Some educators are mixing up their standard format when helping students learn algebra. The practice of lecturing to students and then sending them home with homework is changing.
Jared Boggs has been an algebra teacher at Pajaro Middle School for seven years. He gives himself more one-on-one time with his students by sending them home with a video lesson for their iPads and then using class time for individual instruction.
Boggs started using the tablets in his class as a pilot project midway through the last school year to augment instruction and to increase the technological reach of his mostly low-income students and their families. It was a risk, he said, but one that appears to be paying off.
In state testing last spring, 76 percent of his algebra students scored proficient or above, which is the state achievement standard. The results were better than all but three of 13 middle schools in Santa Cruz County and twice as good as his own students achieved the year before.
“Mr. Boggs took a chance. He had to learn a new curriculum, and we didn’t really know what was going to happen,” said Jean Gottlob, principal at Pajaro Middle.
With the iPads, Boggs uses an interactive textbook that includes lesson videos students can watch again and again until they understand explanations. They also can freeze a segment they missed, or rewind to a point where they went off track. When they do practice problems, they get immediate feedback and help with correcting mistakes.
He can be more creative with assignments as well. Friday, for example, students were given about 15 minutes to develop a how-to video for solving inequalities.
Reinforcing lessons by having students teach what they know is a proven strategy, but being able to use technology to do it is particularly appealing to students growing up in the digital age, Gottlob said.
Students Jonathan Gracida, 12, and Carlos Basilo, 14, grin when asked if they like working on the iPads. They said math is easier to learn through videos that you can watch over and over.
Besides textbooks can be intimidating.
“Textbooks have a lot of pages. It looks tiring,” Carlos said. “With the iPad you just have to scroll down.”
Each of Boggs’ students has been given an original version iPad that they get to take home and share with their families. While there are some restrictions on downloads, they are allowed to use the tablets for non-school activities, including playing games. Gottlob said almost a year into the project, there have been no problems, other than one cracked screen.
Gottlob said the technology isn’t the sole reason students’ achievement has improved. The school is doing a better job at identifying students who are ready for algebra and making sure those who aren’t get another year of preparation. Many of the students also have participated in an algebra academy sponsored by Granite Rock Co. These are all wonderful tools when helping students learn algebra.