New math program carries problems—and is here to stay

Mathematics in schools has traditionally always been one year of algebra, one year of geometry, and one year of algebra (usually algebra II), in that order. However, a new program breaks this tradition entirely, by integrating algebra, geometry, and statistics into the same class over three years. The program is known as AGS.

By Cruz Grover

Mathematics in schools has traditionally always been one year of algebra, one year of geometry, and one year of algebra (usually algebra II), in that order. However, a new program breaks this tradition entirely, by integrating algebra, geometry, and statistics into the same class over three years. The program is known as AGS. AGS attempts to fix the gap between algebra I and II, as well as providing more of an emphasis on statistics, which is seldom taught outside of AP Statistics. However, there has been a backlash from the teachers, and for many students, AGS has become extremely difficult.

“AGS is horrible” replied 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 well thought out curriculum, it simply asks for too much of the students and assumes that they are able to understand things such as function notation, and some basic algebra. In a perfect world, this would be the case, however, many students, do not fit this category. AGS is also very word-heavy, making it nearly impossible for non-English speakers to understand the content. The result is a jumble of words, some 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. AGS [was also trying] to connect the algebras’,” stated math teacher, Jason Sarmiento.

AGS has been very challenging for teachers because it requires that they teach in a completely different manner. It is designed to be very 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 continuous plague for both the 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,” continued 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 older program.


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

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