Math Rebellion Up North: Ashland Students Favor New Algebra Course, Fewer Enroll in Core Plus

Kevin O’Brien:

An overwhelming majority of Ashland students who were given the choice between traditional math and the Core Plus curriculum decided to take algebra I courses next school year, according to a report given Monday by Ashland High School Principal Steve Gromala.
In a report to the Ashland School Board, it was noted that 83 percent of students signed up for algebra I, which was offered for the first time in several years after parents and board members demanded an alternative to the Core Plus curriculum.
A total of 170 students, including 115 incoming freshmen and 55 of next year’s sophomores, enrolled in the newly offered algebra I course for the 2006-07 school year. By comparison, 34 students enrolled in Core Plus 1.
The addition of algebra I next school year is the first step toward offering a dual-track math curriculum that will allow incoming freshmen to choose between algebra classes and Core Plus. Additional classes such as geometry, algebra II and pre-calculus will be added in future years as students advance.

“I want to ensure you that we will not need any additional staff next year,” Gromala told the board. “For future years, we’ll have to wait and see.”
The 55 sophomores who chose to take algebra I next year will have to start over in the traditional curriculum and must take a minimum of three years of algebra to meet graduation requirements, Gromala noted.
To ensure that students had equal opportunity to choose either algebra or Core Plus, Gromala said the new algebra class was offered during each of the school’s eight daily sections.
Board member Jeanne Thompson, a longtime proponent of implementing a dual math curriculum, thanked Gromala and Curriculum Director Barb O’Brien for setting up the new schedule.
“It’s been a long road, but the parents’ wishes are being met,” Thompson said. “That’s very important.”
Now that enrollment numbers have been determined, the school’s math department is trying to decide which textbook to purchase for next year’s students.
Math teachers have already reviewed 14 different algebra books using a list of criteria and have narrowed their selection to two choices: Glencoe/McGraw Hill 2005 and McDougal Littell 2007.
“They’re in unanimous agreement that either of these textbooks would be appropriate,” O’Brien said.
However, because of the public’s interest in the new math curriculum, O’Brien wanted to give community members an opportunity to review the two texts before the board approves a set of books at its April meeting.
As a result, over the next month, community members can stop by the school district’s administrative offices, review each of the textbooks and fill out comment cards.
The Ashland School District’s central office is located at 2000 Beaser Avenue, and Curriculum Director Barb O’Brien can be contacted at 682-7080, ext. 4.

3 thoughts on “Math Rebellion Up North: Ashland Students Favor New Algebra Course, Fewer Enroll in Core Plus”

  1. The problem with programs like Core-Plus is not that the curriculum is integrated. Many European countries sucessfully use integrated curricula for secondary math. Singapore Math’s secondary materials are integrated, and they are wonderful books.In America, most parents’ initial encounter with ‘dumbed-down’ math has been via integrated math because these curricula were developed in reponse to alarm at low achievement levels of some student groups. One way in which the designers of these curricula reach out to low achievers is by reducing rigor so these students can more easily make some kind of connection to the math. So parents have become understandably suspicious of any materials labelled ‘integrated.’ But it is important to remember in all cases to keep your eye on the level of rigor within the text, not the title. There are Algebra books and Algebra books. A given textbook publisher may produce several lines of high-school texts to satisfy the varying desires of different districts. Even Singapore now has several lines of its integrated texts, which vary somewhat in the level of rigor, although even their lowest looks mighty good next to many American texts these days. McDougal-Littell, which publishes one of the texts which Ashland is considering, also sells several other Algebra books as well as an integrated text. Their best, which I purchased recently for home use, is titled Algebra: Structure and Method. The text which I believe is currently in use at West(please someone correct me if I’m wrong on this) is Discovering Algebra. This is a discovery learning style textbook which has a very reduced level of rigor. There is also a Discovering Geometry text in this series. When Mr. Rathert was principal at West, he expressed the administration’s intention to phase in these books as the standard texts in a letter in the student newsletter. I don’t know what has happened with that. Anyone have info about this? If one is going to require Algebra and Geometry of all students, it is clearly easier to reach that goal with a lower level book. But then the goal has been sullied somewhat by reduction so does not have its original value when reached. And what about the students who have the desire and ability to learn the more rigorous math? They can’t learn as much with a lower level text. The harder problems that stretch the brain aren’t there.
    The hopeful thing here is that we can see that it is in fact possible for vocal knowledgeable parents to band together to effect change in their schools. Thank you for this, Ruth.

  2. Re: Discovering Geometry.
    Because of my undegrad and graduate degrees, I am a few credit short of a minor in mathematics. So you can imagine my embarassment when my 10th grade son brought home 80 questions for a test review and I could only answer about 40 of them. He was being taught with Discovering Geometry. No problem, I thought, so I looked to the book for help. Big mistake. No glossary and no complete statements of the rules. The rules would be stated but the author would actually leave blanks where the important words should have been. It was virtually impossible to use the book as a factual reference. You see, the kids take their time to “discover” the rules. Proper Euclidian geometry it is not, but rather, just another example of fuzzy-headed, child-centered, constructivist pish-posh.
    For a telling, yet unscientific analysis of this tripe, go to and do a search for Discovering Geometry. Scroll down to where dozens of students, teachers and parents have left comments on the book.
    Reed Schneider

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