District 86 approves integrated math

Board members pass plan critics say is not supported by data and should be piloted

Starting in the fall of 2022, Hinsdale High School District 86 students will follow an integrated math curriculum in a move district officials say will promote thoughtful problem solving over simply producing calculations.

At their Oct. 29 meeting, board members voted unanimously for the new model to enhance the learning experience for students. The integrated curriculum will weave algebra 1, geometry and algebra 2 into three courses titled Math 1, 2 and 3.

Christopher Covino, assistant superintendent for academics, told board members that the change from a traditional approach was enthusiastically supported by the District 86 Math Pathways Team and is not a response to an academic deficiency but rather an enhancement to an already high-achieving program.

“This shift is designed to improve the delivery, acquisition, cohesion and application of mathematics,” Covino said. “Courses are cohesively linked to one another so that students can learn and apply math skills consistently throughout their core coursework.”

Full implementation will take four years, he noted, adding that integrated math is widely used by top-rated schools both in the U.S. and around the world.

But critics of the plan say the new curriculum should be piloted before being implemented and cite numerous schools that tried integrated math before abandoning it.

“Other comparable districts showed decline in math performance after adopting integrated math. I have yet to see data that shows this is a better option,” Hinsdale resident Cara Hurley stated in an email read at the board meeting. Her email was one of several arguing against the move.

Officials in Community Consolidated District 181, District 86’s largest feeder, had also expressed their opposition to integrated math.

Board President Kevin Camden acknowledged the differing opinions in the community but stressed that the decision was made in an effort to support all D86 students.

“We serve needs of seven distinct districts,” he said. “Integrated math serves all seven — despite 181’s objection — very well.”

Board member Kathleen Hirsman praised the plan.

“Teaching students math this way is teaching students math in context,” said the attorney, joking that she might have chosen a different career if she’d studied integrated math.

Covino said a central goal is to deliver math instruction effectively to all, whether their future professions regularly involve math or not.

“We want to give them an appreciation for what mathematics is and how it can be useful in their lives no matter what their current post-high school plans are,” he said.

The new curriculum maintains AP classes for high-achieving students, and officials say any cost incurred by the switch is minimal.

Camden said he believes the integrated curriculum aligns with the district’s ongoing pursuit of excellence.

“I want to be associated with the best. I want to look at the selective enrollment schools that are utilizing integrated math and say, ‘We can be like them,’ ” Camden remarked. “I look forward to seeing great outcomes.”

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean