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School districts winnow choices for math books

Tue., Jan. 26, 2010

Central Valley freshmen Scott Hilpert, left, and Shawnee Guegel listen to geometry teacher Brandon Mack. (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON)
Central Valley freshmen Scott Hilpert, left, and Shawnee Guegel listen to geometry teacher Brandon Mack. (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON)

New curricula will include online access to texts, tutorials

When it comes to math, high school students have long asked the question: “Why do I need to learn this stuff?”

Books being considered for a high school math overhaul in the Spokane area’s two largest districts have an answer.

One book publisher uses a quick, text-message format to catch teens’ attention.

Algebraic equations with two variables are used to compare a cell phone plan; geometry is applied to figure out how to order the most pizza for your money.

Central Valley High School freshman Shawnee Guegel said she likes the real-life approach. “There are a lot of times where I think, and other students too, how are we going to use this in our daily life when we get older?”

Parents, community members and school officials in Central Valley School District and Spokane Public Schools – much like other school districts around the state – have spent months considering new math curriculum that better aligns with Washington standards.

Their decisions will address a moving target for Washington’s math requirements, and a need for all high school students to pass a math assessment in order to graduate in 2013.

The districts’ separate committees have narrowed the choice to two math book publishers: Holt and Prentice-Hall.

“We looked at 10 to 15 different publishers. We went through them and asked questions like: Does it meet what students, parents and the community wants? Then we’d look at whether it met state standards,” said Brandon Mack, a Central Valley High School math teacher who was on the district’s committee.

The previous curriculum had about a 63 percent alignment with state standards for ninth-graders. The two new curricula are more than 83 percent aligned, said Abby Frandsen, Central Valley School District’s math coordinator.

“The closer the books align with the state standards, the more success the students are going to have,” Frandsen said.

Both publishers offer a companion to the books that are attractive to students and teachers: online access to the textbooks and tutorials if kids need additional help when they get home.

“I really like having the online opportunity because you don’t have to worry about taking home your big, heavy book. There are multiple, multiple tutorials to help with problems,” Guegel said.

Not only are the books changing, but so is the teaching method, school officials say.

The focus is on a single math area, such as algebra, geometry or algebra II. Previously the districts used “integrated math,” which involved multiple, intertwined math concepts and more of a discovery approach.

Scott Hilpert, 15, another Central Valley freshman, said he prefers the new curriculum. “It’s more simple. It lets the teacher do more teaching. Before it was students teaching students, and one person might get it while another wouldn’t. This helps everyone learn at the same time.”

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