Are math programs in MCPS unnecessarily challenging or stressful: Teachers don’t agree


Photo by Ellie Cowen

Senior Micah Fossett works on AP practice problems in AP AB Calculus on Dec. 21.

Montgomery County is the 25th best county for public schools in the United States, according to Niche. However, with having such a high ranking comes students stressed out to keep up as they’re pushed to exceed national standards. The math program in MCPS is one of the most challenging, pushing students two grade levels above the national math standards, so most students take algebra 2 or geometry in ninth grade instead of the expected Algebra 1. 

Along with the county pressures, students push themselves due to the extremely competitive nature of the community. Students are taught that an A is the average and top grades are necessary for success later in life. Even though that belief is inaccurate, students strive for this and overdo themselves. Math teachers agree that students believe they need to be in honors math levels in order to be the best, despite whether another class may be a better fit. 

While math teachers concur that students generally don’t put themselves in the right places, they don’t agree on whether it is the fault of outside sources like the county. Math teacher Jon Marchand said that students are given different levels and options depending on what they want to take, and students choose to push themselves to be where they think they have to be.

On the other side of the spectrum, math teacher Eva O’Keefe said that there are outside sources pushing on students to believe certain standards are the norm, which encourages them to choose the wrong class for them. O’Keefe chose not to put her child in upper level math even though she had the option, as she said that the county pushes kids too hard in math. She also said college level math courses shouldn’t be necessary until the student reaches the math skills to be able to retain that level’s teachings, which for many is in college.

Math teacher Suzanne Hosking said that she blames this year’s challenges on the chaotic COVID school year, which was made even worse due to the stigmas around what classes students need to be taking this year. “Students are at a real disadvantage because last year was messy with cheating and not real learning. Grades are lower than they’ve ever been, and the community has been making it worse,” Hosking said. 

While challenging math programs are difficult for some students, it also can benefit others. “If students actually take the time to learn rather than cramming and regurgitating for a test and then forgetting it all, the program can have a positive impact,” O’Keefe said.

The math program is clearly difficult for students but Marchand said that it prepares students well for their futures. Hosking said if you are struggling in class to “come in for help before the day before the quiz, and make sure you are staying up to date.”