Math: Getting in step with rest of country. Was this fling with integrated math doomed from the start?

As a math teacher told us earlier this week on the blog, Georgia is moving away from its experiment with integrated math in its adoption of the Common Core state standards.

What’s interesting to me is that the reasons cited in the AJC story today echo the initial objections to the switch by many parents — that Georgia was out of step with other states in its math program and that led to problems with transfers and even with college applications.

And, of course, there were those spikes in failure rates in some districts. Yet, other systems reported good results from teaching math in a more integrated fashion.

Could it be that the main problem with the math switch was that teachers were not trained?  There are folks at DOE who have told me that the money was not there for the depth of training that was necessary and that the rollout was undermined as a result.

In his post, the math teacher stressed that the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards is not Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 of days gone by. Statistics content is integrated into every CCGPS high school math class. So, parents will not be seeing a return to the math that they took in high school.

As he noted, “The use of the terminology ‘Analytic Geometry’ should clearly indicate that the content of the second course is not the traditional ‘Euclidian Geometry,’ which is now largely taught in 8th grade. Analytic Geometry used to be taught in the second half of the traditional Algebra 2..”

Here is an excerpt from the AJC story today:

State School Superintendent John Barge said a majority of the other Common Core states are planning next year to offer discrete math, a more traditional approach that largely focuses on a single discipline, such as algebra or geometry. It only makes sense that Georgia would do the same, he said.

“If we are not going to be in step with the rest of the country, why did we adopt the Common Core?” Barge said.

He stopped short of saying local school systems must switch to the more traditional method of teaching math. But he said school systems that continue with integrated math could find that “risky,” once states start testing on the Common Core.

Officials in several school districts — including Gwinnett and Cobb — said they’re already planning to teach traditional math in next year’s change-up to the Common Core, with a curriculum and, eventually, testing that’s similar across the states and allows for state-to-state comparisons.

Doug Goodwin, spokesman for Cobb County Schools, said Wednesday a recommendation will go before the local school board to move from a mix of integrated and traditional classes to strictly the traditional next year.

Gwinnett is preparing its teachers for a move in that direction, as well, said Dale Robbins, associate superintendent for teaching and learning.

“We want to teach our kids in the same way they will be assessed so they have a good opportunity to demonstrate proficiency at the end of their course experience,” Robbins said Wednesday.

Gwinnett, the state’s largest school system, stuck this year with integrated math, which was rolled out to the state’s ninth-graders in the 2008-2009 school year.

“We thought if we transitioned this past year in one direction, then transitioned with the Common Core, it might confuse our folks in a way that was unnecessary,” Robbins said.

Barge’s predecessor, state School Superintendent Kathy Cox, advocated the move to integrated math after years of criticism that the state’s math curriculum was too weak. Some school systems have said they spent millions on textbooks and training.

But there were persistent complaints that teachers were not adequately trained and students were struggling. Some parents said they were forced to hire private tutors for their children.

By early this year, Barge said integrated math was threatening on-time graduation for thousands of students. He proposed alternative courses to help struggling students get back on track and persuaded the state Board of Education to give school systems the choice of integrated math, the more traditional math or a combination of both.

Tom Ottinger, executive director of the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics, called the move away from integrated math disappointing.

“They are abandoning something midstream that seems to be improving student performance,” Ottinger said. “It shows promise, but we haven’t had time to get definitive results.”

Dawson County School Superintendent Keith Porter said he was no fan of integrated math and welcomes the change.

“What is really frustrating is that we have spent tremendous resources to train teachers, spent substantial time in pulling additional resources to align with the integrated curriculum, and, subsequently, asked students to perform at high levels while the curriculum has been in flux,” he said. “Now, we begin the process over again.”

Susan Andrews, school superintendent in Muscogee County, said many students did well with the integrated approach. “But it was difficult to communicate to parents and out-of-state universities and hard on students moving in and out of state.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

152 comments Add your comment

Really?

October 27th, 2011
9:28 am

Our next experiment? Ebonics Phonics.

mystery poster

October 27th, 2011
9:31 am

It was doomed from the start not for its content, but because we did away with “tech prep” at the same time and made everyone get the same diploma. So, imho, it was the forcing of all students in to college prep, not the “new” math curriculum, that caused the problems.

Also, please don’t say we’re “going back” to the old way, we’re not.

