Photo courtesy of TJHSST

In the past two years, the Jefferson math department has implemented a new math system to include time for research statistics and data analysis curriculum, originally taught to freshman students in a combined fashion through Algebra 2 and integrated biology, English, and technology (IBET) classes.

The system incorporates a semester of a course called Research Statistics, and reduces the duration of courses such as Geometry, Algebra 2, and Precalculus from year-long to semester-long courses.

The TJ Math Department has stated that reduced time frame to learn these math subjects still covers the same amount of material as a year-long class. At the same time, they are said to provide more support to students who have already earned Geometry and Algebra 2 credits from middle school, students with “holes” in their math backgrounds, while also providing time for a statistics class to build skills to be used in IBET and future projects.

The math department has supported the plan by arguing that statistics curriculum deserves more time than the allotted eight weeks it is given before Algebra 2 in order to avoid “confusing incoming freshmen.”

Although the new structure for mathematics does provide students with a more organized approach to learning statistics, it puts more challenging classes such as Algebra and Trigonometry on a tighter timeline. As a result, the program may end up hurting students’ math education rather than supporting them, as was originally intended.

As a freshman who has taken Research Statistics and Algebra 2 at Jefferson, I think that taking a semester of statistics has been helpful in research projects, but the strain from the limited time given to learn Algebra 2 in second semester is not worth it.

Algebra 2 is a class intended to be learned over the course of a year. Condensing the material down to a semester forces students and teachers to rush through the information. For example, teachers sometimes go through two sections of Algebra 2 material in one class period, often not being able to finish the notes in that period.

During class, every minute is valuable. In my experience, when anything happens to delay a lesson, whether it’s fire drills or technical difficulties, a large amount of material must be skipped or learned outside of the classroom. It is very difficult to make up the information during the following class periods, where the next lesson is covered under a similarly stringent timeline.

Although the new system was well-intentioned, it may have been more effective to stay with the previous math system: teaching statistics on an as-needed basis for IBET research within the IBET classes, to provide Jefferson students of all backgrounds the time needed to learn more challenging math when necessary.