State to integrate high school math courses

New math curriculum standards starting next fall will combine algebra, geometry, trigonometry and more into one course over four years, eliminating the current mathematics classes.

Instead of having a variety of offerings in math – such as trigonometry, algebra and geometry – as separate courses, all math forms will be integrated into four courses simply called Math I, II, III and IV.

Because of the changes, the school system will have to offer both generations of math classes to allow students who already are learning “the old way” to finish school with the older math standards. The integrated math technique was discussed in Tuesday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting.

“They’ve worked very hard at that, and I have every confidence that our transition will be as smooth as any high school in West Virginia,” Buckhannon-Upshur High School principal Robert Wilmoth said.

In the event that some students need to retake those classes a second time, classes like algebra, geometry and trigonometry will still be offered for an interim period in conjunction with the new classes that will begin with current eighth graders. Teachers will have to be trained in the new standards, while also maintaining the old.

“It’s a departure from what the students are used to and what the teachers are used to,” Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School principal Renee Warner said. “They (teachers) are used to teaching how to solve linear equations, how to calculate slope, those very skill-specific things.”

Warner said there would still be places for those kinds of math problems. But the new idea is to take all those skill sets and combine them into problem-based learning.

In about two years, however, students who need to retake classes like geometry may have to take the class online or through special arrangements, Wilmoth said, adding that he hopes the number of students who need to retake those courses will be minimal.

Curriculum specialist John Haymond said some schools throughout the state have already implemented the courses as part of an initial trial run. Upshur County Schools chose not to start early with the others.

“Your first year, you’re building the plane as you fly it,” Haymond said. “I think we made a good decision. Some of the problems that we thought we would have, the other counties that did implement, (had) those problems.”

Haymond said one of the problems was a lack of resources. He said it was difficult for every participating county to find the materials with which to teach the students in this new collaborative method. After facing this challenge, other counties have suggested some resources they discovered that will be available to others in the upcoming year.

Haymond said another concern was “getting students to think for themselves as a collaborative with team members, which is something new for them.”

Wilmoth said that current math equations can easily be answered with a simple search on Google or other online search engines, thus defeating the challenge being asked of students.

“We’re laying the foundation with that at the kindergarten level right on through, so that students coming into the program will be able to work as teams at the problems,” Haymond said.

He said the third concern was finding the best method for meeting the needs of low-performing students. There has been a support class for the old courses. Haymond said the concern that Upshur County Schools and other schools have had was having the support class for Math I, and allowing that to count as a credit.

These new math standards also will have an effect on current middle school students who are taking advanced math courses. Eighth-grade students currently enrolled in algebra will not advance to the second level of math upon entry to high school. Because components of all math courses merge together in Math I, those students also will start with Math I. It is a scenario that Haymond, the teachers and the Board of Education hope parents and students will understand.

Superintendent Scott Lampinen said that Wilmoth, Haymond and Warner are already working to help students, teachers and parents prepare for this transition.

“It’ll be all over the state next year; it’s no longer an option,” Lampinen said.

In other news, board members appointed Rick Reynolds to serve as a representative on the Buckhannon-Upshur Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Reynolds will fill a vacancy that has existed since July 1. His term begins immediately and ends June 30, 2014.

“He’s very active, not only at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School as assistant principal, but also oversees the athletics there with the athletic director,” Lampinen said. “He’s also very active with youth activities here. I think he would be a good addition to that.”