Algebra and geometry get new emphasis in H-F curriculum

The class schedule at Homewood-Flossmoor High School will no longer list Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II as core courses. The District 233 school board agreed to move to a new model for math courses in the 2024-25 school year that integrates rather than segregates math learning.

The vote approving the change at the Tuesday, March 21, school board meeting followed a lengthy discussion given by Robert White, chair of the math department, when the board met as a Committee of the Whole on March 16. 

White said to continue teaching the traditional Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II sequence creates a 15-month gap between Algebra I and Algebra II.

“Most of the time, the beginning of Algebra II is a repeat of Algebra I. We’re losing time with students to get them ready for higher level outcomes,” he said. “They’re repeating something they haven’t seen for 15 months. We do that on purpose. We can undo that if we like.

“The thing that Integrated Math really provides is an opportunity to teach algebra, geometry and statistics in all three years, as opposed to isolating topics.” 

White gave the example of Algebra I that currently includes quadratics, “but students in science probably don’t need quadratics until they’re in physics, but they’re taking it as freshmen. The gap is causing problems not only in math but in other areas as well.”

Math courses will be renamed Integrated Math 1, 2 and 3. The first students to be educated under the plan are now seventh graders. District 233 will work with Flossmoor District 161 and Homewood District 153 to coordinate curricula. 

The math courses “will teach the exact same topics from the traditional sequence but what we have done, we have rearranged topics where it makes sense,” White said. For example, transformations, congruence and coordinates, and constructions are geometry topics that make sense to teach with algrebra topics. 

The switch doesn’t affect all math courses. H-F will continue to offer honors and AP Pre-Calculus and Calculus, IB math and AP statistics.

White said the Integrated Math system also will help students in biology, chemistry, physics and other science courses. 

White also pointed out that H-F’s math scores are below where they should be. On average, H-F has an SAT math score that is 58 points lower than the average for the entire country. Only one in four H-F students meets or exceeds SAT scores. H-F has an average SAT math score of 463 compared with the Illinois state average of 473.

White said the changes are meant to help all students reach their potential.

“Our Black students are not performing at the same level as our white students, our Latinx students are not performing at the same level as white students. These demographics should not be predictors of achievement, but they currently are at H-F,” he said.

Black students score 39 points below, Hispanic students score 23 points below and low income students score 13 points below white students.

White said Integrated Math gives teachers a “spiral curriculum” that allows for multiple opportunities to review, re-teach and introduce new concepts earlier than they are doing now. The coming school year will give math department teachers time to prepare for the switch. White said teachers in the math department began investigating the Integrated Math curriculum before the pandemic.

“State and professional organizations and research tell us we want a pathway that leads to four years of mathematics because that creates a successful pathway for college and careers,” said Jen Hester, director of curriculum. “With that in mind, we are in a space and place that we and the nation has not faced. That space and place is coming out of the pandemic where kids math learning was interrupted. 

“We think integrated math provides a learning progression and a pathway for kids that is much more consistent and gives them consistent regular practice in algebra, that integrates geometry and other skills appropriately, so they can be focused on through application.”

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