Monday, February 8, 2010

High school math strands in the core standards

My high school math career consisted of three conventionally named courses--Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra 3--and then another course I think was called "A-cubed-T" for advanced analytic algebra and trigonometry. The high school that offered that course would happily have placed me in calculus the next year, but didn't quite want to call it "pre-calculus."

In the new draft of core standards being developed for shared use in 48 states, I'm not seeing titles of high school courses or grades when students should take each one. Instead, the document explains early that:
The high school standards .... are organized under headings of the College and Career Ready Standards for Mathematics: Expressions, Equations, Functions, Coordinates, Modeling, Statistics, Probability, and Geometry.... This design necessitates a future effort to develop course sequences (either traditional or integrated).
The benefit of that approach may be that the experts did not see one clearly superior order in which the high school mathematics content should be taught, but did agree on what math students needed to master to be ready to succeed as they head to college or into the workplace. While remembering that these elements could change substantially in the next draft, here's what appears under those headings:

Seeing structure in expressions
The arithmetic of polynomials and rational functions

Building equations to model relations between quantities
Reasoning with equations and inequalities

Interpreting functions
Building functions
Linear vs. exponential behavior
Trigonometric functions

Expressing geometric properties with equations
Vectors and matrices
Complex numbers

The modeling cycle and general tools
Modeling with geometry, equations, functions, probability, and statistics

Summarizing and interpreting categorical, count, and measurement data
Making inferences and justifying conclusions drawn from data

Modeling random events with finite sample spaces
Experimenting and simulating to model probabilities
Using probability to make decisions

Triangle Congruence
Similarity, Right Triangles and Trigonometry
Axiomatic systems
Trigonometry of general triangles
Geometric measurement and dimension
As a final note, EdWeek has reported that:
Several reviewers said writers and reviewers of the math draft were trying to work out possible differences between the skills that should be required of all students, and only of those aiming for college majors or careers in math or science.
For some of the items listed above, I don't know enough to take an informed side in the debate, but it does seem important for the experts to work through that question with care.

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!