This is the first year of the Ventura Unified School District’s switch to Common Core, specifically the new Math 1.
According to the Common Core State Standards Initiative, 43 states, the District of Columbia, and territories have all voluntarily adopted the new Common Core standards.
The Common Core math classes are being slowly integrated into the Foothill curriculum.
During this first year, Foothill only offers Math 1, but starting next year all Geometry classes on campus will be replaced with Math 2. Ventura Unified middle schools are also offering Math 1 in eighth grade.
Math 1, and common core as a whole, is very different than what students are accustomed to.
“It’s a completely different approach to teaching. The idea is that you present the students with a problem and you let them figure out the answer on their own,” says Math 1 teacher Mr. Powers.
“You try to guide them towards the answer, but you let them generate it rather than telling them how to solve the problem and then practicing that skill,” he said.
Some students agree that the curriculum has changed.
“It’s a lot more cerebral in the approach because it used to be ‘solve this equation, do this, graph that,’” said Math 1 student and freshman Ryan Moore.
“Now it’s using a much more wordy approach because it’s using sentences and you have to find these words and create these equations and these problems, and sort of think it out for yourself. There is more real world application.”
The shift in math curriculum is made more challenging by the teachers not having a textbook to teach out of but rather sets of worksheets.
“We don’t have a textbook, so this year we are functioning without one. The materials are coming from a consortium called the Mathematics Vision Project, and they are out of Utah,” said Math 1 teacher Mr. Kellogg.
The only students taking Math 1 at Foothill this year are those who did not take Algebra 1 as an eighth grader. Powers said he thinks that maybe Math 1 should not be taught in eighth grade.
“The only interesting part is there is a bunch of teachers, and I might be one of them, that are really questioning why they are teaching Math 1 in middle school,” Powers said.
Powers said that the rationale behind the three-year course is to prepare students for Calculus.
“The three-year course is that Math 1, Math 2, and Math 3 get you ready for Calculus, which is the rationale behind it.”
“Maybe middle school math, Math 8 […], should just be increased in its rigor, so when a kid gets to Math 1, they are prepared to be successful,” Powers said.
While challenging, students and teachers have said they are hopeful that Common Core will be a new step in the learning process.
“I think this has the potential to be great, but it’s all in the implementation of it. I hope that our district […] gives this enough time to work out the bugs,” Powers said.
“People complain all the time about how our kids don’t measure up in math and science to some other countries. It’d be nice to turn that around a little bit.”
Background Photo Illustration Credit: Josh Ren/The Foothill Dragon Press