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Milton school officials aim to increase understanding of high school math

Posted by Dave Eisenstadter  January 25, 2013 05:47 PM

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Changes to the Milton High School course list won’t add any graduation requirements or staff positions, but school leaders hope they will increase understanding in math.

Milton High School Principal James Jette presented the changes to Milton’s School Committee Wednesday along with Assistant Principal Michelle Kreuzer, Business and Technology Department Head Courtney Walsh, and Assistant Principal and Math Curriculum Director Life LeGeros.

New Common Core math standards at the state level are pushing for a greater understanding of concepts in the first three years of high school, according to LeGeros.

“These new standards are based on a goal of college and career readiness – what students need to be able to do and know in the 21st century – by the end of 11th grade,” LeGeros said at Wednesday’s meeting.

Formerly, most students took Algebra 1 in ninth grade, followed in the sequence by geometry, Algebra 2, and then trigonometry, precalculus, or other higher-level math classes. Incoming ninth grade students were offered “college prep” or “honors” level Algebra 1 or “college prep” or “honors” geometry if they had already taken Algebra 1.

The new curriculum pushes Algebra 1 to eighth grade and mixes together geometry, Algebra 2, and higher-level high school math in three sequential courses for ninth, 10th, and 11th graders.

The new math courses will be introduced to next year’s incoming ninth graders, Walsh said.

School Committee chairman Glenn Pavlicek applauded the new system, particularly the way it integrates the different types of high school math.

“Algebra has always been a sticky point,” he said. “The fact is that not everyone is terribly good at abstract thinking at age 14 and having the geometry there is what keeps them interested. But many of them never get to the geometry.”

All students in the first three grades will take high school math courses one, two, and three at either the “college prep” or “honors” level. By the end of the third course of college prep, a student would be ready for AP Statistics or precalculus; by the end of the third course of honors, a student could take AP Calculus.

School Committee member Kristan Bagley Jones said she hoped that class sizes, particularly in the lower level courses, would be kept small.

Most other course changes reflected student interest, according to Jette. Classes that struggled to keep up enrollment numbers were eliminated or changed.

Photography became Digital Photography, Advanced Digital Video became MHS Wildcat News, and macro- and microeconomics were consolidated into one course.

The course Jette was most hesitant to eliminate was an Advanced Placement course in Spanish literature. Enrollment and AP test scores were both low in the subject in previous years, and Jette said the school would focus on the AP Spanish Language course for the coming year.

School Committee members voted unanimously to approve the changes.

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