May 26, 2013

CCSS Pathways

A conversation on twitter prompted Michael Fenton to request information on how different schools are tracking students now and how it will change as we adopt the CCSS.  If more people blog their response (rather than writing a comment) I'll add this topic to the #matheme page.

Sequence in Past Years: 
Honors: 8th grade algebra 1, 9th grade geometry, 10th grade algebra 2, 11th grade PreCalc, 12th grade AP Calc. Some double up with AP stat 10th or 11th grade or do stat rather than calc 12th grade

Regular: 9th grade algebra 1, 10th grade geometry, 11th grade algebra 2, 12th grade PreCalc or Stat or Contemporary Math

There is an opportunity to jump from regular to honors track by doubling Algebra 2 and geometry in 10th grade.  Every course has different levels as well, so students could take Honors Algebra 1 in high school and Honors Algebra 2, for example, is mixed grade.

Sequence Next Year:
This year (partly due to ANet testing) all 8th graders followed the 8th grade standards this year.  However, some parents are still convinced their kids are ready for geometry without having taken Algebra 1. So, to prevent losing kids to private schools, we are offering a new semester long Algebra 1 course covering only the topics not seen in 8th grade standards.

Honors: 9th grade full year geometry and 1 semester algebra 1, 10th grade algebra 2, 11th grade PreCalc, 12th grade ap calc

Regular track is the same, still the opportunity to jump from regular to honors by doubling up on geometry and algebra 2

We specifically chose not to combine algebra and geometry or do a semester of each because our geometry courses emphasize reasoning in a different way than all of the other courses and it's important for students to study all kinds of math.  Any course created with the intention of "getting kids to calculus" is going to emphasize algebra over geometry and we don't want to take that risk. Just as we leave the probability and statistics standards to the end of every course and frequently don't reach them, geometry would fall to the wayside in the same way. That said, I'm all for integrated courses when the whole path is integrated, that isn't something we are looking at right now though. 

There is also a remedial path where students start high school with a double block of algebra 1 to get them caught up. They continue to follow the regular track from there. In the past students who fail algebra 1 take a repeater algebra 1 course (separate from the 9th grade course). Next year we are opening a math lab and we're going to try splitting those students who failed between 8 blocks of the lab and creating an individualized program for each student based on their strengths and weaknesses. If you have any ideas on how to run a math lab we are looking for advice. The vague plan is to have a few students assigned to each section (the ones who failed algebra 1) and then send other students in as needed for remediation. 


  1. I think that "Just as we leave the probability and statistics standards to the end of every course and frequently don't reach them" is a poor policy. Probability and statistics are the most useful part of high school math—useful to far more students than calculus is. I'm speaking as a person with an MS in math and PhD in computer science—I did not get any statistics and very little probability in my education, and had to take courses in statistics after I became a professor, because it was such a glaring hole in my education.

    Stats and probability should be near the beginning of algebra courses, not the end. Better to lose factoring of polynomials than to lose statistics.

    1. "Better to lose factoring of polynomials than to lose statistics." I agree.

      But... factoring of polynomials is a skill expected of students who will study calculus. Not that it's important to the study of calculus, but it's an intermediate skill when solving for critical numbers or points of inflection, for example. Unless (until?!) we allow a graphical approach, or a CAS, we're stuck with it.

      I would like to see a split after a complete Algebra 1 & Geometry sequence (integrated or not). The two branches need to be appropriately rigorous, and equally rich. One will go on to Calculus, with all of the required algebra and trigonometry taught in a real Pre-Calculus course, and the other will go on to Probability and Statistics, followed by Financial Numeracy (or lose the special ed connotation and call it "Consumer Math.")

      We at the secondary level will have to do a good P.R. job with college admissions folks, as well as professors expecting the same skills from every kid. 25 years ago, I taught in a school with 1500 kids. There were 2 sections of pre-cal and one of calculus. 2 years ago, I taught in a school of 1400 kids. There were 9 sections of pre-cal and 4 sections of calculus. I realize that jobs are getting more technical, but calculus is not the only path to prepare kids for those jobs.

      That's my two cents.