The Brick Township school district will introduce a new math curriculum next year which will align with Common Core standards and better adapt to various mathematical skill levels of students in the same class, school officials said.
The Board of Education approved the purchase of the Big Ideas math curriculum, written by educators Ron Larson and Laurie Boswell, for $394,000. The program is an all-inclusive curriculum that will serve grades 6-12, representing a clearer path of learning mathematics from middle school into high school, said Dr. Lorraine Morgan, Academic Officer for the district.
“We visited a number of districts that were using Big Ideas,” Morgan said. “Jackson is using it. We were very fortunate to spend three quarters of a day there, and the teachers were very open and embraced our visit. We were able to see how the online resources were able to be used in class. The three comments that were prevalent through the discussion were the depth and breadth of online resources, the consistency of the standards being addresses, and rigor and coherence.”
The curriculum will also dovetail with Math Expressions, Morgan said, the curriculum series which is used by teachers in the lower grades.
Big Ideas has a number of feature which attracted district officials, who worked with a committee of teachers to evaluate numerous programs before choosing one. The curriculum not only comes with text books and consumable workbooks for students, but features a robust online component that includes resources for parents to help their children with homework and to study for tests. The online component also includes games that parents can play with their children to help them enrich the material they use in class.
For a large district such as Brick, school officials also said an attractive feature of Big Ideas was the curriculum’s ability to cater to different skill levels of students simultaneously. Alternative assignments and assessment tasks are available for higher level learners, Morgan said, and support materials are available for students who need extra help.
The new curriculum will be a significant improvement over three different texts used between middle school and high school students currently. Those curricula “lacks rigor in addressing complex problems,” Morgan said, and lacks online resources for students and parents.
“We want to prepare them for the recommendations that they need for their college applications,” said Morgan. “We want to give them the depth and rigor they need. Our students need to be able to express abstract thinking.”
Big Plans for Advanced Students
Superintendent Dr. Walter Uszenski said the new curriculum is the the next step in rebuilding the entire district’s curriculum. One of the next steps will be selecting curriculum for advanced math classes, such as Calculus. But before the district moves ahead with that, he will complete an initiative under which advanced high school math courses can be dual-credited for both high school and college. The district currently offers this option for Western Civilization and Psychology, but many colleges do not accept the credit, which students pay for, he said.
A revamped advanced math program will be built with input from Ocean County College, Stockton University and Georgian Court University, Uszenski said. When OCC builds a new STEM center next year, Brick students will be able to access it, and the district may be able to form more partnerships with New Jersey Institute of Technology and schools in Philadelphia and Delaware.
“We’re working with the colleges to look at our pre-calculus and calculus classes to make sure it dovetails with what the colleges accept,” Uszenski said.
Uszenski will also recommend the board purchase software that allows teachers to check if certain high school courses can be transferred to colleges across the country.
But the work to fine-tune the program means it cannot be implemented immediately.
“I didn’t want to do what was done in the past, ‘scratch and sniff, looks good, so let’s get the textbooks,'” Uszenski said.