The Lion's Tale

A mathematical combination: Administration reshuffles structure of highest math level

Amelia Davidson, News Editor

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After many significant academic changes in terms of curriculum and course levelling during the 2016-2017 school year, the CESJDS administration is shifting its focus to updating the math class structure.

In an email sent out to JDS parents on March 20, Academic Dean Aileen Goldstein outlined a new structure for the most advanced math class in every grade. Beginning next year, students in the highest math level in seventh and tenth grade will take math with the advanced class in the grade above them, while students in the highest math level in eighth, ninth, eleventh and twelfth grade will remain in a class with just their grade. The content of each class and the order in which students will take their math classes will not change.

Plans for a restructuring of the math levels have been in the works for the past few years. According to Goldstein, the school was looking to allow more schedule flexibility for students taking the most advanced math class. In the past, when there was only one most advanced math class offered, students who were taking that course often were unable to take certain electives. These changes will make multiple advanced math classes available to students, so counselors can maneuver schedules in ways that were previously impossible.

“What we’re looking for is all driven by the question of how can we best serve our students and meet their needs,” Goldstein said.

Math teacher Victoria Ball is enthusiastic about these new changes. She agrees that the new changes will benefit students, and feels that they will help teachers as well.

“This has the potential to cut down on the number of different classes that each math teacher has to teach, in that there are going to be fewer classes offered,” Ball said. “The reason I’m looking forward to that is that I think I am able to do my best job when I only teach [a few] different things each year … I think it will allow me to really focus and think chiefly about each individual thing.”

These changes will not affect current sophomores who are in the highest math level, but sophomore Ben Robinson, who is in the most advanced math level, likes the idea of taking math with an older grade. Though he enjoys his current math class, he thinks that these changes could enhance the experience.

“I think it is good for students to have an opportunity to interact with and work with students in the grades above them,” Robinson said. “Personally, I enjoy having [people in the grade above me] in some of my classes, such as Hebrew, because I don’t normally see them.”

On the other hand, Robinson does recognize that these changes could have shortcomings. Specifically, he is concerned that a combined class might move more slowly, and he feels that people in his math level might prefer a more “high-paced curriculum.”
Eighth-grader Oren Minsk, whose math class will be affected by this change, agrees that these changes might have some serious social drawbacks.

“I think it’s nice to be in a class with the same kids you’ve been learning with for a while,” Minsk said. “It might be kind of hard learning with other kids who aren’t in your grade because it’s difficult to just combine two classes.”

Sophomore Daniella Jaray has firsthand experience learning math with students in a different grade. When she transferred to JDS as a freshman, she had already taken geometry and was therefore placed in a sophomore advanced Algebra II class as a freshman. Since then, Jaray has taken math with the grade above her.

At first, Jaray had trouble adjusting to a class environment with a different grade. In time, however, Jaray got used to her new class and began to enjoy taking a course with students in the grade above her.

“It was hard [to be with an older grade] because I didn’t really know that many people and it wasn’t my grade, and so I couldn’t just ask a friend for help if I didn’t understand something,” Jaray said. “Now that I know more people, it’s not that bad.”

While Ball recognizes the potential difficulties of combining two groups of students who do not necessarily know each other into one class, she thinks that in the end the increased diversity in the classroom will help push the class to the next level.

“I feel excited because I do really think that the mixes are going to lead to some good conversation,” Ball said. “I genuinely think that that’s going to push the conversations in new and interesting directions, and I’m curious to see what that looks like.”


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