published Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Changes sought to Georgia math teaching technique


by Adam Crisp

Georgia state school board members may vote in mid-March to allow schools to abandon the state’s largely unpopular integrated math teaching technique.

State School Superintendent John Barge is in favor of dropping the technique, which has been panned by some for being implemented in a costly but inefficient way. Integrated math also is being blamed for causing 80,000 high school students to fail their math final exams last spring.

“We regret the clumsy way the program was rolled out — insufficient input, poorly communicated, lack of training — which meant plenty of wasted time and money and not a fair test of the program’s efficacy,” said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.

“We are glad that Barge is addressing the issue with local flexibility, but there will still be some confusion and concerns in the weeks and months ahead,” he said.

Integrated math apparently is unpopular with many school leaders. A Georgia Department of Education survey of school superintendents found that 82 of 180 favored ditching integrated math, although the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics supports the technique.

The state school board will take up the matter at its March 14 meeting.

“Superintendent Barge had said that one size does not fit all, and one teaching method of the rigorous standards is not working for the majority of students,” said Matt Cardoza, spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education. “The method in which it is currently taught is working for some but not a majority.”

The state isn’t changing its standards for tests and evaluation, but the way math is taught, Cardoza said.

Barge’s plan is to allow schools to choose their own ways of teaching math. Systems can keep integrated math, go back to the traditional teaching method or use a combination of the two. Across the state, millions were spent as some school systems invested in new books and training to embrace integrated math.

Rolled out during former school Superintendent Kathy Cox’s tenure, integrated math was supposed to link math with everyday tasks and skills. Overall, it is more rigorous and is supposed to prepare students to compete better in college.

But Barge contends students are not taking to the math technique, and their course failings may delay graduation. Gov. Nathan Deal has made

WHAT IT MEANS

Integrated math adds concepts from a variety of disciplines including algebra, geometry and statistics, all in the same class. Gone are specific classes that address the disciplines one year at a time. Students are asked to explain their answers more often and apply the math to real-life situations.

improving graduation rates a key part of his education proposals.

The Department of Education survey found that, of the 129 teachers who responded, 36 percent wanted to keep integrated math, 29 percent wanted to go back to old teaching methods and 35 percent said they wanted to choose their own technique.

But math professors and the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics say integrated math is superior to other teaching techniques.

“The integrated approach to delivering the curriculum is the most effective for the 21st-century Georgia work force,” the group said in a statement published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Two different methods of delivery will be very costly since texts, materials, state assessments, professional development, scheduling of classes and many other practical issues would cost taxpayers much more.”

If the change is approved, current students would finish out their high school careers with integrated math, but new students may receive a different teaching technique.

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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