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Meadors: It's time for integrated math damage control

Ask just about any math teacher. The recent trend in discovery math is algorithmically unsound, was sent back to the BOE in a Seattle court case for further review, is denigrated by parents and educators, yet warmly embraced by Sylvan Learning Centers nationwide. In fact, Sylvan seeks lease space in counties where they learn that local schools have adopted integrated math. In said counties, Sylvan has so many requests for math tutoring that their phones go unanswered.

Now that Kathy Cox is long gone from the Georgia DOE and a refreshingly smart state superintendent of schools has allowed schools to begin the phase-in back to discrete math, the challenge of mitigating damage has begun. For those who rail against No Child Left Behind, the greatest educational debacle of my generation, I draw attention to the results of a math gone very wrong.

Students caught in the integrated craze show up to colleges with lower SAT and ACT math scores than their private and home school counterparts who remained focus on the building blocks of algebra, geometry and trigonometry.

Even students who test into college pre-calculus and calculus learn midpoint into the college term of their serious knowledge gaps. I have seen them withdraw and change majors based on this single experience. So for the ebullience splashed across schools when the GCCRPI is mentioned, integrated math represents a serious handicap to the single statewide accountability score card.

Integrated math has widened achievement gaps and arguably contributed to lower graduation rates. Students taking Math 1 for the third time with math support each year find the challenge of earning four Carnegie Units in math by graduation day insurmountable. The response from Cox to this was to add another year to high school, a prospect reverberating to this day through statewide bursts into joyful noise at the reminder that she has left the state.

But let's not put 100 percent of the blame on Cox since Linda Schrenko hailed the grandeur of the Math Matters curriculum since 2000 in her quest to find real-life applications for math. She found them. She is using hers to count one by one the days remaining in her prison term. Given such, is it any wonder that state-run charter advocates have gained impetus?

Integrated math is an agenda-laden, counterproductive, dumbed down math which has thankfully constituted a return to direct instruction of formulas and logical algorithms. Only 7 percent of U.S. students perform at advanced levels in math. Forty-five percent of students in Shanghai are advanced in math, 20 percent in South Korea and Switzerland and 15 percent of students in Japan, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Canada.

Integrated math kills access to college and career tracks for students seeking fields requiring solid foundations in algebra, geometry and trigonometry. Science, technology, engineering, math and medicine all require math acumen, but students sitting in math support classes ad nauseam don't have it. Some students will always master math. They find a way. Most don't, and this disaster hasn't helped our students or our reputation with lawmakers. That is about as discrete as I can be.

Jeff Meadors is vice chairman of the Newton County Board of Education. He can be contacted at jeffrey.meadors@gmail.com.