Baltimore County's geometry teachers plot courses to achieve state standards

Goal of revision to help students pass new tests

August 26, 1999|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County geometry teachers reviewed new ways of teaching geometry yesterday as part of a revamped mathematics curriculum intended to better prepare students for statewide and national achievement tests, including the SAT.

They were among about 470 middle and high school math teachers who met at Loch Raven High School to prepare for the new school year, which begins Monday. Countywide, groups of teachers with specialties in foreign languages, arts, physical education and reading met to review new curriculum guidelines and textbooks.

For about 150 geometry teachers -- who want to prepare students for new statewide high school graduation tests to be phased in over the next several years -- yesterday's sessions focused on the "5 E Model," short for engagement, exploration, explanation, extension and evaluation.

The model represents a philosophical shift in Baltimore County, said Janice Imwold, a Perry Hall High School geometry teacher who helped piece together the new curriculum during workshops last month. The county's geometry course work was last revised in 1991.

Geometry content "still has to be there, but the difference is how we teach it and how we assess the kids," she said after a group session with about 50 geometry teachers.

For example, questions on exams will require students to show how they came up with their answers, with brief, written responses, Imwold said. In some cases, students will have to use pieces of paper as concrete aids to complete math problems.

Curriculum administrators held off changing geometry course work until they had a better idea of what the state's high school assessment in math might look like, said Patricia C. Baltzley, supervisor for secondary mathematics education.

State education officials have decided to implement high school exams in math, English, U.S. government and other subjects in order to put an end to social promotion. Beginning with the Class of 2005, all students must pass the series of assessments in order to receive high school diplomas.

Baltimore County administrators want to make sure students are well prepared for the tests, and in the area of geometry, that means taking an exam-oriented approach to mathematics education, said Keisha Ashton, a Randallstown High School geometry teacher who also helped develop the course work.

"We wrote the tests first," she said. "Then we had to find a way to make sure [students] knew how to get the answers."

Along with the new curriculum, geometry teachers will be using two new textbooks, for which chapter exams were developed at the summer workshop. For the first year of the new curriculum, students throughout the county will take the same tests, a first for the school system, Imwold said. That could change next year, when exams could be modified.

Pub Date: 8/26/99

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