PROVO — Without much fanfare, the Provo School District Board of Education approved new mathematics books for elementary students — and the books include occasional use of a search-and-learn math program that has caused a major uproar in a neighboring district.

Provo students in kindergarten, first and second grades will use "Growing with Mathematics," published by the Wright Group. The cost will be $249,000.

Students in third through sixth grades will learn from "Mathematics," published by Pearson-Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley. The board agreed to spend $220,275 on the program.

Those text books will have on average two lessons per each nine-lesson chapter taken from Investigations in Number, Data, and Space, the program that sparked a public fight over math instruction in Alpine School District.

The program, often called "Investigations Math," which advocates group work and less direct teacher instruction and "discovering" algorithms instead of learning them through memorization, has been used in Alpine schools since 2001.

While some spoke out in favor of the program, many parents of children in Alpine schools have been vocal about their disdain for the program and built Web sites devoted to ending it. The math issue cost one member of Alpine's school board a bid for re-election.

The Alpine District is adopting new textbooks, too, and, largely because of parent input, the emphasis on Investigations Math has been toned down.

In Provo, school board member Carolyn Wright (not related to the Wright Group publishers), whose husband is a mathematics professor at Brigham Young University, had been critical of Investigations Math.

But on Tuesday, the night the board approved the books, Wright did not oppose adopting it or the books from the Scott Foresman publishing house that will use occasional lessons from Investigations Math.

Previous editions of "Growing with Mathematics" were similar to Investigations Math, but the newest books are not, she said.

And Wright said she doesn't mind Investigations Math being used with the book published by Scott Foresman — as a supplement.

The new textbooks will be purchased this spring. Teachers will receive training over the summer. And the district's approximate 7,000 elementary students will open the new books in the fall.

The 13,000-student school district purchases new textbooks every six to eight years.

It has used current textbooks published by Scott Foresman for seven years, Provo School District Assistant Superintendent Ray Morgan said.

"Growing with Mathematics" was chosen for younger children in part because it does a better job instilling "numbers sense."

Emily Syphus, a kindergarten teacher at Edgemont Elementary who helped select the textbooks, described numbers sense as flexibility in thinking about numbers — putting together and taking apart the number six, for instance, with the numbers five and one, three and three, four and two.

"And for a child in second grade, it would be base-ten (numbers)," Syphus said. "Understanding 25 would be 10 and 10 and five."

A committee of parents, teachers and administrators spent the last two school years in a "textbook adoption process," which involved defining what they wanted the district's math program to look like.

The committee determined they wanted "balanced math."

The balance is between traditionalists' call for drills, quick recall, memorization of basic math facts, and the 1989 standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, which call for deep understanding of math, which Investigations Math is designed to achieve.

After the math program was defined, "we invited all publishers to send us the material so we could evaluate it," said Ron Twitchell, Provo School District's math curriculum specialist. "We had an evaluation form."

Then the committee "identified three publishers that we invited to come in and give presentations," Twitchell said. "From that, we made our selection."


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