Hybrid math is on the way to Triangle schools

khui@newsobsever.comDecember 15, 2011 

  • Go to www.ncpublicschools.org /acre/standards/common-core-tools/#crosswalks to view a comparison of the current and new math curriculums.

The days of Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry could be numbered in Triangle schools, but they would be replaced by a new trio of what's supposed to be tougher and more in-depth math courses.

Triangle High Five, a group led by the superintendents in Wake, Durham, Orange and Johnston counties and Chapel Hill-Carrboro, is recommending that their school boards stop naming courses Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry.

Triangle High Five says those names no longer accurately reflect what students will begin learning next school year as part of a new statewide math curriculum. With students set to enroll in fall courses in the next few months, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board will be the first Triangle district to discuss the High Five proposal tonight.

"It wouldn't be your mother's, or father's or grandparents' Algebra I," said Rodney Trice, executive director for curriculum and instruction for Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools. "It's changing because of the additional content."

North Carolina is one of 45 states that adopted the "common core," a set of education standards in math and language arts. The goal is to have consistent, rigorous standards across the nation.

The state is letting school districts continue to call the high school courses Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II. But what would be taught in each course would be significantly different. For instance, Algebra I would now include some geometry material.

Triangle High Five is proposing that the three new hybrid courses be called Common Core Math I, II and III.

Triangle High Five officials say using the same course names will promote consistency should students move between the five districts. Triangle High Five was originally formed in 2003 with funding from The News & Observer and four other area businesses to help improve the graduation rate and to promote collaboration among the Triangle school districts.

Rebecca Garland, chief academic officer at the state Department of Public Instruction, said state officials expect most districts will keep the old course names because that's what parents are familiar with.

In addition to coming up with course names, another question facing school districts is the order for students to take the classes.

Chapel Hill administrators are recommending using an accelerated curriculum proposal from Triangle High Five that would let most students take three years of middle school math in two years. This would allow eighth-graders to take a high school math course, paving the way for honors courses in high school.

Whether Wake County will follow Chapel Hill's example is uncertain. The decision could impact whether Wake continues the push it has made over the last two years to get more eighth-graders to take Algebra I, historically a high school course.

Ruth Steidinger, Wake's senior director for middle school programs, said through a district spokesman that she will meet Monday with Superintendent TonyTata to talk about what math sequence to recommend.

School administrators in Durham and Wake say they expect to present the Triangle High Five proposal to their school boards in January.

Based on the complexity of the new material, Garland said it's expected that the majority of North Carolina public school students will wait until high school before taking Algebra I or its new equivalent course.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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