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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

They call it ‘Algebra 2,’ but . . .

Credit: Adam Hayes/New York Times

Student can take “financial Algebra 2” instead of the regular course in Noblesville, Indiana, reports Shaina Cavazos on Chalkbeat.

The class, which is focused on “real-world problem solving,” meets state Algebra 2 standards, but is easier to pass, writes Cavazos. In hopes of preparing all students for college, Indiana has required Algebra 2 since 2007.

Indeed, across the nation, states have stepped up math requirements to include Algebra 2. But in several cases, they quickly walked those decisions back when they became stumbling blocks for students who aren’t able or don’t want to pursue advanced math. . . . Indiana officials have been loath to change the Algebra 2 requirement—until now. Proposals in the Indiana General Assembly would allow the State Board of Education to rethink requiring students to complete the advanced course and consider alternatives. Indiana is already deep into the process of changing graduation requirements, including advancing proposals for a single state diploma and introducing a new “graduation pathways” system.About one quarter of Noblesville  High School students take “financial Algebra 2,” which was developed by the school’s math teachers.Eric Gurule teaches math skills students can use to learn a trade, manage a budget, buy a car or a home, use a credit card and do their taxes. He explains “how the stock market works and how that factors into things like retirement accounts and savings,” writes Cavazos.
Applying principles of Algebra 2 to such things isn’t difficult—loans accrue interest through exponential growth functions, and piecewise functions can be used to predict how much data you might use on your phone bill. . . . The class doesn’t cover some lessons on circles, hyperbolas, and ellipses, but those topics are more relevant to precalculus, Gurule said. He focuses less on solving logarithmic functions and analyzing certain graphs, but his students still learn enough about those topics to meet state standards.

It sounds like a financial literacy course with some algebra mixed in. I’m sure that’s more useful than taking — but not really understanding — a traditional Algebra 2 course. Schools can’t fail too many students, especially those who show up and make an effort. So they need to water down college-prep coursework or stop requiring everyone to pass it.

Texas dropped Algebra 2 as a graduation requirement in 2014, but completion and failure rates haven’t changed, reports Ed Week. After completing geometry, students can take “algebraic reasoning” and statistics.

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