Two Be or Not Two Be: Where's the Math?
Sharon Hanek, activist and "research mom," flipped through a math textbook at Concerned Women for America's (CWA) "Standing in the Gap in Washington State" conference. She instructed the audience: "Stop me when you see a number."
She was never stopped.
Through her investigation of the Washington state legislature and school system, Hanek discovered that Washington's public school math curricula no longer contains math. Two plus two no longer necessarily equals four. The importance of solving for a concrete answer has been replaced by the "necessity" of discovering the "meaning" behind a number.
Hanek's story began six years ago.
As a mother of three, Hanek feels an urgent need to know what information is shaping children's minds - a desire that should prod all parents into the activist arena. "If you have kids going to school you have to figure out what is happening," says Hanek. "I got involved because of education."
She began her investigation by asking her school district for the public disclosure records of 2003. She pored over the assessments of Washington's standardized tests. To her dismay, Hanek discovered that the curriculum that was supposed to cultivate an eager, educated mind didn't teach any concrete answers. Math books contained no numbers.
As an example, Hanek cited Connected Math, a textbook used nationwide.
"You don't need to have the right answers. It's more about how you solve the problem. They ask children to select a number, think about it, and write a story about it," said Hanek.
Once activists discover a problem, they should "share their information," says Hanek. Activists should take their discoveries to "potlucks, baseball games, etc. … wherever!"
Hanek's work lead to the founding of Where's the Math? (www.wheresthemath.com), a non-partisan advocacy group dedicated to ensuring that Washington state mathematics education curriculum is academically rigorous and comparable to that of top performing nations in the world.
After purchasing Connected Math, Hanek began to "contact the legislators … a phone call, e-mail, going down and testifying … whatever is in your comfort zone!" She purchased the book and knocked on the door of every Washington legislator, conveying her shock that children were learning math without absolutes.
"Lawmakers are making laws, but don't have any clues what are in the books," says Hanek.
Connected Math is merely one component of Washington's flawed mathematics curriculum.
After three years of lobbying, legislators eventually agreed with Hanek that Washington needed statewide education reform, beginning with a study on the quality of math curriculum.
"Sharon Hanek is an inspiring example of what one concerned woman can accomplish," says CWA President Wendy Wright. "She did single-handedly what no legislator, bureaucrat, think tank, or 'education expert' had attempted to do. Her dogged research uncovered the shockingly incompetent curriculum handsomely paid for with tax dollars. Thanks to Sharon, it's no longer a mystery why school kids in Washington State are failing. Now legislators know how to hold education bureaucrats responsible."
Hanek's work shows how an everyday citizen can be a patriot, but ultimately, she credits her success to simple act of fulfilling God's purpose for her.
"This is God's plan. Every one of us has a role in it," Hanek said.
Lydia Van Matre is an intern in Concerned Women for America's Ronald Reagan Memorial Internship Program. To find out more about the program, click here.
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