Student’s performance in algebra may be a key factor in college enrollment. The U.S. Department of Education is supporting achievement by awarding $740,000 in grants to four colleges.  The grants help create mobile applications that provide algebra help for students.  One app features a race between the tortoise and the hare and aims to teach students about rate of change. 

iPad apps developed by Willamette University students could soon help high school and middle school students crack the code of algebra, often a gatekeeper to college entry. 

The tools assist teachers in diagnosing where students struggle and offer interactive solutions to put them on track. 

One app called “Card Clutter” helps students understand the relative value of numbers by arranging cards in order with face values ranging from negative fractions to absolute numbers. Those expressions sometimes stump students when solving algebraic equations. 

Willamette’s program is part of a joint effort with Western Oregon University, George Fox University and Pacific University to increase student success in algebra. They received a $740,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to create the Center for Algebraic Thinking. 

“Algebra is the gateway to college,” said Project Director and Willamette Professor of Education Steve RhineCQ”it is most correlated with going to college of anything you take in high school.”

In Oregon about one out of three high school students failed the state math test last year, and the main reason, Rhine said, is not understanding algebra.

Next year the stakes rise even higher. All high school students must pass the state math test to earn their high school diploma. Without interventions, Rhine said, the graduation rates will plummet.

Salem-Keizer students will soon get a chance to try the apps as student teachers from Willamette University enter high school classes this winter. Many of the apps are also available for free on iTunes.

Parrish Middle School Math teacher Ryan HariCQ is already a fan of the technology, especially in his math intensive classes for struggling students. He was one of the first to field test the apps and received eight iPads as part of the grant. 

Recently a handful of his students tapped the touch screens in rapid fire to solve for x. 

“Do some Alge-Bingo for me,” he told Zack SheldonCQ, who responded “yes!” and quickly got to work.


Related Articles