Controversial math textbooks recommended to school board

March 16, 2010

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Issaquah School District officials presented a recommendation to adopt Key Curriculum Press’ Discovering Mathematics curriculum to the Issaquah School Board March 10.

The books would replace the district’s aging College Prep Mathematics algebra and geometry books for high school students, which no longer align with state requirements for mathematics.

The books, if adopted, would go into algebra I and II and geometry classrooms this fall. School board members are scheduled to accept or reject the recommendation at their 7 p.m. March 24 meeting.

The recommendation has been two years in the making because of controversy at the state and local levels about what math curricula has been recommended by the state and supports student learning best.

District officials postponed the adoption in July, so they could gather more information from the community. In the past year, they have held math meetings, taken surveys and done additional research on Discovering Mathematics.

Their choice to adopt the text remains the same because officials and math teachers believe it aligns best to students’ middle school math program; has large amounts of teacher, parent and student support, like online materials; helps students gain a deeper understanding of mathematics; and presents the materials in a teacher- and student-friendly way.

Several math teachers from throughout the district attended the March 10 meeting to speak on its behalf and to support the decision for purchasing Discovering Mathematics.

The lack of clarity at the state level also produced a parent-driven lawsuit in Seattle where a King County Superior Court judge recently ruled against the Seattle Public School’s process and for selecting the Discovering Mathematics curriculum for its students in February.

Local parents and working math professionals have also entered the conversation in Issaquah by forming a group called Save Math In Issaquah. Many of them attended the March 10 meeting.

The group, much like the Seattle parent group, would like to see the district do several things, according to its founder Mark Van Horn, a parent and engineer. They don’t want the district to adopt Discovering Mathematics, because it is an inquiry-based curriculum, but rather choose the mastery-based program Holt Mathematics.

The group would also like the district to include professionals who work in the field they are choosing texts for on their curriculum adoption committees, something the district hasn’t done in the past.

Patrick Murphy, executive director of secondary education, announced district officials will solicit community input prior to beginning any curriculum adoption in the future, which will enhance the process and use community experience. However, he also said district school teachers are still best equipped to make decisions on what texts are used in district classrooms.

If school board members vote to approve Discovering Mathematics, Save Math In Issaquah is prepared to sue the district, Van Horn said.

Learn more

Go to Click on “high school math curriculum adoption.”

Save Math In Issaquah:

Next steps

March 17: Save Math In Issaquah may submit draft copy of a lawsuit to district officials.

March 24: School board are scheduled to vote whether to accept or reject the superintendent’s recommendation at a 7 p.m. meeting at the district administration offices, 565 N.W. Holly St.

April 21: Deadline for Save Math In Issaquah officials to file a lawsuit against the school district.

What it means

Mastery-based program: A traditional approach to learning mathematics techniques used almost exclusively before the mid-1990s. Students are introduced to a proof, rule or math concept, shown how to apply and solve it, and practice using the method until they master the skill.

Inquiry-based programs: A newer approach to teach mathematics that includes using real-world application, problem solving and inductive reasoning. Many times, students are presented a concept and asked what types of math they already know that could help to solve it. A teacher then reviews the core proof, rule or math concept they need to use to solve the problems.

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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One Response to “Controversial math textbooks recommended to school board”

  1. Robert Joley on March 16th, 2010 8:04 pm

    It is amazing that Issaquah will even be considering the Discovering Math series. The State Board of Education experts found these books to be unsound in all categories and the recent pilot of both Discovering and Holt in Bellevue revealed students learned algebra far better with Holt. Parent is Bellevue were overwhelmingly against Discovering.

    The process in Issaquah has been completely flawed. No parents on the curriculum committee. No professional math or engineering types on the committee. No filing in the central compariion rubric

    Holt is clearly a far better choice for you kids.

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