The Creation of Math Derelicts in Texas

Sep 24, 2015 by

math derelicts

“The Creation of Math Derelicts in Texas”

By Donna Garner



I feel compelled to tell the story about the way our Texas public school classrooms are turning thousands of students into “math derelicts.”    


First, the story begins with Kim Belcher, a distraught parent in Katy ISD.  Her heart-wrenching experiences with her own 9th grade son in Katy ISD are being replicated in classrooms throughout Texas and our entire nation.







In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Dr. Jim Milgram (long-time, respected Stanford University mathematician and professor) joined with others to battle the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) and the Dana Center (in Austin, Texas) which came up with a backwards-thinking way of teaching math.  This has been referred to with terms such as “new math,” “transformational math,” “reform math,” and “rain forest math.” The latter term was used to describe a math textbook that spent over a hundred pages talking about global warming, environmental issues, and the social justice agenda before ever teaching its first actual math problem.


I believe there are two philosophies of education and only two. They cannot be mixed any more than oil and water can be mixed.


Type #1 is traditional, knowledge-based, academic, systematic, and measurable. Type #1 elicits right-or-wrong answers based upon objectivity and facts. 


Type #2 emphasizes process as being more important than the right answer.  Type #2 is subjective and is based upon opinions, beliefs, and feelings with the end result being a lack of emphasis on traditional, foundational knowledge. 


When Texas wrote its 1997 Math TEKS (curriculum standards — Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), Type #2 won out largely because Cathy Seeley was the chair of the Math TEKS writing team, was a staffer at the Dana Center, and is the writer of Common Core math materials published by Pearson.


For more than 15 years, the Type #2 Math TEKS were taught in our Texas classrooms.  These TEKS were full of the Mathematical Process Standards (MPS) instead of requiring that strong, traditional, systematic content standards be taught to Texas students.




Knowing that Texas’s math students were suffering mediocrity and worse, the then-Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott and the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) set out to change course. They determined that the new Math TEKS should be Type #1 (i.e., knowledge-based, academic, clearly worded, grade-level/course specific, increasing in complexity from one grade level to the next, and measurable (with questions requiring largely right-or-wrong answers). These Type #1 standards would then require Type #1 curriculum and Type #1 tests (i.e., STAAR, End-of-Course).


Dr. Jim Milgram was brought in as an expert mathematician and math curriculum specialist.  Ms. Nakonia Hayes (an experienced teacher and principal who was an authority on Type #1 Saxon Math) was chosen to be on the 2012 Math TEKS writing team. 


Dr. Milgram and Ms. Hayes worked long and hard to influence the 2012 Math TEKS writing team to follow the parameters of the Type #1 philosophy of education.  All was progressing nicely until almost overnight the Mathematical Process Standards (MPS) popped up at the top of each of the 2012 Math TEKS sections and became the Introductions for each grade level.  It is believed that Cathy Seeley of the Dana Center managed to influence “someone” in leadership on the writing team to insert those MPS into the TEKS document.


Think:  Common Core, CSCOPE, MPS, Dana Center, and NCTM – basically synonymous  


Hayes and Milgram did not give up, and the final Math TEKS were adopted in April 2012, containing the content standards (starting with “Numbers and Operations” in each grade level).   Texas students are to be taught the traditional algorithms (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) without the use of calculators in K-5 – and other Type #1 content standards.  


It would be wonderful if the story ended there with all Texas math educators ditching their 1997 Type #2 teaching units and creating wonderful, new Type #1 math teaching units built upon solid, traditional, foundational math.  However, this is not what happened.


Even though the 2012 Math TEKS — after reading past the MPS Introductions — are Type #1, the Education Service Centers, Dana Center, and other Type #2 entities were brought in to do the teacher training. It is because of this teacher training that students such as Kim Belcher’s son are suffering. 


Texas teachers have been steeped in Type #2 Common Core, transformational math; and Texas school districts have used the funding permitted under SB 6 to purchase Type #2 math instructional materials.


Please refer to the resources posted at the bottom of this page to learn more about the details of how and why this was allowed to happen in Texas in a state in which Common Core has been dubbed by our Texas Attorney General as “illegal.”




I believe that Texas school districts should be randomly selected to undergo curriculum audits NOT conducted by the Education Service Centers, Texas Education Agency, or TASA/TASB-aligned administrators. 


The consultants hired to do the curriculum audits should be people who are thoroughly familiar and supportive of the Type #1 Math TEKS – such as Nakonia Hayes and other experienced, traditional math teachers.  These curriculum audits should include confidential interviews with current, Texas, classroom math teachers and also with students and parents.  


The result of the curriculum audits should be made public, and the administrators involved should be censured publicly for educationally “abusing students” by not preparing them for success in life and on the STAAR/EOC’s based upon the Type #1 Math TEKS.


Hopefully with the pressure of possible curriculum audits hanging over Texas school administrators’ heads, they will start purchasing instructional materials that have gone through the SBOE public adoption process and that will require their school districts’ teachers to teach what is in the Math TEKS content standards.





1.6.15 — “Open Letter: Misguided Math Teacher Training in Texas”  — by Donna Garner – EducationViews.org


[In the above article, there is a link to Nakonia Hayes’ testimony about her experiences on the 2012 Math TEKS writing team.]


9.9.15 – PODCAST:  Dr. Jim Milgram on the Alice Linahan Show —



9.11.15 – PODCAST:  Randy Houchin (practicing engineer and parent from Leander ISD) testifying about math at the Texas State Board of Education:



Donna Garner

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