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School districts and high schools are working diligently to create a course that will satisfy ODEs requirement for current juniors and anyone after them to have four credits of high school math to graduate. Course names like Consumer Math and Financial Math are starting to come out of the discussions of what a fourth course should be. Many consultants are working diligently to help with this transition. Here are some suggestions for you while working on the creation of a fourth course for your building.

1. The course MUST be aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). There is no way around this. Unfortunately the fourth course will not be tested under the current testing plans but it is important to recognize why this requirement is in place. A large number of high school students in Ohio are required to take remedial math upon entry to college. This causes a lot of problems for colleges, headaches for students and an enormous amount of lost productivity for the state. The fourth course requirement is one of the many changes made to help curb this trend.

2. The course needs to not only address the letter of the CCSS but also the spirit of the CCSS. In other words the course needs to be created with the 8 Standards for Mathematical Practice (SMP) as a guiding light. These standards are immensely important in creating a sense of mathematics beyond the standards. Mathematics is logical and consistent. Patterns exist that can explain most anything. These ideas are summarized in the 8 SMPs.

3. Creating this course is providing an enormous opportunity to teach in a way that is exciting not just for students but also for teachers. Create your course to be as project-based as possible. Project-Based Learning is not a new concept in any way but has been paved over by standards and standardized testing. The CCSS have created a wonderful opportunity to slow down and allow students to learn in a way that makes more sense and is more like the real world.

If you follow the three suggestions above you should end up with a course that will be a perfect stepping stone for your students as they transition from high school to their career training. There are several places you can get ideas for fourth courses. North Carolina has a list on their website of approved fourth course vendors, the Dana Center has a fourth course and locally some educators in Columbiana County are creating a fourth course. The course is being created through a grant to help close the gap between high school and post-secondary options. If you have questions about the course you may email Matt Nicholas, Columbiana County Mathematics Consultant, at