How is Mathways different?

Mark Freed's picture
Mark Freed

A question has come up in how Mathways is different that past high school reform efforts. Specifically, the idea that a school adopted an “integrated curriculum” and feel that they are already shifted to the proposed changes in the Mathways Initiative. It is an important question to understand, so wanted to share my thoughts on how I would respond to this question.

My first thought would be that the act of integrating high school content does not imply a change in pedagogical practices. I have seen publishers simply copy and paste chapters out of an Alg/Geo/Alg2 sequence, and present them into “integrated” courses. If the lessons were passive procedural experiences to start, then they still would be the act of integration is simply an organizational change. The first objective of Mathways is to shift student experiences from passive learning to active learning, as well as shifting from contrived applications to authentic applications within the courses.

My second thought is that traditionally, both an Alg/Geo/Alg2 and an Integrated sequence assume the same breadth of content would be covered. That is, both sequences try to teach the same 200+ content expectations but just describe different paths to get there. The second objective of the Mathways project is to find the focus content that bridges K-8 to post-secondary. Not sure how much smaller, but am thinking it would be a significant reduction of standards like take out 60%-70% of the current content expectations (e.g. something like ~200 to ~50 high school standards).

My third thought is that no one has really questioned if all students need the same three courses at a systems level before. I think there is space to introduce the idea of standalone course as a third credit option. The third objective of Mathways would be identify such courses and provide guidance how they could be created. So like to think of it as Integrated 1 & 2, then have choice for the third credit, which could be Integrated 3 or Algebra 2, but also could be Construction Geometry or Data Science as well.

My fourth thought is that systematic conversations have not occurred across K-12 and post-secondary institutions. I remember one of the responses after our spring regional meetings was that this was the first time a high school teacher remembers talking with a community college professor about math content for six hours. In general, high school teachers seem to be trying to do too much so re-calibrating expectations by building these relationships is the fourth goal of the Mathways initiative.

So the four objectives of the Mathways project were intentional in describing how this work is different. I’ll post our two pager on the Mathways overview below to that you can feel free to share as well. Feel free to comment or let me know if you have additional questions about how best to communicate the work we are proposing within the 2+1 course design, and how it is different than past course design changes in high school.