Individualized Math Instruction
This year we have implemented a new math curriculum. In the 7th and 8th grades, it has replaced the existing curriculum 100%. In other grades, it is being used as a supplement to the current curriculum. Thus far, I have been somewhat impressed with the progress the students are making in their math curriculum.
Aleks math has changed how I teach math to middle school students. No longer am I in front of the class on a daily basis, using the smartboard to assess student knowledge before assignments.
One of the No Child Left Behind goals is to use data to drive our educational/teaching decisions. This math program lets the administrator/teacher do just that. Our state is small enough that the Montana state standards are not necessarily completely aligned with the Aleks math program. This is just fine with me. The buzz words “data driven” too many time mean “teaching to the test“. I do not feel that we are doing that with this program. We are, however, moving quite nicely in a student paced direction that will allow each and every student to master the content standards.
Master, you say? Yes, master. With this program, you cannot move along until you have mastered each and every module by answering numerous questions on the same topic, and together the modules linear align to the state curriculum/content standards.
At the beginning of the year, each student was given a broad spectrum test to set baseline data for each student. What surprised me about this initial assessment was how poorly my students performed. Sure, they were just returning from summer break, and we did absolutely nothing to review or prepare for this assessment, but even so, I was surprised. All of the students in my room score in the proficient or advanced range in the state math test, so when these same students scored less then 50% on the initial assessment, it was somewhat of a wake up call for me and my students. On the other hand, this also leads me to believe that the curriculum is both challenging and relevant to what the student needs to learn. With Aleks adaptive testing environment, which scales the test depending on the students correct and incorrect answers, the test seems to be very valid. I will be watching the scores on the state math assessment a little closer this year, hopefully to see improvement by all students.
So how does Aleks work? For me, it works wonders. As I shared earlier, each student works on his or her personal laptop which is connected wirelessly to the network, and thus the internet. Each day the students are given a paper worksheet, as a PDF, and they solve the problems. Also, the students are expected to work on their modules. I have set a timeline goal, (aligned to their textbook) mainly as a pacing guide. Each students works through the modules at different rates, and choosing different modules each day. Even if the student collaborates with his or her neighbor, and choose the same modules, the problems thus far have been different, (or at least in a different order) thus, this is truly individualized instruction.
Sure I teach multiple ideas or lessons to individual students, but many students tend to use the explain function to help them solve the problem. Many are also using their textbook to look up examples or terms that they may have forgotten or do not know. I also target specific standards, picking students to give a focused lesson to, based on their inability to master a specific content standard or benchmark. The software makes this quite easy with reports that show each and every standard with three levels of student achievement. Makes it pretty easy to see who is having trouble, and who has moved on.
So far, the results are very promising. Each student is making significant progress in the curriculum. I am really anxious to take the state test this year to compare scores…I will revisit this at a later date.
Would this work in a tradition classroom setting? I think it would, however, the teacher/instructor/leader will have to be willing to teach multiple ideas on any given day.