Richford among 8 schools piloting new math course

RICHFORD, Vt. (WCAX) A number of Vermont high schools are teaching a brand new math course aimed at changing the state's future work force. The course is called EMC2, which stands for Essential Math Skills for College and Careers.

You may not think kids would volunteer to take another math class, but WCAX went inside Richford High School to see why they say it works.

"I'm actually really happy I have this class," said Emily Russin, a junior.

"It's so fun," said Takumi Matsumoto, also a junior.

These Richford High Schools Juniors taking EMC2 are giving the pilot program rave reviews. "The fact that it does challenge me, not in too much of a way that I'm getting lost, but enough in a way that I'm using my brain," said Russin.

"We have a lot of group work that I can discuss with my friends," said
Matsumoto.

Critical thinking and collaboration are at the core of the concept, whereas completing worksheets and taking tests are not. "The group work kind of lets people build off of each other's ideas and it helps everyone," said Liza Bordo, an EMC2 teacher.

The course doesn't replace traditional math classes like Algebra, Geometry, or Calculus. It's an extra class that solidifies those abstract skills by applying them to concrete situations.

"No one is going to come up to them in real life and say, 'Solve for X.' The course is lined up so that you have a concept in mind and then they bring in something, either physical or a picture, or something that you can relate it back to," said Bordo.

Bordo is one of eight teachers from eight high school across Vermont who attended a week-long professional development session this summer. There, they learned how to teach the curriculum. She says she's seen students who struggle with math, blossom under this technique. "One student in particular, it's incredible. He's never talked. Really, never talked to me in a math class and he's talking," said Bordo.

The goal is to not only help kids brush on up their skills, but also prepare them for life after graduation.

"I think it's going particularly well. I mean, the proof is in the pudding. Happy students, talented students, and proficient students," said Liam Danaher, a Gear-Up Outreach Counselor from VSAC. "The long-term goal is to help students be prepared when they leave high school and then enroll in post-secondary school to avoid remedial work. So they don't have to recover credits and skills that they should have and could have developed in high school studies so they can go right into advanced course in their college work."

It's a program designed by VSAC, Vermont State Colleges, and the Agency of Education.

In its pilot year, eight high schools are offering EMC2 to a total of 60 students but VSAC representatives say they want to double that number next year.