Integrated math might be key to student achievement

Dillon required students in his integrated math courses to complete a final project, and said that in subsequent years, students approached him and recalled with clarity and excitement things they learned during the course and while working on their final projects. He noted, however, that their enthusiasm could have been a combination of the integrated approach and the project requirement.

Different integrated options exist, including the Mathematics Vision Project, Core+, Pearson’s Integrated High School Mathematics, Carnegie Learning’s Integrated Math, and more.

What the critics say

“Because they’re such a break from tradition, they’re controversial,” Tarr said of integrated math courses. “You’re really changing things.”

Some reservations might stem from how the term “integrated” is used. Often, schools assign the term to lower-level math courses, which some say might contribute to hesitations over a move to an integrated math curriculum.

Others claim that integrated math has little support, and are worried about a loss of local control and the implications of statewide requirements to move to integrated math courses.

“The new Utah Mathematics Core adopted from the national Common Core, gives us a chance to improve math education in Utah. I favor common math standards, and I think it is possible to implement the Common Core standards in a responsible way. Any new program can be improved. I am offering my suggestions,” wrote David Wright, a math professor at Brigham Young University, in an op-ed in the Deseret News that addresses Utah math standards and the Common Core.

Among his suggestions: “Do away with the integrated math program that has been rejected by over 90 percent of the states. Integrated math is uncommon. Implement algebra 1, geometry and algebra 2. There is no research evidence that integrated math is better. It keeps motivated students from taking geometry and algebra 2 concurrently. It keeps Utah from using nationally developed math materials.”

And some are pushing for a merging of the two—maintaining a traditional curriculum, but attempting to integrate other topics when logical in order to help students see real-world math connections and applications.

Laura Ascione

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