OREM — With input from parents, principals in the Alpine School District next fall will be able to choose between traditional math programs or the district's current controversial curriculum.

The Alpine District announced Tuesday the intention to allow a school-by-school choice. The announcement was made at a meeting of the Orem City Council.

At that meeting, residents also discussed pulling out of Alpine and forming a city school district for Orem schools.

"Math has been controversial and divisive enough," said Gary Seastrand, Alpine assistant superintendent. "Part of the division on math is that the district has only selected one program and made a decision on a central level, and there are people who don't support it."

The elementary-level math program, called Investigations in Number, Data and Space, and its middle-school counterpart, Connected Math, have been criticized by parents for not focusing enough on rote memorization of math facts.

The so-called "Investigations Math" favors students solving math problems using algorithms that they discover on their own or in groups.

For a more balanced approach, the district has incorporated timed tests and other traditional math learning into the curriculum. Still, some parents remain unhappy.

Oak Norton, a longtime critic of Investigations Math, wishes it could be completely scrapped. "I think it's a mistake to continue to use Investigations as one of the choices. A better choice for the visual side of learning would be (American version of the) Singapore math (curriculum)," Norton said.

According to the district's plan, over the next school year, a committee will be formed to articulate math goals and criteria for selecting a "traditional math" program.

The district will ultimately approve the two programs, and schools, after having the chance to review both programs, will determine which program to use. Seastrand guesses about 50 percent of the schools will continue with Investigations Math.

The proposal was unveiled at the Orem meeting but has been in the works since the district hosted three focus groups in March to revisit the district's math issue and find some resolution, Seastrand said.

The focus groups consisted of parents, teachers and principals. The district asked the principals to recommend a variety of people who are both supportive and critical of the program, said Barry Graff, administrator of Alpine's K-12 educational services.

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Barbara Petty, an Orem resident who helped organize a 1,000-signature petition calling for the Orem City Council to study the feasibility of creating a new district, said Alpine's math proposal is not enough to keep residents from wanting to form a city school district. The City Council has agreed to hire a firm to study the feasibility.

"It's not just the math program," Petty said. "It's because when you have a huge district, you spend too much money on non-instructional programs and noninstructional personnel. We want the money to go to the teachers and the students."


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