(Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct a misstatement by an OPRF official related to the states which have adopted an integrated curriculum for teaching math.)

Oak Park and River Forest High School will begin changing the way it teaches the first three years of math at the school next year. The school will be replacing separate courses in Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II with three years of an integrated math curriculum that combines algebra and geometry with other elements of math.

“It’s a better way to teach math,” OPRF Math Division Chairwoman Julie Frey told the District 200 Board of Education at its Oct. 13 Committee of the Whole Meeting.

Frey said that Lockport High School has taught math in an integrated way for the last 10 years and that the state of Utah is teaching math in an integrated way as are many countries around the world including Canada, China and England.

“We’re not reinventing anything,” Frey said. “This is a well-established curriculum that we’re moving forward with.”

The new approach will introduce statistics and more real world applications into all levels of the math curriculum. The current approach of having a year of Geometry between two Algebra courses is inefficient as much of the first semester of Algebra II is spent reteaching concepts students learned at least 15 months before in Algebra I.

The new curriculum will be phased in over the next four years starting next year with freshmen who would have taken Algebra I or pre-Algebra under the old course lineup. Advanced students will still start with Geometry as freshmen next year and a few very advanced students will start with Algebra II for the next two years.

The new math curriculum will retain ability groupings, known as tracking, with eventually three sequences of Math I, Math II, and Math III. There will be an extended sequence for students who need a little more help, a regular sequence and an honors sequence. Some advanced incoming freshmen may start at either the Math II or Math III levels once the new curriculum is fully phased in.

The new program should better prepare students who come to OPRF below grade level in math. Now such students start with pre-Algebra and generally don’t even receive instruction in advanced algebra until after they take the SAT exam as juniors.

The new curriculum was developed after a four-year study of math at OPRF that was largely led by math teachers. Current and past OPRF students were surveyed and focus groups were held.

“We’ve been working on this for four years,” Frey said.

Currently OPRF has eight math entry starting points for incoming freshmen and OPRF officials wanted to streamline the math curriculum. A new class in data science is also part of the proposal.  Currently OPRF students score above state and national averages in math, but math teachers at OPRF see room for improvement.

School board members reacted positively to the proposal and the board is expected to formally approve the new curriculum at its Oct. 27 meeting.

“I think this is a really thoughtful approach of moving the ball forward,” said Ralph Martire, a school board member.

School board president Tom Cofsky agreed.

“This is very welcome,” Cofsky said.

Frey said she believes the new curriculum will help all students but especially average students.

“It’s that middle band of students that we think we can do better with,” Frey said.

The range of advanced math courses for seniors will remain unchanged although a new course in data science will be added.

School officials say that the new curriculum will increase the rigor of OPRF’s math sequence and better prepare students for the SAT exam.

The new sequence will not affect any current OPRF students.

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