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U-46 Board approves secondary math materials


By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved resources and technology for secondary math classes by a 6-1 vote, Jeanette Ward voting no, on Monday, March 5.
  The classes include algebra 1, algebra 2, geometry, geometry bridge, pre-calculus, AP calculus, AP statistics and finite mathematics. The reason for this change is to update outdated resources, purchased in 2011, according to the proposal.
  The proposal includes the purchase of laptops with touch screens for every student in algebra 1, algebra 2 and geometry as well as graphing calculators for every junior as they take the SAT exam and professional development for staff. The total cost according to the proposal is $5.5 million for resources and $1.8 million for professional development.
  Prior to the proposal being presented on Feb. 26, board member Sue Kerr asked for a yearly breakdown of costs which the district responded for resources and technology it’ll cost $5.5 million the first year and $698,250 for years two through seven, and for professional development: $669,445 the first year, $544,548 the second, $531,650 the third and $14,000 years four through seven. The board will have to separately approve the professional development contract over the summer according to the district.
  Ward voted against the proposal for several reasons from the resources to the reliance on technology. She said she liked the calculus resource and would have voted for that if it were a separate item.
  The algebra and geometry resources, an all online resource titled Discovery Math Techbook–all digital!, were like Eureka Math according to Ward who said she voted for Eureka previously before having experience with it.
  “It’s language-heavy and math-light in my opinion after reviewing it,” Ward said. “And students who are gifted in math strongly dislike when math is presented in this way and it hinders understanding.”
  Ward said she’s heard from multiple people, including her daughters, and “they are very frustrated with Eureka math and the fact that it’s more like English as math instead of math as math.”
  The resources being fully online also raised concerns for Ward.
  “Connecting to the internet is not problem free in classrooms, and I have heard accounts of lots of class time lost on solving technical and connectivity issues,” Ward said. “Even where I work this is a problem, and we have a great system. It’s not suggesting the U-46’s systems are bad, it’s just the technology like that it requires some hand holding at times.”
  The Discovery resource as well as the AP statistics resource, MacMillan’s “The Practice of Statistics, 6th Ed.,” also move out of the realm of mathematics and into partisan political issues by included one-sided lessons on the theory of manmade global warming according to Ward.
  “It was interesting to me that the statistics textbook, which is attempting to teach students to use statistics correctly, makes the argument that CO2 contributes to global warming which is unproven statistically,” Ward said. “It could also be argued that warming is a natural phenomenon and that data shows that natural cycles of warming preceded any increase in CO2 levels.”
  Board member Melissa Owens said the board has recently approved items to allow the district to “have access points now… in all of our classrooms” and she “expects that we’re going to have some hiccups and work through them.”
  When the proposal was presented, Owens expressed similar concerns as Ward regarding the heaviness of language instead of math problems saying “it’s very wordy,” and she asked if professional development will help.
  “Discovery knows that our teachers are used to a traditional textbook where it’s a series of problems,” said Amy Ingente, math coordinator.
  Ward commended Kerr for her questions prior to the presentation and Kerr thanked staff for “responding because I know I asked a lot.” She asked 10 questions regarding the proposal.
  One of Kerr’s questions concerned the district’s move towards one-to-one technology, noting that this proposal advances closer to it, and asked how much it would cost to fully convert to it which the administration responded: “There are approximately 3,230 students who would not receive a Chromebook. This would be an expense of $1,094,970.”
  Kerr asked if students would be able to take laptops home to do homework, specifically for those math classes that will be online only, and the district said they would. Kerr asked about students who don’t have internet access at home.
  Trisha Shrode, director of curriculum and instruction, said a team is “working on the logistics” and “one of the very first things we landed on was what about internet.” She said the Discovery resource is downloaded to the laptops as an app meaning students can do homework offline and it will be uploaded once a connection is available.

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