High school math classes may soon change statewide


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN/AP) – The way students in North Carolina learn math could soon be changing.

Legislation recommended Wednesday by a Senate committee would require North Carolina schools to offer traditional high-school-level mathematics classes alongside newer “integrated” classes that arrived with Common Core.

For years, most public school students had to take Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II to graduate from high school. But education leaders and the legislature decided to adopt the multistate Common Core standards, and in fall 2012 incoming freshmen instead took classes called Math 1, Math 2 and Math 3.

These efforts have been months in the making.

If the bill were to become law, districts would have to offer both math class sequences to students starting in the 2017-18 school year.

While many educators and business leaders have praised the new Common Core math for better preparing young people for future jobs, others have said it was needlessly complicated and frustrating, for both students and parents.

Greta Lumsden, a high school math teacher at Sanderson High in Raleigh, said, “If the bill passes and we give students a choice between the two different pathways, it’s going to be a logistical nightmare.”

Lumsden said she is concerned that the bill would add more classes – but not more teachers.

“We would be spread very thin,” she said.

Raleigh father Melvin Thomas said the curriculum “needs to be steadfast…take it course by course and take it kind of slow, because once they understand the beginning of algebra and math one, they can pretty much get the rest of it.”

Hope Harrington, a student at Garner Magnet High School, spoke to lawmakers considering the legislation on Wednesday.

“With my past experience I can honestly say common core has had negative effects on my education,” Harrington testified. “Common Core complicates things far past than what they need to be. It takes a two-step problem and makes it a ten step problem.”

Harrington told legislators she has a 4.7 GPA, but she’s been frustrated with the teaching methods at her school.

“I learned Common Core methods and I had trouble understanding those methods… My father could not help me with those methods so he decided to teach me traditional methods, and when I used those traditional methods on tests because they made sense I was penalized for the methods I used.” Harrington said.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, who is shepherding the bill in the Senate, said reintroducing the algebra and geometry sequence alongside the Common Core math would give students options.

“The (people) that I’m hearing from say, ‘My kids are struggling, they don’t understand it. We need help now,’” Tillman said. “All I’m saying is, let’s give them a choice. Let’s see where they flourish.”

And Sen. Chad Barefoot of Wake County said, “It puts the power into the hands of parents and students to decide which form of curriculum best meets their needs within the public school system.”

Last Thursday, the State Board of Education approved a math curriculum that integrates algebra, geometry and statistics.

Tillman told CBS North Carolina, “Math is a sequential building block subject, always has been…We’re going back to the best way that we know that has worked for many, many years.”

State Superintendent June Atkinson told CBS North Carolina last week, “To go back to algebra one, geometry and algebra two would take us back to 2010…we recognize that there will be some gaps.”

As for Hope Harrington, she says she tutors students in Common Core, and when they have trouble understanding that method, she reverts to teaching traditional math to help them understand.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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