District 300 explains Common Core changes to math

CARPENTERSVILLE – Elementary and middle school students in District 300 for the first time are using algebra in their lessons and having to explain their answers to math problems.

Students no longer are being taught math problems and being asked to try and solve similarly worded equations on tests. Teachers consequently are teaching fewer standards and granting students more time to master lessons, said Steve Shadel, the math division head at Jacobs High School.

“Because we are focusing on standards, we now can teach the topic, allow time for mastery and apply that into a situation,” Shadel said. “We want the students to show us what they know and give them specific feedback on where they are developing.”

The math changes are part of Carpentersville-based District 300’s rollout of the Common Core, a new statewide curriculum designed to raise student performance at all grade levels.

Shadel and other district administrators updated board members Monday on the math changes this year affecting elementary and middle school students.

Schools across the state have been devising elements of the Common Core since 2010, when Illinois joined more than 40 states in adopting the new education standards for math and English. Districts are expected to fully integrate the curriculum this school year.

Aside from fewer standards, District 300 students from kindergarten to eighth grade are using daily algebraic thinking, Shadel said.

Students also are not simply being asked to solve equations. Instead, they have to solve and explain how and why they reached their answer.

“If we taught the old way, we would end in early spring because there are fewer standards,” Shadel said. “But the point is our students are mastering those skills and applying those skills.”

The district’s middle schools also switched from three level math courses to two, forcing students to meet higher academic expectations, he said. Heading into high school, all students now will have the opportunity to take advanced calculus classes by their senior year.

The curriculum changes have forced the district to examine the materials they use to teach math lessons. A districtwide committee recently completed its review of five publishers who have geared their materials to the Common Core, administrators said.

The committee should make a decision by mid-November on the materials students will use. The board will make the final approval, with teachers using the new materials by next fall.

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