## Monday, October 17, 2011

### Doing it by the numbers

Welcome to the ExcelMathMike blog, where I write about using elementary math in daily life. My "real job" is managing the elementary school math curriculum we publish, which is called (surprise!) Excel Math. I comment on the omnipresence of numbers and math concepts around us.

This post is slightly different today, as I describe the numbers involved in my job, not my real life.  I got a letter from a visitor to our Excel Math website. She posed a fascinating and very reasonable question:

QUESTION: I used Excel Math 10 years ago and it had 175 lessons per year. We are looking at Excel Math again, and wondered - what was cut out to bring it down to 155 lessons?

Sheesh. You have to remember that to a teacher, Cutting Stuff Out is not always a good thing. Especially when it comes to books.

Could this be a "when did you stop beating your wife?" sort of question?

I wasn't sure, but reasoning that the facts (numbers) were my best defense, I responded like this:

ANSWER: You are getting a similar amount of material, assembled in a different way:

• All of the Excel Math grades have 155 lessons for 31 weeks of instruction
• We don't provide homework on Fridays, so we created longer, in-depth lessons on Fridays, occupying the Homework space
• Grades 2-6 have 30 tests which formerly appeared on the back of Lesson Sheets but they are now on their own pages
• On the back of 24 tests are "Create A Problems"  which assess students' higher-level thinking and reasoning skills; they delve into concepts not easily managed in regular lessons
• We provide 12-24 activities or exercises, introducing kids to measuring, reasoning, graphing, research projects, and so on.
• Glossaries of Math Terms cross-referenced to the lessons in which a word is introduced
• Test Question Concept Tables indicate on which lesson we taught a concept, so you can support students who didn't master that part of the curriculum content
• Projectable Lessons so you can put a lesson up on a screen while you present it to the class
• We simplified some of the layout of the pages
• We put the answers in different type fonts, so they are easier for the teacher to read
• We "show the work" so teachers can instruct without having to do calculations themselves
• We gave the students a bit more room to write their answers
• We reduced the amount of space used for practicing basic math facts
• We reduced the number of problems teachers were expected to read aloud to the class
• We put in all the modern quarters, nickels, other coins and paper currency
• We tightened up the writing in the Lesson Plans and instructional material
• We improved our description of and teaching of probability
• We adjusted our subject matter content to meet state standards
• We adjusted our "social content" and "political correctness"