Meetings will discuss new math curriculum in Mt. Lebanon schools

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The elementary mathematics curriculum in Mt. Lebanon School District continues to raise concerns among some parents.

Those parents will have the opportunity to discuss the issue during the next few weeks at the elementary buildings.

"I encourage parents to check their PTA newsletters or the district website for meeting dates," Josephine Posti, school board president, said Monday.

The curriculum generated more discussion during that night's board meeting, as school officials encouraged community input as part of an ongoing evaluation process.

In 2007, the district began implementing a mathematics course of study called Investigations in Number, Data and Space, developed by the nonprofit Technical Education Resources Centers of Cambridge, Mass., for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The effectiveness of the curriculum, which focuses on teaching mathematical ideas rather than stressing rote memorization, has been questioned by parents who believe a more traditional approach would benefit their children to a larger degree. Opponents have provided the district with case studies and other documentation that support their position.

School officials contend that the district's objective is a balanced curriculum.

"From the feedback we're getting from a few parents, it's not balanced," Timothy Steinhauer, superintendent, said Monday.

The upcoming meetings with parents are intended to provide further information and also to receive it.

"Every piece of feedback we're getting from parents is important to us," Mr. Steinhauer said.

The district continues to evaluate the curriculum, with efforts led by Deborah Allen, assistant superintendent of elementary education.

She said the Investigations curriculum was implemented partly because of a "misalignment" between math programs in elementary school and at the secondary level, where classes were "more conceptually based."

The district also examined the use of the curriculum in school districts that are comparable to Mt. Lebanon.

Mrs. Posti explained that the school board's approval of the curriculum has been based "on what our faculty and administrators provide us in the way of recommendations."

Part of the rationale behind Investigations is noted on the curriculum's website:

"Students come to school with ideas about numbers, shapes, measurements, patterns and data. If given the opportunity to learn in an environment that stresses making sense of mathematics, students build on the ideas they already have and learn about new mathematics they have never encountered. ... Students learn that they are capable of having mathematical ideas, applying what they know to new situations, and thinking and reasoning about unfamiliar problems."

Critics argue that lessons based on standard algorithms, such as the principles of long division, are more beneficial to students' overall education.

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Harry Funk, freelance writer:


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