Tombstone High School students score higher at standardized math testing than most Arizona students.
That is not necessarily good news. All Arizona students score below the national norm.
A year ago the numbers suggest that Arizona students scored better than the national norm. The state used the AIMS test to measure and it showed seven out of 10 Arizona students were proficient in math. Why the Change?
The state test changed. Educational experts say the test Arizona used was not equal to the test standards other states used. Now that the new standards are applied, a clearer picture of the mathematical abilities of the Arizona students emerged.
Arizona students are worse in math than students in 33 other states according to data provided by the Nation’s Report Card.
Arizona is not the only state that is struggling with proficiency in mathematics; the entire United States has poor mathematic proficiency scores. The National Assessment of Educational Process (NAEP) found that seven out of 10 students in the U.S. scored at or above basic level in mathematics in 2013.
The Foundation for Excellence in Educations Arizona found the proficiency gap in Arizona set the bar too low leading students, teachers and parents to believe students are performing better than they actually are. Arizona adopted the Common Core math standard in 2010 along with 42 other states to correct the proficiency gap occurring in the states.
In a classroom in Tombstone, Linde Mohr, a high school Algebra teacher, has included “story problems” in her curriculum to help students better understand mathematical concepts of Common Core.
“Everything is easy when you know how,” the class motto of Tombstone High School math teacher Linde Mohr. The lesson of the day was solving by elimination in her first class of the day, Algebra B. The problem on the board was Rose bought 3 shirts, 5 skirts and spent $140. Daisy bought 2 shirts and 3 skirts and spent $87. How much was spent on each skirt?
The solution was $19 per skirt. “That’s an expensive skirt,” said one student. “No it’s not, do you know how much a skirt costs at American Eagle?” another student asked.
“This isn’t fashion class, I just wanted you to go from story problem, to setting it up, is everyone okay now,” said Miss Mohr.
Story problems are just one way math is revolutionizing to try to get students to figure out which mathematical method to use, set up the equation and then solve the equation.
What is Common Core math?
Common Core math was created to help solve the “math problem” occurring in the United States, causing the nation to fall behind other countries.
Common Core math attacks the traditional math method of memorization of formulas to find the answer to an equation. Through common core math, the student must take an analytical approach to problem solving as opposed to just solving the problem, to increase the students college and career readiness.
According to the Common Core state standards initiative, the new standard focus on concepts the students previously learned at earlier ages, and build upon them.
“The Common Core curriculum expects them to know how to do some things that we are teaching them now,” said Mohr. “These kids have had nine years of school but not nine years of Common Core.”
How has Common Core stacked up thus far?
Last spring was the first year of the AzMerit test, a test designed to replace the AIMS test
implementing the common core math standards. According to the unofficial results, average percentage of students who scored under proficiency, ranging from third grade through eighth grade was 63.5 percent.
The results are the opposite of previous year’s AIMS test results but according to the Arizona Department of Education, these results were expected since the test had higher standards than the previous AIMS test.
What does this mean for the future?
According to the Pew Research Center Americans believe math and science are less critical to success than math and science. This belief could be the source of the U.S. lagging behind other countries in the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) workforce.The Pew Research Center found that the U.S. places 35th out of 64 countries in math scores from the Program For International Student Assessment (PISA), which evaluates the knowledge of 15-year-old students in developed and developing countries.
The U.S. Department of Commerce expects the STEM workforce to increase by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018. In order to produce enough workers to technically skilled workers to fill these jobs, the U.S. must improve its mathematical skills and the Arizona Department of Education consider Common Core Math as the solution.
Lexus Scott is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the University of Arizona. Contact her at email@example.com.
Click here for a Word version of this story and high-resolution photos.