Fourth Courses

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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


CCSS Curriculum

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Many teachers have been working to implement the Common Core State Standards. In Columbiana County mathematics teachers from nine school districts have been creating the curriculum they will use for the new standards for over a year now. All the standards have been deconstructed and are posted at this link. Find the grade level/course you need in the table on the right side then click on the standards document at the top of the grade level/course page. The work we are doing is something that should be an ongoing process. Please let me know if you find mistakes, updates, hints, suggestions, etc. for any of the standards documents available. A huge thank you goes to all the mathematics teachers in Columbiana County that have contributed to this work. Your dedication inspires me.

Integrated Math vs. Traditional Math

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What’s the difference? Integrated math is a series of courses that “integrate” all the main topics in mathematics, i.e. algebra, geometry, data, and trigonometry. Traditional math is an approach that breaks those topics down into their individual parts, i.e. Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and Pre-Calculus. Many high schools offer both course pathways. However, the integrated pathway is typically offered as an alternative for students that are not confident enough in math to take the traditional path. When this is the case the integrated pathway is also typically “watered down” to make it easier for students to pass. With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards ODE, and the writers of the CCSS, are strongly recommending that high schools no longer offer an alternative pathway for the sole purpose of giving students a way to obtain their math credits. Many people oppose the integrated pathway. So, which should you choose? It is the recommendation of this writer that you base that decision on what is best for your students. However, if you are on the fence, choose the integrated approach. Students receive an integrated approach in middle school. The traditional path tends to leave students behind because the topics are segregated and it is not apparent how everything fits together. When choosing this pathway though be sure to consider the implications on instruction. Allow teachers time to be trained and become familiar with the new method of presenting mathematics. The standards are the same but the daily lessons will be quite a bit different. Set teachers up for success and students will be successful too. Click here to read an article on NCTMs website about this topic.

Keeping Students’ Interest

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How many times have you walked into something because you were paying more attention to your phone than where you were going? Our students have the same problem except they have it much worse. The amount of time a student spends immersed in their own digital world is hard to believe. Students are becoming more and more seduced by the power of digital media. What are we going to do about it? Checking all electronic devices at the door usually creates undesirable results and makes students less likely to be interested in school. One option is to use students’ love of electronics to get them to learn. More and more teachers are using online games and tools to enhance their daily instruction. The use of online resources though has its own undesirable consequences. How do you find games that are educational? How do you make sure the game is school appropriate? NCTM Tips gave a helpful guide for using online games including, the benefits of using games, how to choose the right games, and a list of games that are appropriate. Check out the article here. Consider using more games in your instruction but make sure that you take the time to play the games yourself. Your time will be rewarded in student learning.

Online Algebra Course

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This article highlights a study performed on the east coast in rural districts. The research was meant to find the benefits of middle school students taking an online Algebra course in 8th grade.


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The state board of education adopted PARCC as the assessment consortia to create the state tests. There is a huge amount of information on their website regarding their plans to create tests around the CCSS. Take some time and visit their site for more information.

Deconstructing Standards

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We are about four months away from our next meeting but I have already received some of the standards that teachers have been deconstructing. So far they look great. I am excited to see the thought teachers have been putting into taking ownership of these new standards. I know that many of you are stressing about this work. This process is simply to help you understand how to read standards in an effective way that allows you to pass the true meaning of what students are supposed to do down to them. By learning this process for a few standards you will be much more able to let students know what is expected of them. Please instill in your colleagues the importance of truly deciphering the meaning of the standards as they work with them.

If you are having any trouble please share with us. Comment on this post and let your colleagues help you. Of course, you are always welcome to email me or call me with any questions or concerns.

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