TEAM program loses math as core class

Allison Cowie and Matthew Fogarty

For the first school year since its establishment in 1994, Palo Alto High School’s TEAM–Together Everyone Achieves More–program does not include math classes.

TEAM is a year-long program for freshmen that focuses on integrating academic success with community building, according to the program’s website.

The program promotes collaboration between students and teachers to create an interdisciplinary curriculum between the ninth grade core subjects of English, World History, and Biology.

According to Denise Shaw, TEAM English teacher and head of the TEAM program, losing math is a blow to the program that affects teachers and students alike.

“It [TEAM] doesn’t feel complete without the … fourth academic core subject, simply because it has always been a part of TEAM,” Shaw said.  “Part of what we [teachers] do in TEAM is talk about our students and how they are doing in all of their classes and it is important to have that fourth perspective. … Furthermore, math is a subject that a lot of students struggle in. …  [We can] help those students when we have the math perspective.”

TEAM teachers have also lost valuable insight and planning help for TEAM’s extracurricular activities with the loss of the TEAM math program.

“We once had six, [but] we now have three teachers trying to organize everything and it’s more of a strain on the TEAM teachers,” Shaw said.

Math has been taken out of TEAM largely because of scheduling difficulties, according to Shaw.  With close to 100 students spread over five different math lanes, finding room in the schedule for TEAM classes while satisfying each student’s math requirement is a burden that has become too heavy to bear.

“This year it made sense [to pull math out of TEAM] given the changes the administration is trying to make with the schedule to fit the needs of every student,” Shaw said. “We don’t like it and we wish it were different, but we understand what had to happen.”

With math not included in the TEAM periods, concerns over students “catching up” on classwork after TEAM field trips have risen.

With one week-long field trip in the fall, students will miss three math classes in a row.  Due to the fast pace of Paly’s math classes, students could struggle to catch up after their return.

“I’m a little worried only because we have never done this before,” Shaw said.  “[However,] we fully intend to schedule homework time into our Yosemite trip and we have a plan to help kids stay on track.”

Math teacher and former TEAM teacher Ambika Nangia is not too concerned over her students missing class due to TEAM field trips.  “I know that students will be gone and I do have quizzes scheduled so I’ll have to talk to those students [to come up with a plan,]” Nangia said.

According to current junior and former TEAM student Omri Newman, losing math brings a positive change to the program.

“Its not a problem because this way kids in TEAM can meet kids outside of team and not have to wait until next year to branch out in high school friends-wise,” he said.

In addition to Newman, Shaw has also found a positive in losing math classes.

“It also allowed for a cool thing to happen,” she said.  “All the TEAM periods are two, four and six which means that we’ve scheduled all of our [single-day] field trips on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that kids are not missing their non-TEAM classes.  So that was something we deliberately tried to do this year.”

Overall, the loss of the math component is tough on the entire TEAM community.

“It goes against what [TEAM] really stands for,” Shaw said.  “It just isn’t complete.”