A Common Math Curriculum - Would it Help?
Every winter at Fairfax High School, math teachers hold lunch-time study sessions for students who need to take (or re-take) the Standards of Learning exams. Most of the students are newcomers to Virginia who need to pass the standardized math tests to graduate. And often, teachers say, they have holes in what they have learned in their past algebra or geometry classes. That's because Virginia's definition of the course is different from California's or New Jersey's or Montana's. So the newcomers spend their lunch hours brushing up on matrices or trigonometry, or whatever they have missed.
Many countries have a national curriculum, and what's expected to be taught in every math classroom is clearly spelled out. But in the United States, every state or locality has control over what is taught or tested. That is beginning to change, as more states are trying to toughen academic standards and make sure high school diplomas represent something resembling what colleges need or want. But there are still plenty of variations.
For today's paper, I wrote a story that compares variations in the approach to teaching Algebra II in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C.
What do you think? Is a national curriculum the answer to our math education struggles?
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