April 07, 2014

Math Books for Seattle: Will the District Make a Wise Choice?

Seattle Public Schools is in the home stretch of picking new K-5 math textbooks and if you live in Seattle you can have a voice in the decision.  See below how you can make your opinions heard.

As I have described in several previous blogs, Seattle is now using a terrible math series for K-5: Everyday Math.  It has undermined the math learning of Seattle students for too long.

After lots of complaints and the evident failure of Everyday Math, the Seattle School District began a selection process for a replacement, managed by a Math Adoption Committee.  After some deliberation and limited input from the community, they have narrowed the field to three books:
  1. Math in Focus - The Singapore Approach pub. Houghton-Mifflin
  2. enVision Math   pub. Pearson Education
  3. Go Math!   pub. Houghton-Mifflin
Math in Focus is clearly the best of the lot.  enVision Math is far better than Everyday Math, but a step down.  Go Math is the weakest.  Here are a few comments on these books.

Math in Focus

Math in Focus is the Americanized version of the highly acclaimed  Singapore Math program (Singapore students have some of the best math performance in the world). 

Reasonably clear exposition of elementary math in a solid, well-designed package.  Highline Schools adopted Math in Focus a few years ago, with substantial improvements in standardized math tests.  A NY Times story on Singapore Math, including its MIF version, is very positive, with parents suggesting it to be far superior to Everyday Math.
EnVision Math

EnVision is lacking in depth in many topics (e.g., multi-digit addition and subtraction) and does not
provide adequate practice to ensure procedural fluency. The exposition ranges from barely o.k. to downright awful. 

Go Math

Busy, graphics-heavy layout. Distracted presentation, jumps from foundation to skill to application and back again without giving a student time to master anything, just running in place. Too many of the assessments were multiple choice. 

The Seattle Math Adoption Committee will be considering public input, and quite honestly they really need the input form parents and the community to ensure a mistake is not made again.  You can either do this in person at several school libraries or provide your comments online/mail..

In person viewing and commenting can be done at  five school libraries during school hours:
  •    MAGNOLIA: Catherine Blaine K-8, 2550 34th Ave W, 252-1920
  •    RAVENNA: Bryant Elementary, 3311 NE 60th St., 252-5200
  •    NORTH END: Northgate Elementary, 11725 1st Ave NE, 252-4180             
  •    WEST SEATTLE: West Seattle Elementary, 6760 34th Ave SW,  252-9450       
  •    RAINIER VALLEY: Wing Luke Elementary, 3701 S Kenyon St., 252-763
School libraries are only open during school hours, usually around 8-3, but are also open some evenings for special programs. All schools Closed for Spring Break: April 12-April 20.

 Or come to the Douglass-Truth Public Library, 2300 E Yesler Way, 684-4704 during open hours:
Mon-Thur 10AM to 8PM, Fri-Sat 10AM to 6PM, Sun 1PM to 5PM

You can also view the books online and download an evaluation form.  If you do this, please take some time to provide independent comments on the official form.

In order to view the books on-line, follow the instructions on this page.  The form you must fill out to provide comments is available on the committee website, here, along with the address to send it to at Seattle Public Schools you can mail it to (or you can email your filled in form).

We have come a long way and with strong community support, Seattle Schools can move from one of the worst K-5 math textbooks series (EveryDay Math) to a good one (Math in Focus).


  1. I've been teaching my guys with Singapore Math for 15 years now ~ originally buying the books directly from Singapore as it was an unknown quantity over here. I can't recommend it highly enough. It's a solid program with a great deal of depth, yet it appears deceptively simple. I've not seen the Math in Focus materials but if they preserve the Singapore approach, they're unquestionably the best choice of the lot.

  2. Dr Mass:

    Thank you for your efforts to improve the math texts in the Seattle City schools. As a parent of 4th graders, I appreciate it. Also, I agree with your selection of Math In Focus Texts. I examined the materials for all three - and really like the M.I.F. Singapore systems emphasis on clear expanations, expectations and student practice. And technically, the M.I.F. system is ring binder bound, which will make copies soooo much easier for the teachers.

    I visited Blaine to make my comments. You must sign in as a visitor and then walk around the corner from the office to the library. The prospective math materials are piled under the windows as you enter. Forms are available in cardboard boxes. Once you look over the texts and write out your comments - there's no obvious place to deposit them - so you trudge back to the office and discover (no one knows for sure) that the librarian might be responsible to collect them. Unfortunately, I'd no luck finding her - so back to the office I went and found another very nice person to whom I could entrust my comments (and guaranteed they would get them to wherever they'd be collected). Hopefully. Methinks if the Selection Committee really wanted our input - they'd have made the comment process easier. Perserverance is a plus here.

  3. @Big Wave, that's disappointing but not surprising. The last thing the schools want is parents sticking their noses in.

  4. Montlake Elementary has been using enVision Math for several years. I am exceptionally happy with the results. My first grader can do multi-digit addition and subtraction, and single digit multiplication. He has excellent theoretical understanding of the operations from a number of different approaches (number line, geometrical, set theory, etc.). There has been no "group problem solving" - which leads to some members of the group learning nothing. His word problem skills are excellent - both crafting word problems from equations, and writing equations based on word problems. His algebra skill are developing - including working with several unknown variables simultaneously. He can do a tremendous amount of basic math in his head. I don't have experience with Math in Focus, but it is hard for me to believe that it could top where enVision has gotten my first grader in just 18 months (kindergarten and half of first grade). SPS certainly would not go wrong with enVision.

    You can mail comments to:
    Seattle Public Schools
    PO BOX 34165
    Seattle WA 98124-1165

    or FAX them to :

    or email:

    I think you have to use the SPS form for your comments to be considered:
    from this page:
    http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?pageid=293767 the form is linked at:

  5. Cliff there is a similar debate in Alberta may you know about this. Alberta Math Petition. https://www.change.org/petitions/back-to-basics-mastering-the-fundamentals-of-mathematics

  6. Our district uses Envision, which at least, is a big improvement upon the former Everyday Math. I still don't think that the curriculum gives students the skills to Master Math skills, but sometimes teachers can make up for the deficit. I don't like the spiral where you learn to add fractions with like denominators one year, then learn to add with unlike denominators the next year. It would be more functional to start at the beginning of fractions and learn all the concepts start to finish. Envision's approach is to do a little of everything. I have read John Mighton's books and looked at Jump Math. Wish that could have made it to the short list.

    In the meantime, the real disadvantage to picking fowl curriculum is that for the kids whose parents can pay for math tutors or outside math programs, they will learn and for the thousands of others, they will not. How does this method serve the larger society?

  7. Your assessment is objective. Singapore math is an acclaimed curriculum and any of those three books that is closely similar to that is great.

    -Layce of Mymathdone.com

  8. The adoption committee has chosen to recommend Envision Math to the School Board. It's not the first choice for the general public who wanted something closer to Singapore Math, but it is much better than Everyday Math that we've had up to now. The committee's scoring emphasized fidelity to the Common Score standards over better math instruction. There's a lengthy and helpful comment from one of the adoption committee members on Melissa Westbrook's Seattle education blog at http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2014/05/math-adoption-update.html#more

    It's too bad we're not getting Math in Focus, but Envision Math really is a huge improvement over Everyday Math that we have now.

  9. Singapore math tutorial is definitely the best choice for building a basic foundation of math for your kids


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

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