Newsclippings and Press Releases
By the numbers
By the numbersL-M class uses hands-on techniques for math class
REGINA M. GALER OF THE JOURNAL
MUSCATINE - Sam Foster says math has been tough for him. His grades in that subject have usually been low.
But this year, the Louisa-Muscatine (L-M) sophomore is quickly learning algebra, geometry, statistics and probability -- all in one class, the new L-M Integrated 1. The course has replaced first-year algebra, combining several traditional disciplines
Bill Yost, 11 year math teacher, helped install the first of L-M's new "integrated" math classes this fall. He said that the new curriculum is working well for all students.
Yost said his class is part of the program Core-Plus, a recent academic brainstorm intended to teach math through hands-on scientific experimentation and heavy use of graphing calculators.
In Yost's classroom, Foster sits in a group of three, with desks facing each other. The three students read story problems aloud to each other and write paragraphs to explain their findings.
They primarily follow the textbook instead of their teacher, Yost said.
"For me, the 88 minutes just flies by," Yost said, "and I never thought I'd feel that way about a math class."
One day, Foster and his two companions made "bungee cords" out of fishing weights and rubber bands to study lines and functions, (the trigonometric equations that mathematically describe lines).
Foster said that the integrated textbook is easy to understand. And he loves using the calculator.
Yost said that students become comfortable with the technology by using the calculators. They also pick up memory devices to help them retain lessons into the next term.
Harold Schoen, professor of math education at the University of Iowa, worked with five other professors across the county to create Core-Plus.
Schoen said national research has shown for some time that children learn math best through practical, "real-life" situations, such as Core-Plus investigations.
Core-Plus combines all traditional high school math into each level, more "sensibly" explaining complimentary subjects, Schoen said. Students write to sound out answers for clarity.
"Traditionally, kids have been terribly afraid of word problems, and in Core-Plus, they do quite a lot of that," Schoen said.
At least 25 Iowa schools have subscribed to Core-Plus curriculum, Schoen said.
L-M teacher Paul Kissell said his students are writing and reading aloud with improved communications skills.
"That's so important nowadays," Kissell said.
Kissell, an L-M alum and two-year cross disciplinary teacher, said that the textbook is students' "discovery center," their guidance in class..
And, "It's teacher friendly," Kissell said.
L-M administrators like the program, too, Yost said.
"I just find it fascinating, the things they're doing as freshmen," said Rebecca Rodocker, director of instruction, who praised Core-Plus.
L-M educators presented Core-Plus to the school board on a trial basis, Rodocker said, but L-M will continue the program, phasing out one traditional math class at a time.
The next step will be training L-M's remaining teachers, Rodocker said. The teachers will take Schoen's 40-hour training course in Iowa City, as did Yost and Kissall this past summer.
Yost said that more parents visited him for recent teacher conferences than have "in 20 years."
Parents' are also positive about the program, Yost said, asking lots of questions.
Rodocker said that some parents were concerned that colleges would reject the program on students' transcripts.
In fact, Yost said, all colleges and universities accept the integrated series, and Iowa State University has "on record said they prefer having someone from a non-traditional application such as Core-Plus.
Another of Yost's students is Jena McNeal, an eighth-grader taking advanced math. McNeal said she has traditionally earned straight As in math. However, Core-Plus has helped her understand the material even better, she said.
"And you have to have a good teacher to teach it and understand," McNeal said.
Yost said that his students are more alert, interested in each class. And he expects their college testing scores to rise, like those participating in CorePlus program elsewhere.
"My personal opinion is that it's the best thing to happen to math in 20 years on the high school level," Yost said.