Some experts say the Utah math curriculum is appropriate while others feel it needs an overhaul.

Wednesday members of the legislative Education Interim Committee heard reports from the Mathematics Core Curriculum Review Committee along with other experts on what, if anything, should be done about Utah's math core.

During the 2006 Legislature questions were raised about the math core curriculum in comparison to those of other states.

Following that, the Utah State Office of Education formed the review committee, comprised of mathematicians, math educators from a few universities and public school math specialists, to examine the math curriculum.

According to the committee report, the Utah math core is mathematically appropriate and although some areas could be improved, making the improvements is far better than abandoning current standards and adopting a whole new set from another state.

Blake Peterson, a review committee member and associate professor at Brigham Young University, said the committee did make a number of recommendations including giving math teachers more support with professional development.

They also found the core needs better specificity about learning basic facts, recommending the use of "quick recall" in learning to add and subtract in second grade and to multiply and divide in fourth grade.

Officials from West Ed, a nonprofit education research and service organization, also presented their report comparing Utah to other states including California, South Carolina and Texas, along with national standards.

That study found Utah's standards aren't that different than in the higher-performing states, and recommended education officials make minor modifications in the core while preserving the current system.

But some experts said there are major errors in Utah standards, calling them "a mile wide and an inch deep."

David Wright, a BYU math professor, said Utah should adopt California standards because after disaggregating national data California students outperform Utah students, especially in minority groups.

He said Utah's system is "fuzzy math" where children wander through problems in a random way without ever learning the basics.

But lawmakers aren't sure if this is their issue.

"This is not a legislative issue — it's a school board issue," said Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville. "I am a little concerned that we are getting into an area of responsibility that is a school board responsibility."

The committee took no action but will review the information before deciding how to proceed.


E-mail: terickson@desnews.com