Clarke educators discuss planned state changes in math education |
BERRYVILLE – Parents shouldn’t worry that upcoming changes in math education will prevent their children from learning the skills they will need in college, Clarke County educators say.
“The skills will all be there,” said Amy Summers, Clarke County Public School Mathematics Specialist (CCPS). However, the instruction “is going to look different,” she said, as the state begins to require schools to teach math concepts in more depth.
As part of the changes, local school divisions will have more flexibility in determining how skills are taught in courses.
On Monday evening, Summers and CCPS Superintendent Chuck Bishop told the Clarke County School Board what they knew so far about the Virginia Mathematics Pathway Initiative (VMPI) amid controversy over it in statewide.
The initiative is a joint effort of the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and the Virginia Community College System to modernize the way math is taught to students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 in order to better prepare them for college and / or the jobs they pursue after high school.
Basically, the goal is for students to not only learn math problem solving processes, but also to understand how different parts of the processes work together to determine solutions. More emphasis on the latter needs to be incorporated into lessons.
Currently, students “understand the math,” Summers said. “But they don’t understand it, and they forget it” in the long run because of their lack of understanding.
Increasingly, employers are saying they need problem-capable workers to do their jobs in the 21st century economy, school division officials say.
Calculus, advanced placement, the International Baccalaureate and dual enrollment (college level) courses will remain options for Grade 11 and 12 students, Bishop said.
Yet studies show that 70% of college students don’t need to do math to be successful in their future jobs, Summers said. VMPI also aims to make the math skills that students learn more relevant to their career plans.
Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II will continue to be taught. But instead of being separate courses, the content will be part of “blended courses with concepts taught where appropriate at each level bracket,” Bishop said.
“It encourages students to relate math concepts and develop a much deeper and more relevant understanding of each concept in context,” reads a fact sheet provided by VDOE.
Many details of the VMPI are still being worked out. There are plans to change math curricula as a result of the initiative to become effective as part of the Virginia Math Learning Standards Update in 2023.
Overall, however, “we understand that math lessons as we have known them will not be the same in the future,” Bishop wrote in an email to the Winchester Star on Tuesday. “We will continue to gather information (from the Department of Education) and determine the appropriate path (to teach students) to move forward.”
“This is not a Clarke County initiative,” but rather a statewide initiative, said school board vice president Katie Kerr-Hobert.
Clarke’s schools – like all other public schools in counties and independent cities – have no choice but to participate, said she and President Monica Singh-Smith.
At least 23 other states have implemented similar changes to their math curricula, Bishop said.
Officials said they encourage parents concerned about VMPI to talk to their children’s math teachers. Parents are also encouraged to watch videos about the initiative that the VDOE will post online. They will receive emails explaining how to access these videos.
Detailed information about the initiative is online at https://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/mathematics/vmpi.