Summer programming is a great way for students at all levels and abilities to gain new skills, master challenging content, and get a head start on the year ahead. This summer, with the support of 22 teachers, 174 incoming ninth grade students had the opportunity to be part of the district’s inaugural Algebra 1 Focus Program. The four-week summer program took place in June and was offered at each feeder high school throughout the district.
Project Launch Algebra was designed as a bridge from eighth grade math to Algebra 1, focused on math standards that feed into the first semester of high school. During spring of 2020, teachers were asked to choose students that if given the right classroom support, cooperative learning, smaller class sizes, and engaging content, would succeed in math.
The design of Project Launch Algebra was to expose students to many different forms of mathematical thinking, explicit instruction, meaningful applications of concepts, and reflection opportunities.
“For students, our goal was for them to leave with a positive perception of math and equip them with a mindset that they can succeed in learning and understanding math with the right conditions in place,” shared Greg George, K-12 Mathematics Coordinator. “For teachers, we wanted to provide instruction materials and daily routines that modeled best practices in the teaching and learning of mathematics, including the use of formative assessment data to dive instruction.”
Classes had six to nine students, allowing better collaboration between students in a smaller group setting.
“It was fun to see students persevere as they tackled some challenging problems, as the 9:1 student to teacher ratio really allowed for teachers to build that safe community necessary for students to succeed,” shared Kelly Addington, Learning Coach.
The program ran for two weeks with in-person learning, three hours a day, and one week via Webex for one hour a day.
“I was blown away by the eagerness of students who participated in the program,” shared Instructional Coordinator Lindsay La Porte. “The conversations I heard in classrooms demonstrated deep, mathematical thinking.”
The curriculum was designed to provide a balance between short and intensive direct instruction, student exploration, and rigor. It gave incoming ninth grade students the opportunity to explore complex mathematical problems and increased confidence in students’ ability to tackle problems, providing them the help they needed to successfully be prepared for Algebra 1.
“I have learned and grown greatly in the last two weeks, and feel more comfortable with the whole idea of algebra – I’ve learned many new things about myself, and about the whole idea of making and solving equations, and I plan to learn more,” shared a student participating at Silver Creek High School.
Even though the focus of this program was centered around boosting a students’ confidence in math, this was also a very important part of their transition from middle school to high school. Face-to-face experience between students and teachers, and connections students made, were invaluable in providing a strong foundation for when they enter high school.
“Even in this time, education, teaching, and learning can continue and be powerful,” said La Porte.