New ‘Integrated Math’ restructures Lodi Unified math curriculum

Aidan Backus, Online Editor

For far too long, American mathematics education has been the laughingstock of the developed world.  Since the days of the Cold War, the United States has struggled to produce effective scientists, statisticians, and engineers.  But now, educators across the country say they have a solution to our functionally-illiterate populace, and it’s coming to Bear Creek.

The United States’s Common Core Mathematics standards are largely based on Singapore’s hugely successful math education program.  While the US scored 481 on the Program for International Student Assessment, an exam that tests 15-year-olds’ mathematical abilities, Singapore scored 562.  Common Core mathematics, like Singapore’s, focuses on mastery of concepts, rather than memorization of formulas.

An anomaly of traditional US mathematics is the tendency to organize math into different subjects — algebra, geometry, calculus, and so on — rather than “integrating” them together, as an English class would.  Though combination of subjects is the norm outside of the United States, Common Core does not mandate it.  However, according to the Common Core Standards website, the standards do have a pathway “typically seen internationally … that consists of three courses, each of which includes … algebra, geometry, probability, and statistics,” and that is the pathway adopted by Lodi Unified School District.

To this end, Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 are being phased out and replaced with a three-course pathway of “Integrated Mathematics” classes.  This year Algebra 1 has been completely replaced with 10 sections of Integrated 1, and Geometry has been partially replaced; the two sections of students who successfully completed Integrated 1 last year are now taking Integrated 2.

“At some point we will no longer have courses titled Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, High School Algebra, or Applied Geometry,” math department head Tammy Naylor said.  “The traditional courses will drop out one or two a year until there are none remaining.”

Most current eighth-graders are currently taking Common Core Math 8.  However, some students chose to take an accelerated middle school pathway in which they take Common Core Math 7, Common Core Math 8, and Integrated 1 during seventh and eighth grade and over the summer.

Integrated 1 builds on eighth grade math, as well as covering linear and exponential functions, systems of equations, statistics, and basic geometry.  Integrated 2 extends these concepts, adding in quadratic functions, probability, and the properties of triangles and circles.  Integrated 3 wraps up the pathway, discussing polynomial, radical, trigonometric, and rational functions and teaching students how to apply these functions to real-world data.

After Integrated 3, college-bound students will have the option of taking Precalculus, AP Calculus AB, or AP Statistics.  Those who took the accelerated pathway in middle school will have the option of taking Precalculus, AP Calculus AB, AP Statistics, or AP Calculus BC as a senior.  However, Common Core State Standards do not require that students complete further courses after Integrated 3, only that students complete “content all students must study to be college and career ready,” which is defined as the completion of Integrated 3.

Such lofty goals will not only require improved instruction, but also will require students to step up their games.

“[Standards designers] expect us to understand diverse topics over a short period of time,” sophomore Chloe Romero, currently in Integrated 2, said.  “What we’re learning will prepare us for college, but not everyone understands the material.”

Nevertheless, math teachers, including Integrated 2 teacher Dave Goodwin, remain optimistic about students’ capabilities.

“I don’t think kids find an aversion to Common Core,” Goodwin said.  “The students that fail are the ones that don’t try, and that part of the equation hasn’t changed over thousands of years.”