By Corinne Murdock |
Last week, the Arizona House passed a bill removing algebra II from the mathematics pathway required for high schoolers to graduate, instead offering alternative courses including personal finance, computer science, statistics, or business math. The bill, HB2278, passed mainly along party lines, with several Democrats voting in support of it: State Representatives César Chávez (D-Phoenix) and Mitzi Epstein (D-Chandler). HB2278 appeared before the Senate on Monday for a second reading.
State Representative John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction) told the House Education Committee earlier this month that he introduced the bill because high schoolers need more practical math skills.
“We’ve been taking our kids and pushing them with more college-oriented programs such as trigonometry, algebra, and advanced algebra III. But basic math for the kids to understand, have the ability to amortize a loan, and do business discounting and understanding that sometimes 60 percent off an item in a retail store still may not be a good deal even with that 60 percent, depending on what that margin rate was when they bought it,” said Fillmore.
State Representative Jennifer Pawlik (D-Chandler) attempted to introduce an amendment to have the State Board of Education create multiple alternative math graduation pathways, require that high school graduation pathways have two additional courses teaching algebra II critical thinking skills, and eliminate personal finance from courses suggested for the math graduation pathway. Pawlik’s amendment failed.
During the House floor vote last week, State Representative Michelle Udall (R-Mesa) asserted that, from her perspective as a math teacher, this bill would better equip high schoolers with applicable critical thinking and math skills. She read a list of algebra II standards to the floor, asking them to consider whether they were applicable to everyday life.
“We do use common sense, logic, reasoning. These are things we do need to learn, and there are several different math classes that would teach you those concepts: personal finance, business math, statistics. You’re going to learn real-world, real contexts, and ways to use math — not only to do that critical thinking and reasoning, but in a way that might be more engaging to some students,” said Udall.
Epstein concurred with Udall’s assessment. She noted that she was disappointed Pawlik’s amendment wasn’t passed, and wished that four years of math would be required of high schoolers.
“I do think it makes sense that we want to have rigorous math, we want to have relevant math. And currently, our standards are not achieving relevant math,” said Epstein.
In opposition to the bill, Minority Leader Reginald Bolding (D-Laveen) said that the bill would only “dumb down” the standards.