Freshmen taking Algebra I at Whitmer High School can expect something more than traditional algebraic equations when the class is presented to them in the fall.
Thanks to a new state qualifying exam, the class will include information about geometry, statistics, probability, and data analysis.
The proposed changes are expected to help students pass the math portion of the Ohio Graduation Test needed for a diploma.
The test will replace the ninth grade proficiency test and contain information students should learn through the end of the 10th grade.
Students, who will have to pass the exam in order to graduate, will have two opportunities each year to take the test. It will include the same subjects that are in the proficiency test it will replace: science, reading, writing, math, and citizenship.
The upcoming math portion of the 10th grade test is much harder than the math test students took last year and will require more reading, said Tim Perry, head of the math department at Whitmer.
One example of a problem, he said, gives the students the size of boxes with the dimensions of an empty semitractor trailer.
“You need to determine the best way to pack the trailer, using the most boxes,” Mr. Perry said.
“It's a very challenging test and it has a heavy emphasis on reading and comprehensive skills,” he said. “We are being forced to change the way we teach ... which may be a good thing.”
The department saw a copy of the test about a month ago and decided to make some changes in the way they taught the course, Mr. Perry said.
Algebra I will still focus on the basic “x equals y,” but a greater emphasis will be placed on handling open-ended questions.
“We are going to continue to give the kids Algebra I, but we are also going to weave in other math disciplines to prepare the students to solve problems,” Whitmer principal Casey Reason said.
Algebra now is taught from a theoretical perspective, Mr. Reason said.
“There's less intersection. They teach it as finite course. ... This is going beyond x equals y. It's like taking a Shakespeare course and having American poets thrown in along the way,” Mr. Reason said.
Mr. Reason believes the students will rise to the challenge.
“I don't think they'll notice a big difference,” Mr. Reason said. “Kids will like it and still see a meaning behind it.”
Meanwhile, 16 Whitmer math teachers are figuring out their own problems preparing students for the test.
Three weeks ago, the course of study was rewritten for seventh and eight graders.
“We have a team of teachers doing their best to realign the current course of study with the objectives of the test,” Mr. Perry said. “We are reviewing test books and other related materials.”
And since comprehension is a vital key, English teachers will have a role.
“It's definitely going to be lot harder,” Mr. Perry said. “The types of questions are going to be a lot different. The reading portion of the test is a lot more involved and is going to require a lot more logical and critical thinking skills,” he said.
“We are going to have to test differently and ask more open ended questions and multiple step questions,” he said. “The solution will not be found from a simple one-step procedure, but multiple steps.”