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The Background


Why Everyday Math Doesn't Add Up


The Facts


References and More Information


The New Way to Solve Problems

Everyday Math Doesn't Add Up


Everyday Mathematics is a program categorized as constructivist, reform, or new math, and was developed by The University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (UCSMP). The UCSMP started work on this project in 1985 and released 3 editions in 1998, 2002, and 2007.

This method of teaching our children math has been under controversy and debate for years. It began with the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) issues a report in 1999 labeling Everyday Mathematics as one of five “promising” new math programs. This perceived endorsement was the cause for uproar and outrage amongst prominent U.S. mathematicians and scientists.


Many who oppose Everyday Math consider it to be “fuzzy” math as it uses a “spiraling” concept (if our kids don’t get it the first time, then maybe they will get it the second, third, or fifth time), is largely language-based, full of alternative algorithms (methods), and doesn’t focus on the basics.

Everyday Math (EM) has a large amount of language-intensive word problems or requires verbal explanations to problems. EM does not start with one topic and stick with it – students jump from one concept to the next, often without completely mastering one concept first. Several different methods are taught to solve basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, without making sure students have a firm grasp on one technique – not to mention the methods used have multiple steps (often double or triple the steps compared with “traditional” math), involve drawing grids and lines, and sometimes require using several methods to solve one basic multiplication or division problem. It is no wonder that Everyday math just doesn’t add up – especially for students with special needs.

We are failing our special education students if we try and teach them basic math skills using Everyday Math. EM relies on children having strong reading and language skills; is way too abstract for many children with learning disabilities; and doesn’t have the structure and direct instruction for children to master any concept. Our special education students need structure; clear, incremental goals; practice and repetition; regular assessment of basic skills and knowledge; direct and specific instruction; and an incremental, step-by-step curriculum that doesn’t need them to perform additional steps and methods to solve one problem.

Not only does EM not have any focus on learning basic skills such as the multiplication table, it places a high emphasis on the use of a calculator, and uses “made-up” terms like cubes, flats, and big cubes which are part of the abstract concept and have no concrete relation to real-world math skills. When you put all this together, Everyday Math just doesn’t add up for our special education students.

We are setting our special education students up for failure by teaching them to rely on a calculator and not learning basic mathematical skills. We are setting them up for failure by not understanding that children with speech and language problems will not succeed in a language-based curriculum. We are setting them up for failure by not giving them the opportunity to have the “rules” first, and use drills (like the traditional method of learning the multiplication tables), and then learning the concepts. As our children progress through their academic career, they will continue to struggle in math classes.


  • The Everyday Math Curriculum is not appropriate and should be rejected, according to Professor David Klein, a professor at the California State University, when asked to review this curriculum for use in elementary school classrooms by the California State Board of Education. Some of his primary reasons were:
    • missing or extremely shortened presentations of standard arithmetic algorithms (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) at each and every grade level
    • the lack of textbooks and/or materials for independent study or home use
    • the promotion, encouragement, and requirement of calculator use, even at the kindergarten level
  • Reform math, such as Everyday Math, gives special needs students (especially those on the autistic spectrum or with speech/language disabilities) the exact opposite of what they need (Katharine Beals).
    • Open-ended, language-intensive assignments diminishes the opportunity for students to not only learn basic math skills, but to also develop their natural talents.
    • The lack of structure, well-defined tasks, and step-by-step process, and specific instruction will not allow these children to make progress academically, linguistically, or socially.
  • "Fuzzy" Math is a nationwide epidemic leading to students falling further and further behind (Michelle Malkin).
    • Not only can children not make sense of the worksheets being given to them, but parents with business degrees, medical degrees and Ph.D.s, cannot make sense of them either.
    • Even teachers have become frustrated with Everyday Math when they discover that not one of their students know their times tables and very few have mastered basic math concepts.


  1. Evaluation of Submitted Changes for Everyday Mathematics
    David Klein, Professor of Mathematics at California State University, Northridge. July 5, 1999.
  2. The Many Ways of Arithmetic in UCSMP Everyday Mathematics
    An Overview prepared by Bas Braams. New York University. February 2003.
  3. Review of the Everyday Mathematics Curriculum and Its Missing Topics and Skills
    Tsewei Wang, Ph.D., Associate Professor at The University of Tennessee - Department of Chemical Engineering. April 9, 2001.
  4. The 'reform math' problem: The fad for a fuzzy approach to teaching arithmetic is especially bad for autistic children.
    Katherine Beals (lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and author of "Raising a Left-Brain Child in a Right-Brain World: Strategies for Helping Bright, Quirky, Socially Awkward Children to Thrive at Home and at School"). Opinion to the Editor in the Philadelphia Inquirer. November 9, 2009.
  5. What is Wrong with Everyday Math?
    Brian with By The Numbers (after interviews with a New York City Special Education Administrator and the Math Coordinator at Greenwich Schools in New York).
  6. Fuzzy math: A nationwide epidemic
    Michelle Malkin, nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate, honored by several national organizations. November 28, 2007.


