CHS’ math department has recently adopted the new Common Core standards with enthusiasm, but whether the students are embracing the system is a more complex issue.
Many of the math teachers have a positive outlook on the new program, which emphasizes group work and critical thinking, but students are skeptical if it is the best fit for everyone.
“I think it’s really helpful for the people who don’t understand the topic,” observes sophomore Bridger Coombs, who believes that the new program most benefits students who struggle with math rather than those who grasp the subject.
The new standards highlight working in groups, and the students are given lengthy tasks that consist of solving the math and explaining the solutions in paragraph form.
Math instructional coach Juan Gomez explains that the department has been searching for better instructional material for the past three years. He feels that this new style of teaching through the Carnegie Learning textbook and online material that aligns with the Common Core is the best that the department has found so far.
In one sample problem, students are asked to find the probability that an electric company will restore a power outage within a certain period of time, and it also asks for students to explain the method they used in their own words.
“You take these real-world situations, and then you teach the content with it at the same time,” math teacher and department chair Steve Nacht notes.
Nacht also hopes for more positive feedback from students after the Smarter Balanced test that is replacing the previously used STAR in the spring. The Smarter Balance test format includes multiple-choice questions and free-response sections similar to the current in-class exams.
The weekly small group activities are not loved by all students, however, as Integrated Math 3 sophomore Sofia Franklin explains.
“What’s really important?” she questions. “Being able to work in groups or understanding the math you’ll probably use the rest of your life?”
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the group work, the Carmel High math teachers have faith that it will be helpful to the students later in life.
“When you go out in the real world,” Gomez says, “they’re going to expect you to be able to not only answer, but explain it to other people.”
Although the classes are career preparation for many of the students, some argue that the pace of the lessons is too slow.
“The math itself isn’t hard, it just takes a long time to get to the point,” sophomore Madeleine Fontenay says.
Even some of the teachers admit to the difficulty that students are finding with the new curriculum. Math teacher Dawn Hatch thinks for a few years teachers might struggle to get students acquainted with the new techniques.
Overall, teachers believe success with the students may be challenging, but Natch says, “I think it’s going to be great after the kids get used to it.”