Traditional Math Fan

October 27th, 2011
9:32 am

Speaking for many parents that I know who have fought this half-baked integrated math for YEARS, we will believe it when we see it. We’re not taking anything for granted anymore.

Now… is somebody going to start working on the ES level? It sure would be swell to get the constructivist BS out of the early grades so these kids could master their math skills.

pj

October 27th, 2011
9:45 am

Clumping all the maths together certainly did my hard-working, high achieving child no service. One year they had a workbook and no text book to go with it. It also does not prepare them for the tests they are required to pass. Thank fully she has managed fine, but I wonder what college math classes will be like for her.

mystery poster

October 27th, 2011
9:46 am

Also, the math I, II, and III curricula were not truly integrated.

Atlanta mom

October 27th, 2011
9:52 am

Any math curriculum that does not include a textbook is bound to fail. If a student were absent, theoretically, if you have a book you could try to figure out what you missed with the help of friends or parents. If you don’t have a book, teachers have to have daily tutorials for any student who missed just a day or two of classes. And then the student would have to be able to attend the tutorial. Not all students can be at school early, or stay at school late.
Hopefully, if 33 states are adopting the same core standards, textbooks will follow.

Sally in the alley

October 27th, 2011
9:53 am

Integrated math only works if you are calculating the number of jobs saved by the Obama stimulus package.

Dunwoody Mom

October 27th, 2011
10:04 am

I guess I’m in the minority here. My children, especially my oldest, have absolutely thrived under this new approach to Math.

Beavis

October 27th, 2011
10:14 am

Hey Butthead, math sucks.

Inman Park Boy

October 27th, 2011
10:14 am

Not sure I am even qualified to speak on this, but my general rule in education reform is that “trendy” new ideas usually fail miserably.

TeachMom

October 27th, 2011
10:14 am

Lovely. We moved to the Northeast and just as I expected, my 11th grader has been royally screwed. His Math II teacher in Georgia had no idea what she was doing and therefore, couldn’t teach the kids. Now he’s struggling in a “real” math class. Thanks Georgia! Since Kathy Cox ran away, can I send this tutor’s bill to Barge?

Texas Pete

October 27th, 2011
10:16 am

Dunwoody Mom,

What are the ages of your kids? How many of them went to school under both systems and how many went under only one of the systems? Can you say your kids thrived because of the curriculum or because they studied, paid attention and would have thrived in either system?

Ashley

October 27th, 2011
10:20 am

@Mystery poster…you are so right I really don’t think a plumber or mechanic needs cosign or , polynomials. Blue collar workers are the backbone of this country, as I said on past post…everybody wasn’t meant to be Einstein or Hawkings. Before they tackle algebra, geometry, and trig, they need basic math skills, something that is lacking in a lot of kids today….adults for that matter!

Kids Were Short Changed

October 27th, 2011
10:20 am

But the poor kids that started with this “joke” in the ninth grade are now graduating and they are the ones that have received the “short end of the stick”. How will they really ever recover? They’re going to get hammered in college.Most parents i know repeatedly said this was a bad idea, but as usual, our government always knows best.

another comment

October 27th, 2011
10:23 am

Thank God! All they had to do was look at the Top 10 States in the country and non of them teach this Math 1,2,3 crap that Kathy Cox went to. Other states had already tried and dumped it.

Texas Pete

October 27th, 2011
10:27 am

I mean I took Pre-Algebra in 8th grade, Algebra 1 in 9th grade, Geometry in 10th grade, Algebra 2 in 11th, Trig/Pre-Calc in 12th. I generally made Bs and Cs with a few A’s here and there because I didn’t fully apply myself in high school but was always stronger in Math/Science than English/History. Went I went to UGA orientation and took my placement tests I only missed 1 question and placed directly into Calculus 1. I felt the placement test was easy because I was familiar with everything on it despite the actual grades I earned in high school. Understanding fundamental concepts in math is huge compared to doing more complex problem solving just to pass a state test the forgetting the process.

It seems to me that the biggest problem with Integrated Math is that it seeks to make the general student population do more complex problem solving that you’d expect to find in college level courses (and the real world depending on your occupation). The problem with that is at no time did the students actually drill on learning fundamental concepts for each of the math disciplines being applied. It sounds like students are being programmed with math macros instead of being taught what’s really going on…

*shrug*

wow

October 27th, 2011
10:27 am

This math is not the biggest issue. The failure of elementary teachers to teach basic math facts does not help with the implementation of this new math. Kids do not have multiplication facts, have no clue how to use the calculator provided to them and cannot do basic addition and subtraction. How is this possible when the feeder schools to high school all make AYP?

