At our Monday, February 11th regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting our curriculum department presented changes to the Worthington curriculum in response to the Common Core State Standards. The CCSS will change many areas of instruction but none will be more recognizable than our high school math courses. No longer will Worthington students’ progress through the traditional pathway of Algebra, Geometry and Algebra 2. Instead the material will be presented to students in an Integrated way with courses titled CCSS Integrated Math 1, 2 and 3.
Independent of the names of the courses students take, the CCSS requires all high school students to develop integrated understandings of algebra, geometry, and data analysis, where concepts, skills, and representations in each content strand support concepts, skills, problem solving, and reasoning in the other strands. Of course, this goal requires that students be given instructional opportunities to develop such understandings, which implies that all courses should include problems that build connections among the content strands.
Because the material was presented to us in high school as Algebra/Geometry/Algebra 2 (AGA) we believe it is the natural way to sequence mathematics. The vast majority of the world teaches algebra, geometry, and statistics every year in secondary school. The AGA sequence is an historical artifact. It developed (one course at a time) over the 19th century because of increasing university admissions requirements, particularly in the Ivy League. Around the turn of the 20th century, Felix Klein recommended that the secondary curriculum be unified (and hence integrated) around the concept of function; many countries followed that advice. Perhaps because of the lack of centralized curricular decision making, the AGA course sequence persisted in most of the U.S. for most of the 20th century. … despite the fact that the sequence was not designed for all students, and even more students enrolled in more courses of the sequence.
Some of our peer districts are taking an approach of minimal change, moving a few topics in and out of their current course offerings, believing that such changes will be sufficient. Frankly, many of these districts [or, rather, a critical mass of teachers and administrators] have not yet realized that successful CCSS implementation will require major instructional changes inside each of their mathematics courses. Many of these districts do not realize that the status quo is not working for significant populations of students. And many of these districts have not yet embraced the goal of ALL students reaching college and career readiness, preferring instead to continue practices of slowing students down when they are already behind.
Among the districts, like Worthington, that understand the scope and magnitude of required changes to curriculum and instruction, one sees two possible approaches toward instructional change. [Essentially, we have two theories of change.] Some districts believe that they are most likely to promote instructional improvement from within the framework of familiar course names. Other districts believe, in contrast, that explicitly new courses will be useful catalysts for instructional change. Since it is teachers who must enact these instructional changes, teacher consensus is the most important criterion in this decision making. In Worthington, Mathematics teachers spent the 2011-2012 school year studying the two pathways. As a group they recommended that we adopt the Integrated Pathway. We believe that their expertise and knowledge in this area will allow for ALL students to reach new heights in Math.
We are moving away from Algebra, Geometry and Algebra 2 as course titles. This by itself is a bold move. We however are not moving away from this content and we believe Worthington students will be better off for this shift.
For more information regarding this instructional shift please see our working white paper “Why Integrated Math” by Dr. Brad Findell and please watch the presentation by Worthington Math Teacher Leader Nancy Massman. You can view the transition pathways from our current class articulation to the new common core articulation here.