Integrated approach proposed for high school math

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Last fall, the Coeur d’Alene School District assembled an ad hoc committee for secondary mathematics education. The Board of Trustees approved the committee members — comprised of local parents, educators, teachers, and district administrators — and the committee has been meeting regularly for the past few months to review school district data, consider the current mathematics curriculum implementation plan in the district, and make decisions about mathematics instruction moving forward. I have served on this committee since its inception and previously served on the committee for mathematics curricular materials adoption.

The aim of the committee was to consider student assessment data at the secondary level and discuss indicators and potential pathways for improvement — all in an effort to better support the mathematical understanding of Coeur d’Alene students. Let me emphasize that this committee was formed to make our schools better, not because we are falling behind, but because we want students to leave high school prepared for careers and with the ability to assume high-paying jobs and future education.

The main crux of discussion was moving to a new course sequence for math at the secondary level that would have focus, coherence, and appropriate rigor. Currently, students take Algebra I, Geometry, and then Algebra II. There is a vast amount of both qualitative and quantitative data from blind peer-reviewed research indicating that an “integrated” approach to mathematics instruction is the most beneficial for student learning—meaning, each year students would be taught some algebra and some geometry to strengthen understanding in both areas simultaneously. Students in other Idaho districts using this approach are excelling. The committee approved this new course sequence along with an implementation plan.

In the transition to the integrated approach, teachers will use their current materials and follow the implementation plan until the next textbook adoption cycle. This is a fiscally responsible decision that is based on the needs of our students and recognizes our teachers as the true professionals they are, giving them the authority to make instructional decisions; empirical research supports teachers using curricular resources strategically. Additionally, the new plan recognizes the value of true mathematical understanding with a focus on students’ mathematics abilities, as opposed to merely raising test scores. Without question, the Coeur d’Alene School District needs to move to an integrated approach and they have set out a clear and thoughtful plan for this transition.

As a parent, who will eventually have a child entering the Coeur d’Alene School District, I am extremely thankful that those leading the district are striving to continually improve the educational experience for all students. I strongly urge the school board to approve this plan to uphold the district’s mission to challenge our students and advance well-educated, resilient, future-ready citizens.

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Julie Amador has a Ph.D. in Mathematics Education, is an Associate Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Idaho, and Director of the Idaho Regional Mathematics Center. She lives in Coeur d’Alene.

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