Starting with the graduating class of 2013, Arizona high school students will be required to take four years of math to graduate.  The increased focus on math is part of an effort to ensure Arizona students are prepared for success in college and career.  It is also an indication of our state’s commitment to higher rigor and world-class academic achievement for our students.

A strong foundation in math provides opportunities for students to be able to think critically, to understand complex reasoning, and apply logic.  Students need these skills to be able to get good jobs and to be successful in the 21st century global economy.    These skills are developed in courses like Algebra I and II which encourage students to use abstract reasoning to solve complex problems.

According to Achieve, an expert on high school graduation requirements, there are five fundamental reasons why higher-level math courses are important for student success:

  1. Taking higher-level math courses is important to be able to access  postsecondary education, especially for disadvantaged and minority students.
  2. The completion of math in high school is a critical indicator of future college success and degree completion.
  3. Students who take higher-level math courses are better prepared for the workplace and earn higher salaries.
  4. Higher-level math skills are used in many kinds of work.  Data show that the skills needed to get a good job are the same as the skills needed for college entry.
  5. Continued U.S. economic growth will depend on a highly skilled workforce.

While the increased rigor and focus on mathematics is a step in the right direction for Arizona students, it hasn’t come without controversy.   Many students struggle with math and “math-anxiety” persists for some.   In addition, some people fear that pushing students to take more challenging math courses will be discouraging to students.  However, research shows that requiring students to take challenging math does not increase high school dropout rates. Rather, students most often rise to the challenge to meet the higher expectation.  But in order to do this, students need to be given the necessary preparation and support  to succeed from their teachers, counselors, parents and families.

As parents, you can do this by developing a relationship with your child’s teacher and staying in touch with them at least monthly about how your child is doing in math.  Ask key questions such as:

  • Is my child on track to complete the course successfully?  To be college and career ready?
  • Can I see examples of my child’s work?  What is he doing well? What does he need to improve upon?
  • If my child needs extra help, where can we go to find it?
  • If my child is excelling in math, are there other learning opportunities to offer my child to enhance what he is learning?

Parents, if you had a bad experience in math when you were a student it is important to realize that the same experience may not apply to your child. They will need you to set high expectations for their work in math will need your encouragement along the way, regardless of how you did in your math classes.

If you can no longer help your child with homework, there are likely other resources available to help your child answer any questions he may have.  Contact your child’s school to discuss what options are available. Many high schools in Arizona are already offering homework help and tutoring to provide extra help to students that may need it.

All in all, taking four years of math is a positive step to ensure all Arizona students are better prepared for college, career and life.  With your support and high expectations along the way, your child will be on track to receiving a world-class education.

To find out more about the high school graduation requirements for the graduating class of 2013, click here.

Read more August newsletter articles:
Excellence for All
Vote 4 Education: Learn About Education Initiatives
Expect More Arizona Expands Statewide Reach
Arizona’s Common Core Standards – Helping Arizona Students Innovate