K-12 Math Work presents county with changes for its math curriculum

By By Sarah Reitzes, Fact Checker

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The K-12 Math Work Group presented a set of 26 recommendations for changes to the MCPS math curriculum to Superintendent Jerry Weast and the Board of Education in early November.
Assembled in January 2009, the K-12 Math Work Group’s objective is to improve the MCPS math program.
“The goal of the work group is to improve math teaching and learning in MCPS,” said Erick lang, MCPS associate superintendent of curricular and instructional programs and a member of the K-12 Math Work Group. “The work group focused on five areas: written curriculum, implemented curriculum, assessed curriculum, acceleration and targets and professional development.”
The proposed changes overlap with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), uniform standards for the K-12 mathematics and English language arts education that Maryland adopted this past June. Maryland is one of 40 states to have adopted the CCSS.
“The CCSS emphasize a stronger mastery of number concepts at the elementary and middle school level,” said Marty Creel, MCPS director of enriched and innovative programs and a member of the K-12 Math Work Group. “This will help prepare more students for higher level math courses at the high school level.”
According to a memorandum from Weast to the Board of Education, the recommended changes to the written curriculum call for more in-depth math education at each grade level including a focus on number concepts in elementary school, algebraic concepts in middle school and geometric and Algebra 2 concepts, as well as preparations for higher level math, in high school. The report also emphasizes the necessity of approaching mathematical concepts from different directions and examining their applications to real life.
MCPS also hopes to integrate more technology use into the math curriculum, including an online forum for staff members to develop and share ideas.
According to the memorandum, one recommended change to MCPS’s acceleration practices is to “eliminate the practice of  having large number of students skipping grade levels in mathematics.”
Some students who were accelerated in middle school have trouble with high school math. Junior Monica Won, for example, skipped both Algebra I and Algebra II.
“In Honors Precalculus, first quarter I struggled a little bit,” Won said. “I lacked a little bit of basics.”
Sophomore Rachel Beiser was part of a group of students at Wayside Elementary School who skipped sixth grade math to take seventh grade math in fifth grade.
“I think at times when we were younger, all of us skipped had gaps, so our teacher had to reteach us or we just had to reteach us or we just had to catch on over the years,” Beiser said. “Seeing my classmates over the years, I think that there were a bunch of them that shouldn’t have been pushed too far.”
Although the changes have been presented to Weast, they have not yet been finalized.
“The next step is for an Implementation Team assembled by Weast to review and prioritize the recoomendations,” Creel said. “This will include details like timelines for when specific recommendations will be implemented.”
According to Lang, most curricular changes will be put into effect during the 2011-2012 school year.
“MCPS is continuing to emphasize success in mathematics and mathematical proficiency for all students,” math department head Jan Williams said. “The emphasis on understanding, computing, applying, reasoning and engaging in mathematics will continue to be important aspects of our mathematics at all level.”