The Everyday Mathematics Program is widely used in American schools. It is based on a constructivist approach to math. To understand the difference between traditional math instruction and constructivism, consider the following: In a traditional math class, the teacher provides instruction and students then work out problems based on the instruction.  It emphasizes a set of logically organized facts, skills, and procedures that are perfected over time. Within this traditional approach to teaching, students practice these skills and procedures repeatedly until a minimum level of competence is attained. 

In contrast, in math classes that ascribe to the constructive approach maintain: “Students need to construct their own understanding of each mathematical concept.”  The teacher doesn’t lead instruction but rather  provides the students opportunities to explore different ways to solve problems and “construct” their own meaning. According to this theory, Math knowledge results from people forming models in response to the questions and challenges that come from actively engaging math problems and environments.” This theory is supposed to provide an active learning environment and an appreciation and enjoyment of math. 

The Everyday Math program is the hallmark of this theory. Everyday Mathematics is a comprehensive Pre-K through grade 6 mathematics program developed by the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project . . . Every year in the US, about 220,000 classrooms are using Everyday Mathematics.  Although not mandated, it has been linked to Common Core objectives, and according to the University of Chicago website, districts in all 50 states use it. 

Where are the data to support the effectiveness of the program? The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the  international assessment that measures 15-year-old students’ reading, mathematics, and science literacy every three years  surely doesn’t attest to its success. 

PISA first started collecting data in 2000. In PISA, proficiency in mathematics is more than the ability to reproduce the knowledge of mathematical concepts and procedures; it is conceptualized as students’ ability to extrapolate from what they know and apply their knowledge in both familiar and unfamiliar situations.  The Everyday Math theory is supposed to lead students to develop a conceptual appreciation of math. Unfortunately, it appears to be missing its mark. The 2018 math results indicate  that the U.S. ranks 36th out of the 79 countries and regions that participate in the test. 

Which country consistently ranks #1 in PISA over the last two decades? Singapore! While the Common Core outlines the topics for each grade (the WHAT), it does not mandate the method (the HOW).  In fact, the Common Core guidelines have a close link to Singapore Math and other traditional math programs. So it is past the time that constructivist math has center stage in American schools. This is another experiment in which American students are the subjects, and it’s a failure! The US cannot be competitive if our students are at an academic disadvantage. Look at what is effective, and change the elementary math paradigm again!

Laura Maniglia