This year, Burlingame Intermediate School has adopted a set of curriculum changes known as Common Core. 46 states in the U.S. have already adopted these standards, and California middle schools are the most recent adopters of the policy. The Common Core website states that it is “research and evidenced based,” and “based on rigorous content and the application of knowledge through higher-order thinking skills.” In other words, Common Core curriculum is meant to promote critical thinking, problem solving, and using logic as opposed to brute memorization.The curriculum was designed to address the belief that fostering critical thinking skills in students is critical to their success.
However, the changes that Common Core have created at BIS have also impacted how incoming freshmen are placed into math classes at BHS. Incoming freshmen are taking newly structured math classes at BIS, which means math classes at BHS must be changed accordingly. In previous years, 8th graders at BIS would take either Geometry (advanced math students) or Algebra 1-2 (regular math students). However, because of Common Core changes at BIS, advanced math students now take Algebra 1-2 and regular math students take a class called “Math 8” that is similar to Pre-Algebra. This means that as incoming freshmen, students who are in advanced math would take Geometry and students in normal math would take Algebra 1-2. The pathway of an advanced math student would be Geometry, Algebra 3-4 , Precalculus, and then, as a senior AP Calculus. The pathway of a student in normal track math would be Algebra 1-2, Geometry, Algebra 3-4 and then Precalculus.
This shifting of math tracks creates a dilemma, however. Currently, students in normal math have the opportunity to take AP Calculus as a senior. But with the new curriculum, students in normal math would not be able to take AP Calculus as a senior and would end with Precalculus. To help alleviate this issue, BHS has created two new pilot classes which would allow students in normal math to take AP Calculus at the end of high school. The first class is a class that combines Geometry and Algebra 3-4. The second class combines Algebra 3-4 and Precalculus. If a student takes these two classes, they would be able to take at AP Calculus by their senior year. These changes can be hard to visualize, so I have created a diagram below:
To take the two pilot courses, however, students would have to receive “A’s” in math and also achieve a certain score on their CAASP math test.
In the community, there have been varied reactions to the new changes.
Some believe that BHS and BIS have not done an adequate job of explaining these new changes to the incoming freshman class.
“A huge factor in my decision to attend Lick Wilmerding was actually Common Core changes going on at BIS and BHS. I truly love math, and I think that as students, we were not provided with enough information about how Common Core changes at BIS would affect the curriculum at BHS,” eighth-grader Melinda Liu said.
Others, however, applaud BHS’ efforts to make it so that students in normal math can take AP Calculus during their senior year.
“These changes will allow me to take Calculus during high school and Calculus will allow me to get into a better college, or at least give me more credits,” incoming freshman James Gordon said.
Additionally, Common Core changes will change the content of each of these math classes in a small way.
“Because of Common Core, we have changed topics in all of the beginning-level math classes,” BHS math teacher Traci Kreppel said.
This new math placement will come into effect two years from now.