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The (NY, DC, LA, and CA) Story of Eureka Math

September 11, 2014

In Louisiana, there has been a bit of mystery surrounding the only math curriculum “selected” in March 2014 by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) and promoted as

“LSU-developed Eureka Math.”

It sure sounds like… dare I write it… grass roots CCSS math development, huh?

Then comes the fine print.

LDOE’s “Louisiana Believes” website offers this overview of Eureka Math, which includes the following tiny wording regarding its funding and development:

Eureka Math is based on research and development made possible through a partnership with the New York State Education Department. The modules within Eureka Math are available online at engageny.org and commoncore.org

©2014 Common Core, Inc. All rights reserved.

Common Core, Inc., is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that creates curriculum tools and promotes programs, policies, and initiatives at the local, state, and federal levels that provide students with challenging, rigorous instruction in the full range of liberal arts and sciences. Common Core was established in 2007 and is not affiliated with the Common Core State Standards.

So, where is LSU in all of this? According to this 2013 LDOE Common Core State Standards (CCSS) transitional summary, there is no mention of Common Core, Inc. (the Eureka Math copyright owner) and no mention of New York State/EngageNY:

Curriculum. The state will produce a Louisiana Curriculum Guidebook for English Language Arts and Math in grades Kindergarten through 12 that will include learning standards, a recommended sequence of skills to be taught, recommended units to present, and recommended materials to use in the classroom. The state will also recommend math curricula, including LSU-developed Eureka Math, along with English reading materials. [Emphasis added.]

Much better for business for Louisiana State Superintendent John White to pump up the “LSU-developed” angle and not the rest of the story– including Eureka Math’s connection to New York’s slice of federal Race to the Top (RTTT) funding and the copyright of Eureka Math by an organization that is DC-based, not Louisiana-based.

Commoncore.org offers this funding and development background on its Eureka math:

In 2012, Common Core (the nonprofit) won three contracts from the New York State Education Department to create a PreK–12 mathematics curriculum to be hosted on the state’s EngageNY website. Common Core makes PDF files containing that work available free of charge. [Emphasis added.]

No mention of LSU’s role– because the LSU folk were just the hired workers.

They did not even have the final say in their contribution– CCSS lead math writer Phil Daro did. (More on Daro here, on page 11.)

Interestingly, I located a precisely-detailed account of Eureka Math development and ownership in this May 2013 memo for the Berkeley (California) Unified School District (BUSD).

Among the BUSD-noted Eureka Math history is the acknowledgment of Daro’s oversight. (Daro is also associated with the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Education.)

And now, the Un-John-White-washed story of Eureka Math, compliments of BUSD:

Program Description

The Developers

A Story of Units is the K-5 math curriculum designed by a group of math educators working with Common Core, Inc., a not-for-profit organization started in 2007 by Lynn Munsen with the goal of providing in-depth “core” materials to schools and districts. Common Core, Inc. won a bid to work with New York Regents who were charged with using Race-to-the-Top funds to implement the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM).The development of the curriculum was originally funded by New York under the “engageNY” umbrella, but Common Core, Inc. reserves the rights to the materials and is creating a less “New York” version of the curriculum under its newly formed “Eureka Math” group. The Eureka Math Story of Units curriculum (which is essentially the engageNY curriculum minus the references to New York’s Learning Standards) will be available to all states next year for purchase, with Josey-Bass Wiley publishing printed materials and Common Core, Inc. overseeing a web version. Because the curriculum has undergone extensive revisions in its development, the writers are not anticipating major changes between the engageNY version being implemented this year in New York (and offered for free to other users) and the final version that will come out in 2014-15….

The math educators writing the curriculum include Nell McAnelly, Co-director of the Cain Center for Scientific, Technological, Engineering and Mathematical Literacy at LSU, and Scott Baldridge, math education professor at LSU and Singapore math training expert. Dr. McAnelly is the Project Director for A Story of Units, and Dr. Baldridge is Lead Writer for all the “Story” curriculum, including the K-5 curriculum A Story of Units, the 6-8 curriculum A Story of Ratios and the 9-12 curriculum A Story of Functions. Other key writers for A Story of Units include Bill Davidson who is writing the fluency component and Ben McCarty who is writing the assessments. BUSD is working directly with Nell McAnelly to plan the Professional Development training for the district, Bill Davison to train a group of teacher leaders in the fluency practices of the curriculum, and Ben McCarty in understanding the assessment pieces and in creating ways to train teachers to develop formative assessments to augment the curriculum-embedded assessments. Because BUSD has built strong relationships with the key people overseeing the development of A Story of Units, we are in an optimal position to train our teachers and offer support during the 2013-14 school year and into the next. Finally, the Common Core, Inc. team is working directly with Phil Daro, one of the three writers of the Common Core Standards for Mathematics, in finalizing this curriculum, to ensure it accurately reflects the way math is developed in the standards. Dr. Daro’s insistence on precision has required the writers to rewrite sections of the curriculum so that it more accurately teaches and assesses the mathematics of the Common Core. [Emphasis added.]

