Jan. 19, 1999
Dear Professor Reys
Thank you very much for your letter dated December 18, 1998. I’ll try to explain my point of view to you in this letter.
The CMP authors selectively sent some of my e-mails plus your study to the Okemos Board of Education last year. Your study was distributed at a board meeting. Thus, I got to read it before I wrote to the Plano ISD Board of Trustees.
As teachers’ teacher, I am sure you want your work to be judged according to the professional and ethical standards adopted by most scientists. My opinions on your study were formed based on such standards.
1. According to the guidelines set by the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University where I conduct my research, if I were associated with Dale Seymour Publications such as your current position as the director of the Show-Me center which is in partnership with the textbook publishers including Dale Seymour, I would not be allowed to evaluate any of their products due to conflict of interest. Definitely the National Institute of Health will not allow any researchers to evaluate a specific drug for approval if the researcher is associated with the drug manufacturers. Such conflict-of-interest rules are essential to maintain the legitimacy and integrity of scientific research.
2. With your passionate plea to use programs such as CMP to teach math to children, I am rather surprised to find a series of “drill and kill” books authored by you and currently published by Dale Seymour. Interestingly, one of the books is titled “Mental Math in Middle Grades”. Most parents find these “drill and kill” books (whose sales no doubt profit you), to be perfect supplementary materials to programs such as the CMP which de-emphasizes computation. Thus, it should not come as a surprise to you that parents should question the results of your study.
3. I have organized numerous scientific conferences including some sponsored by the American Physical Society and the American Chemical Society. I oversee the monthly publication of the Nuclear Physics Preprint which is distributed to researchers in Nuclear Physics. Thus I am very familiar with the nature of conference proceedings such as your study and other studies distributed by the CMP authors. In most science areas, conference proceedings offer preliminary information and should not be taken seriously if they are not published in refereed journals.
4. The math education communities always use the Third International Math and Science Study to justify their use of highly questionable and experimental programs under the pretense that these programs will raise the math understanding of our school children to that of children in Singapore. Ever since my school district adopts CMP, I have been home-schooling my children’s math education using the Singapore math textbooks. I often wonder why no-one in your profession asks the simple question “why is there no resemblance between Singapore math textbooks and CMP booklets?”
5. Parents respect professional judgment if it is sound. Afterall, in 1996, CMP was adopted in Okemos mainly based on our teachers’ and administration’s recommendations. However, soon after adoption, there are a lot of dissatisfaction among parents and students regarding this program. Sincere researchers would have wanted to listen to the parents’ concerns instead of telling parents and school board to follow professional judgment blindly. Such arrogance is contrary to what we expect from our schools i.e. to teach our children to think independently.
My first hand experience with the CMP program convinces me that it damages our children’s math education and lowers the educational standards in the United States. Many parents and scientific professionals across the country share the same view. Until education experts adopt a professional and ethical standards commonly used by scientists and doctors, it is difficult for parents like myself to take any math education research seriously, especially those with results contrary to common sense.