    • PARTIAL-SUMS METHOD: A two-stage process that first looks at each column, working from left to right, and then adds the partial sums.

      Example of Partial Sums Method for Addition in Everyday Math.
    • COLUMN ADDITION METHOD: A two-stage process in which you first add numbers by columns. In the second part,work right to left and carry any two-digit numbers to the left.

      Example of Column Addition Method for Addition in Everyday Math.
    • OPPOSITE CHANGE RULE METHOD: Adjusting the numbers by adding and/or subtracting the same number from each so that each number you are adding ends in either 0 or 5.

      Example of Opposite Change Rule Method for Addition in Everyday Math.
    • COUNTING-UP METHOD: A two-stage process in which you first take the smaller number and "count up" by ones, then thens, then hundreds, and so on, and finally your odd remainder. In the second step, to get the answer, add up all the numbers added to the smaller number to get to the larger number.

      Example of Counting Up Method for Subtraction in Everyday Math.
    • PARTIAL-DIFFERENCES METHOD: A two-stage process in which you first take each column and add or subtract based on if the top or bottom number is smaller. In the second step, you add and/or subtract all the numbers from the first step.

      Example of Partial Differences Method for Subtraction in Everyday Math.
    • SAME CHANGE RULE METHOD: Based upon the belief that subtraction is easier if the smaller number ends in one or more zeros. Add or subtract the same number from both numbers so that the bottom number ends in zero, then subtract.

      Example of Same Change Rule Method for Subtraction in Everyday Math.
    • LEFT-TO-RIGHT SUBTRACTION METHOD: For the first step, mentally, break down the bottom number by ones, tens, hundreds, and so forth. In the second step, subtract by columns from left to right.

      Example of Left to Right Method for Subtraction in Everyday Math.
    • PARTIAL-PRODUCTS METHOD: In the first step, break down each number by ones, tens, hundreds, and so forth. Multiply each of the resulting pairs, then add the products of all the pairs together.

      Example of Partial Products Method for Multiplication in Everyday Math.
    • LATTICE METHOD: Draw a grid of squares based upon the numbers you are multiplying. Then divide each square with a diagonal line from the top right corner to the bottom left corner. One number is written on the top of the grid and the other is written on the right side of the grid. Multiply by pairs and put the answer in the corresponding square. Then take the numbers on each diagonal and add together, carrying to the next diagonal, if needed. Finally, starting at the top left and following to the bottonm right, write down all the numbers for your answer.

      Example of Lattice Method for Multiplication in Everyday Math.
    • EGYPTIAN ALGORITHM: A three-stage process in which you make two columns then repeatedly double numbers. The first column will always start with 1, and the numbers in each column will be doubled until the first column is close to the first factor, without going over it. In the next step, start with the biggest number in the first column and figure out which other numbers in this column you need to add together to get to the first factor. You will place a checkmark next to all of these numbers. Next, you will cross off all numbers in both columns that are not in a row with a checkmark. Finally, add together all numbers remaining in the second column to get the final answer.

      Example of Egyptian Algorithm for Multiplication in Everyday Math
    • PARTIAL-QUOTIENTS METHOD: Mentally think about how many of a number will fit starting with the left-most place (i.e., thousands, hundreds, tens). Subtract this number and write the partial quotient in a column on the right. Repeat until you either reach 0 or have a number that is less than the divisor (the remainder). Add the partial quotients in the right column and include the remainder, if any, for the answer.

      Example of Partial Quotients Method for Division in Everyday Math.
    • COLUMN DIVISION METHOD: Separate the dividend into columns by ones, tens, hundreds, and so forth. Work from left to right and divide each number by the divisor. Subtract the product and place the remainder in front of the digit in the next column. Repeat this process until you reach the last column. Any number left over at the last column will be the remainder.

      Example of Column Division Method in Everyday Math.

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