Close readers of the common-core standards for math will notice that in the high school section, some items are marked with a plus sign (+). Those are the so-called “plus standards,” designed to go beyond the general expectations and prepare students for advanced math courses.
Since the common core doesn’t specify how the plus standards are to be integrated into coursework, school systems have taken different approaches in doing so.
The state of Utah, which requires districts to use an integrated-math course sequence, has set up an honors track that incorporates most of the plus material into the first three years of high school math.
“We never considered offering the plus standards as an additional course, because we see the standards as integrated,” said Diana Suddreth, the interim director of teaching and learning at the Utah education department.
For the East Side Union High School District in San Jose, Calif., on the other hand, an honors track was never an option. “We wanted something that was equitable,” said Barbara Schallau, the district’s mathematics-curriculum coordinator.
Instead, the district incorporated much of the plus material into three 12-week “minicourses” that supplement the standard math requirements and are designed to prepare students for calculus. The minicourses are open to all students and can be taken as early as 9th grade in addition to regular math courses.
Both Utah and East Side also include some plus material in their standard math courses. Utah went so far as to remove the plus indicator from the standards to be covered.
“We intentionally took the plus off so that there would be no confusion about what is expected in which courses,” said Ms. Suddreth.
Coverage of efforts to implement college- and career-ready standards for all students is supported in part by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at
A version of this article appeared in the November 12, 2014 edition of Education Week as ‘Plus’ Standards Spur Course Changes