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IMP Math in Small Schools at BHS
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This topic was hotly debated a few years ago, but I feel that it's time for an update. Our child has ADHD and attendant problems, including social difficulties working in groups. When her 504 Plan was set up at King this past spring, the primary discussion point on the part of her English and Science teachers was her inability to function in groups. However, math has always been her best subject, and she had no problems there, always bringing home top grades, and even deciding to become a math teacher when she grows up.
This year she's a freshman in AMPS (Academy of Medicine and Public Service), and AMPS -- like most other small schools at BHS -- uses the Interactive Mathematics Program. Overnight, math has gone from being her best subject to her worst. Now she's earning Ds and Fs (while getting As and Bs in all other subjects).
I did some research, and a few years ago some parents published VERY HEATED comments about IMP math on this very forum. And just now I discovered a blistering review (commissioned by the BUSD) by Prof. Harry Wu at Cal. http://math.berkeley.edu/~wu/IMP2.pdf
Here are some highlights of Wu's report:
[S]everal aspects of the IMP curriculum are disturbing...
(a) The almost total absence of drills. To master a language, certain skills must be performed correctly without conscious thought, i.e., must become automatic, and this is the purpose of having drills.
(b) The inability of the IMP text to follow through in its presentation of new ideas.
(c) The misrepresentation of mathematics through the abuse of â€œopen-ended problemsâ€ and the de-emphasis of correct answers.
(d) The presentation of mathematical puzzles (also known as brain-teasers) as straight mathematics.
(e) The refusal to acknowledge that mathematics could be inspired by abstract considerations.
(f) Insufficient emphasis on precision.
(g) Over-emphasis on group activities.
If a camel is the horse designed by a committee [writes Prof. Wu], what then is the kind of mathematics learned exclusively from compulsory group activities? Is it really necessary to elevate mathematical gregariousness to a virtue?
I now realize that we must get our child into a ''regular'' math class PRONTO. Yet her adviser tells me that absent an IEP (which she's never had), she'd have to fail math for two years, or nearly, before being allowed to take a core course outside the AMPS program.
I'm unwilling to let that happen. Do you have any advice for how I might go about it? I'm willing to go to the District, if need be.
Thanks very much in advance.
The most recent data I have seen shows that only 2% of AMPS students are proficient in math. This means that in any given AMPS math class, there is likely to be at most one child who is at grade level. The rest will be below -- and some might be as much as 8 years below grade level. (Some cannot do column addition, for example.)
Picture 30 teenagers, 29 of whom are not proficient in math, trying to solve high school level math problems in groups. Factor in the high level of drug use of AMPS students during the school day. A disproportionately high number of AMPS students also have reading and writing difficulties, so that too will come into play when they attempt to read word problems and write down the answers. Add in a very significant amount of classroom noise (shouting, swearing, rap music being played on speakers).
Imagine, if you can bear to, how much a child with ADHD (or any child) would learn under those circumstances. It is impossible to conceive of an arrangement where a child with ADHD would learn less math.
Dr. Wu's criticisms of IMP pale beside the problem of the AMPS learning environment. If IMP were given to a class of quiet, focused, high-achieving math students (proficient in reading as well as math), despite the short-comings of IMP, they would still learn a lot -- though as Dr. Wu points out, they would not be adequately prepared for any kind of college path involving math. But IMP is the worst possible choice for a group of students with a 2% math proficiency rate, many of whom have substance issues.
It is absurd for the school to suggest waiting for your child to fail for two years before a change can be made. Then where will she be? Further behind than she was when she left King, her math confidence destroyed, and certainly not ready for 11th grade AC math.
Only the principal can switch your child to AC math and it would take him about 2 minutes to do it. Do not waste your time running in circles, from counsellors to superintendent to vice principals to school board and back again. They do not have the authority to make the change. Insist that the principal allow your child into regular math and don't give up. Please keep us posted. very sympathetic
I have had to advocate a lot for my foster son, a teenager, and I can't tell you how many times I've been told something can't be done that absolutely CAN be done, or the times that I have been misled by partial answers. What has worked for me is to ask open-ended questions along the lines of ''What would you do in my situation?'' or ''What is your best solution for this problem?'' Sometimes people will surprise you.
And for those many times they don't, keep asking around and telling people what your child needs. Posting here was a good idea. Talk to the other counselors, the principal, the school district, the school psychologist. Do some online reading about rights and 504s. I would also use that 504 as leverage. Schools tend to discourage you from asking for testing because they have to pay for it, so you could ''threaten'' to request further testing and further need for accommodations if they don't agree to this simple step now. If you request testing in writing, the school must comply by law. Just make it clear that you'll be doing that immediately if your child doesn't get switched into an appropriate class.
It took me 25 phone calls to find a way to get braces paid for by the county for my foster son. You just have to keep pushing and keep asking questions. During my 25th phone call, someone mentioned that there's a person who writes checks for braces. I reported this to my social worker and in two weeks there was a check ready for our local orthodontist. NO ONE mentioned this along the way, yet somehow the social worker knew what to do when I told her what I'd learned. Persistence pays off, and I think your request sounds logical and reasonable. don't be stonewalled
I recommend setting a very manageable amount she needs to do every day -- like 10 minutes -- even if she has other homework. Just build it in like brushing teeth. She may resist because who on earth wants extra work the teacher did not assign ... but if you can tie it to a reward (or wifi use!) and somehow get her to do it, she will be in a completely different place at the start of 10th grade.
If anyone in your household likes math, she could do it with that person ... whatever will make it the most fun.
I hope this helps!
