CPM Brings New Concepts to Math Classes

By Nathan Miller | Reporter

The start of the 2017 school year marked a new beginning for some math classes at Avon High School. Algebra, Algebra II and Geometry began piloting College Preparatory Mathematics (CPM) with the aim of helping students better understand the process of working through math problems.

Assistant Principal Frank Meyer said CPM will help students “discover the reasons some concepts in math work… and how [concepts] might apply to something tangible.”

One of the characteristics of the program is that it places an emphasis on peer work.

“Students learn ideas more deeply when they discuss ideas with classmates,” Algebra and Algebra 2 teacher Jared Johnson said.

Johnson added that there’s also an effort to give students math-related scenarios that they could come across in the real world.

“Students learn ideas more usefully for other arenas when they learn by attacking real world problems,” Johnson said.

Sophomore Shelby Gordy said the learning strategy has been beneficial for her so far this year.

“[In CPM] you work with your peers to try to figure out the problems before just asking your teacher for the answer… I think I understand it a lot better,” Gordy said.

Although some students say the new system sounds promising, other students and parents have expressed concern that CPM requires more self-directed learning than students are used to. Sophomore Peyton Dunlap, an Algebra II Honors student, said she thinks classes can become less serious with CPM implemented. Dunlap said working with your peers is closer to working with your friends, and that makes it easy to get off topic.

“This year has been completely changed,” said Dunlap. “In years prior, we had a very good lecture style… now this year we have tons of student collaboration. We need a healthy balance.”

After the implementation of CPM at the beginning of this year, Dunlap started a Change.org petition in the hopes of making the school reconsider its new math curriculum. When Dunlap posted about it on Facebook, her post received 338 comments. Opinions varied—some agreed with her, some disagreed—but many commenters expressed the opinion that the program should be given a chance.

Dunlap’s petition reads, “ACSC Students refuse to sit back and struggle as we rely on our peers alone to teach us new material…. The CPM curriculum disconnects the teachers from their students and obstructs Student-Teacher relationships in the classrooms. We are looking to bring back the previous curriculum.”

Dunlap’s petition amassed over 250 signatures, many of which are from AHS students. One student and supporter of Dunlap’s petition, Cara Merkel, said, “I don’t want my little sister to grow up lacking in math just because the school corporation is using the kids as guinea pigs for their new experiment.”

Avon Community School Corporation believes in CPM, however. Meyer said there is a lot of research behind the decision to implement CPM, and the program, which came out of Stanford University, has a solid track record.

Earlier this year, Dunlap met with ACSC administrators to voice her concerns. Dunlap said they were “very accepting of my thoughts and what I was doing; however, they did say that it was up to Dr. John Atha.”

In an interview with WISH-TV Channel 8 news, Assistant Superintendent Dr. John Atha said, “The top tier of mathematics students, they’ll continue, this is not something that is going to slow them down. The research has shown that and actually they’ll be more engaged, because in those conversations they’ll be in, they will be in kind of a teaching role, explaining what they know. But it will then engage the next tier of students who tend to be, as mathematics becomes more difficult, more and more disengaged.”

Meyer agrees, saying, “It can’t hurt anyone, and it can only help those who maybe are not on the bus in the first place.”

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