This is my first post on this new blog. I have a number of ideas to get up on the page, but need to find the time to get it going. This post stems from my doctoral research. I would love to hear what you think about my thoughts.
The current situation for Texas high school math education, generally speaking:
- The most advanced students typically take Algebra 1 in 8th grade, Geometry in 9th, Algebra 2 in 10th, Pre-calculus in 11th, and Calculus in 12th.
- The least advanced students take Algebra 1 twice-9th grade and 10th, Geometry in 10th and/or 11th, and finish with Mathematical Models and Applications in12th, resulting in a minimum diploma.
- Obviously, there are a myriad of situations in between. At worst, though, the least productive high school math students are 3 years behind at graduation. Of course, the level of learning is probably well below as well.
I would like to propose a new system for my pretend high school:
- The highest level, in general, would be called a University STEM track, which has Calculus or AP Statistics as the expected final course.
- The second level, in general, would be called a University non-STEM track, which has Pre-calculus or AP Statistics as the expected final course.
- The third level, in general, would be called a Junior College track, which has Pre-calculus or Algebra 2 as the expected final course.
- The fourth level, in general, would be called a Vocational track, which has Algebra 2 or MMA as the expected final course.
- The fifth level, in general, would be called a Liberal Arts/Fine Arts track, which has MMA as the expected final course.
- The university tracks(1 and 2) are to be parallel Algebra 2 classes. They should have similar six weeks calendars. The STEM curriculum/course should be more rigorous and in all ways a more challenging math class. Teachers may need to modify pacing, depth, and style, but the curricula should be similar enough as to not be considered a whole different course.
- The junior college track would be the present on-level Algebra 2 course and is the stepping stone between the two major level differences. If a child wanted to take a step down from the university track or up from the vocational or fine/liberal arts tracks. It is unlikely that a student will be following a liberal arts track and choose to move to the university STEM track and be successful. However, track switches are possible, and this is a good compromise.
- The vocational and liberal arts tracks would, like the university tracks, be parallel course tracks. The major difference, however, would be the theme of the courses pointing to non-mathematical or job cluster math. These math courses would be taught relatively close to the watered down versions that are acceptable today and are considered minimal. Depth of abstract math understanding is not the goal in this class, though learning Algebra 2 methods and thinking is still imperative.
- “Placement” tests before 6th grade and 8th grade would be implemented to determine appropriate tracking levels, along with teacher recommendation and input from parents, students, and counselors.
- Choice would be the norm, with input being expected from teachers and counselors to best match students with a track.
- Additionally, brief, non-comprehensive, parent/student reviews of placement would be conducted semi-annually. If no changes were expected, the process could be bypassed.
- Comprehensive reviews would be conducted annually, involving all parties. If no changes were expected, the process could be bypassed.
This is not the final development of the ideas, but a good start towards making high school math education more student friendly.