From UNC Charlotte associate professors of mathematics Michelle Stephan and Drew Polly, and professors of mathematics David Pugalee and Vic Cifarelli:
This coming week the North Carolina House and Senate will vote on House Bill 657, which would give high school students and middle school students who qualify a choice between one of two mathematics tracks – an integrated track approved in early June by the North Carolina State Board of Education or a traditional track that isolates topics, such as Geometry, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2.
As professors who prepare future mathematics teachers, support current mathematics teachers, and research how students learn mathematics and how teachers teach, we oppose HB 657 and contend that the N.C. high school mathematics standards recently approved should be the only option for high school students.
Recent research indicates that students in an integrated pathway outperform those in traditional pathways. Additionally, most of the countries that outperform the United States on international benchmarks use an integrated mathematics track.
The new high school standards recently adopted by the N.C. Board of Education are integrated, reflecting research about the benefit of teaching students mathematics in ways that support connections between concepts rather than teaching concepts in isolated silos. Furthermore, the integrated approach of mathematics better prepares N.C. students for success in college and future careers.
Recent studies indicate that students who took courses in an integrated mathematics track scored 4.2 points higher on the math portion of the ACT than those in a traditional track of mathematics courses. Minority and economically disadvantaged students taking an integrated approach also perform significantly higher than those students in a traditional course sequence.
Additionally, in a state that chronically has budget issues in education, providing students with a choice between tracks will further create issues related to teacher support, providing adequate instructional resources, and staffing these classes with highly qualified teachers.
Many mathematics education organizations also support the integrated course sequence, including the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators-NC (AMTE-NC), and the North Carolina Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCCTM). We ask that our legislators seek the advice and knowledge from both mathematics teachers as well as mathematics educators when they make their final decisions about the future of North Carolina’s students.