Scores and Technology Use Up in Somerville High Math Classes
Students are scoring higher on state and AP exams.
More Somerville High School students are excelling in math, and teachers are increasingly using technology to enhance instruction, according to a recent presentation by members of the math department to the School Committee.
Some 39 percent of students who took the spring 2010 MCAS test in math placed in the advanced or above proficient category, compared to 30 percent in 2009 and 27 percent in 2008, according to the state’s Department of Education.
The district has encouraged students to take advantage of free MCAS tutoring throughout the year, and department head Marie Foreman said that during this year’s April vacation week, between 50 and 60 students attended the tutoring sessions each day.
Students in advanced math classes have also shown increased proficiency. During the 2008-2009 school year, 12 students took the calculus AB advanced placement (AP) exam, with more than 80 percent receiving scores that marked them as qualified for college credit in the eyes of the College Board. The previous year, only half of the 14 students taking the test placed in that category.
How Many Years of Math Should Students Take?
The Massachusetts Department of Education recommends through its MassCore program that high school students take four years of math to prepare for college and work. But Somerville High requires only three for regular education students and two for students in the vocational program. Still, the district urges in its course handbook that students who plan to attend a four-year college take math every year.
Foreman said that while many students don’t take four years of math, most take three.
But she said that she would like all students to at least take four years on the lowest track, which comprises two years of algebra, followed by a year of geometry and culminating in another year of algebra.
School Committee Chairman Adam Sweeting said he supported Foreman’s goal.
“I would like to see students taking as much math as their schedule allows and that their talent and interest allows,” he said. “We can push for more math.”
Math Teachers Equipped with Technology to Enhance Instruction
During the presentation to the School Committee, one math teacher used a touch-screen whiteboard, or “smart board” like the one in her classroom to show members the instructional videos she plays for her students. She also demonstrated how she could pull up a graphic calculator on the board so that she and her students can do calculations.
Sweeting said that the department’s use of technology and efforts to “bring math alive” for students impressed him. He said that the smart boards further interaction among teachers, students and the material.
Committee member Mark Niedergang agreed.
“It’s not just doing problems and looking in the book,” he said. “It’s always best to do stuff with young people that’s exciting and dramatic and interesting.”