Residents discuss Columbia Public Schools' math transitions

Thursday, October 2, 2008 | 10:28 p.m. CDT; updated 11:51 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 3, 2008

COLUMBIA — Quick, responsible curriculum decisions and easing children through the Columbia Public Schools' planned math changes were the focus of public comments Wednesday night at Broadway Christian Church.

Nearly 30 people spoke about the timeline for the curriculum transition, the committees that will do the work and how to help kids adapt to the district's new approach to math.

Jen Rachow spoke about working with her son, an eighth grader, on math homework and solving problems the way he was taught at school. She said he learned one strategy for finding an answer at school, and when she tries a different way, "He says, 'No, I can't do it that way,'" she said.

Chris and Debby Graham were unhappy with the way Connected Math — one of the curricula that will no longer be used in classrooms — prepared their children for algebra. However, they both said they didn't find fault with the teachers.

"I do think teachers are doing the best they can with the curriculum," Debby Graham said.

Her husband, Chris Graham, agreed.

"The issue is not with the teachers," he said, "but with the curriculum."

Dave Diamond, who has a son in eleventh grade, said he hopes an inclusive committee will make the curriculum decision soon.

"I think they need to pick a curriculum quickly enough such that they can plan (for the transition)," Diamond said. "And I think the committee should be a combined committee looking at K through eight."

Right now, there are two committees, one for kindergarten through fifth grade and one for sixth through eighth grades. Several people mentioned opening up the committees to allow for new members.

Jan Segert, an MU associate professor of mathematics who came with his wife, Columbia Public School Board member Ines Segert, said he'll urge the committees to take time in the decision-making process.

"I don't think we need to rush into something," he said.

Community conversation in recent years and months prompted Interim Superintendent Jim Ritter to change the district's focus from nontraditional math back to a traditional approach.

Ritter announced his decision Sept. 24, and in an updated statement on the district's Web site, he said the switch to a traditional approach extended to grades six through eight.

Implementation of the traditional curriculum, which has not been chosen yet, will begin fall 2009 for kindergarten through fifth grades.

Visit Schoolhouse Talk, the Missourian's K-12 education blog for more conversations from the meeting.

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