Putnam County demonstrates new way of doing math
Students in Christi Root’s Integrated Math II class work together in small groups on a word problem about manufacturing: A factory is printing a large square design on a circular tablecloth, and the students must figure out the maximum dimension of the squares.
While it’s only their first year of high school math in Putnam County — before most students learn geometric concepts — they draw from a variety of geometry and algebra tools to work through the problem. All of the groups end up employing the Pythagorean theorem, which in most Tennessee classrooms isn’t taught until a geometry class during the second year of high school math. Root reminds her students that they also could have found the answer by using trigonometry, another set of concepts that traditionally aren’t introduced until the third year of high school math, when most schools offer Algebra II.
Integrated math involves the same concepts Tennesseans always have learned in high school math sequences — Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II — but in a different order. It’s an order that Putnam County teachers say is more logical and helps their students make connections and solve complex problems. The integrated structure means students must use many concepts earlier than they would have in the past – as they were in Root’s class during a recent school day at Monterey High School.
It’s not a totally new way of doing math. Educators in other countries have taught integrated math for years, and more school systems are using it across the United States. States that have transitioned to integrated math, like Georgia, have had some bumps in the road. For instance, some teachers miss their specializations, and there is still a dearth of integrated math textbooks and materials.