Regents return to 'old' math

In New York, integrated math has failed to the point that they're actually going back to "old" math.

URL: http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050321/NEWS02/503210329/1018

(Original publication: March 21, 2005)

High school students will take a math class more like their parents' or grandparents' next year, much to the delight of several math educators.

When news that the Board of Regents last week had agreed to toss out the new Math A and Math B curriculum and return to algebra, geometry and trigonometry, reaction was favorable.

The new state policy won't cause any disruption at Mahopac High School, where students have taken algebra, geometry and algebra II-trigonometry for the past five years. Secondary math coordinator Joseph DiCioccio said Mahopac decided to set up those courses after the state went to Math A and B.

DiCioccio said it was how he learned math (he graduated from high school in 1969) and still believes it's the right way to teach the subject.

"We think this best prepares kids for college or careers," DiCioccio said. "That's what I grew up with, and it works."

This week, the Board of Regents approved changes to the high school math curriculum that erased more than four years of math programming designed to help struggling students pass the math Regents they need to get a diploma. The reason for the change: The curriculum didn't work.

For years, students were taught algebra, geometry and trigonometry as separate subjects in middle and high school. Then those subjects were integrated into the sequential math series most recent graduates remember, in which all three topics were touched on in a given year, at increasing levels of difficulty.

About five years ago, when the state revamped its educational requirements, the math curriculum was changed again. Three years of math were divided into two courses, A and B, each of which lasted a year and a half. Students who needed extra help could extend the Math A course to a full second year. In this way, the Regents said at the time, all students would be prepared for the math Regents.

But in 2001, when the first set of Math A tests were given, fewer than half the state's high-schoolers scored a 55 or better, jeopardizing their graduation. The Regents tossed out the test and set up a committee to look into problems with the exam. Their conclusion was that the course was too broad, the students had forgotten too much because of the course's length, and teachers had no idea what the students needed to know to do well on the math Regents.

A second committee of mathematicians, educators and other interested people then delved into the entire math curriculum, recommending a return to clear-cut, single-subject courses that could show students in-depth math concepts. The Regents approved that change Tuesday. They are expected to decide soon when the change will occur and what will be taught in each course.

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