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Solving Math

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by Doug Nadvornick & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & here was a time when Spokane's community college math teachers cursed their K-12 brethren for the high number of students taking remedial math courses at the college level.





"There was more of that three to five years ago," says Jim Brady, the community colleges' dean of computing, math and science. "But things have improved."





Apparently, not everyone agrees. In Olympia, Gov. Chris Gregoire and state school superintendent Terry Bergeson, seeing that only half of the state's high school sophomores pass the math section of the WASL, have proposed postponing for a few years the requirement that ties WASL passage to high school graduation. The superintendent has started a review of math education and proposes that all districts eventually teach from the same two or three state-approved math curricula.





While the math education debate roils in the legislature, administrators from seven Spokane education institutions (K-12, community colleges and universities) this week signed a "Math-Science Partnership Initiative."


"It has taken five years just to get the school districts and universities to sit and talk about this," says Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Brian Benzel. "So this is a big step."





The mission is broader than simply improving WASL scores; the participants agreed that K-12 teachers and administrators need to do a better job preparing students for college-level math and science courses, without students having to take a detour through remedial classes.





"This has to be more than just talk," says Community Colleges of Spokane Chancellor Gary Livingston. "We have to get beyond our traditional silos and get this into the classrooms."





Jim Brady from the community colleges says the Gates Foundation is paying 13 Washington school districts, including Spokane, to work on making such a tough transition.





Brady suggests giving college math placement tests (the same ones now taken by incoming college freshmen) to high school juniors to give them a measuring stick and "an incentive to take more math in high school, where they don't have to pay for their classes." He also suggests college math faculty members spend more time in high school classrooms telling students what they can expect in college and advocating math-related careers.

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