Wichita's new math curriculum has touch of old school

There's a new math coming to Wichita classrooms next school year, but it heralds the return of some old-school strategies.

Officials say Everyday Mathematics, a new curriculum for students in kindergarten through fifth grades, is the answer to many parents' concerns that students aren't learning basic math skills.

"Our current program really focuses on processing... finding different ways to solve problems" rather than drills such as multiplication tables, said Sue Farag, director of elementary curriculum for Wichita schools.

"Over the years, we've had some push-back to that.... There's a feeling, and it's a legitimate one, that children need basic computational fluency."

The math debate is similar to one about reading instruction that often pits phonics against so-called "whole language."

Computational -- or "old" math -- focuses on how to do a problem correctly and efficiently, often through rote memorization and drills.

Conceptual -- or "new" math -- focuses more on why, not just how.

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