Thursday, October 6, 2016

Adjusting Math Standards from ACT to SAT

By: Rachel Barry

For the past seven years, our math department has not used a textbook, but instead has written and edited our own digital course materials.  This includes all assessments (both formative and summative), practice worksheets, and supplemental materials.  If you are interested, you can learn more about this system in this previous blog post.  The important piece to note here, is that this system was developed using the ACT College Readiness Standards.  These have been adapted over the years, but the original pillars of our curriculum were based on the following:
  • Basic Operations and Applications
  • Probability, Statistics, and Data Analysis
  • Numbers: Concepts and Properties
  • Expressions, Equations, and Inequalities
  • Graphical Representations
  • Properties of Plane Figures
  • Measurement 
  • Functions
In developing each course Scope & Sequence, we looked vertically through the four-years of a student's math career and took an integrated approach to the CRS skills.  Traditionally students learn vertically through the pillars (i.e.: traditional Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, and Trigonometry courses).  Instead, we decided to approach the content at the students' cognitive ability across the chart horizontally in a more integrated approach to build students critical thinking skills.  This has worked well for our students, and we see a significant change in students' retention of skills and global understanding of mathematics.  

Then came the state decision to move from the ACT to SAT.  

A bunch of questions and concerns became topics of discussion among out department.  Do we make a huge change from the standards we were teaching to prepare for the ACT to the standards that will prepare them from the SAT?  If we had solid math curricula already, should we make adjustments?  What should we do to best prepare the students who have been provided curricula based on the ACT but now will be taking the SAT?  Believe me, the list of questions didn't stop here.  

Ultimately, as whole department, these were the decisions that were made:
  • Include Free Response portions to all Unit Exams 
    • The SAT has both Multiple Choice and Free Response components.
  • Include Non-Calculator portions in the curricula
    • The SAT has both Calculator and Non-Calculator tests.
  • Integrate more critical thinking and problem solving questions into the curricula
Our regular junior team, took all of these department agreements and have been implementing them this year.  We also decided to work with the regular freshman and regular sophomore teams to realign our skills.  Therefore, our junior course is slightly more aligned to a traditional Algebra II course.  This decision was made because the SAT has a stronger Algebra II component, while the ACT had more of a balance between Algebra and Geometry.

To look at the changes to our Scope and Sequence of skills, you can take a look at our full lists here: 

The biggest content additions were:
- A basic arithmetic component (add/subtract/multiply/divide integers, decimals, and fractions without a calculator)
- A graphing unit (linear and quadratic functions both with and without a calculator)

Things taken out of our curriculum were:
- Surface area and volume (formulas are now provided on the SAT)
- Probability, weighted averages, and sequences/series (these are now made extension skills for students who need a challenge)
- Logarithms and complex numbers (these are also now extension skills)

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