As much as John White tries to spin Eureka Math as an LSU creation, it just ain’t so. The LSU profs were only hired hands in this enterprise.

Washington, DC-based Common Core, Inc., owns Eureka Math.

And CCSS math chair Phil Daro had the final say in Eureka Math as accurately modeling CCSS.

In a December 2012 presentation, Daro had the following to say regarding CCSS math:

…we designed a new species of standards on which to build, as a platform for building a new kind of instructional system…. (23:25, first video).

In other words, Daro intended the CC math standards to drive the curriculum.

Those who insist that the “CCSS math” that just happens to be popping up all over the country and frustrating parents in states nationwide is actually curriculum divorced from a neutral CCSS need to reread my Daro citation above.

This shift in math curriculum is intended by the man accorded the title of CCSS math development chair.

That’s right. All of that unorthodox math that insists upon problem solving a certain way for a certain grade level despite a student’s arriving at a correct answer? That’s Phil Daro. (He discusses as much in minute four of the Q&A video included as part of a December 2012 presentation in the Mill Valley School District in California.)

There now. Eureka Math can make sense, if only for the moment.

__________________________________________________________________

Like my writing? Read my newly-released ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education

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39 Comments
  1. Laura chapman permalink

    Common core.org or common core inc.”? Lynn Munson, Diane Ravitch and E. D Hirsch were early officers in the org. I just looked at the website and it looks like a much expanded operation than it was in2011 when I contacted them regarding the ELA curriculum maps that included some really bizarre art lessons. Munson is well connected. As near as I can recall, the CCSSO had an ELA program in the works with about $800,000 in Gates money. It was offloaded to Common Core.org Where is was developed into the curriculum maps project. Looks like they have become a major purveyor of materials. Finding early history of the org is now difficult on google.
    Great reporting….again

  2. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Thank you for revealing the sick connections and Daro’s role in it all.

  3. marpeco5massmom5 permalink

    Hello there..hoping you’re having a great day! I’ve recently been appointed to my local school committee and I have another member in my area saying that the only reason stated by the governors of the states dropping out are for reasons of expense of implementation…In my brief search I’m finding the prevalent reason to be that it gives over control to the federal gvt. I’d like your take on the matter. Thanks…Marie

    • Marie, read my most recent blog postings and you will see that you are absolutely right– the federal government is holding state education decisions hostage.

  4. Monica permalink

    I teach high school math in NY….and do not use the engageNY modules…most teachers I know are not using them because they are confusing and cram too much…or assume too much in a lesson. (Very poorly written in my opinion ). I feel sorry for the other states being afflicted with this nonsense. If you want some good free math curriculum written by a real teacher check out emathinstruction.com. I did not write it but I am using it for algebra 1 and 2.

  5. Bridget permalink

    Mercedes, I think you are undervaluing the contributions of the LSU team. It’s like saying that a construction company didn’t build a house because an architecture created the plans. As inconvenient as this point might be for anti-common core advocates in Louisiana, the training, skills, experiences, and world views of the LSU Professors provide the context for the Eureka Math curriculum. I am sure that the LSU people had many, many conversations about what direction to take for this objective, how other countries would present this concept, etc. LSU was much more than the “hired hands.” To your other point, of course, someone from the CCMS committee was going to review and/ or oversee the development of a curriculum specifically designed to match the math standards. How is this a conflict? Again, it is a curriculum whose purpose is to specifically align with CCMS. How would the writers at LSU valid its alignment without someone from CCMS? I can not judge the quality of the Eureka Math program, that is for others. But to say, that LSU was essentially day labors in the process is disrespectful at best and deceitful at worse.

    • Sorry to insult you, but if the final word rests with Phil Daro, and the LSU team is required to adjust to his wishes, then yes, their contributions are that of contract workers without final say.

      As to deceit, John White is trying to play this Eureka Math as belonging to LSU so that he can sell it as “homegrown.” It does not in fact belong to LSU. Eureka is licensed to an organization in DC, and the funding comes via New York.

