Learning mathematics is like exploring an ocean—it goes deeper as we go deep, and wider as we go wide. So, curriculum developers have always tried to contain the breadth or the volume of this ocean to get the best out of their efforts in capsules to kids to consume within their available school time.
Some say mathematics is the queen of all sciences. That’s a beautiful definition to make it likeable. That queen is not appearing as pretty it could be to most students , because of the way the queen is presented.
Some students see it as an elephant in strength/power or the space it occupies in your whole school learning process in density and volume. Others see it an ocean in its intellectual reach. While it can never be done perfect given the task, our WW-P mathematics sequencing is fundamentally flawed.
As I am teaching students here in WW-P and neighboring districts I am also indirectly doing my research on how kids consume the concepts, how they progress acquiring the massive amount of skills that can go in rows and columns of a huge skill matrix of seemingly infinite size, and where they find it challenging.
More importantly how their progression from middle school to high school could be made easier. As a private math educator in the community for close to two decades, I also get the opportunity to see the same student progressing from grade 4 up to 12, which regular school teachers won’t be able to. I see students during the school year as well as in summer time, and sometimes coming back from college on breaks to learn Calc 1 or Calc 2.
They tell me how the school foundation on a specific area worked or didn’t work in college, how that could have learned differently in school. So, I am fortunate to see the elephant in the whole, rather than looking only at the leg or head or tail, and the joyful ocean in it intense currents at times, by looking in the eyes of our students across their school years.
Our high school curriculum sequenced math as algebra 1, geometry, algebra 2 for so long and realized pretty late (for many students) that it should be algebra 1, algebra 2, geometry. We found kids forget fundamental algebra concepts when they learn geometry for a full year and then needed a refresher in algebra 2.
And students scramble scheduling with Option II and other means to get to Calc AB/BC. Most of the struggle students face in high school math is because they were not prepped well in middle school.
The students have better scheduling options and available learning time while they are in the middle school and more of algebra topics could be taught in Gr 7-Gr 8 level and in Grade 8. Capable students should be able to learn geometry in Grade-8 as many of them were doing in parallel with algebra 1 to advance over the summer.
With the new sequencing, geometry is moved down after algebra 2 prior to learning precalculus, that effectively distance students from the algebra they learned, when those skills are required afresh to start precalculus.
I see able students are wasting their time while in middle school doing unproductive activities that won’t benefit their education, career or future. And in high school they have this struggle of learning everything together and many things out of sequence messing up their organic thought process and brain function that’s tailored to consume content the traditional way, but our poor sequencing of activities forcefully rewire the brain function.
This creates stress avoidable if sequenced correctly. They could be loaded with more learning opportunities in middle school and have a more balanced life across middle school to high school.
Just so you know my background to write this much, after my masters I also did a training and a bachelor’s degree to teach mathematics that included middle school to high school curriculum progression. We learned student psychology, how the brain functions to consume information and how the information is applied directly working with students at various levels.
As my education was in India on a traditional learning system that gives you 360-degree perspective of the subject that was good enough to go anywhere in the world with the skills and confidence needed in math.
I welcome input from parents and WW-P alumni who would like to provide collective input to the school board curriculum committee on this topic.
Please join the discussion on this and other education related topics at the “Voice of Plainsboro” on Facebook, reated to discuss WW-P schools and our school town. Together we are creating a support system that parents and students need to excel, while providing the required feedback to school officials and our team of community volunteers in the school board.