Math Course Sequences Matter

District administrators and educators gather with their teams to share their math sequences.What is the math course objective for the senior year of high school?

This question was the focus of discussions this month on math placement and course alignment for students within San Mateo County as part of SMCOE's effort to support math articulation between high school districts and their elementary and middle school partners.
“All students in San Mateo County should be able to choose a sequence of math courses that matches their goals,” said SMCOE Mathematics Coordinator Kim Bambao, who is leading the effort. “It is our collective responsibility to support each and every student to achieve success through elementary, middle, and high school.”
This September, SMCOE held the first of four math articulation team meetings, where district educators are encouraged to gather, learn, and discuss aligning their math pathways. WestEd’s Neal Finkelstein was invited as a guest speaker to share data and research on how accelerating students through math classes without a strong foundation lowers student success.
“You can tell with outstanding precision how students are going to do in high school based upon how they are doing in middle grades math,” shared Neal. “And you can make just as strong a prediction on how well a student is going to do in college based on patterns in high school.”WestEd's Neal Finkelstein shares his expertise with district board members and superintendents.

Engaging district leaders and policymakers is key to success in this work. The San Mateo County School Boards Association (SMCSBA) collaborated with SMCOE in sponsoring a panel to introduce the work to district board members and superintendents. SMCSBA also invited Neal to share his findings with the group, as well as San Francisco Unified School District’s Math Supervisor Lizzy Hull Barnes to share her district’s journey in improving their students’ math outcomes.

Three more math articulation meetings are planned throughout the school year, and SMCOE is looking at creating resources to support this work, such as a study of student data and their math sequences across districts. “At the County Office of Education," added Kim, "we strive to support all of our districts in making informed decisions regarding their math placement policies, curriculum, and instruction.”

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