Common core causes math classes to change its course


Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 2.25.50 PMPiedmont math curriculum is subject to change as Common Core State Standards strive to implement a more comprehensive, less repetitive teaching style.

All school districts in California are gradually incorporating Common Core State Standards within the math curriculum of both middle school and high school. This new curriculum standard, which will be integrated next year, is considered more rigorous and strives to create a stronger algebra foundation, superintendent Randy Booker said.

“A fundamental principle of the CCSS is that a mastery of algebra is essential to a student’s success and continued interest and engagement in mathematics,” Booker said.

Booker says that this program will enable students who master material quickly to achieve greater depth in the subject as well as enable students who require more attention to be more successful at their level.

“At this point, the district’s plan is to have accelerated 7th graders and current 8th graders taking algebra to continue in the traditional pathway into geometry next year, while embedding common core standards into their curriculum,” Booker said.

These standards will not only affect middle school students, but high school students as well. Math teacher John Hayden says that the new standard will be applied in ninth grade, most likely for a freshman Algebra 1 class, so that current students can stay on the traditional path. Through common core, Hayden hopes to reduce the memorization of formulas and focus more on the “how” and “why” behind mathematical equations.

“If you look at a lot of other countries who rank higher than we do on some of the national tests that’s one of the things a lot of the countries do,” Hayden said. “Their books are a lot less thick, but they teach the content really, really well.”

While now students look at intricate equations and ask, “When will we ever need to know this,” the new standard, according to Hayden, pushes away from that idea. The common core curriculum is more project based, avoids repetition, and strived to help students have a deeper understanding of the subject.

“Students spend first quarter going over what they learned the year before which is a waste of time,” Hayden said. “Part of the idea is that if we teach the subject deeply the first time, students might actually remember something and we don’t have to go over it.”

According to Hayden, the new standards compact the material being taught and emphasize more effective ways of helping students comprehend the concepts. Rather than having non-accelerated middle school math classes that continue to review the same content over and over again, the new standards look into changing the classes so that they use time more valuably. In addition, alterations for high school calculus are also in discussion.

“One of the things we’re looking at with the progress of common core is taking the calculus program and converting it to what most schools have which is you take either Calculus AB or Calculus BC rather than having to take both,” Hayden said.

While the plans for calculus are tentative, Hayden says that the common core standards will definitely be implemented in math classes over the next few years.

“How everything is presented is going to completely change,” Hayden said. “ Which is why part of the reason for us to roll it out slowly.”

Considering that no changes have been made to the math curriculum since 1998, Hayden says that the process is going to be a lot of hard work for everyone to get used to, specifically students and teachers, because of these significant changes being made.

“Over the course of 5 or 6 years is when the students will really see the benefits of common core, and this could be an amazing opportunity to get individuals more engaged in math,” Hayden said.