Monday, February 18, 2013

Algebra in the MA Model Pathways

I recommend reading Rick Hess' February 11, 2013 blog, " Straight Up Conversation: Common Core Guru Jason Zimba

Of particular note is the discussion as to when algebra is addressed in common core math standards:
RH: How do you respond to critics who have argued that one problem with the math standards is that they don't address algebra until high school? 
JZ: It is incorrect to say that algebra isn't covered until high school. There is a great deal of algebra in the 8th grade standards. For example, students in grade 8 are expected to solve two simultaneous equations with two unknowns. I don't see a lack of rigor there. The standards actually invest heavily in algebra because of the way they focus so strongly on the prerequisites for algebra in the elementary grades.
I actually think the questions about algebra are better formulated as questions about acceleration. How will kids who are ready for advanced work accelerate to reach courses like calculus during high school? But those are questions for policy, not for standards. The standards don't speak to this issue. Decisions about acceleration and ability grouping are still the purview of local districts, just as they've always been. For example, I've seen where the state of Massachusetts has provided some interesting guidance for districts showing several different models for acceleration, all of them ending at calculus in the senior year of high school.

Details about ESE model pathways are presented in the full DESE frameworks document. Additionally the Making Decisions about Course Sequences and the New Model Algebra I Course document provides "information and resources to ground discussions and decision-making in three inter-related  areas of consideration:
• the increased rigor of both the grade 8 and Algebra I standards;
• the offering of high school mathematics (Algebra I) in middle school to students for which it is
appropriate; and
• options for high school pathways that accelerate starting in grade 9 to allow students to reach advanced
mathematics courses such as Calculus by grade 12."

ESE has also made available an Enhanced High School Pathway to Calculus document which "presents as a proof of concept that it is possible to accelerate students starting in grade 9 to reach Calculus by grade 12, without “doubling up” to take multiple math courses in any given year. Please note that the Enhanced Pathway has not been approved by the Board of  Elementary and Secondary Education and is not officially part of the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for Mathematics. It is provided as a resource to assist district planning and curriculum development."

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