      • And White is trying to sell the idea that LSU created Eureka math so that he won’t be charged with an ethics violation or conflict of interest or worse for promoting and using taxpayer money to pay for the contracts with Common Core and Dave Saba’s group for all the Eureka professional development sessions for his teacher leaders. The full circle connections that John White has to Common Core – Governing member of Council of Chief State School officers (owners with NGA of CCSS), Member of Governing Board of PARCC (CCSS test contracted with Pearson Publishing) which development was financed by U.S.Ed grant $350million. Now your explanation of the obvious connection between Common Core (Eureka Match) an the writers of CCSS . . . . . . . It’s as clear as the nose on John White’s face, which is growing longer and longer and longer. . . !

  6. Sunshine permalink

    Engage NY Math was chosen “by teachers in my district” last year. It was “FREE!” What a train wreck. The font, give me a break. The visuals, nonexistent. Answer keys that are correct? Not sure where those are. Spanish language materials or intervention activities? Nope. Directions for parents and kids on the homework? Apparently deemed unnecessary.

    It’s too fast paced and built on nothing because they rolled it out all at once. Sorry, too bad for you if you aren’t a very clever reader because many homework story problems are 60-80 words long. The script would take all day to complete…It’s clunky and pretty much divorced from the language used by real people. Did I mention the sick obsession with rounding everything to the 10,000’s place? Why?

    This is the lowest quality curriculum I’ve seen in 20 years of teaching. I find it to be completely ignorant of mathematical progression and the cognitive abilities of target students.

    Are they calling it “Research Based?” Honestly, it looks like it wasn’t even edited. Needless to say, “teachers in my district” now can’t wait for it to get thrown in a dumpster.

  7. Do you have any resumes or education experience of Phil Daro and Co. Did any of these people teach PK-12. The math modules are a disaster for NY students.

      • Wayne Bishop permalink

        Don’t miss his primary degree, English. I have worked “with” him here in California on several functions starting from a math advisory panel to the Credentialing Commission in 1988-90. He has never been right on anything.

        On the other hand, I don’t think that he had anything to do with Engage other than to speak as an “expert” in support. in spite of the New York connection, the project has been headed from Square 1 by Scott Baldridge. He is a good guy and a legitimate mathematician (not that that makes the curriculum effective).

    • gmcl permalink

      Chirs, based on my experience in education with various “new math” approaches over the past 45 to 55 years, I have serious doubts that the developers have spent any time in instruction with students PreK to 12. The various new concepts which I have seen through the years are based on learning styles and cognitive capabilities that may fit a very small minority of students, but by no means are appropriate for most. Might there be a correlation in the continuing decline in performance level of so many U.S. students in math and science that we see reported? My recommendation is that the developers of these programs would be required to spend a couple of hours a day for at least a semester using their curriculum in a public school setting, with a school population representing great diversity, beginning with pre K or kindergarten students and progressing at least through 4th or 5th grade. Consideration of any newly developed program would be contingent upon the successful performance of a majority of students on standardized evaluations which would test basic math skills and concepts.

  8. Sherry Pickett permalink

    Eureka math is word-for-word the same as EngageNY math. The only difference is the cover page.

  9. My children’s school district (in CA) is using Eureka Math (I have 2nd and 5th graders), and I have to say it is total junk. The material is FILLED with errors (in particular lots of typographical errors, like it wasn’t proof-read). The reading level of the word problems for the first and second graders is MUCH higher than the reading level of an average first or second grader, using words that they just wouldn’t know at that age. The take home material includes ZERO explanations or samples of how to work problems. I created an account to review materials at commoncore.org (http://commoncore.org/maps/math/module-pdfs) to get help. The teacher’s guides are ridiculous, filled with scripts that are absurdly bad, often with ideas that show very poor child psychology (my children’s teachers swear they don’t follow the scripts, but it still worries me).
    And with all of this there is NO WHERE to complain to anyone about the material. I have written using the contact form on the webpage and got no response. I have been searching for a way to contact someone in charge of this mess, but there is no one. The principle of my kids’ school told me they only had a sales contact, no support whatsoever. Ugh, where can I go?

    • Laurie, try going to the media. It might be more powerful if you could find other parents with the same frustrations and who are willing to go with you.

  10. C Daniels permalink

    The schools in my district use Eureka Math. One of the problems I have with it is this claim on commoncore.org:

    “The Louisiana Department of Education has recognized Eureka Math as one of only two curricula that achieved the best possible score for “all indicators of superior quality.”

