New math program carries problems—and is here to stay

New+math+program+carries+problems%E2%80%94and+is+here+to+stay

Math in schools has always been one year of algebra, one year of geometry, and one year of algebra (usually algebra II). But a new program, AGS, breaks this tradition by integrating algebra, geometry, and statistics into the same class over three years.

AGS attempts to fix the gap between Algebra I and Algebra II while emphasizing on statistics, which is seldom taught outside of AP Statistics. But there has been a backlash from the teachers, and for many students, AGS is difficult.

“AGS is horrible,” said Ben Wichser, a math teacher at Beaverton. “It has been a complete and unmitigated disaster.”

While the program has some “thoughtful” and insightful instruction and a thought-out curriculum, it asks too much of students, assuming they understand concepts such as function notation and basic algebra. In a perfect world, this would be the case, but, many students do not fit this category. AGS is also word-heavy, making it impossible for non-English speakers to understand the content. The result is a jumble of words, patterns, and numbers, which becomes even more confusing when students’ basic math skills are not as sharp as they should be.

“The intent [of AGS] was to improve the quality of the math that kids knew, and part of it is trying to meet with the ever-changing standards. Our standards switched from topic-based to problem-solving, communication,” said Beaverton math teacher Jason Sarmiento.

AGS has been challenging for teachers because it requires that they teach in a different manner. It is designed to be conversational, with a heavy emphasis on story problems.  “Students cannot look back onto a book like they would traditionally if they missed a class,” continued Sarmiento.

Although AGS has been seemingly a plague for teachers, vice principal Allyson Dubuque thinks otherwise. “Our teachers are doing a stellar job. [I see] absolutely fantastic teaching and learning happening. They are engaging with really difficult math problems [and] I see that there’s been a lot of successes for students.”

Students who succeed this year in AGS I will go on to AGS II, and eventually AGS III or a more advanced version.

“AGS gives [students] the skills to be critical thinkers, and problem-solvers in landscapes that are changing very, very rapidly,” said Dubuque.

Though many teachers have had to work double-time to create a usable math curriculum, the school district has no intent on reverting to the previous program.


Students in Ms. Weber’s AGS class solve a geometry problem. Photo by Cruz Grover.