Thursday, May 13, 2010

Two Year Algebra - Reboot

Struggling students can succeed in Algebra and complete high school.

  • Organize a voluntary PLC of math teachers to pursue the pre-selected approach 
  • Consider looping for ninth-tenth grade.
  • Use a reform math text - dramatically different from the district's standard text
  • Grade Summative Assessments on a curve of highest eighth = A, offset quartiles = B,  C,  D.  If this is too drastic, then the PLC-advocated college grading scale of 75-100 is an A, 50-75 is a B, and 25-50 is a C may be appropriate.
  • Bottom eighth can earn a grade or pass by teachers's judgment or completion of alternative work such as ALEKS or StudyIsland or Algebra games like Dimension X/U or re-exam; even if semester has ended.
  • Bottom eighth cannot be determined until final for student motivation
  • Course starts with Assessment: Students scoring low that ALEKS Algebra Prep for Six Weeks
  • "Homework" completed in class as PRACTICE - careful attention paid to technique
  • Calculators used for most problems (some no calculator to mimic CST)
  • Supplements such as online formative assessment and/or Gizmos and/or Wolfram|Alpha or Akron.
  • Cultivate student growth mindset by using Brainology
  • Experiment with DimensionU online math video game.
Possible Texts
  • Its About Time's Math Connections - not enough state standards may be an issue.
  • CPM - After 20 years, it now has state approval after changes - 1993 attack
  • Contract with Heymath! - other districts may have done this already.
  • Kinetic Books or NROC's new program, when available
  • Supplement current practice with a sequence of online manipulatives (eg Mathematica and Gizmos) coordinated with professional development and a PLC to determine sequence.
Suggested Calculators
 Texts Review Status
  • More than one text can be selected depending on the number of teachers that volunteer and their interests.
  • CPM is used by 2-year Algebra programs where students alternate days of doing "homework" in class.  CPM claims that no supplementary materials are needed.  CPM, a non-profit, has an exceptionally low cost program:
    • August 2-6 - teacher training in Irvine at No Charge
    • Teacher text is $95 and each paperback, 3-hole punched, re-usable student text is $18
    • Classroom set of Algebra tiles is $97
    • 2" loose-leaf binder for text and notes: $1 in volume
  •  CPM has been used at Irvine's Northwood for six years.  In one-year classes, CST proficiency has increased from 30% to 80%.  In two-year classes, CST proficiency has increased from 6% to 24% and may be higher this year.  The main reason Irvine adopted CPM was to give their students a different look at Algebra from the standard texts.  CPM is also used by Northwood for Honors Geometry and Honors Algebra 2. I used CPM Geometry briefly at University High as a substitute.  The question quality was quite high.
  • Heymath! has asked us to proceed.  We would want to send them the Algebra AB pacing plan.  The Massachusetts and Connecticut experiences show this can be fruitful.
  • For Kinetic Books: To track student progress through the Algebra text and do online homework, you will want copies for the individual students. This would be the Class Set License, which is $49.95 per student.
  • Putting a Computer Lab License on some of the computers at school would allow them to do online homework while at school, but you wouldn’t be able to track their progress through the book itself.
  • Online homework is $10.00 per student. Given your situation, I’m not sure you would be doing that on a regular basis.
  • Given the above you have a few choices:
  1. If the Computer Lab License only, the students can use the text, but you don’t get any scoring information for them. 
  2. Use the Computer Lab License with online homework. With this you can track what the students do for homework that you assign. 
  3. Get Class Set Licenses for each of the students. This allows you to track their progress through the book and they can work at home. 
  4. The Class Set License plus online homework gives you the functionality tracking progress through the text as well as any homework you assign from the online homework system.


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