Math Curriculum Change

Click below to view a brief, introductory message from Mr. Hale.

To dive into the details, see the FAQ section below (and check back periodically to see answers to new questions). To ask a question that hasn’t been addressed yet, scroll to the bottom of the FAQ section for instructions


Questions About the Curriculum We Are Adopting

What Curriculum Did We Select?

For middle-school math, we have chosen Illustrative Math with Kendall Hunt as our 6th grade curriculum provider and Open Up Resources as our 7th and 8th grade curriculum provider. We will also be using Open Up Resources for the traditional high school math courses (Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2). We are increasing our AP math course offerings by adding AP Calculus BC to our returning AP Statistics and AP Calculus AB courses. Texts for our AP courses will continue to be provided by publishers focusing on those math levels.

Did We Adopt a Common Core Curriculum?

No. We do acknowledge that common core is a buzzword and that publishers of math curricula will print this label on their materials, but that had no weight with our consideration. With respect to math curricula, common-core alignment simply means that a curriculum follows the topical inclusions/exclusions and the sequencing required by the US Department of Education. Most curricula can be aligned to common core; this is true of Saxon as well. Our chosen curricula can be aligned with the sequencing requirements of common core standards, but we will determine the topical inclusions/exclusions and sequencing that work best for our unique objectives at AHS. We are selecting appropriate learning targets so that students can spend their middle school years and earlier high school years mastering algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. This mastery will position them to be able to do AP coursework near the end of their high school experience. Standards for AP course materials are set by the College Board rather than the US Department of Education.

Why Did We Change the Curriculum?

The version of Saxon used by the school has long been out of publication. Our remaining runway with Saxon has a variety of expiration dates, depending upon the grade level. We have chosen to react to that eventuality by preparing early, using what time remains to transition wisely and carefully, and transitioning the entire K-12 scope and sequence over a two-year (two-phase) implementation period.

How Well Does the Chosen Curriculum Prepare Students for Advanced Placement Math?

The Open Up High School materials connect with many underpinnings of Calculus by supporting deep understanding of important families of functions. Multiple representations are used in a consistent way allowing for students to become fluent in a manner that supports their reasoning about equations, tables, and graphs that supports the work of Calculus. Data from shared scores of Calculus unit tests of students that have experienced Open Up High School Mathematics for all three years prior to taking Calculus showed higher results than the scores of students who gained requisite knowledge with other curricula.

What about AP courses?

We are grateful our students can work toward the advanced-math experiences of AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, and AP Statistics. Because nearly all students who enroll in an AP math course intend to sit for the course’s end-of-year AP test administered by the College Board, we have always selected texts that address learning targets inclusive of those set by the College Board while simultaneously dovetailing into the scope-and-sequence of our own predecessor math courses. Given that the curriculum for our predecessor courses is now changing, we have also selected new texts for each of our AP courses, which are as follows: both AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC will be using Calculus Graphical, Numerical, Algebraic while AP Statistics will be using The Practice of Statistics.

Questions About the Forthcoming Implementation

What Will the Future Math Class Look Like?

Class begins with an opener to draw focus on the day’s learning targets. Then, the class does activities to develop concepts and produce evidence of student understanding. The activities position students to learn in different ways that are suitable for the day’s learning targets (e.g., understanding a new algorithm is a different goal than connecting requisite knowledge to a new type of function). Students then make use of their understanding and have the opportunity to show evidence of being able to do the day’s math. We close by landing explicitly on the day’s learning targets and doing a brief assignment, which will support increasing student proficiency from the day’s lesson as well as offer a cumulative review opportunity.

Where do classroom activities fall on the spectrum of drilling math facts and discovering?

We support students’ development of procedural fluency (including memorized math facts), and it is stronger when connected to related conceptual understanding. We encourage teaching methods that give students opportunities to understand and then do math. We support teachers’ choices about practicing the doing of math, once the student has evidence of understanding, provided the time cost of the practice is reasonable and respectful to the families in our community. In short, we do not drill for understanding, we build understanding first and then once we understand, we practice to build fluency.

How does a student get help from a math teacher outside of class?

Students are encouraged to bring their questions to a math teacher. While students are able to visit briefly with a math teacher before the first period and after the last period of any day, we will also provide targeted intervention for our students during the school day for 30 minutes each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at the same time as the D.E.A.R. period. Our targeted intervention system positions teachers to initiate support for students that may include re-teaching, answering questions, or working through problems together.

