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A Changing Paradigm in High School Mathematics

A Changing Paradigm in High School Mathematics

In the United States, the prevailing high school mathematics course sequence begins with a year of Algebra I, followed by a year of geometry and a year of Algebra II. Educators and others have raised concerns about the extent to which this sequence, which prioritizes the mastery of algebra, is appropriate for the longer term education and career goals of students who do not intend to pursue STEM degrees in college. These concerns have impelled educators and policymakers to reexamine the prominence of algebra in high school mathematics curricula and to consider new approaches that provide students with more mathematics course options better aligned with their academic and career goals.

This paper explores existing approaches to high school mathematics curricula as well as new developments in the field. The authors discuss a range of high school mathematics course sequences and look at some of the systemic challenges embedded within the traditional paradigm. They also examine federal and state changes to the provision of high school mathematics in the early 21st century, the influence of postsecondary institutions on high school math curricula, and innovative high school math reforms occurring in Ohio, California, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. The paper concludes with a discussion of how the Charles A. Dana Center’s new initiative, Launch Years, works to reimagine high school mathematics and its relationship to postsecondary education and careers.