Had a good moment today! Had a parent pull me aside in a public place (not school) and thank me for helping their student with math. The student had just completed their math course required at college (college algebra). It was a student that struggled in all my math courses, a student who I demanded non-negotiable skills from.
The student struggled with grades - usually in the below average range, but I did not make the courses about a grade. We made it about the skills, the concepts, what the student would have to do at college. We quizzed, requizzed - worked at skills, would become frustrated and repeat. I spoke at length with the student prior to graduation that math at college was something that the student could do -- just find the proper math help -- tutors, help centers, etc. In the end the student got a C+ -- that is awesome!
It is times like this where I feel I have the curriculum balanced properly between how fast and how much mastery - because curriculum speed and mastery are not independent of one another. My Algebra 2 course - which is college prep - does not go as far as many other school's Algebra 2 courses. But the material we cover we know; we work hard at having a conceptual understanding of the items we do, and a mastery of the basics.
It means things like delaying the quadratic formula in favor of completing the square first. Doing Geometry proofs as a few weeks of enrichment versus a semester of memorization. About making each course a progression of the previous - including the course's grade. A Geometry grade at my school is about 50% Algebra 1 skills, an Algebra 2 grade is 50% Algebra 1 and Geometry skills. And so forth - except AP Calculus.
When I think about the trilogy of college prep courses - Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2 - I am mostly concerned that they learn how to problem solve, have a true mastery of basics skills, and have a tenacity to stick with things - to look for the how and why. I simply don't care if all the "standards" have been met, I don't care about a grade -- I want the team (student & I) to care about the big picture.
And the big picture is that we do the things to make students successful. Because I work for the student, not the 16 year old in my class, but the "future student" - the 23 year old student. The student who wants the skills, knowledge and tenacity to be successful in their life - that is my math mission, that is how I set up my math curriculum.