade, unless a parent lawsuit ensues.

Meeting info:

The board meeting will start at 7:00 PM at District Offices. Public comments will be taken before the vote.


  1. Can you provide any input on the Pearson Prentice Hall math textbooks that Northshore SD is currently transferring to?

  2. Thank God Northshore is abandoning the Core Plus curriculum. What a joke that was. My daughter called it touchy-feely math and nearly wept with joy when she was able to leave it behind for a traditional pre-calculus curriculum.

  3. I looked up these books to see what all the fuss was about and I was appalled. Read the first three pages of the sample chapter and you'll see.

    How any reasonable person thinks these books are a good idea is beyond me...

  4. @Chris, Thanks for the link. The overuse of calculators in these textbooks is appalling. I grew up in Sammamish and feel like I wouldn't have been able to take Calculus in high school had I learned from this series.

    Overemphasis on doing the input for you and odd examples seem less thought provoking and would appear not to allow for real learning.

    I hope my hometown does the right thing and does NOT endorse this Discovery series.

  5. I've been following the math adoption issues in Washington and you, sir, are doing an excellent job of raising the alarm. What I haven't seen so far is an attempt to investigate why this is happening in so many districts. My earlier immersion in Chicago politics may infect my mind but I think there is a lot of funny business going on behind the scenes. People like to assume that school board members and superintendents are working for the kids. Some are, and some are moved by promises, gifts, even bribes. Try to find the person(s) selling these inferior books and follow the money.

  6. It feels like this is the natural result when you put decisions in the hands of high-up authorities and take them away from actual teachers.

    And maybe that anyone who spends the time to get elected probably isn't spending much time teaching. Sad.

    I looked at the Discovering Algebra sampler just now. The simple language feels like someone in the 3rd or 4th grade could make use of it as a primer - maybe get through it in a few months just to get their feet wet. Hopefully the language is correct. I didn't dig too much into that.

    As a teacher I would want to follow up in the second half with a targeted approach going into more depth about key concepts.

    The mindless calculator exercises bother me, though, as it seems very easy to get through the book without paying attention to anything but the most superficial detail. Which is probably its greatest failing for students.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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