The Ten Commandments and Progressive Math Education

For 28 years, prior to my retiring in 2006 in Seattle, WA, I watched the destruction of math education in public schools. As a tutor for the past five years in a wonderful K-8 Catholic schooI in Waco, TX, I will leave that position because of the diocese’s purchase of GOMath! They’re throwing out Saxon Math because “you’re the only ones in the diocese still using Saxon” and “the scores went down last year on the ITBS.”

First, let’s acknowledge that the diocese used the new Common Core-aligned ITBS last year, a test that doesn’t align with a traditional math program. Second, let’s acknowledge that Saxon provided good results for six previous years on the traditional ITBS.

I reviewed the GOMath! 4th grade consumable student workbooks (two volumes of 671 pages). There are many pages on the partial product method and partial quotient method, a few pages on the “regrouping” method (or traditional algorithms for multiplying and dividing used internationally), and a few pages on “choose your own method.” A huge problem for math students today is they’re not learning multiplication skills, which impacts learning division skills and that impacts work with fractions. How a book teaches those multiplication skills says a lot.

We know from experience in other schools that teachers, students, and parents will struggle with the use of these unfamiliar, alternative “partial” methods when solving multiplication and division problems.

I will refuse to teach those methods because they will eat up my limited tutoring time of 30 minutes per grade level (one day a week). My refusal will create friction with teachers. That’s not a good work environment for the adults or students.

But how do I get the administration and staff, in one last ditch effort, to understand what will happen to their school’s reputation as a solid builder of strong students? With a third of the students being Hispanic, many from homes where parents don’t speak English, and with many students on scholarships provided by the Catholic Church to help cover the $4,700 tuition, there won’t be extra money to pay for private and remedial tutoring.

Since it’s a Catholic school, maybe a religious analogy will be helpful. What if we contrast the Bible’s listing of the Ten Commandments as presented in Exodus, Chapter 20, and repeated in Deuteronomy, Chapter 5, to the Quran’s version of the Ten Commandments?

The Bible’s Ten Commandments The Noble Quran’s Equivalence or Better
1-  “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  (From the KJV Bible, Exodus 20:3)” “Abraham was not a Jew nor yet a Christian; but he was true in Faith, and bowed his will to God’s (Which is Islam), and he joined not gods with God.  (The Noble Quran, 3:67)””God forgiveth not (The sin of) joining other gods with Him; but He forgiveth whom He pleaseth other sins than this: one who joins other gods with God, Hath strayed far, far away (from the right).  (The Noble Quran, 4:116)”

Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.  (The Noble Quran, 112:1-4)”

“Lo! Abraham said to his father Azar: “Takest thou idols for gods? For I see thee and thy people in manifest error.”   (The Noble Quran, 6:74)”

“This is the guidance of God: He giveth that guidance to whom He pleaseth, of His worshippers. If they were to join other gods with Him, all that they did would be vain for them.  (The Noble Quran, 6:88)”

“Follow what thou art taught by inspiration from thy Lord: there is no god but He: and turn aside from those who join gods with God.  (The Noble Quran, 6:106)”


The following Noble Verses were sent to me by brother Bassam Zawadi:

“Know, therefore, that there is no god but God, and ask forgiveness for thy fault, and for the men and women who believe: for God knows how ye move about and how ye dwell in your homes.  (The Noble Quran, 47:19)”

And He is God: There is no god but He. To Him be praise, at the first and at the last: for Him is the Command, and to Him shall ye (all) be brought back.  (The Noble Quran, 28:70)”

(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves, and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He is the One that hears and sees (all things).  (The Noble Quran, 42:11)”

No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things.   (The Noble Quran, 6:103)”

“Remember Abraham said: “O my Lord! make this city one of peace and security: and preserve me and my sons from worshipping idols.   (The Noble Quran, 14:35)”

This literary example (which is not about religions themselves but simply contrasting a common topic) is representative of the difference between traditional and progressive education: One side tells what time it is; the other side tells how to build a clock. One teaches clarity. The other side teaches “deeper thinking.” They call this “social justice” teaching because it’s supposed to bring equity of learning mathematics to girls and minorities. It hasn’t, not for more than three decades. And, yet, those leaders who design and sell these unproven methods still hold decision-making power after setting up generations of American children to hate the study of mathematics. Now, that’s beyond understanding.

As John Saxon, the math teacher, author, and publisher once said when defending his demand for clarity in user-friendly math lessons, “Beautiful explanations do not lead to understanding.” His also insisted that “Results matter!” To replace curriculum materials with proven results with unproven materials means we really are using children as guinea pigs, and we’re getting lousy results in the process. It’s wrong on so many levels. All of us are paying for letting this happen to our children—and our country. That is also beyond understanding.

One thought on “The Ten Commandments and Progressive Math Education

  1. SAXON MATH IS NOT ALIGNED WITH COMMON CORE no matter what the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt press releases say.

    What they are doing is offering supplemental material for teachers to use so the company can SAY Saxon is aligned. The content in the 3-8 books has not been rewritten as of this date of July 28, 2015. (I don’t believe the content has been changed in K-2, but I must verify that.) This statement of “no content change” includes both the public school and home school versions through the third editions. Stephen Hake, the grades 3-8 author, and I have visited on several occasions. Because he maintained control of his content when the Saxon company was sold in 2004, he will not change the pure Saxon content. He…will..not…change…the…content. Does everyone hear me?

    The Alg. 1 and Alg. 2 textbooks, however, were rewritten several years ago before Common Core and will not likely be “rewritten” again for Core alignment. Those textbooks do not follow the original Saxon content, so I’ve discouraged people from buying any edition in the series after the third editions. The Calculus and Advanced Math textbooks still follow original Saxon content.

    John Saxon also did not believe in a separate geometry book, which Houghton offers under his name. He said it became a wedge course that was put between algebra 1 and algebra 2 and that helped set up student failure in algebra 2. He integrated geometry in Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and his Advanced Math textbook. I would discourage use of the geometry book.

    While Houghton Mifflin may stop publishing Saxon public school textbooks, we need to remember that Saxon Publishers sold seven million textbooks by 2004. There are lots of copies available through vendors. Used or not, they are still the best math education tool on the market–if you want a solid math foundation for high school and beyond.

    See John Saxon’s Story, a genius of common sense in math education at All proceeds from his biography go to West Point’s Department of Mathematical Sciences in honor of LTC John Saxon.

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