Thursday, January 29, 2015

Individualized Learning in Mathematics

Six years ago, the Math department at EGHS did away with textbooks.  We math teachers started from scratch, writing our own digital curriculum based on the ACT College Readiness Standards.  The curricula are based on a tiered model, with each skill broken down into four levels: review, focus in isolation, focus in context, and extension. A sample skill is shown here:

CRS Skill
Level 1
GRE 403
Determine slope from a graph, from two points, or from an equation in slope-intercept form.
Level 2
GRE 502
GRE 503
Graph a line from slope-intercept, point-slope, and standard form and I can determine the equation of a line from a graph
Level 3
GRE 502
GRE 503
Write an equation of a line in point-slope or slope intercept form when given two points, or the slope and a point.
Level 4
GRE 604
Write an equation of a line parallel or perpendicular to another line through a given point

With the addition of iPads, teachers can create video notes--using apps like Educreations or Explain Everything--that allow students to work at their own pace through an objective.  Students are not slowed down by others who need more time or not forced to move on to something they are not ready for.  Not only do students understand the material on a deeper level, they are now taking control of their own learning.  Students have taken more ownership of their work with the self-paced curriculum because it is clear what they know, how well they know it, and at what level they understand it.  The increase in formative assessment, through online quizzes, provides students with constant feedback and allows them to reflect on their understanding of the material.
Another benefit to this individualized learning process is the increase in diagonal movement of our students into higher level math courses.  There are more students moving from the regular level to the honors level, as well as from the preparatory level to the regular level.  When working at their own pace, motivated students are able to cover more topics than typically designated to a specific course.  Therefore, by the end of the school year, these students have learned sometimes 7-10 new topics that bridge them into the higher level curriculum.  This not only provides them with more opportunities in the future but also saves them time and money on a Summer School bridge class.
The increase in technology has made all of this possible.  Prior to the use of iPads, we would print out these documents on paper.  Now with our 1:1 iPad Pilots, we are better able to differentiate the curriculum through the use of the Schoology Checklist.  The checklist function guides the students through the curriculum.  Students must complete one task in order to have access to the next, throughout the entire checklist.  
A detailed “How-To” on the Schoology Checklist will be brought to you in next Wednesday’s blog post!

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