Proposed Algebra I lane alters math courses for students


The latest proposed California mathematics framework recommends students take Algebra I in ninth grade or later. The framework, which was presented in May of 2021, hopes to ensure that students are at a comfortable level, rather than feeling pressured to take a higher-level math course that does not suit their needs. This track continues with Geometry sophomore year, Algebra II/Trigonometry junior year and Pre-Calculus senior year.

The proposed recommendations aim to reduce the achievement gap for Black, Latino and low-income students. According to the Nation’s Report Card for 2019, California’s eighth graders performed significantly poorer than the national public in math, with only 61% of students achieving basic standards and 29% qualifying for proficiency. Because California’s standardized math scores are some of the lowest in the nation, efforts are being made to improve its math curriculum.

Some students, such as freshman Aleena Xiao expressed concerns that following the new pathway could hinder student learning. “Students should have the freedom to choose what math course they take so that they are motivated to learn and participate in classes that interest them,” she said.

One of the concerns the framework raises is that students may not be able to complete Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus by the end of high school. To address this, educators proposed combining Geometry, Algebra II/Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus into two blended courses. While Introduction to Analysis and Calculus and Algebra I teacher Julia Choi is interested in the blended courses, educators don’t currently know what the program would look like. “We would need a lot more time,” she said. “The curriculum would have to change in order to blend those three courses together.”

Although blended courses may be more challenging for students and teachers alike, Math Department Instructional Lead David Deggeller noted that it wouldn’t cause major changes. “It won’t really affect long term math learning,” he said. “Every student will still have a pathway to higher mathematics like [AP] Calculus or AP Statistics if that’s their goal.”

Choi added that although colleges value classes such as AP Calculus, it’s not a requirement for future success. “[Taking calculus] is one of the metrics that universities use when accepting students,” she said. “But I don’t think that knowing calculus itself determines how successful you’re going to be.”

With this in mind, Choi pointed to the benefits of a successfully implemented program. “Teachers need the proper training, so that we’re not holding back students,” she said. “We need to know how to keep up the rigor in a classroom while also helping students who still need to know the basics.”

This framework has entered its third 60-day public review and is currently scheduled to be approved and adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE) in July 2022, but the date is subject to change.