How do families help with homework?

It is great when parents can provide an environment, free from distractions, for their students to do homework. Because we will rely upon conceptual-understanding exercises rather than drilling to solidify understanding, less drilling will be needed, and the homework load will decline markedly.

We do not plan to assign students to do problems that they do not yet understand. Specifically, we plan to see evidence of understanding a concept before we assign homework on that concept. This means that students struggling with an assignment at home should have had previous success with the same content in the classroom. Parents can support their student by helping them maintain a positive disposition while inquiring what the takeaways were from the day’s lesson. These takeaways are printed in the student materials near the end of each lesson. Parents should also remind students that they are encouraged to speak with their teacher about participating in our in-day intervention opportunities.

The curriculum we have selected provides parents with access to descriptions of learning targets. While we will manage the student’s instruction at school, if special circumstances (e.g., a prolonged absence) position a teacher and parents to make a plan that includes more assistance at home, additional resources for teaching can be shared with parents to facilitate this help.

We are building extra support time into the day for students to interact with teachers to ask questions and get additional help. We appreciate parents’ encouraging their students to ask questions about homework problems and be honest about what they understand so that we can help them more.

Questions about the Process for Selecting the New Curriculum

Who Provided Input on this Process?

Mr. Hale announced the eventual math curriculum transition in August 2022 at the all-parent meeting. At that time, he invited parents to become involved by asking questions, making recommendations, and providing feedback along the way. That invitation was renewed in the January 2023 all-parent meeting as well as in multiple schoolwide emails circulated last school year. Consequently, dozens of parents, faculty members, and school board members have met with administration, tested options, and provided constructive feedback that helped in the selection process. Specifically, the community voiced the need for clean materials, free from political agendas; resources that parents can access with ease; problems that engaged students; reasonable homework sets that allow for sufficient practice; and a method for cumulative review.

What Was Considered?

Our math curriculum specialist explored the current curriculum choices of dozens of charter schools and private schools, both locally and on a national scale. Options with strong ratings from curriculum quality reports were also investigated. We narrowed the search by disqualifying options that did not meet our community’s needs or did not fit our unique logistical needs (i.e., 4 class periods per week, different class lengths, purposefully using technology for learning goals that are best met with dynamic software, etc.). The grade 6-12 teachers that will be using the curriculum evaluated the organization of the resources, viability of the learning sequence, and quality of the lessons of each of the options to order the few curricula that could meet our needs.

Who Made the Ultimate Decision on Curriculum?

The final decision was made by the school’s Curriculum Committee, which is a subcommittee of the Board of Directors that is populated with board members, administrators, teachers, and parents. The Curriculum Committee considered a proposal submitted by Administration. Administration’s proposal was based upon findings of an exploratory team led by a math consultant, math faculty, and administrators and informed by the stakeholders listed in the FAQ immediately above.

What Impact Does This Decision Have on K-5 Math Curriculum?

We are still in the gathering and discovery phase for a K-5 math curriculum. We hope to have that curriculum selected by the end of the 2023-24 year. Our K-5 classrooms will thus remain on Saxon for one more year. The K-5 curriculum only needs to address learning targets and topics that prepare the student to naturally transition to middle-school math. That one requirement imposed by our selection of a middle-school curriculum still leaves a tremendous amount of flexibility to consider a broad array of options for K-5.

Questions about Next Steps for Parents

Can I Get a Demonstration of the New Curriculum?

Yes. Just prior to selecting our chosen curriculum, a series of math class simulations were held where members of the Curriculum Committee were invited to act as students and experience not only the new curriculum but the method that comes along with it. Parents can come to the High School Building Commons area on any of the following evenings to similarly experience the new curriculum as a member of a math class simulation:

  • Wednesday, July 19
  • Tuesday, August 1
  • Friday, August 4

Each simulation will follow the schedule below, and parents are encouraged to stay for as much as they can (but we understand some may need to leave early).

  • 6:00 welcome (all together)
  • 6:05 head to classrooms
  • 6:10 lesson begins
  • 7:20 lesson ends, Q & A begins
  • 7:45 Q & A ends

What if My Question Was Not Answered Above?

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