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The Vincennes Algebra Project (2006-2011)
In 2006 Dr. Brown and I set in motion a project designed to enable youth to face challenges in learning mathematics in middle school and early high school (though Algebra I). Vincennes Community School Corporation (VCSV) approached us because they had a high percentage of students who were not passing ISTEP. We started with 5 days of professional development for all of the middle and high school mathematics teachers in the Corporation. We discussed and modeled using manipulatives and hands-on activities to enhance teachers’ strategies for teaching algebra. A video of the Vincennes Algebra Project can be found on the indstate.edu homepage under ISU video archive, January 11, 2007.
In 2009 we received a $100,000 grant from the US Department of Education to continue our work in helping teachers develop strategies and projects for use with their students. Thus began a two-phase collaborative partnership between the math faculty at one middle school and one high school in Vincennes Indiana and math education faculty at Indiana State University. The program began in August 2009 and concluded in May 2011. The first phase (year one) consisted of twice monthly professional development work sessions conducted with school faculty by ISU faculty. The second phase (year two) consisted of continued consultation with school faculty. Consultation included site visits, phone communication, and web-based consultation to address group and individual concerns, questions, and progress. Six middle school faculty members and eight High School faculty members took part in this consultative professional development.
The objectives of the program were to deepen teacher skills in active learning strategies while providing mathematics instruction, promote beneficial teacher attitudes towards mathematics, develop and adapt curriculum focusing on whole-class projects and learning centers, and evaluate the program effectiveness in expanding the scope of mathematics instruction. For Middle School participants, work sessions in the fall semester of year one provided modeling of differing mathematics strategies, including hands-on methods, use of math manipulatives, and real world activities.
The middle school teachers valued the opportunity to develop hands-on learning activities for students. They responded about learning new methods and applying these to the classroom. They valued learning new methods and strategies, being encouraged to try new things in the classroom. Participants enjoyed the work sessions, and they gained many ideas for use in class. They spoke of trying new things, gaining good ideas, and implementing change in teaching approach. Some participants also spoke of being more excited about teaching.
Parke-Vermillion Rural Algebra Project (2010-present)
We received a second $100,000 grant from the US Department of Education to build on our successful algebra project in Vincennes and bring strategies and hands-on ideas to secondary mathematics teachers in the five school corporations in Parke and Vermillion Counties. We have been engaged in twice-monthly professional development workshops with teachers from these rural school corporations during the 2010-2011 school year to help the teachers develop projects and centers to use with their students as they teach algebra and prepare students for the end-of-course assessments that are required for graduation.
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