CPM textbooks spark controversy in math curriculum

The CPM Calculus text – Pierce Laveran ’24

In a recent move to standardize educational goals across the lower, middle, and upper schools, the math department introduced the College Preparatory Mathematics (CPM) system to several classes. The department aimed to promote 21st-century teaching methods, focusing on collaboration and fostering a love for learning. 

The change has left students and faculty divided over its effectiveness.

The transition to CPM was an effort by the math department to align its curriculum with the principles of modern education. 

“What we liked about CPM was that it helped support teachers and students in some of the goals in our strategic plan,” Math Department Chair Mr. Justin Gaudreau said. “Teaching 21st-century learning skills, collaboration, working with others, drawing conclusions […]—inspiring someone to be a lifelong learner instead of being a passive learner from time to time.”

The practical implementation of this shift has raised controversy among both students and teachers. Many teachers seem to enjoy teaching from the textbook and seeing these goals transpire in real time. 

“I’ve heard overwhelmingly positive feedback from teachers that boys are buying into what we’re doing,” Mr. Gaudreau said. “It’s a very active atmosphere that teachers can support.”

However, many students have not had similarly positive experiences.

“A lot of the work we get on CPM is super dull. It doesn’t really give us a good review of concepts, and the problems get repetitive and mindless a lot,” Fifth Former Finn Kelly said. “The problems the textbook has don’t really prepare you that well for the topic of the next class or solidify your previous concepts or topics.”

Fifth Former Liam French echoed similar sentiments. 

“The workload is definitely easier, but we’re not really internalizing any of the information we’re being instructed,” French said. “It’s just gotten harder to keep up so when the test comes around, everyone is just falling behind.”

“I think whenever you have any change, it can be challenging.”

Math Department Chair Mr. Justin Gaudreau

While the intention is to encourage collaboration, many students feel that the textbook’s group work often feels forced and unnatural, diminishing the authenticity of the learning experience. The sense of disconnect arises from the fact that some students prefer a more individualized approach to learning and feel stifled by the constant need for group collaboration.

The math department recognizes potential dissatisfaction with the CPM textbook. 

“I think whenever you have any change, it can be challenging,” Mr. Gaudreau said. “[CPM] is written primarily for public schools. You have a pacing guide that’s looking at 180 days of 50-minute classes. We have about 93 days of 75-minute classes, so there are a lot of choices we have to make.”

A significant part of the gap between student and teacher satisfaction with CPM lies in how teachers have chosen to implement the new textbook. Some have strictly adhered to the textbook’s content, seemingly replacing their own teaching methods with the structured approach dictated by CPM. This has caused frustration among students who believe there is now little room for teachers’ personal touch and creativity in their lessons.“The teacher just becomes a moderator instead of a teacher,” French said. “They could be up at the board directing and teaching the students, but instead, they’re not engaging with the class.”

Author: Arsh Aggarwal '24

Arsh Aggarwal is currently the Sr. Managing Editor of The Index. His previous roles were Editor of Features and Campus Opinions. In 2023, Arsh was awarded the First Place prize in the Pennsylvania Press Club Annual High School Journalism Contest for his piece titled "SAT going digital in 2024",