What is the most popular elementary math curriculum in the United States?
I did a survey, and it turns out nothing is really THAT popular.
I’m sure that every educational publisher has a secret list of how popular everybody’s curriculum is. They probably pay a guy to go around and figure out what most districts are buying. But as far as I can tell, there is next to no public information about this.
Until now. Because—thanks to the 84 people who replied to my survey—there will be a tiny bit more info out there about what elementary math programs are most popular.
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First, I wanted to know if I was hearing from people in educaiton or not. Mostly, I was.
Second, I gave people what I thought was a big list of elementary math curricula and asked them to select what their school or their child’s school is using for math.
And here’s what I learned: the market is fractured.
I know, what a pie chart.
The winner of this survey was Illustrative Mathematics, with 11 votes, but that doesn’t pass the smell test for me. I assume it’s a quirk of my sampling, as I personally know a lot of people who have worked for Illustrative Mathematics and it only took a few votes to capture the lead.
A good question is whether it makes sense to treat EngageNY (5 votes) and Great Minds/Eureka (7 votes) as two curricula or one. After all, Eureka is just EngageNY that you have to pay for (though now it’s significantly revised). If it’s one curriculum, it wins with 12 votes.
i-Ready (8 votes) was another leader. i-Ready seems to have married a digital practice interface with some lessons, and apparently that has made significant inroads over the past few years. Bridges also had 8 votes. enVision had 7 votes. Math in Focus had 6 votes. Go Math had 6 votes. I mean, this is boring stuff, I can keep putting numbers next to educational programs. The point is that there is no major leader, the market is fractured.
I’m not exactly sure how to say this, but the market is also clearly not dominated by progressive math curricula. Illustrative Mathematics is the only curriculum that you could plausibly call “progressive” among those with more than 2 votes. (TERC Investigations, which in the 90s was a real source of Math Wars attention, received 2 votes.) SFUSD received 1 vote. Progressives are by far the minority, which is only notable because some people vastly overestimate their influence in the US.
My final observation is extremely rough, but it’s that all these curricula are all what you could call fine? I’m very familiar with about five of these curricula and they all are pretty much interchangeable. They all have workbooks. They all have lesson ideas. Some are easier to use than others. That’s not to say that there aren’t differences but they don’t really stand out to me in any real way. I could imagine a situation where a district just gets bored of using one meh curriculum and they decide to switch, just because it feels like doing something.
(My friends tell me i-Ready sucks but I have no seen it in action yet.)
One response helped put a check on my results. “I have some related data,” this person wrote while completing my survey:
As a side hustle I score CalTPAs, which are the performance assessments new teachers must pass to upgrade preliminary credentials to full credentials in California. The teachers have to submit a 3-5 lesson sequence, including assessment.
For the first 100 submissions I scored, I kept track of curriculum used (if any)…
Here’s the tally for the first 100 (all CA schools, TK-Grade 6):
TPT or Teacher created/downloaded worksheets– 44,
Origo - 2
NYS Common Core (EngageNY)- 3
Eureka - 7
GoMath (teacher-created assessment 1) - 9
Houghton Mifflin - Go Math? (k) -8
McGraw Hill - 2
SWUN Math - 2
Everyday Math - 1
Curriculum Associates/iReady (exclusively) - 1
Illustrative Math (Grade 3 - 1), (Grade 6 - 2), Grade 5 -1
Khan Academy (including formal assessment) Bridges —2
CPM SFUSD – 4
Savaas - 5
Springboard Course 1.”
So, there you have it: a huge variety of officially adopted curricula that are all just “meh” showing no marked ideological emphasis (definitely overall not leaning progressive) and many, many teachers going the Dark Curriculum route and finding resources online or through Teachers Pay Teachers.
And, look, I’m no different, it’s really hard to stick with a lesson sequence when you know it won’t do well for your kids. I end up sitting at my desk, trying to piece together the parts that will work from multiple different books and resources. That’s fine, that’s the job.
All I’m asking for is a good workbook that really gives enough practice in every skill. Just one good resource that I can really rely on for practice. Instead of what we have now in the US elementary math market, which is a dozen things that are inadequate in a variety of ways.
EDIT 1/13/2024: On twitter, Tom Loveless pointed me towards this survey that more carefully does what I try to do here. The relevant table is this one: