Friday, April 27, 2007

To the Parents of Math Investigations Students-- Wait until High School

I have news for all you parents with kids in elementary and middle school--just wait until your kids get to high school. Virtually unmentioned in all the uproar about Investigations is the use of "Connected Math" in the high schools. I don't know how many use it, but Lone Peak High School uses this curriculum for at least one of their Pre-Calculus math classes and at least one of their Calculus math classes. This curriculum seems very similar to the Investigations method. The kids are supposed to figure out fairly sophisticated higher math concepts by discovery and trial and error using ridiculous story problems (in my opinion).

To top it all off, some of the classes don't use a book, and those that do have a book use one that has zero explanation for any of the concepts. That's zip, nada, zilch, nothing. So if the teacher doesn't take time to explain, or doesn't explain the concepts adquequately, you are sunk. And they'll fall farther and farther behind. My son's class didn't use a book, so I went to Deseret Industries and found a few texts that we could use, that had explanations, practice problems, etc. Things got so bad that I couldn't even figure out what the concept was they were trying to teach (and the teacher wouldn't tell them), so there was no way I could even supplement at home.

I don't know if other high schools in the district use this curriculum, so I don't know how Lone Peak compares with other in that regard. But I do know that Lone Peak's passing rate for the AP Calculus A/B test was 55%, 10% lower than the next lower school in the district, and 21% lower than the district average, and the passing rate for the AP Calculus B/C test was 56%, 24% lower than the next lowest school and 21% lower than the district average. By comparison, Pleasant Grove's passing rate was 96% and 91% respectively. Anyone know what any of the other high schools use? If not, you probably want to find out!

Representative Dougall Sounds Mad!

Alpine School District Superintendent Vern Henshaw recently referred to Investigations opponents as extremists, setting off a firestorm of calls for his resignation.

He apparently also incited Representative John Dougall to vent his frustrations on his blog about the situation. Rep. Dougall lives in the Alpine School District and I know, from personal conversations with him, has great frustrations with the education situation here. I don't think Superintendent Henshaw's comments helped things any (read his posting at the link above and tell me what you think!)

I also am quite certain, from discussions with many parents, that the Superintendent and most of the ASD School Board really don't understand (or better yet, believe) what is going on. So many parents have personally, or through tutors, supplemented their children's math education to overcome the inadequacies of an Investigations-only curriculum of the last few years. Board member Andrea Forsyth gleefully claimed that math test scores went up because of Investigations. Could it be, Ms. Forsyth, that this improvement was due to the work of parents, and not the curriculum you chose?

I remember a conversation with Board Member Guy Fugal where I asked him, after he professed great support for the Investigations curriculum, if he had any children in elementary school, and therefore had any personal experience with Investigations as a parent. He of course, did not, but he supported the program 100%. Perhaps if he had to play the unbelievably silly, unchallenging games with his children, that I had to, maybe, maybe, his tune might have changed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Service the Right Way

A few years ago my wife and I went to eat at the Huckleberry Restaurant at Thanksgiving Point (I believe it is called Harvest now). We were told it would be a 1/2 hour wait. We waited and waited and waited. They kept promising that they would get us in.

It turns out that we got there at about the wrong time. No one who was currently in the restaurant was leaving. And so we had to wait. The management was extremely apologetic (not really their fault) and brought us something to drink (on the house). Then when it appeared they would finally have a table for us, they arranged for free appetizers to be ready for us on the table when we sat down. I don't remember exactly how long we waited, but it was probably an hour and a half. In the end, they felt so bad, they gave us our entire meal, including beverages, appetizer, main course, and dessert, free.

Huckleberry's didn't really have to do that. They had no control over when people left. But they understood what it meant provide good service. And it probably only cost them $50.

I left a pretty good size tip.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Utah Hero of the Week - Amber Martin

Amber plays catcher for the Springville Red Devils girls softball team. She loves playing and hopes to be able to play for a local college after she graduates. She has the Red Devil's highest batting average at .450 and is second on the time in RBIs (runs batted in). Amber also works 20 hours a week at a local department store in addition to maintaining an average.

All of this could be enough to qualify Amber as a hero. But she is unique. She does all these things with a congenital defect in both her feet called Tarsal Coalition, which means that two of the bones in her heels are abnormally fused together. It causes her extreme pain, making her case rare. There are times she has to crawl up the stairs to her job she is in so much pain. In addition to her already busy schedule, she has to work in time for physical therapy. She will eventually need surgery to fuse the bones together correctly.

Her doctors advise her to consider her future carefully, as she will likely need to plan activities that will allow her to sit throughout the day.

Amber's coach, Karl Johnson said in the Deseret News, "Last summer she was playing in a game and was in tears she was in such incredible pain, but she didn't want to come out," he recalled, saying that she's one girl he practically has to drag off the diamond when practice is over, despite her obvious misery. "She is not to be denied her senior year. She wants to take harge. She's made herself strong," he said. He noted that Martin has a huge heart and desire to play the game, and that she's a great student of the game. She calls all of the team's pitches and is a huge team leader."

Thanks, Amber, for showing us how to persevere and for teaching us that we all need to find something that we absolutely love to help us get through tough times.

It's the Service

One of my pet peeves is poor service. This has not been a good week for me. It started with my wife and I trying to buy a car (need I say more?) and ended with us actually buying one.

It amazes me how many dealers have incredibly poor service when it comes to buying a car. I know most of them are probably intentional sales tactics, but they drive the buyers nuts and I rarely buy from one of them and if I do, I will never go back. Nor will I talk nicely about them to anyone else. I don't buy cars often enough to effectively combat all of their techniques.

I was surprised at how many dealers seemed to have lost cars, couldn't find the keys to a car we were wondering about buying, had cars with dead batteries, didn't know their inventory, didn't have the websites up-to-date, had cars listed that weren't really for sale and just wandered around the lot looking for cars. It seemed quite obvious that most new car dealerships just had a few used cars as a way to get you to their door and then try to upsell you to a new car.

I get aggravated at how many salesman like to get their exercise trudging back and forth to the office to get keys. "Oh, you want to actually open up the door and get in the car and not just look through the window? " I know this is a sales tactic so you will look around and talk and fall in love with some other car while they are trudging back an d forth, but it drives us crazy.
I'm surprised at a salesman that didn't offer a card when we wanted to look at a car at one of the other Larry H. Miller dealerships (did you think that we would remember your name after talking with a dozen salesman from Salt Lake to Orem?). He could have taken us there and gotten the commission if we had bought that car--at least that's we he told us at the beginning. For some reason became completely uninterested in helping us at that point.

Larry apparently likes to impose a $200 mandatory, non-negotiable etching service all their cars that pays $2500 if the car is stolen at not recovered within 30 days. Of course this is not disclosed until we have basically decided to buy the car.

I should have walked out. But I am not the greatest negotiator and after investing so much time, it is difficult to do that. But I will never buy from them again. If you do, make sure to ask up-front about that fee. And let them know that if they are going to sell a car to you, you will not pay it. And insist on seeing the paperwork for the guarantee. What the salesman claims (the recovery service is good for as long as you own the car) is likely not correct (it is good for only 5 years). In fact, insist on seeing the paperwork for everything before you sign anything. You'll save some aggravation in the long run.

We had arranged for our loan online and had a blank check to sign once the deal was settled. Then they said they couldn't use our check (I'm guessing they had deals with other banks that required non-cash paying customers to use their financing services). So they had to send us up to another Larry H. Miller dealer to do the paperwork.

We sat there in a virtually empty showroom waiting for them to get things together so we could get our car and get out of there. As part of that process, they needed the key to our trade-in so they could get mileage from it. Fifteen minutes later, with no notice, or request for permission, someone pulled the van (with my wife's purse in it) out of the parking lot and took off down the street. I ran over to the sales desk to ask why someone had taken my car. For some reason, even though we had already negotiated a trade-in price at the Used Car lot, this dealer decided they needed to drive it as well. I was furiuos and told them they absolutely needed to let me know they were going to do that and get permission before they had someone take off in it.

Finally, after nearly two hours, the dealer finally got us out of there. I'm guessing that since they hadn't done the sale, we were at the bottom of their list in getting things done.

As part of the package, we had negotiated some work to be done. It turns out they won't even order the parts until they get the money from the bank we did the online financing through. They'll let us drive away a vehice worth thousands of dollars, but won't order a $150 part so that we can get it done soon (and we only have 30 days to get the work done).

Of course, all this was only the tip of the iceberg--I'm tempted to go to car dealerships and pretend to be buying a car and write about all the poor service and sales tactics that are used. But I think that I have better things to do.

Notes to Larry H. Miller:
  1. Get your used car inventory up-to-date. In this day of databases and web applications and API's, it should not be that hard to do. Even if you are turning over hundreds of cars a week. I realize that you may have a vested sales interest in not doing that, but it will certainly help those of us that are looking for a car to buy.
  2. Make your etching service optional. You may think it is a good thing (and probably brings you substantial income), but that one thing, over almost any other thing that happened to us at your used car dealership, will keep me from ever being a customer of yours again.
  3. I will never buy a car at a Larry H. Miller dealership again. I will shop there, but it will only be to get comparisons to use to buy elsewhere.

Sandwiched between starting to look for cars and actually buying was Thursday at the Skyroom in the Wilkinson Center at BYU. We were at BYU for an awards ceremony and had reservatations at the Skyroom for a late lunch. Almost all of us chose the salad bar.

Unfortunately, the waitress didn't inform us that the salad bar would be closing 20 minutes later. 10 minutes before it closed she came over and let us know that we should get what we wanted because it would be closing in 10 minutes. I told her the she probably should have told us that when we ordered (to her defense, she claimed that it was a new policy that she didn't know about).

So we loaded up, but then I decided I wanted a little more pasta, so went to get it and was told by a waitress that it was closed and I could not have any more (even though there was still food on the bar). I returned to my seat fuming. My wife said I should have gotten what I wanted anyway, and I thought, you are right. So I marched right back and got the food that I wanted.
As for all those who didn't get the salad bar, they didn't get their food until the salad bar was closed and the rest of us were done eating.

Notes to BYU Skyroom:

  1. Be sure to tell the customer that the salad bar will be closing shortly if they are ordering the salad bar
  2. If you forget to tell them, make it up somehow (reduce the meal price, offer free dessert, SOMETHING)
  3. If they happen to go to the salad one minute after it closes, don't tell them they can't have anymore--you don't have to restock everything, but they should be able to get what they want until you remove it.
  4. If you are going to seat people and take their money, you need to make sure to give them the same service as those that came an hour before you closed.

Shortly I'll share with you a good customer experience that we had (a couple of years ago, but noteworthy nonetheless, and I didn't have a blog to talk about it at that time).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Vote on Vouchers

Put your vote in on the Utah Voucher Program at

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

More political humor

Since I love Pignanelli and Webb, I'm sharing their April Fool's Day column. Hilarious and pointed comments. My favorite headline: "Legislators Eliminate Public Parking" because it seems so true. And, do you really think Curtis does yoga?,1249,660207263,00.html

Monday, April 2, 2007

Political Humor

Pignanelli and Webb write a weekly column in the Deseret News on politics in Utah. It is the first thing I read every Sunday when the paper comes because I get a laugh every week. Sometimes I agree with one or the other, or with neither, but I definitely chuckle or guffaw loudly at each column. I'm sharing one of my favs from March 4 which was the first Sunday after the Legislature ended.,1249,660200089,00.html