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Florida Department of Education Reviewing Alachua County's Proposed Discrete Math Course

Karen Clarke has led the Alachua County School District since 2017 and will retire in June 2021.
Karen Clarke has led the Alachua County School District since 2017 and will retire in June 2021.

Alachua County students are a step closer to being able to take a new math course.

The Alachua County School Board recently voted in favor of adding a discrete math honors course to district curriculum, an initiative the Florida Department of Education must now also approve.

Discrete math would not replace a course but instead add a top-level course to the district's existing math sequence. It's the math course that comes after a high school student has already taken two calculus courses in high school.

Alachua County high schools previously offered the course.

Jennifer Wise, the executive director of K-12 curriculum, was the one to present the idea of its return to the board.

“This is an old course that has been out of commission, if you will, for a while — probably because the demand got very small — and now a small demand is building back up for it,” Wise said.

She said it's difficult to find teachers for all math classes in Alachua County, but it could prove more challenging with the addition of such a high-level math course.

“I think teachers that teach calculus can teach this course, so if we have calculus teachers in all our schools," she said, "then we should have teachers already who can teach this course."

Currently, if a high school student finishes the calculus sequence, he or she will not be able to take discrete math in high school and would instead do so through a dual enrollment program — attending classes at a college.

Eastside High School is the only high school in Alachua County that could potentially offer the class right away through the International Baccalaureate program.

Superintendent Karen Clarke spoke briefly at the school board meeting about the topic of dual enrollment.

“Currently, there is a discrete math class that is only available for IB students, so there is an IB discrete math, but right now the only students who can take it are IB students,” Clarke said. “This would be a student who completed the second AP calculus math course as a junior.”

The process of dual enrollment program can be intimidating for some students because it is a rapid change to a completely new learning environment.

Derrick Frazier, the curriculum specialist for secondary mathematics from grades 6-12, is one of the people involved in getting Florida Department of Education approval for discrete math.

“Many of our students are beginning the acceleration process early on, or they may be doubling up on math,” Frazier said. “So, by the time they are juniors or seniors they don’t have a math class.”

Buchholz High School begins registration for the 2019-2020 school year in early April, so Discrete Math Honors being approved is on a relatively tight schedule if students want to be able to take the class during the 2019-2020 school year.

With the school board’s support, the Florida Department of Education has 30 days to approve the implementation of this new math course, unless it has additional questions, which could possibly prolong the 30-day approval process.

Everitt is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by emailing or calling 352-392-6397.