Response to today’s conversation

Commenters on the AJC Get Schooled blog debated integrated math, in which high school classes combine multiple math disciplines, such as algebra and geometry, into a single course. The state embraced integrated math in 2005, but controversy remains over whether the approach was flawed, or teacher training on how to teach it was flawed. While Georgia now allows districts to choose integrated or traditional math, the state End of Course Tests align more with an integrated approach. Here is a sampling of comments:

Kenneth: I can’t help my kids with this math. It is incomprehensible to me, and I have college and graduate degrees. The materials do not explain it in a way that can be understood, and the teachers do not understand it and therefore can’t teach it. Declaring a new standard makes no sense if you are unable to implement it operationally. Predictably, both of my children are struggling in math, despite getting A’s in all their other advanced classes. I hate that my kids are guinea pigs in this unwise experiment.

HSPrincipal: The solution is simple. Since 70 percent of our students are not going to college, why prepare them for it? We should go back to two tracks in math. College-bound students would take Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II and Trig, and everyone else, the applied series of math. No one at the state level has enough sense to see this.

FormerTeach: I spoke with a friend in another state who teaches integrated math. Teachers were required to take and master courses in teaching integrated math. It was phased in gradually and, through a well-developed approach, has gradually raised math scores on standardized tests. It was not an instant cure and took a great deal of effort from teachers to make sure the implementation worked. Such a significant change in a program involves quite a bit of learning and change — starting with the teachers. You cannot implement a program and expect success without the teachers having mastered the program first.

ScienceTeach: One of the worst things we’ve ever done is assume all students will go to college. They won’t, and consumer math was a great course for some of our students. Actually, even some of the college-bound could use it; it might keep them from mortgaging their futures on student loans.

Star: Go to a fast-food restaurant. After the computer figures your change, say, “Oh, I have the 17 cents” and hand it to the person at the register, and watch them try to deal with it. Great system of education we have.

Larry: The discussion over competing pathways ignores the fact that teacher preparation and their math teaching skill level is the controlling factor. The “M” in STEM represents the global universal language. Those we depend on to deliver it to a population eager to learn must be proficient in it, whether in a traditional or integrated system.

What’s Best: The bottom line is the methodology keeps changing, which hurts kids. If we are going to adopt a method, we need to stick with the method so students can have continuity; otherwise, we will have scores in the tank. The class of 2012 had three math changes on them … while they were in high school. No wonder they don’t get it.