Dunwoody Mom

October 27th, 2011
10:27 am

@Texas Pete, I’m not sure of your question. How many of them went to school under both systems and how many went under only one of the systems

Both children are still in high school and have only taken the current Math track.

Dunwoody Mom

October 27th, 2011
10:32 am

@wow – I also am concerned about the perceived absence of teaching multiplication tables in elementary school. I do not know if it’s true, though I have heard from a couple of parents. Multiplication tables is just a basic skill every child should learn.

post rule

October 27th, 2011
10:35 am

just teach easy stuff to give kids high grades so administrators can get more bonuses—that’s all that matters.

nonsense

October 27th, 2011
10:37 am

If kids are not challenged, then don’t expect anything but mediocrity. However, schools are more concerned with statistics rather than actual teaching. There’s a reason why math-based jobs pay so well.

Oh Intown Writer...

October 27th, 2011
10:38 am

For you snarky republicans blaming this on big gobment and Obama – this was implemented under a Republican gov. by a Republican head of education – who otherwise was determined to support private parochial schools at the expense of public.
So don’t even get close to blaming “Democrats” and their “big government” for all this disaster.
And the lack of funding to train teachers to teach this morass was under Republicans too…

student

October 27th, 2011
10:38 am

I was just ahead of the integrated math in high school. I took geometry in 8th grade, algebra 2 in 9th, trig in 10th, AP Statistics in 11th, and AP Calc in 12th. In my senior year, I tutored for Math 1. Sitting in on the class, it seemed incredibly unorganized. When the students started getting into a subject, suddenly they were switched to something else. If a student asked an in depth question, they were met with “Oh, that’s something you’ll learn in Math 2.” How is that nurturing learning?

I also have to say I disagree that all students shouldn’t be exposed to advanced math subjects. Trig and calculus are incredibly useful in many blue collar careers. Trig especially. My dad is in construction and I know he uses trig very often. I’ve had him ask me calculus questions, too. Also, if we don’t expose students to these subjects, how will they even discover if they have a passion for math?

Atlanta mom

October 27th, 2011
10:41 am

@wow,
Kids can pass the CTCT math in elementary school by counting on their fingers. Don’t laugh. It’s true.

Texas Pete

October 27th, 2011
10:43 am

Dunwoody Mom,

I only ask because it seems you are defending Integrated Math because your kids are doing well with it. I’m simply saying they’d probably do well with the traditional track too. The best students will typically do well with whatever is offered. Curriculums are really about how to educate the weaker students. After all, it’s those who don’t “get it” that drive changes.

The biggest reason change is always on the table is because GA students as a whole tend to be weaker than students from most other states. But I always fall back on the original point, good students tend to do good no matter what is in front of them. So is it really the curriculum or the learning environment (parents, day-to-day school operations, student self-motivation) that is the problem?

Are we seeing increased math scores under Integrated Math because people are so freaked out about it being new that there is simply more effort being applied across the board (studying habits, hired tutors)? If the same effort was applied to traditional math would scores be the same?

Maureen Downey

October 27th, 2011
10:47 am

@Dunwoody, Not sure where that notion is coming from, but my own kids are 12 and they have learned multiplication although they didn’t memorize tables as I did. But they understand multiplication. I also can say that their math is not watered down or easy and that they are seeing complex concepts long before I did in my Catholic school or my husband did in his highly academic public school in the New York burbs.
Maureen

Texas Pete

October 27th, 2011
10:49 am

As for multiplication tables in elementary school, my son just finished elementary school and multiplication was drilled and redrilled from 3rd – 5th grades. It was introduced at the end of 2nd grade with simple tables to get the kids thinking about it. There are so many commerical multiplication flash card type products available that there’s really no excuse for any parent to not make sure their children know how to multiply.

Good Mother

October 27th, 2011
10:57 am

The question posed was “Could it be that the main problem with the math switch was that teachers were not trained? ”

Teachers not trained? Teachers go to college to get an education to learn how to teach and they are certified by an exam that declares they are able to teach….so why should they need more training?

Something is wrong with out education universities if our teachers are certified and still unable to teach. With a REAL education, anyone can learn a new methodology or task. I am required to do it everyday on my job, to learn something new at my job — without being taught. I learned how to learn in college.

