Think mathematically. That’s something many parents aren’t trained to do.
By Peter Jovanovich
Think mathematically. That’s something many parents aren’t trained to do. Yes, we can compute, and even remember a bit of algebra, but do we understand why or how math works?
The Rye City School District aims to change all that for students. Beth Naber, Chair of the Mathematics Department at Rye Middle and High schools, says, “With the new mathematics pathways we will introduce in the fall of 2016, we will teach students not only computation, but also help them think in a manner so that they can analyze topics mathematically and apply that thought process to the real world.”
On the face of it, the proposed change in the Math Curriculum seems simple. The current sequence is Algebra I, (starting in 8th grade), Geometry, and Algebra II/Trigonometry, followed by various choices such as Pre-Calculus, Statistics, Calculus, etc. The new sequence will be Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry/ Trigonometry. Topics will be rearranged within the sequence as well.
The new Algebraic Pathway solves some practical problems. The old sequence was not aligned with the Common Core or Regents tests, particularly in 8th grade, and students struggled to remember algebraic concepts after a year of geometry.
But there is far more going on beneath the surface. “Our national math curriculum is a mile wide and an inch deep,” says Dr. Betty Ann Wyks, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. Wyks asserts that there is a tendency to teach too many topics, but none in great depth. “A lot of our students follow the step-by-step processes but are unable to make connections from one topic to another,” notes Naber. Wyks adds, “We intend to teach fewer topics in greater depth so that students will learn not just how to get the right answer, but why the answer is right.”
Is this another top-down change in math instruction dictated by the State, or worse yet, experts on high? “Absolutely not,” insists Naber. “This is a teacher-driven reform. We in Rye worked collaboratively for over a year to arrive at this new curriculum, checking with other districts in the County like Bronxville, holding monthly meetings, and working as team in the knowledge that we could do better.”
Better in Naber’s view is helping students to think mathematically, starting at an earlier age and moving towards mastery of concepts.
Will technology play a role in this new approach? To a degree, says Naber. “We will be using SmartBoards in a more sophisticated manner to teach topics like graphing, and utilizing websites such as Kahn Academy, which provide amazing videos explaining in-depth certain math concepts.” But, beyond technology, one can sense an intense belief from Naber, Wyks, and the math faculty.
“Our kids have the potential to be amazing math thinkers,” Naber says with emphasis. “And I hope I can help all of them learn to love math just as I do.”