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Old math books + New state standards = Time for new math resources at SCC

The St. Croix Central School Board voted to purchase new math resources for grades 6-12, at the board meeting on Jan. 17.

The St. Croix Central Middle and High School will adopt the Holt McDougal/Larson mathematics curriculum for grades 6-8 and pilot a project using the Holt McDougal/Larson high school series.

High School Math Teacher Zachary Turpin said the current math resources in the middle and high school are 20-25 years old.

While Turpin said the current books aren't necessarily out-of-date, he says the books lack modern wording, hands-on activities and technological resources to accompany the text.

Turpin said students have, "grown up with technology and there are a lot of resources out there that we can utilize in mathematics. Computers, online tests, online quizzes, remedial work online, applets, demonstrations, resources that some of our other resources didn't always have."

The math department was concerned about more than just making the curriculum interesting and engaging, the old resources were missing some crucial units students need to graduate. Turpin said a few years ago, when the teachers did work with Essential Learning Outcomes, they found the current curriculum didn't have enough problems related to probability, statistics and geometry that the test was requiring out of sophomores.

To make up for the lack of information, Turpin said many teachers, "Had to add pieces to their units from pulling information from other texts and resources at the middle and high school."

At the January board meeting, Turpin stressed that teachers needing to use additional resources to meet state math standards created "inconsistencies in curriculum and assessment design."

At the meeting, Turpin told the board that, "Data shows that for every interruption by dissimilar resources, students lose six months of conceptual understanding. Currently, we are using different resources from every grade transition starting at sixth grade through 12th grade."

Turpin said the new series will provide much of the same content, but will be taught in a more integrated way.

"Basically meaning it's not just going to be just strictly algebra at this point or strictly geometry, it's going to be mixed together throughout the year. So hopefully students won't lose some of the information that they're learning. It's going to be constantly reviewed," he said.

Big Ideas

Currently, three different math series are being used at the middle school.

The new Holt McDougal/Larson middle math series, Big Ideas, is one series that includes a combination of interactive and traditional learning concepts.

New books and interactive tools aren't the only thing changing in the middle school math department. Turpin said the process for teaching with the new math resources will be different. Each lesson will be broken into two days. One day will be spent doing discovery activities through hands-on engaging activity and the second day would be a review of the lesson, much like the traditional approach.

Right now it's more "teachers teaching the lesson, showing students how to do the problems, demonstrating and the students are just doing it."

Turpin says the new series is more dynamic and hands-on.

H.S. series

Although the Big Ideas series doesn't extend to the high school level, both schools will be using resources from the same publisher.

"This is the closest thing they have to that integrated curriculum and we're kind of hoping for the same thing in the high school," Turpin said.

While the high school math series is more traditional than the Big Ideas series at the middle school, "there are definitely more resources available and we're hoping that it becomes more hands -on and integrated than what we currently have," Turpin said.

Turpin said the math department looked at other publishers but liked that the Larson resources had a balance of traditional and hands-on learning integrated into the series, as opposed to all lecture or all hands-on. 

Turpin said having the middle school and high school curriculum aligned is going to benefit both students and teachers.

"We're going to know where students are coming from, where they should be, what they've had. Now, we've got different publishers, different books, we really don't always know exactly where they left off, just because they are different publishers, they're not set up to work through the sequence they probably should be working through," he said.

The high school math teachers already have their new books. In June a consultant from Holt McDougal/Larson will train the teachers on how to use the new materials, leaving them the entire summer to become familiar with the new series.

The consultant told the department that the publisher is still working on aligning the high school series to the recently released new Common CORE State Standards. Turpin said there is less than 10 percent of the material missing and the school will be given the additional information as it is completed.

If the school chooses to adopt the series at the high school level, all the additional information would be included in the final version of the book that the school would purchase.

"We're excited because we get to basically test drive a new vehicle for free for one year," Turpin said.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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