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Posted - 12/10/2009 : 15:49:09 I am a math teacher in a rural high school in Iowa. We have implemented, in the past, the ALEKS program with our pre-algebra classes. We found that the majority of these students have tested WELL below their grade-level in math. Since this is the lowest level math course that is offered at the school, we wanted ALEKS to build the students' foundational skills, while still trying to meet the curriculum set for pre-algebra. While I feel that the use of the program can be, and has been quites useful, should we still still be focusing on the pre-algebra curriculum at the same time? Should I try to advocate for a new course created for the sole purpose of getting some students more "caught up" to their math level? I would appreciate how others have incorporated ALEKS into their programs.
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Posted - 12/11/2009 : 08:29:02 I am not familiar with the ALEKS program. We use what is called NovaNET and also something called OdysseyWare. I also am at a rural H.S. I know Iowa has some vast remote areas like Far West Texas where I am at. Looking on a map, Hardy, Iowa stuck me. I see it has a population of 57. You wouldn't happen to be there would you? Anyway, to sort of address your question, we don't offer pre-algebra. All students must take Algebra1, Geometry and Algebra2. That comes from TEA (TX Aducation Association)graduation requirements. Yes, you should advocate for a course that gets students "more caught up". We have 6 out of our 16 H.S. students that score low on the state assessment math test. Our administration bought a program called SuccessMaker for the Elementary/Junior High but wanted me to use it for the 6 H.S. students. I hated it. I don't think it did anything to "catch them up" to grade level in math. As I see it, there are two sides of the fence: 1. Students need to memorize basic arithmetic facts. 2. Students can use a calculator. Now a can of worms is opened up here. What do you do with students that don't seem to be able to learn how to deal with fractions, basic arithmetic facts, long division, etc... In the past, they were put in Special Ed. However, it seems that with NCLB, Special Ed. requires that the students be kept on grade level. Well, that means they go into the higher level maths without having the basic skills. Should more time be spent on drilling those students with long division or fraction problems? Should they be allowed to use a calculator for division and fractions? I have found that my lowest performing student (he/she is at a 4th grade level in math) actually can DO long division now when he uses a calculator! Apparently he can not memorize the basic arithmetic facts but he was able to memorize the steps to the long division algorithm and that is why he was never able to do long division in elementary! I am a firm believer that there is a disorder called Dyscalculia. I have NO idea why it is not accepted in the U.S. as a real disorder. We certainly cater to Dyslexia. It is so unfair that Dyslexic students get special help while Dyscalcic students don't! I firmly believe that there are probably as many people in the world with Dyscalculia as with Dyslexia but no one has really done a study. How many people do you know that can't grasp basic math CONCEPTS. Talk with most adults and they say they are "not good with math". The reason given in the educational circle in the U.S. is that they just did not have good math teachers. Well, I digress, sorry... May I ask how many students you have at your H.S.? I find that the basic problem for rural schools is that they are not able to have special programs like the big city schools do. I taught in a big city and found that when I got a student that was not able to handle the material, he/she was taken out of class and put into a recovery program. Gee, big city schools have the numbers that can make special programs. They have whole advanced "magnet" schools. One school I was at had a "drop out recovery" section. Those students only were given very basic minimum requirements. We are stretched thin in a rural school. Some years I have had 6 different preps. In large schools, it is common to have just 1 or two preps. In small schools, within each classroom, there is a vast range of student abilities. It is not as much so at a large school where they can track students into different abilities. I know they say they don't do that but they do. Well, it is a Friday. Sorry, I needed to vent a little. Thanks for your post. Does anyone have any positive or negative feedback?