Something is terribly wrong here.

Dunwoody Mom

October 27th, 2011
11:07 am

I only ask because I have heard from parents, not in DCSS, that they ES children are not learning multiplication tables.

Dunwoody Mom

October 27th, 2011
11:08 am

@Texas Pete – it’s not a matter of defending “integrated math” – I was just pointing out that it has not been a failture for every student. I know it has been a struggle for many students as well.

mystery poster

October 27th, 2011
11:12 am

@ Texas Pete:
“good students tend to do good no matter what is in front of them. So is it really the curriculum or the learning environment (parents, day-to-day school operations, student self-motivation) that is the problem?”

That about sums it up.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 27th, 2011
11:15 am

All these young whipperSnappers with their pie n the sky and new fangled ideas just reinventing the wheel and wasting money for no good reason other than self-promotion.

“LOOK AT ME Y’ALL, I REINVENTED THE WHEEL”

puggy68

October 27th, 2011
11:15 am

I am glad they will be doing away with this horrible experiment. Now if we could only get them to do away with these insane standards based reports cards in Henry county…

catlady

October 27th, 2011
11:16 am

We are not allowed to require or drill in basic math facts. So we have middle schoolers still adding, sometimes incorrectly 9+6 on their fingers! Forget multiplication!

catlady

October 27th, 2011
11:19 am

And the main problem with the switch? It was decided by “administrators” unfamiliar with our students in Georgia, their needs and their general backgrounds. A cure du jour, so to speak, with little foundation or input from the boots on the ground people.

Tom

October 27th, 2011
11:23 am

Another Cathy Cox failure. Unfortunately too much money has been spent and the education of too many Georgia students has been set back.

Richard

October 27th, 2011
11:26 am

““We want to teach our kids in the same way they will be assessed so they have a good opportunity to demonstrate proficiency at the end of their course experience,” Robbins said Wednesday.”

Mr. Robbins, keep up the good work! You’ve perfectly stated what’s wrong with education!

Maureen Downey

October 27th, 2011
11:28 am

@Puggy, Funny you should mention them. I just talked to a parent in Decatur about the standards-based report cards here. His comment to me about what he told his son: “I don’t care what the school says that these standards don’t translate to conventional grades. These look like C’s to me.”
Maureen

I'm just sayin...

October 27th, 2011
11:31 am

Living in GA from time our daughter was born through her 5th grade year, we had her in private schools throughout to avoid the changing math curricula over the years, which struck us as jarringly inconsistent with what the rest of the country and the world were learning. She learned traditional math along with supplemental workbooks that we did at home to bring her up to national standards (materials covered in standardized tests like ITBS or Explore). She entered 6th grade in Northern VA accelerated 2 years, took intensified algebra and geometry in middle school for high school credit and will finish AP Calculus B/C and multivariate calculus by 11th grade. Her friends in GA who took the public school Math 1,2,3,4 are taking AP Calculus A/B and AP Statistics, which are the “fall back” courses in Northern VA. I don’t see that either of these routes makes much difference unless one wants to get to a good engineering school, for which the more difficult and traditional math route is preferred.

Texas Pete

October 27th, 2011
11:31 am

Dunwoody Mom,

Understood…I didn’t mean to sound combative when I said you were defending Integrated Math. But I agree with your statement that there are students enjoying success today. Integrated Math isn’t going to hurt top students, it’s just not going to help those who typically struggle with math.

Cynthia Tucker McKinney

October 27th, 2011
11:32 am

Libs+ NEA Union + more $= Same ole. Same ole. The Gov’t education system need to be trashed and we need to start from square 1.

catlady

October 27th, 2011
11:32 am

Just another way to hide from the parents how poorly their child is doing.

Tony

October 27th, 2011
11:35 am

We can fuss and complain all we want to about the details of all the different options for organizing math curriculum, but the true problem is with the lack of expectations for students to truly learn at high levels. It will not matter whether we teach integrated math or discrete math. Unless we expect our students to actually learn the math and hold them accountable for the material, we will not get our math achievement out of the gutter.

The breakdown of expectations occurs at all levels: teachers, parents, administrators, and students. Homework, math facts, problem solving, and other important facets of a good math instructional plan get watered down because parents whine about how hard it is, administrators whine about how many students are failing, students whine because it is not fair that they have to do so much work, and teachers whine because many of them are woefully unprepared to teach high level mathematics.

