Update – new math course sequence proposed

At last night’s meeting, the Superintendent proposed (for first reading, which means it hasn’t been discussed or acted on by the full Board yet) a new math course sequence to better align math instruction in middle and high school with the Common Core.

A graphic showing the proposed new course sequence is here: math core sequenceA paper explaining the rationale behind the proposed new sequence is here. The proposal was discussed at the Curriculum committee earlier this month, and will return for second reading on Feb. 25.

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19 responses to “Update – new math course sequence proposed

  1. Wow. Back to the sequence in 1967!

  2. I also want to add my voice to all the other voices deeply concerned about proposed changes. I completely agree with all the comments above. I hear the teaches not being able to “successfully differentiate” when class sizes are huge, admitting giving advanced students “the short end of the stick.” I wonder if we, parents, have any say in this matter? Who do we talk to? BTW, we hear that technology, ALEKS, Khan Academy, etc will help challenge advanced students, but this is not a substitute for challenging curriculum.

  3. @mom in glen park: Unfortunately, the “pull the kid out and put them in the next grade level” has some significant problems as a solution. From a learning point of view, many of the kids in need of “math challenge” are learning new concepts quickly. So, for example, if you moved a 6th grader to 7th grade math, they’d be a bit confused for a few weeks, catch up, learn the new material quickly, and then be back where they started — bored. The next problem is what to do with kids who are at the oldest level in the school — what to do with a 5th grader? 8th grader? I know for a while Denman was sending their “accelerated” 8th graders over to Balboa for math — the schools were a block apart. Socially this presents some significant challenges. My daughter (who goes to a different middle school) was 12 at the beginning of 8th grade. She really would not belong in a school with 14-18 year olds.

    I for one am glad to say goodbye to “Everyday Math” and its spiral instruction, particularly for the older grades. I have my fingers crossed that by the time my little guy (1st grade, and showing great aptitude for math) hits older grades, someone will have figured out what to do about this significant issue. The elementary schools are already regrouping the kids for ELD — even in K. I see no reason why something similar couldn’t be done for math.

  4. School Board voted unanimously to pass new math course sequence. http://www.sfusdmath.org
    Reading the concerned posts here, Rachel is there a way to answer parents who have children that display a strong aptitude for mathematics, who are dubious that teachers are equipped to successfully differentiate in a class of 35 in middle school? I want to stress that I don’t think it’s any fault of teachers, but with budgets as they have been, there is not much provision for PD, teacher’s aides or the like.

    In my own experience, my son (5th gr.) has had teachers who successfully differentiate, but this year is different – he is bored in math as the teacher covers the same lesson again for the students who are struggling, and he gets no challenging work.


  5. Mom in Glen Park

    It seems to me the only way to challenge a child labeled “challenge level” is to pull them out of their class, and put into the grade above. This should also be true for language arts in elementary school. When I was in high school, we followed a similar track so I am surprised this is an issue – if a middle school And high schooler had already passed one level, they moved to the next no matter their grade level. The rest of the kids we on the track.

    I think putting kids in higher level classes is only way to solve the “bored challenge child” issues in elementary school. Let the kids who are proficient be the ones to help the ones that are deficient. That will make it challenging as well as easier on the teachers.

  6. Mom to Math Lovers

    I have two elementary students who love math. I’m very concerned with what seems to be a district wide move away from offering advanced math in middle school. I understand that it is not helpful to track kids into two groups of GATE and non-GATE. But there should still be a way to offer a separate math class for those who test into it, doesn’t have to be a whole track. There is so much talk about bringing kids up to basic and I hear no discussion of challenging the kids who are already at advanced. It is a huge disservice to advanced learners to say you can offer a differentiated math class – its not possible to teach completely separate lessons in one class. Can’t the district offer individual subject honors or accelerated classes without having GATE tracks? Where is the right place for parents to be part of this discussion?

  7. Thank you, MS Parent. What I’ve observed as my daughter’s school moved away from tracking to “differentiated instruction” is that the advanced kids “get to deepen their knowledge by teaching other kids” which means my child tutors other kids during class time rather than learning new material. ( As an aside, it also means the teachers get away with not teaching all the kids — the advanced kids “get” to help out…) I think a serious failure of all the statistical analysis on what happens to kids when tracking goes away is that it is based on test scores. If my 8th grader is scoring in the 97th percentile in math, making her bored or not teaching her anything for most of a year isn’t going to lower her test scores – she’s just going to be bored and irritated, and start to hate math. Tracking lets her learn new material while the kids who need additional instruction have the right to get it from a licensed teacher.

