This math is not for all students

Published 6:25 pm Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I have taught mathematics in a Georgia public school system for the past 23 years and my heart is breaking over the latest changes in our curriculum and graduation requirements.

This letter is to inform the public about the changes and to encourage voters to get informed before casting a vote for the next state school superintendent. Since I am a high school teacher, I am more aware of the changes made at the secondary level and graduation requirements, but maybe this letter will prompt teachers from all grade levels to add to this discussion.

Two years ago, the new math courses began to be implemented at the high school level. We no longer teach the traditional Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, etc. classes. Our students have only one diploma track that requires they pass the new GPS classes: Math I, Math 2, Math 3 and Math 4. These courses offer a layer-cake approach by integrating algebra, geometry, statistics and advanced math into each course.

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This sounds good on paper, but all of these courses require students to master concepts that were traditionally required of students going to college. I am using lessons from my AP Calculus class in the ninth-grade math courses.

I am not against pushing students to their limits, but not all students will go to college. By offering only one diploma, every student must complete these college-prep courses. I have witnessed a level of frustration and despair from students and parents that is gut-wrenching.

What about the students who want to go into the military or technical school? We offer no tech-prep diploma to meet their needs, but force all to take these college-level courses. I fear we may see an increase in drop-outs and a decrease in graduation rates because these students’ needs are not being met. I just finished teaching summer school for the students who failed these new math classes, and I felt like I was ministering to the “academically abused.”

There is also something more heart-breaking; while we push these kids to learn advanced math concepts, they are not learning the basics at a functional level. For example, while helping a student with a geometric sequence problem, the students needed to calculate the yearly salary for a person starting at $40,000 and earning a 7 percent raise each year. The students had no idea how to calculate what the next years’ salaries would be, much less finish the problem with the geometric sequence formulas. Our students are being herded through this new curriculum like cows in a chute. They are not learning the basics that make them mathematically literate.

I have reviewed the candidates for state school superintendent and found only one who specifically addresses these concerns. He is John Barge. He does a great job of explaining the current problems and laying out his plan to get Georgia’s students back on track with the rest of the nation. I encourage you to check out his website and the websites of all the other candidates before casting your vote.

Thank you,Cindy WilliamsColquitt, Ga.