Gov. Peter Shumlin and Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca today announced plans to make Geometry and Algebra I required high school coursework for graduation, starting with mandating Algebra I for 9th graders and Geometry for 10th graders this fall. That change requires the approval of the Vermont Board of Education.
In addition, Shumlin and Vilaseca will ask the Board to consider and study requiring Algebra II starting with the graduating class of 2017, and to review the need to require physics and chemistry in future years, as well.
"Vermont students must be prepared for college and jobs like automobile mechanics that now require additional math training," Gov. Shumlin said at a press conference to announce the effort.
Commissioner Vilaseca added, "It is our responsibility to assure that all students graduating from Vermont high schools are adequately prepared to continue their education in some capacity. This additional education in whatever fashion will require that students have successfully completed at least Geometry and preferably through Algebra II. This new recommended requirement will ensure that all students have achieved to a level that keeps educational doors open to them in the future."
Currently, Algebra I is required in only 47 percent of Vermont high schools, and Geometry in only 31 percent. Algebra II is required in 13 percent of Vermont high schools. Most schools now require "three years of math," but don't specify Geometry and/or Algebra.
Vilaseca noted that two- and four-year colleges require a higher level of math competency. But those same math skills are also required for students entering the work force.
"The framework of what Vermonters need to know to be successful at work is constantly evolving," said Lawrence Miller, Secretary of Commerce and Community Development. "Many students will find they need these specific math skills when they enter the workforce; everyone will benefit from exposure to the structure of how we think through geometry and algebra problems in ways that go well beyond applied mathematics."
Workplace examples include:
The manufacturing trade requires a high level of math skills, to include a solid understanding of Geometry.
Many employed in the field of construction, regardless of their area of expertise, will use mathematics on the job, each and every day.
Advanced math and science are needed to calibrate speeds and feeds of the automatic welding machines.
Auto technology requires the ability to calculate technical specification margins that require Algebra and Geometry.
IBM Technicians that repair machinery need pre-calculus, and Algebra and Geometry are prerequisites for this.
Vermont is poised to ramp up math training. The Vermont Math Institute has trained 208 elementary teachers from 72 schools in 24 districts to instruct in higher levels of math. And Vermont students appear eager to take on the higher levels of learning, with this state ranking 9th in the nation for the percentage of high school seniors completing Advanced Placement classes.