  8. Ditto the earlier posts about whether children (advanced or not) will really be able to have their math needs met in classes of 30-35. That was the size of my son and daughter’s math classes at Aptos. Believe me, even in a supposed “honors” 8th grade Algebra class, the teachers were unable to give kids what they need or differentiate in any way at all. I can’t imagine what will happen when this gap is opened up even more. Does this plan come with class size reduction?

    I worry that the well-intentioned goal of bringing up the lowest math performers in actually pushes a low bar for every child in SFUSD. Has this new recommendation been implemented in any other district? I’m concerned that we are in a race to the bottom.

    I selfishly feel relieved that my kids escaped what feels like a plan that will actually hamper SFUSD kids from being qualified for STEM careers – which both of my kids (now in high school) wish to pursue.

  9. Reading through this proposal, it seems to me that this is more about abolishing math tracking than it is related to the changes in the Common Core Standards. The appendix opinion piece says clearly that tracking is bad because it can be poorly implemented and even it if were well implemented it’s still bad. Why the anti-tracking crusade is focused on math, the one subject that really needs to be tracked, is baffling to me. It seems that the approach to closing the math achievement gap is to prohibit advanced students from moving at their own pace, limiting all students and setting everyone up to be clobbered in college. This proposal suggests that a “deeper” understanding of math topics is not going to be implemented as repetition, implies that teachers can really differentiate math instruction in a class of 38 (that was the number of kids in my son’s middle school classes last year), and that sticking advanced students next to struggling students is going to magically accomplish something. I have a special needs son who struggles with language and will probably not be taking any AP English classes in high school. Does this mean AP English classes should all go away? He’ll find an English track that is appropriate for him. Of course if we had a well funded special education department, more might be possible, but that’s just not the case. This entire proposal seems so completely detached from the reality in our schools that I wonder if the authors have spent any time in actual SFUSD math classes. I think hiring and retaining strong math teachers, providing after school math tutoring, experimenting with on-line math programs, reviving summer school, and focusing on funding class size reduction would be much more useful areas of focus for the district, actually supporting and learning from the work that goes on in our middle and high schools instead of mandating a one-size-fits-all curriculum.

  10. Our math-oriented kids deserve better

    I am a parent of two SFUSD public elementary school students. I cannot think of a single curriculum decision that would make me more likely to exit the SFUSD for middle school than this one. I completed two years of calculus in high school and found that that preparation just barely gave me entry to the top math/physics tracks in college. I cannot believe that SFUSD would make it impossible for students to do so! My older child already has a basic understanding of systems of algebraic equations and could not flourish in a system that allows so little acceleration for mathematics in middle and high schools. Please reconsider this decision. It is foolhardy and does not meet the promise of educating those students who truly want to stretch in math or math-based sciences.

  11. parent of a middle schooler

    Hi All. Where I am left questioning, is what curriculum will the district be using for math moving forward? At this point, I have been told that is up to individual teachers. Even when instruction at the school site is great, it is challenging for parents to help their kids with homework when curriculum models change from year to year, when there is no online reference, and when the homework pages are photocopies – not connected to a work book, and reduced to 50% (so there are 2 pages on one paper.)

  12. 8th grade Common Core standards DOES include Algebra, but it will also include Geometry and other domains. The resistance to this shift to the CCSS will lie in parents, teachers and students alike willing to accept that the standards go deeper instead of faster and covering more topics. All students should be challenged by the new standards. The names of the courses, Algebra, Geometry, Statistics, etc will not be there at the HS level. But, it will be covered! We all just grew up taking a sequence of math courses that led you to college. (and universities will need to acknowledge this in their admissions as well!) It is a SHIFT that needs to happen! It needs teacher and parent support.

  13. While I completely agree with the paper’s guiding principle that “all students can and should develop a belief that mathematics is sensible, worthwhile, and
    doable,” I fail to understand how limiting math options in the earlier grades accomplishes this. When I was in junior high (grades 7 & 8) there was a whole range of math classes from remedial basics up to Algebra. Now it seems there will be two: Math 7 and Math 8. That’s great for the kids on the low & middle parts of the math spectrum, but it risks putting the kids at the upper end into a mind-numbing boredom trap.