And BHS does let some kids out of IMP Math even though they say they don't. What might be REALLY hard is getting out of AMPS. Your zip code will be a huge factor in whether your daughter will ever be allowed out. If your zip code is, for example, 94708 or 94707 your child may be stuck with AMPS for four years. If your zip code is 94710 your child will likely be allowed out at the next lottery. math teacher
The small school concept at BHS is admirable and provides substantial benefits to students by offering a study program that focuses on individual students' interest, skills and goals. However, the recent decision to rescind previously available options in math instruction for small school students calls for reconsideration.
A student assigned to one of the small schools are also assigned to a single option for the study of mathematics, regardless of individual interest, abilities or aspirations. Thus, my daughter, who desires to study Geometry, is placed in the only option available. IMP, (Interactive Math Program).
My wife and I believe that the IMP program is not an appropriate course of instruction for our daughter needs, as it doesn't offer a complete instruction in mathematical techniques and falls short of logically interrelating core mathematical concepts.
We fail to understand why certain doors of opportunity are closed to a significant number of students, based solely on small school affiliation. As currently implemented, the small schools rigidly deny reasonable and available educational opportunities to a select group of students. IMP should not be a mandatory course of study or the only available option for every individual student within the small schools. A rigid inflexible system that unreasonably limits available educational options may risk diminishing a students' future interest and opportunities in education and life. Does anyone agree?
If our school district wants to sell us on IMP math, then show us the numbers (hopefully without parents having to file public record act requests, which is not exactly the way to go if an institution aims for transparency). Many of us have been told for years by BHS officials that IMP students do just as well as regular math students in AP Calculus. Okay then. Show us the AP Calculus test scores of IMP & regular math students. Show us the percentage of IMP students who take AP Calculus compared to the percentage of regular math students who take AP Calculus. Show us the SAT math scores of IMP & regular math students. Certainly the most recent CST scores demonstrate that IMP math does not give students the foundation they need for future success in any type of scientific field. To suggest otherwise is cruel.
As BHS plans a likely switch to a trimester schedule, it will be even more important that there be responsive flexibility in scheduling so that students can take the right math course for their needs--AP, IMP, regular, extended time--whatever is appropriate for that student.
However, I think it is important to note that I and my son have been happy to very happy with AHA teachers for English, Humanities,Science, and arts both last year and this year-- he came to BHS from a small private middle school and I think his teachers in AHA have been concerned, gotten to know him, encouraged him-- so we have been very happy with the small school environment.
So my preference is to push for flexibility in math and language classes --both for the small schools, and even more with the likely move to trimester scheduling--but also to recognize very positive elements of the small schools... Do the right thing BHS!
Remember when Howard Gardner came out with his idea of the 8 intelligences? My kid is happy with IMP, because she is a creative, free form thinker. But now we are putting kids who excel in a more structured and linear way of thinking into the dog house. We need to support both ways! To me the discussion is not about which math is better, but why can't we continue to have both. I hope that Berkeley High will see that it is important to honor the different learning models and by that give all our kids a chance to excel.
Re: Entering freshman confused about AC vs. international program
Small schools are NOT homogeneous despite the commentary so far in this newsletter and the academics vary according to the teacher as in ANY BHS school program. In his small school, my son took honors option for IMP Math (next year there will be a formally UC-recognized Honors IMP course for 9th graders, had a 12 page research paper in history for NINTH grade, all of his English/History teachers also offered an honors option (more, deeper work assignments) and he took AP English and AP Calculus as a senior [... ] (Editor) see above link for the rest of this posting.
It clearly states:
''3. Honors level courses must be designed for 11th and 12th graders who have already completed foundation work in the subject area. Ninth and tenth grade level high school courses that schools might designate as ''honors'' do not meet the UC honors level requirement and therefore are not granted special ''honors'' credit by the University.''and
''c. Mathematics. UC-approved honors level courses in mathematics must be at the mathematical analysis (pre-calculus) level or above.''There is lots more information on that page.
Also, last year about 140 or 150 BHS students took the IMP 2 standards test and only 5 tested proficient or above. In 8th grade, our family was strongly warned to stay away from IMP because for many kids, it makes learning math harder. I don't know if BHS or the Superintendent is mandating an evaluation of the IMP program or not but it sure looks like they should. The regular honors math program at BHS is pretty strong even if it isn't (and cannot be) a UC-recognized Honors class. Every kid I know who is in it says it is very challenging. Parent of a sophomore at BHS
Hi--our 8th grader at a small independent school is heading for Berkeley High next fall-- we've really appreciated the thoughtful posts and discussions on BPN, and think a small school would be good to ease our son's transition (plus he's not the self-directed academic powerhouse type...)--We're being told (by two sources at the school)that kids in CAS or CPA can ONLY take IMP math--is that really true? Is there any way around it? Our son wouldn't be aiming at honors math, but he's done ok in algebra, and I hear worrisome things about IMP math and SAT's etc....so thought regular geometry would be a better placement...?
Would really appreciate input--plus any recent updates on small schools--eg impact of change in CAS director, update on AHA classroom discipline issues (report from friend on problems from freshman 2006 year) etc etc. It is so hard to get an accurate sense from outside the system... optimistic but concerned mom
I can speak for CP Academy and say that we have found that high skilled students are challenged by the IMP curriculum, because of it's heavy reliance on real world problem solving which introduces math topics as they are needed. We have also found that the success rate for all students in math has been remarkable with the IMP curriculum, and that students who start out BHS behind in math skills perform far better with the IMP curriculum than they did when we offered the CPM sequence of Geometry, Algebra II and Math Analysis. Because we start our all our freshmen at the IMP2 level, all of our students have the ability to take four years of math in our program, including AP calculus, if they so desire. Annie
Finally, I would love to communicate directly with members of the community about CAS. We are proud of our small school and I'd be happy to share an overview of some of the exciting things that we're doing and to answer questions. If you'd like to learn more, please drop me an email. Sincerely, Phil Halpern CAS
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