“How about the properties? Commutative, associative, distributive.”
So unfolded a laundry list of what a group of math teachers considered the more painful and less necessary concepts covered in the average high school math curriculum.
The laments, aired at EduCon 2.5 in Philadelphia at Science Leadership Academy last weekend, were part of a discussion around how to rebuild math instruction under the radically different—and admittedly unlikely—parameters posed by moderator Mike Thayer, a math teacher at Summit Public Schools in New Jersey.
Thayer, who also has a background teaching high school physics, proposed a scenario in which high school freshmen would take a one-year course (or a one-semester course in a block scheduling system) that covered the essentials of Algebra 1 and 2, Geometry, and possibly parts of Trigonometry. Any additional math concepts might be learned in a cross-disciplinary fashion through other courses. For example, chemistry teachers would be responsible for teaching
students the basics of logarithms while covering the pH scale. Biology teachers would explain concepts of exponential growth to their students when discussing species population and reproduction.
The rationale of such a course, Thayer said, would be to create a version of math instruction that more fully lives with the inquiry-based learning approach embraced by the Science Leadership Academy, the public magnet high school where the conference took place. His vision—which hinges on what he concedes is a large assumption that students would enter high school Continue reading