  14. Sorry for the double post: But the paper while saying the below, doesn’t address the current 6th and 7th grade kids who haven’t gone through the K-8th instruction under the new system. The current crop of middle school kids will be caught at the tail end of this because they’ve had k-6 (7) instruction under one set of standards and now 7&8 under another? I’m not sure how this is going to work? Is it fair to use these kids as guinea pigs? Has there been any discussion about starting from elementary school and phasing it in to the appropriate grade level and make the changes as these kids come up the pike?

    The paper says this:

    “The standards that defined Algebra 1 under the old California standards are now divided between CCSS Math 8 and CCSS Algebra 1 (see “FAQs about Common Core State Standards for Mathematics in SFUSD Middle Schools” in the Appendix). CCSS Math 8 introduces extensive new mathematics content traditionally taught in high school—linear functions, transformational geometry, and bivariate statistics—and is not a course that can be skipped. CCSS Algebra 1 does not repeat content from CCSS Math 8, but rather builds on the content students learn in CCSS Math 8, and should therefore be the core course for 9th graders in high school.”

    The paper goes on to address the kids who are planning on entering STEM Fields..

    “For students who would like to complete an AP course, this course sequence allows them to do so by compressing CCSS Algebra 2 with Precalculus in high school. Unlike the earlier practice of having students accelerate in math by skipping a course, the CCSS-M necessitate that acceleration only occur by course compression. This means that students learn standards from more than one year during a regular class period over one year. The option for compression supports students who wish to graduate from high school prepared for specialized studies in STEM in university settings”

    To be clear I am *not* saying this might not be a good idea in the long run however, as I said, I am deeply concerned about the kids who are currently in middle school. It’s a midstream change and math is a cumulative subject, Does it make sense to make these changes for the current crop, or as I said before phase it in at the elementary level?

  15. I have the same question as the others posting here. What about the kids who are ready for Algebra in 7th or 8th grade?

    Not to mention, the current middle school kids have already spent half their years on one system, how does the proposed changes in math instruction take that in to account?

    My children are heading down the STEM path, I do not want to see them derailed. My son is in the 8th grade and completing Algebra, he’s currently learning to factor Trinomials, He was ready for algebra last year but it wasn’t offered for 7th graders .

    My daughter is in the 6th grade and her strength is math. Will there be an option for the kids who are ready to take Algebra to be given the opportunity to take it? I’d be willing to forgo the elective if she could take it along with 8th grade math, whatever that means.

    I’m very concerned by these changes because it is coming mid stream for these current crop of middle schoolers.

  16. How about a second (or really first) choice point entering 7th grade? Strong math students should be offered the chance to take pre-algebra in 7th grade and algebra in 8th grade.

    My daughter was able to test into the highest math track at Lowell and is taking honors pre-calculus as a junior. I feel confident that she will be fully prepared to take AP Calculus B/C as a senior. She will be also be more likely to be admitted for her chosen field of engineering in college. Kids who did not take honors pre-calculus (took regular precalcukus) as a junior still have the option to take Calculus A/B as senior. While this is a good option, it may not sufficiently prepare students to test out of calculus and directly into linear algebra as a freshman in college like B/C does. This is the expectation for many engineering students.

    This new sequence appears to address the needs of the general student quite well. But I worry that it leaves our highest performing students at a disadvantage compared with their suburban and private school peers as they enter college. A second earlier choice point would address this issue.

  17. Oh dear G-d. My 8th grader has been dragged through the ongoing postponement of Algebra for long enough. Her school stopped offering Algebra in 7th grade as demanded by the district. She was in honors 7th grade math, and covered almost all the topics that are now being covered in her 8th grade algebra class (which is non-honors, as her school dropped that designation…) This week they are AGAIN going over factorials…. covered in 5th, 6th, 7th, and now 8th grade. She is going out of her MIND with boredom

  18. That may be covered in the position paper I posted – I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

  19. So what happens to the children who are ready for Algebra in 7th or 8th grade? How do they keep them from being bored? I started algebra in 7th grade as part of Unified Math, and was really energized by the math. I would’ve been bored from the proposed track — kind of makes me sad.