How do we correct all this? It begins with raising expectations and sticking to it.

GOIUN

October 27th, 2011
11:35 am

Typical education school garbage. The morons who have no choice other than to major in Ed. aren’t bright enough to learn (much less teach) actual math, so their also-stupid professors dream up something trendy and easier to pass. Very old story, and the losers, of course, are the kids who get subjected to this kind of nonsense.

puggy68

October 27th, 2011
11:36 am

@Maureen, My concerns with these report cards are that in order to get a 4 (highest grade possible) the standards are basically requiring perfection. When the school says that what they want are for students to receive a 2 or 3, then where is the incentive to strive for better. Also, Henry county is planning on eventually having this grading system in the high school. How are they going to determine gpa, among other things, and how are colleges going to compare these grades to standard numerical based grades?

I'm just sayin...

October 27th, 2011
11:40 am

I should also say that my daughter’s math teachers in No Va who teach the intensified algebra and the intensified geometry both have BSE engineering degrees from top 10 public university engineering programs, worked for some years in the private sector, and then took MA’s in math education. Hire people who not only know the math but know why it is useful to learn and the curriculum it won’t matter – whether it is Algebra-Geometry-Algebra 2 or Math 1,2,3,4.

Truth in Moderation

October 27th, 2011
11:43 am

This is another good reason to dump government schools. This is unconscionable waste of individual citizen’s labor and goods. A class action lawsuit is warranted, however, the hapless American debt slave will have that same fine added to his own boulder sized bill of goods. Like Sisyphus, his labor will continue to produce negative returns.

The beauty of home schooling is that the curriculum is tailored to the student. I personally have a collection of about 20 math text books, acquired at used book stores for pennies on the dollar of their original inflated taxpayer cost. The reason I have so many is that each has a different approach/organization for teaching the same material. Each of my children has had a different path to math. What worked for one, did not necessarily work for another. One is a natural with numbers, another must physically see the concepts. One memorizes math facts in a flash, another needs constant drill. My math oriented child was mostly taught by a prep school video curriculum that emphasizes a “traditional” approach. Because he could home school year round at his own pace, he had finished Algebra 2 by 8th grade. As a 10th grader he is taking AP BC Calculus and is an “A” student. The traditional approach served him well. He seems to be able to visualize math concepts without outside aids, and he has a natural ability to apply his math. He is a self-taught programmer and has already written code for his own video game engine. To be honest, I personally had nothing to do with his math success except to give him the freedom to progress at his own advanced rate (so he doesn’t get bored) and keep him supplied with a state of the art computer and C+ programming manuals. Another of mine is an outspoken “math hater”. His brain just isn’t geared to efficiently memorize math facts. Even so, he is required to drill daily and do numerous practice problems, because EVENTUALLY, he does retain them. Where he does excel is in easily understanding math concepts that are VISUALIZED for him. He is a natural for Geometry. Even with his math resistance, at 11 years old, he is able to do pre-Algebra. I have used different curricula with him such as Math-U-See and Saxon Math. For each of mine, I just do what works. Unfortunately, a centrally controlled education system cannot do the same.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 27th, 2011
11:51 am

puggy68

October 27th, 2011
11:36 am

No one deserves a grade of “4″ because that may dispell the govt and PC experts views that we are all just a dumb as the next person. Individual achievement be damned. The “level” playing field is more important except of course that doesnt apply to Jesus Christ Obama. Just do as he says not as he does…PEASANTS!!

I'm just sayin...

October 27th, 2011
11:52 am

@Truth in moderation…Just wondering – at what age did your children display their different learning styles and math abilities? Also, are your children accelerated in any other core subjects?

Another Math Teacher

October 27th, 2011
11:54 am

catlady:

“We are not allowed to require or drill in basic math facts. So we have middle schoolers still adding, sometimes incorrectly 9+6 on their fingers! Forget multiplication!”

Quiz given to 10th graders in my class last year…

Addition (up to and including 9+9): 92% correct
Subtraction (up to and including 1-9 (negative answers): 73% correct
Multiplication (times tables up to and including 9 x9): 63% correct
Division (Numerators up to 99, Denominators up to 8): 23% correct

Which system of Math isn’t relevant if these numbers aren’t very close to 100% by the time they get to high school.