Finding a 'pathway' to Common Core math

Newport-Mesa collaborates with UC Irvine in implementing new state mandates.

April 11, 2014|By Hannah Fry
  • Math teacher Racine Cross instructs a class of seventh-graders during a class activity at Costa Mesa Middle School. Newport-Mesa is implementing new math pathways and strategies that align with new Common Core state standards in its middle schools this year. The new standards offer a more hands-on approach to learning.
Math teacher Racine Cross instructs a class of seventh-graders… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

The seventh-grade boy looked down at his blank work sheet, unsure how to begin solving the multistep algebraic equation that the teacher had written on the white board.

After a moment's hesitation, he began building the equation, X + -2 = -6, with blue and white tiles sitting atop his work sheet to find the mysterious value of X.

After manipulating the tiles, he thought he had the answer. However, after a second look he quickly corrected himself, earning a nod of approval from his Costa Mesa Middle School math teacher, Racine Cross.

Although he wasn't correct the first time — the answer was -4 — the lesson was a success in the eyes of the educators in the room.

"These lessons encourage them to be wrong and then work together with the teacher to find the right answer," said Steve McLaughlin, the director of secondary curriculum and instruction for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. "I've seen too many kids check out for fear of failure."


Teachers at the district's middle schools are implementing a new hands-on approach to learning math in the classroom this year — lessons that will find their way into the district's high schools by next year.

The lessons, which were created and tested by Newport-Mesa teachers, align with the new state-mandated Common Core standards, which emphasize real-life applications of classroom material and encourage students to think critically about what they're learning.

The middle school math curriculum changes this year are a trial run for the district. Next year teachers will begin implementing the new math standards in the district's high schools, beginning what they refer to as a "pathway."

During a recent board meeting, trustees approved new sets of classes in the pathway that will be available for middle and high school students in the coming years.

What was once referred to as Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2 will take on fresh names and involve innovative curriculum, according to a presentation by district officials.

The standard pathway starts with a class called Math 7 in seventh grade, which includes elements of pre-algebra. The pathway takes students through additional math classes, ending at pre-calculus during their senior year.

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