Change to high school math in Metro Schools will better serve students
Metro Schools is set to make a major transition in math instruction. Starting in the 2015-16 school year, the district will move to an integrated math model for high school-level courses. This means Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II will be replaced with Integrated Math I, Integrated Math II and Integrated Math III, respectively.
“Integrated math gives students a much better understanding of math as a whole and how it applies to their lives,” said Metro Schools’ Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jay Steele. “This transition will better prepare students for college-level math courses and real-world applications of math concepts. It goes beyond memorizing formulas and equations to really connect students with mathematics and show them the underlying structures of it.”
All middle and high school parents are encouraged to attend the meeting that is most convenient for them.
With integrated math, students are held to the same standards and expected to master the same mathematical concepts but in a different order. Those concepts are woven together, with more interaction between them. Rather than teaching in silos where mathematical concepts are separated into subjects like algebra and geometry, integrated math builds a progression of skills and concepts from across subjects over the course of three years. This helps students see and better understand the connections between the concepts and how they all tie together as a whole.
“Math skills do not exist in a vacuum in the real world,” said Peg Cagle, faculty member at Vanderbilt University and member of the Board of Directors for the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics. “Adults are expected to use a range of math skills to accomplish everyday tasks that are not isolated into individual subjects. Integrated math teaches mathematical coherence, where students see relationships between concepts. It also better prepares students for college-level math, where concepts mingle and interact to a much greater degree.”
The switch to Integrated Math will be phased in over three years:
- In 2015-16, Algebra I will be replaced with Integrated Math I.
- In 2016-17, Geometry will be replaced with Integrated Math II.
- In 2017-18, Algebra II will be replaced with Integrated Math III.
Students who have taken or are currently taking Algebra I will not be affected by this change and will take Geometry and Algebra II. Honors versions of each Integrated Math class will be available at every high school. Advanced Placement classes like Calculus and Statistics will also be available. Middle school students will have the opportunity to take Integrated Math I and II for high school credit just as they currently can for Algebra I and Geometry.
“We are very excited for this transition because the integrated model fits so much better with the International Baccalaureate program and global approach at our school,” said Hillsboro High School principal Dr. Terry Shrader. “It elevates high school math to a new level where students feel connected to what they are learning and see how math concepts work together as a unified subject.”
Integrated math is the standard method of math instruction internationally. The United States is one of the few countries in the world to teach math separated by subject. For 40 years, school districts across the country have been studying the benefits of integrated math. New York, North Carolina, Utah and West Virginia have made the transition statewide, while many others – like Tennessee – leave the decision to individual districts. In Tennessee, several school districts have moved to an integrated approach, including Putnam, Bradley, Warren and Cheatham Counties.
“Math is already taught in an integrated fashion in kindergarten through eighth grade,” said Dr. Steele. “First graders don’t go to ‘addition class’ or ‘subtraction class.’ They go to math class. In high school, math class suddenly becomes separated into teaching just one concept per year. Integrated Math gives students a consistent teaching and learning style from kindergarten to graduation.”
If traditional high school math is taught like this...
...integrated high school math is taught like this.
“We wouldn’t expect language arts to be split up in such a way,” said Cagle. “Separating algebra from geometry makes as much sense as separating reading from spelling. They are different skills, but they are so closely connected that it makes much more sense to teach them side by side and let students see how they work together.”
The Tennessee Department of Education does not officially advocate for integrated math, but does offer it as an option for districts to use. Now is the ideal time to make the switch because:
- full implementation of new standards is complete;
- new statewide assessments are in development; and
- new math textbooks will be adopted for the 2015-16 school year.
After on-going discussions among some of the district’s best math teachers – called numeracy coaches – Metro Schools’ curriculum leaders decided to take advantage of this confluence of circumstances and make the switch to integrated math. They are working closely with the Tennessee Department of Education and the higher education community to ensure a smooth transition and provide the best professional development for high school math teachers. Numeracy coaches will work throughout the rest of this school year to develop materials for integrated math classes, and the math textbook committee is expected to adopt integrated math textbooks very soon.
Math teachers will have extensive professional development opportunities to prepare for this change, including a two-week summer institute. Professional development is paid for through a grant from the Tennessee Department of Education totaling nearly a million dollars. There will also be resources readily available in schools for classroom teachers and numeracy coaches. Professional development will be conducted in partnership with Vanderbilt University, Tennessee Tech and the University of Tennessee at Martin. Math professors from these schools will give Metro teacher guidance on instruction.
“The success of moving to an integrated model will depend on how well we prepare teachers and parents for the switch,” said Dr. Steele. “We are very fortunate to have partners like UT Martin, Vanderbilt and Tennessee Tech to help us through this transition. Their expertise will be invaluable.”
Parents will have many opportunities to learn about integrated math and what it means for their children. There will be six cluster-based parent meetings throughout the city for middle and high school parents where parents can ask questions and see examples of what their children will learn in integrated math classes.