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The new math
A curriculum change across the state has ninth-graders learning algebra, geometry and statistics
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Ninth-grade teacher Mary Anne Collier helps Sonya Alcantar, 14, Thursday during an accelerated math I class at Chestatee High School. Beginning with this year's ninth-graders, state-wide math curriculum integrates the different types of math. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

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Mary Anne Collier, an accelerated math I teacher at Chestatee High School, explains why she thinks the new integrated math class for freshmen is a good idea.

Parents today may remember dreading that trigonometry class during their junior year in high school. But those days are over; there's a new math class in town.

Linda Thompson, assistant principal at Flowery Branch High School, said all ninth-grade students across Georgia will take Math I this year, as opposed to the traditional ninth-grade Algebra I or Algebra II classes.

She said the new ninth-grade math class integrates Algebra I, Geometry, some statistics and, for accelerated students, some Algebra II concepts.

"The whole math curriculum has changed," she said.

Mary Anne Collier, an accelerated Math I teacher at Chestatee High School, said the new integrated ninth-grade math class is an improvement upon the old math model.

She said the most notable difference in the course is that teachers are asked to put a greater focus on integrated math questions such as word problems that require various math skills to solve. The class asks students to use math in ways that are applicable to their lives, she said.

"If they're talking about launching a water balloon you can use the basic graph of a parabola to represent that and find the equation and see how far it's going to go," she said. "I think for some, that's what they need. I think for others, it just kind of gives them a sense of, ‘OK, I'm not learning this for nothing.'"

Collier said the approach should make students more prepared for college, and may even improve their performance on SAT word problems.

The new math curriculum is being phased in with each freshman class starting with this year's ninth-graders.

It incorporates trigonometry for accelerated students in 10th grade and for all students by 11th grade.

During their senior year of high school, students can take Math IV, or accelerated students have the option to take Advanced Placement statistics or calculus.

This year's batch of ninth-graders are the first group of students the state Department of Education is requiring to earn four math credits to graduate from high school.

Following a year of disappointing math scores made by eighth-graders on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test and by high school seniors on the SAT, state schools superintendent Kathy Cox has called for higher standards in Georgia classes, especially math.

Thompson said prior to the requirement of all students earning four math credits to graduate, tech prep students were required to earn three math credits to graduate while college prep students were required to earn four credits to graduate.

Tech prep students and college prep students earned two different levels of high school diplomas until this year, she said.

Collier said so far, freshmen have been receptive to the new approach.

"I think once they kind of figure out how to work through it, they're generally OK," she said. "I think the longer and longer this program continues to run, the more prepared they'll be by the time they get to the high school level. If we start in the elementary and then through middle school, they're used to the style of the class already by the time they get here."

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