Do the standards require Algebra 2?

This is likely the question I receive the most.  According to the Iowa Core Mathematics Standards and Standards for Mathematical Practice, there is not a mention of a required Algebra 2 course, or any other high school course for that matter.  Yet, we are talking about this topic more than ever in Iowa and across the country.  I think this is the wrong question. Instead, I am suggesting we reframe the question and ask, “What is required for College and Career Readiness in mathematics.”  In this blog post, I am going to attempt to answer this question.  Disclaimer: Capitalization and other notation may be used grammatically wrong for emphasis.

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The Iowa Core Mathematics Standards and Standards for Mathematical Practice are intended to be ALL standards for ALL students. When we look at the high school standards, some standards have (+)s and these are NOT for all students.  The high school standards are sorted by Domains such as Number and Quantity, Algebra, Functions, Geometry, Statistics and Probability.  Domains are further broken down by Clusters and they may contain one or many standards.  The standards were not intended to create courses or specific approaches such as Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 or Integrated. It was the intention to give ACCESS to All students to learn high school mathematics when they are in high school each and every year.

It is up to schools locally to create courses, pathways, etc. This flexibility helps schools promote ACCESS for ALL without lowering expectations and while meeting the needs of students.  This is known as the first Shift for Mathematics, Focus.  Focus means where we are going to spend the majority of our instructional time.  It takes the approach of a mile wide and an inch deep of the past and translates it to the inch wide and mile deep focusing time on the most critical content.

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How much instructional time? Up to 85% on the content highlighted in the Focus documents and 15%  for the rest of the standards.

What domain, cluster and standards? We can use the High School Focus document by Student Achievement Partners, www.achievethecore.org, provides guidance distinguishing between especially important, relatively important and widely applicable. For more on Focus, please see Iowa Math Chats

  • Number and Quantity: N-RN, Real Numbers:
    • Both clusters in this domain contain widely applicable prerequisites.
    • N-Q, Quantities: Every standard in this domain is a widely applicable prerequisite.
    • Note, this domain is especially important in the high school content standards overall as a widely applicable prerequisite.
  • Algebra: Every domain in this category contains widely applicable prerequisites.
    • Note, the A-SSE domain is especially important in the high school content standards overall as a widely applicable prerequisite.
  • Functions: F-IF, Interpreting Functions:
    • Every cluster in this domain contains widely applicable prerequisites.
    • Additionally, standards F-BF.1 and F-LE.1 are relatively important within this category as widely applicable prerequisites.
  • Geometry: 
    • The following standards and clusters are relatively important within this category as widely applicable prerequisites: G-CO.1 G-CO.9 G-CO.10 G-SRT.B G-SRT.C
    • Note, the above standards in turn have learning prerequisites within the Geometry category, including: G-CO.A G-CO.B G-SRT.A
  • Statistics and Probability: 
    • The following standards are relatively important within this category as widely applicable prerequisites: S-ID.2 S-ID.7 S-IC.1
    • Note, the above standards in turn have learning prerequisites within 6-8. SP.
  • Applying Key Takeaways from Grades 6–8**: Solving problems at a level of sophistication appropriate to high school by:
    • Applying ratios and proportional relationships.
    • Applying percentages and unit conversions, e.g., in the context of complicated measurement problems involving quantities with derived or compound units (such as mg/mL, kg/m3 , acre-feet, etc.).
    • Applying basic function concepts, e.g., by interpreting the features of a graph in the context of an applied problem.
    • Applying concepts and skills of geometric measurement e.g., when analyzing a diagram or schematic.
    • Applying concepts and skills of basic statistics and probability (see 6-8.SP). ·
    • Performing rational number arithmetic fluently.

This means there is flexibility so ALL students can have access to the high school mathematics instruction they need. Some students may need more time on especially important, relatively important and widely applicable standards and practices. Some students may need up to 85% of instructional time focused on number and algebra (at the high school level) instead of spending large amounts of times on other standards that are not as important for their college and career readiness.

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We want our students to be able to pursue their dreams without mathematics being a barrier.  We know the fewer remedial mathematics courses they take post-secondary, then the more likely it seems they are to persevere with completing programs and degrees. The world we live in becomes more technical each and every day whether in engineering, health care, farming, mechanics, etc., or the military.   Mathematics needs to be the pump into options for our students and not the filter.  We need to remember that it is NOT about courses but about learning.  Learning that will better prepare our students for their future, whatever they may choose.

 

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