    Upon closer examination, I found that claim to be weak at best – and very misleading. In fact, it was born of an ‘informal instructional materials review’ which is still in progress. The publisher that I wanted to check out has not even submitted material. Lame!

    http://www.louisianabelieves.com/docs/default-source/curricular-resources/informal-instructional-materials-reviews-as-of-february-7-2014.pdf?sfvrsn=71

  11. Debbie Wiltse permalink

    I am a teacher in Rapides Parish and today at an inservice for Eureka Math we were introduced to one of the “writers” from LSU named Catriona Anderson. She took complete credit for the development of Eureka Math and claimed New York purchased it from Louisiana/LSU. EVERYTHING I have read on that subject does not support that claim. Could you please help me to understand the LSU connection? I have contacted the Albany, New York Math Director, Dorene Mitchell, to find out if their district is still using Eureka Math since the New York State Department of Education informed me that each district chooses its own curriculum materials for math and they didn’t have a list of what each district is using. Really??? I am waiting to hear back from her. We are desperately trying to save our parish from the grips of Eureka Math as St. Tammany has done. Do you know if New York or D.C. are still using Eureka Math now? Thanks for your comments. I admire your dedication in supporting what’s best for Louisiana students. Keep up the great work you do!

    • Debbie, Eureka Math is a spinoff from EngageNY. The New York Dept of Ed (NYSED) used federal money to enter into a business arrangement with Common Core, Inc. (a group that is not related to the Common Core State Standards; Common Core, Inc., existed first). The goal was to create Common Core State Standards math materials.

      Common Core, Inc., has some agreement with NYSED for partial rights to EngageNY math. You can see the partial copyright statement at the bottom left of the lesson pages. For example, check this one out:

      file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/User1/My%20Documents/Downloads/math-g1-m1-topic-g-lesson-27.pdf

      Common Core, Inc., decided to develop a “less New York” version of EngageNY. They named it Eureka Math. People from LSU were hired to write it.

      LSU does not own Eureka Math. It is copyrighted by Common Core, Inc., through 2015.
      See the Common Core, Inc. copyright statement at the bottom of this Eureka Math page on the Common COre, Inc., website:

      http://commoncore.org/maps/math/home

      • Catriona Anderson is listed as part of the LSU team who was contracted with Common Core, Inc., to develop Eureka Math:

        http://commoncore.org/maps/math/about-team

        LSU writers were hired by Common Core, Inc., to write Eureka Math.

        LSU does not own Eureka Math.

        Common Core State Standards “math chair” Phil Daro appears to have had the final word on Eureka Math.

      • The man who developed the Eureka Math website, Sam Wertheim, is from New York.

        The director of Eureka Math, Jill Diniz, is from Florida (she went to school in Texas):

        http://commoncore.org/staff

    • First Grade Teacher permalink

      Many of the New York districts in my area of the Lower Hudson Valley use variations of Singapore Math.

  12. George Tyrebyter permalink

    A couple things you have missed… Phil Daro has no degrees in mathematics whatsoever. His BA from UC Berkeley is in *Engish* and only very recently got a PhD in something educationist. While he did minor in math, that isn’t enough to get hired as a math teacher in most secondary schools and what math teaching he did during his brief classroom stint was apparently introductory algebra, what used to be an 8th grade subject in California, but 9th grade in Common Core.

    Another is that the Common Core so-called State Standards wasn’t Daro’s first math standard work. He was the lead author for “MATHEMATICS FRAMEWORK for California Public Schools” 1992, the very document that sent California into a math education spiral, igniting what is still called The Math Wars. Whole Math, like Whole Language, didn’t work the first time it was tried but this time they control the content, they control the curriculum and Daro’s employer, Pearson, controls much of the testing. Daro Math v 2.0, now nationwide.

    • George, I thought Daro had a minor in math– English major with a math minor.

      Appreciate the added background on Daro. I knew he was associated with “The Math Wars” but did not dig up the noteworthy facts you include in your comment.

      • George Tyrebyter permalink

        I did mention that minor in math. Was that a minor BS, or a minor BA? The answer is neither. A minor isn’t a degree and with his credentials, in California, he would not be hired into any math department at any high school I know of… yet he managed to be appointed lead author for K-12 math standards for the entire country.

        The California mathematicians I know consider Daro to be a compass that always points in the wrong direction, and the discovery of Daro as a lead author in the ’92 Framework was only recent in my circles.

        BTW the CCSS that looks like it has Daro’s fingerprints all over it are here:
        “The first of these are the NCTM process standards of problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, representation, and connections.”
        http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Practice/

        It reads just like the ’92 FRAMEWORK which was a restatement of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Standards of 1989. The NCTM President at the time, one Jack Price, started pouring whole math into California standards in a 1985 document.

        Try to find deductiive logic as a core competency in any of these things… Price thought traditional math instruction was good for white boys but girls and minorities best learned in an inductive process.

      • Thank you for clarifying that the minor was not degreed and is not recognized as credible in CA.

        Daro is on the SAP board. Fingerprints, indeed.

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