Thursday, July 13, 2017

Planning For A New Course

After adopting the California version of the Common Core standards, my district foisted integrated math on us.  Instead of Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, and Trig/Pre-calc, we have Integrated Math 1, Integrated Math 2, Integrated Math 3, and Trig/Pre-calc.  (And it's not really integrated, it's hodge-podge, but that's a different complaint.  And it makes as much sense as teaching "integrated science" or "integrated foreign language".)  And since we don't want students to accelerate much--the argument is to ensure they take their time and master the material, as if we don't have students smart and capable enough to master and accelerate--you can see that AP Calculus isn't in the cards.

So what do we do?  We let kids accelerate, but only a little.  We've created IM 2+ and IM 3+ (now Honors Integrated Math 3), and those lead directly to calculus by bypassing Pre-calculus/trig.  And freshmen can start as advanced as IM 2+, so there remains a (narrow) road to AP Calculus BC.

This coming school year is the first at which my school will offer IM 3 and HIM 3, and my department co-chair and I will be teaching HIM3 for this inaugural year.  He's attended at least one district-level planning meeting for the course and had mapped out a pacing guide for the first semester; we met at his house today to do the same for the 2nd semester, as it's been awhile since he's taught that specific material and needed my input on planning.

We looked at the standards.  One thing I despise about the Common Core Math Standards is that they're not clear.  California's 1997 standards were crystal clear, there was no doubt what was expected.  These new standards seems to need other documents to explain what is meant by the standards.  I'll say it for the zillionth time, if you have to "interpret" what the standards mean, then they aren't clear enough to be standard.

So we worked together for a legitimate four hours today, mapping out the second semester.  What I don't like is that we have to not teach some very interesting things in order to cover only what is needed to prepare students for AP Calculus.  That bothers me, as there are many important topics that don't necessarily lead directly to calculus.  Searching for an analogy, I come up with a military one:  we're building a tank, but with very thin armor.  Sure, it has uses, but is it the best tank you can have?

And all of this is caused by our district's refusal to let students accelerate even if they're ready to.  And on top of that, our district is going to add a third year of math to our graduation requirements.

Math education in my district is fast becoming what is known as a disaster.

Update, 7/14/17:  Mine isn't the only school district that doesn't want students to learn too much:
When she completed sixth-grade math in a few months, she went ahead and did seventh-grade math, too. She asked to do the same in science. The school resisted at first, but eventually she was taking ninth-grade science as a sixth grader. She is now five years ahead of her grade in math and three years ahead in science. Her school also let her take an entrepreneurship course full of 11th- and 12th-graders at the district’s Career Institute.

Now, in seventh grade, she has been made to pay for the crime of getting too far ahead of her classmates. Almost everyone in her middle school takes six courses. This school year she was only allowed to take five.

“They refused to allow my daughter to take her second-year Spanish foreign-language class — a subject she adored and a fun break in her day, while we had a joy of speaking this at home — and instead make her sit in the library for one hour doing homework,” Gupta said.
Why don't we want students to learn?


David said...

This is one reason why I enjoy teaching history. Like you, I teach in California and as you know, no state tests for history (at least for now). Thus, I can spend as long or little as possible on a particular topic and not have a pacing plan. I can spend 2 weeks or 2 months going over the Civil War. Plus if I want to add something, I can teach it as long as it is in standards.
Example: I spend 2 weeks at the end of the 7th grade year going over slavery to the Americas like Brazil and the Caribbean (standard is Columbian Exchange). I am trying to show that slavery is not just a US thing but a world wide thing. There is almost nothing in the textbook about this, but it is something the kids should know.

Niels Henrik Abel said...

Yet another reason to homeschool - kids can cover as much material as they (or the parents) want to. No artificially imposed learning limits.

Lily Rosenblum said...

I'm glad I'm not part of this hell anymore. Thanks for being the best math teacher I had at Rio! Maybe your skills at Geoguessr might help your students learn their sins, cosins, and tangent angels.