Cape Elizabeth schools hope to multiply mathematical thinking

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CAPE ELIZABETH —  The grade 5-12 math curriculum is under review, especially at the high school, where adding statistics in grade 11 next year is hoped to keep students academically and vocationally competitive.

Parents and guardians of the students can discuss the proposed changes to the curriculum at Cape Elizabeth Middle and High schools at a May 3 forum. The program is set for 5-6 p.m. in the CEHS Library Learning Commons.

The proposal was reviewed at a workshop session April 24 by School Board members, High School Principal Jeffrey Shedd, Middle School Principal Mike Tracy, Director of Instruction Cathy Stankard, Interim Superintendent Howard Colter, and CEHS math teachers Andrew Lupien and Courtney Ferrell.

The updated math sequence at CEMS would take effect with the class of 2024, now the grade 5 students.

Similarly, high school juniors in college prep math beginning in 2018-2019 would take a class combining three math disciplines — geometry, statistics and trigonometry.

The goal is to keep kids challenged and offer enrichment classes for students ready to move to a higher grade level for math.

Screening to determine the appropriate placement will begin with fifth-grade students. 

All incoming fifth-graders will take a test that measures end-of-year math skills.

“Students demonstrating mastery of the fifth-grade learning targets will take the grade 6 end-of-course assessment and, based on that score, will be placed in grade 6 math or grade 7/8 math,” a meeting handout noted.

This is a practice now in play. Tracy said three grade 5 students placed out of grade 5 math earlier this year and are now enrolled in grade 7/8 math classes.

Teacher recommendations will factor into whether a student is recommended for a higher grade level math class. Parents and students will also have a say in whether to move ahead.

“Anyone who is demonstrating a need for acceleration, we will find a way to do it,” Tracy said. “We do not want to accelerate for the sake of acceleration.”

Algebra study would begin in grade 7, along with general math topics. Algebra and geometry are eyed for the mix of math grade 8 students may take. Ensuring a smooth math curriculum transition from middle to high school is a goal.

“Learning targets/summative assessments for algebra and geometry are being developed in collaboration with teachers of those courses at the high school,” the CEMS math handout said. 

“These are learning targets that weren’t in place before,” Stankard noted.

After a physics teacher in the audience said he has had students who were not as skilled in math as they needed to be in order to do well in physics, Ferrell said in her experience, most of the students are placed correctly in math classes.

Colter asked if additional teacher training would be needed. 

“I would say they feel adequately prepared,” Stankard said.

For upperclassmen, the goal for grade 11 and 12 students taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test is to be well prepared. This means more, and earlier, study of skills leading to pre-calculus. Geometry is becoming less of a topic on the SAT, officials said, while pre-calculus and statistics are increasingly a test feature.

Doing what is best for an individual student remained a theme throughout the discussion, since not every student may want, or need, to study calculus.

“Kids feel too much pressure in this community to get to calculus, that’s the bottom line,” Shedd said. “We want kids who know how to think mathematically.” 

 Lisa D. Connell can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or Follow Lisa on Twitter: @connell_ld.

Cape Elizabeth Middle School