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Education has always been a subject of intense scrutiny; it has been too easy, it has been too hard, and we are behind other countries based on test scores.  The leaders of our state spend a lot of money on researching potential changes for our education system.  Despite many recent changes that were aimed at being for the better, math – now, more than ever – is still a subject that causes tears, fear of failure and low self-confidence.  Students as young as first grade are scared of timed tests and want to quit math.  Does anyone else see a problem with this? 

With the STAAR test and most recent updates to the TEKS, students are feeling even more stressed than ever.  Educators and politicians are looking forward to seeing this year’s STAAR scores, especially since the majority of curriculum in fourth through sixth grade, the most integral years of math foundations, is either new or has been moved down from higher grade levels.  Teachers are forced to rush through more than one year’s worth of curriculum and play catch up in order to prepare their students in hopes of having a good passing rate on STAAR. 

Why all the changes?  The TEA constantly researches and edits standards for college readiness, and the agency felt that a major change was needed in order for our students to be ready for college-level classes.  The change in TEKS goes hand-in-hand with the new SAT design, which is designed to accurately reflect college readiness of incoming college freshman.  The new SAT will affect this year’s freshman class.  The major changes in the math section are two-fold: there is now a non-calculator section AND the majority of the test focuses on Problem Solving and the Heart of Algebra, with only 10% of the exam covering advanced math topics.  In addition, test-taking strategies will change, as there will be no penalty for incorrect answers.  Students will be focusing on their knowledge of the subject, rather than their ability to know when to guess and when to leave an answer blank.  The new TEKS are building blocks that will lead to better preparation for the SAT, advanced placement courses, and college classes.

Putting it all together, it is clear that the country wants to better prepare our students for the future.  It is unfortunate for students in third grade and above, as they will be experiencing this change without any extra transition time to catch up.  In spite of all changes, it is important we remember that the key to success is having a solid math foundation, which starts in elementary school and continues to build.  At Mathnasium, our primary focus is to ensure that each student has a strong math foundation and number sense.  We want to help your students catch up, keep up, and get ahead, no matter how far behind they feel.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about the new changes in curriculum or want more information about our program.

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