District removes integrated math as an optional route


Integrated math classes are no longer available for students to enroll in for the future. Columbia Public Schools is switching over to a curriculum that takes pieces from the integrated style of learning and combines them with the traditional math track. Photo by Aniqa Rahman.

Brittany Cornelison

Integrated math classes are no longer available for students to enroll in for the future. Columbia Public Schools is switching over to a curriculum that takes pieces from the integrated style of learning and combines them with the traditional math track. Photo by Aniqa Rahman.

Integration refers to circuitry and desegregation, but for Columbia Public Schools it also refers to levels of math class. This specific way of teaching in the integrated mathematics sequence has always portrayed these traits. However, last fall marked the last time it was available as a course option. CPS students could not enroll in Integrated Math 1 starting this year and now take, by default, traditional math classes.

The CPS math department board members originally reconsidered the program’s benefits because of low enrollment. But most prominently, the board members also looked at Common Core Standards for math set by a state-led effort of the National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers; they realized students learn most efficiently by combining aspects of both the integrated and the traditional courses, Dana Ferguson, coordinator of the CPS math department, said.

“The mathematics that students need to know really is not one or the other. It’s not the traditional track, [and] it’s not the integrated track. It’s a combination of the two because students need to understand mathematics as well as be able to do the mathematics,” Ferguson said. “We want the conceptual understanding, which was a huge focus in the integrated program, and we also want the procedural fluency which is a huge focus in the traditional path.”

Integrated math differs from traditional Algebra, Geometry and Precalculus classes because the program integrates several strands of mathematics during each school year instead of singling them out. The goal is to get students to think about several topics within the one year. By reiterating past subjects, the teachers attempt to have each concept stay fresh in the students’ brains, 13-year integrated math teacher Marla Clowe said.

“The perception is just about how it’s taught. Integrated doesn’t just do a single subject every year. The reason why it’s called integrated is because every year we do Geometry and Algebra, and we do things in a different order,” Clowe said. “We bring in more real-life applications.”

Though teachers are disappointed with the cancellation, they also hope they won’t have to change their teaching methods completely, Ferguson said. She said since Common Core Standards stated students benefit most from a mixture of the Integrated and traditional ways, CPS is doing their best to combine the two in the years to come.

“I think there was some initial disappointment [from teachers] because I think that [they] really felt like this was a very valuable program, but after discussion and looking at the Common Core State Standards, I think we all realized that you need to do both things,” Ferguson said. “So those really cool things that they were doing in integrated are certainly applicable to teaching whatever course they teach.”

Though teachers are trying to use aspects of the integrated system with the new curriculum, those who have made it their job to see the system prevail, such as Clowe, are uneasy about this change.

“What I’ll miss most is just the thoughtfulness, and … how much I learn from the kids,” Clowe said. It is difficult to teach the integrated way because “you have to be more open to [students’] ideas. It’s not just how I teach it, it’s what they bring to the table. It is kind of melancholy thinking that [other] kids aren’t going to get this chance.”

Students who are currently enrolled in this program are upset that future generations won’t have the opportunity to experience this program the same way that they have for the past couple years. Junior Bre Dowling has been a part of the integrated math system since her eighth grade year at Jefferson Junior High School.

“I think it’s ridiculous. I think there’s plenty of other kids that would benefit from taking integrated,” Dowling said. “I’m happy I had the choice; that’s the main thing. I’m just happy that I got to pick a course that fit my style.”

In December 2007, an issue with the integrated system appeared for the first time. According to a report by KRCG 13, parents of CPS students were unhappy with the way that students were learning math. Several parents wanted to get rid of the system because they believed the curriculum did not emphasize repetition enough, which research said is crucial when taking standardized tests.

“We … want to be in dialogue with our community about the strengths of our mathematics curriculum and our programming and how we can work to improve it,” Dr. Sally Beth Lyon, doctor of education and Chief Academic Officer for CPS, said in the article by KRCG.

Highlighting the pros and cons of each way of teaching to form one well-working system has proved to be a challenge because the integrated way of teaching differs greatly from the traditional algebra method of teaching. The kids aren’t doing a single strand of math for an entire year, and this gives them a broader mind set in that each problem they do in class has real life applications, Clowe said.

“I would say that integrated has probably changed my life; it will change the rest of my life for sure just because since I’ve learned how to grasp what’s going on and figuring it out first hand instead of jumping in to ‘this is how you do it,’” Dowling said. “I think it’ll help me through college and through the rest of my life, and I think it’s terrible that other kids don’t get that opportunity or at least get that choice to take a different path.”
By Brittany Cornelison