Proposed Nebraska math standards aimed at deep understanding

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The proposed Nebraska math standards are aimed at providing elementary and middle school students with a deeper understanding of the subject so they won’t stumble when they confront tougher math problems later, according to one of the people who contributed to the proposals.

The proposal to be considered next month by the Nebraska State Board of Education would reduce the number of skills and concepts taught before students reach high school, the Omaha World-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1NJzPEV ). The standards would replace those adopted in 2009.

Lincoln Public Schools math curriculum specialist Matt Larson told the newspaper that teachers would spend more time on each standard so students could acquire more than a superficial understanding. The deeper understanding would make it less likely that students would “hit a wall” when more difficult math problems arise.

“Are they perfect? No. No set of standards will satisfy everyone,” Larson said about the standards. “But they are a significant improvement over the current standards because they are more rigorous, focused and coherent.”

Henry Burke, a civil engineer who has urged the state board to base the new standards on the 2012 Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills math standards, questioned the rigor, specificity and content of the proposed Nebraska standards.

They don’t require high school courses in trigonometry and calculus, which Burke said important courses for students pursuing math and science majors.

He also criticized how the proposed standards would group grade levels nine through 12.

It would be better to list standards for every grade level and course separately, he said, so teachers would know exactly what to teach each year.

Larson said the proposed standards represent the minimum skills all graduates should have and concepts they all should know. They don’t limit what schools can teach to advanced students, he said, and they don’t specify curriculum, which in Nebraska is left to district discretion.

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