Integrated math might be key to student achievement

New research points to integrated model as one way to improve student gains


As states implement the Common Core State Standards, many math educators and curriculum specialists are advocating a move to integrated math, which, although not a new concept, has received renewed attention in light of a study indicating that the model could boost student achievement.

Integrated math involves the blending of many math topics, such as algebra, geometry, and statistics, into a single course. U.S. math courses have traditionally been separated into year-long courses that focus on one area and follow a sequence, such as algebra I, geometry the next year, algebra II, and then a pre-calculus course.

States including Utah, North Carolina, and West Virginia are moving to integrated math models. Supporters note that integrated models help students make connections across different math disciplines and help them see real-world connections. Some critics say integrated math is not necessary.

James Tarr, a professor in the University of Missouri (MU) College of Education, and Doug Grouws, a professor emeritus from MU, studied more than 3,000 high school students around the country as they tried to determine if an integrated math model led to higher student achievement gains.

(Next page: What research reveals; plus, take a poll on integrated math)

Laura Ascione

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