WESTPORT, Conn. — Math students in this high-performing school district used to rush through their Algebra I textbooks only to spend the first few months of Algebra II relearning everything they forgot or failed to grasp the first time.
So the district’s frustrated math teachers decided to rewrite the algebra curriculum, limiting it to about half of the 90 concepts typically covered in a high school course in hopes of developing a deeper understanding of key topics. Last year, they began replacing 1,000-plus-page math textbooks with their own custom-designed online curriculum; the lessons are typically written in Westport and then sent to a program in India, called HeyMath!, to jazz up the algorithms and problem sets with animation and sounds. “In America, we run through chapters like a speeding train,” said John Dodig, the principal of the 1,728-student Staples High School here. “Schools in Singapore and India spend more time on each topic, and their kids do better. We’re boiling down math to the essentials.”