Letters to the Editor

Ron Preston and Michelle Stephan: NC must reject return to non-integrated math

Regarding the June 7 Point of View “NC lawmakers meddling in math – again”: Currently, North Carolina high school students learn mathematics in an integrated fashion with geometry, algebra and statistics concepts taught together. However, a vocal minority has lobbied legislators to revert to the traditional algebra-geometry-algebra II course sequence despite evidence that an integrated course sequence produces stronger mathematics students who are college and career ready and have higher achievement.

House Bill 657 may appease a minority of constituents who want mathematics education to be just as it was in their high school experience, but moving from an integrated mathematics approach to the traditional silo approach would be a major step backward for mathematics teaching and learning in North Carolina.

Comfort with the past is not a good enough reason to go back to previous models of instruction from the 1960s, especially when it worked only for the top 10 percent. Time and money already have been invested creating a world-class integrated curriculum for North Carolina. Beyond wasting these resources, international comparisons show that countries that outperform the United States use an integrated approach. Consider:

▪ An integrated high school mathematics curriculum connects mathematical ideas across algebra and geometry. For example, slope, rates, similarity and right triangle trigonometry all use ratios.

▪ Recent research indicates that students in an integrated pathway outperform those in traditional pathways.

▪ Student achievement is higher for an integrated curriculum. Recent research shows that students who studied an integrated math track scored 4.2 points higher on the math portion of the ACT than those in a traditional track. Minority and economically disadvantaged students taking an integrated approach also perform significantly higher than those students in a traditional course sequence.

▪  Teacher morale will suffer even more from these regressive changes. A return to a traditional, isolationist mathematics curriculum undermines the work of many teachers and mathematics educators in this state. They have spent countless hours revising the high school standards, gaining approval by the State Board of Education as recently as June 2. Many districts are already creating curriculum and pacing guides based upon these revisions.

HB 657 would be expensive, both in terms of time and money. Further, it would be a step backward from work initiated 10 years ago – North Carolina was moving toward an integrated curriculum for all (it was an option even then) in the Essential Standards work of 2006-08.

We implore our state legislators to listen to the State Board of Education, experts at the Department of Public Instruction, mathematics teacher educators and mathematics teachers from across the state and reject HB 657.

Ron Preston

President, North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics

Michelle Stephan

President, Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators-North Carolina

The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the issue.