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N.C. Moving to Integrated High School Math With Common Core

I often hear from math educators that the common-core standards seem to cry out for moving away from the traditional Algebra 1-geometry-Algebra 2 sequence toward a more integrated approach to the discipline. North Carolina is now moving toward replacing those courses with a state policy of requiring an integrated mathematics sequence, I recently learned, joining Utah and West Virginia.

To my knowledge, no other states have such a policy, though I'm told that many states are silent on the matter, leaving it up to districts and schools to decide.

The action in North Carolina came up during my reporting for an Education Week story on debates over Algebra 2. Florida and Texas approved legislation this spring that backs away from graduation policies setting the expectation of Algebra 2 for all. At the same time, the common-core math standards call for all students to demonstrate mastery of math at the Algebra 2 level. (The standards don't stipulate the specific courses students should take, but simply the math they should know and be able to do.)

"Our goal is to have the state transition by 2014-15, but we'll start the transition this coming year," Maria Pitre-Martin, the director of K-12 curriculum and instruction for the North Carolina department of public instruction, told me last month.

In explaining the state's action, Pitre-Martin said it just makes sense to blend content across math topics into one course.

"We have taught algebra and geometry in isolation of each other, and we don't apply math that way," she said. "You don't isolate your math skills that way."

Pitre-Martin said the state has permitted an integrated math pathway to high school for some time, but now will require it. To earn a diploma, students must complete four high school math credits, which will eventually entail Mathematics 1, 2, and 3, as well as one additional course related to their post-high-school plans. (Currently, most North Carolina students must complete Algebra 2 to graduate, and the new policy assumes student mastery of the same content knowledge, as I understand it.)

I'm told that districts are free to offer more advanced versions of the integrated math courses if they wish.

Last fall, I wrote a story about an effort in Utah to develop free online textbooks to help districts as they shift to integrated high school math courses.

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