Third grade math, where children acquire the building blocks for multiplication, division, and fractions, is a key checkpoint to make certain a child is on track to be ready for more advanced math. Proficiency in 3rd grade math correlates to 8th grade math placement.
A student’s competency is a predictor of their long-term success, as math prepares and develops a student’s mind to accept, analyze and execute complex ideas. Students who do not master middle-school math will be far less likely to successfully complete algebraic- and statistics-based courses required for many careers.
Where We Stand
What Needs to Happen
Mathematics is built level by level, and mastering math fundamentals in the early grades is the gateway to future coursework. Students benefit when elementary school teachers have the tools and resources they need to supplement math curricula and build on these essential skills.
An example of a tool that was piloted in the summer of 2017 with more than 100 elementary teachers from the four regional school districts is the Ongoing Assessment Project (OGAP). This project trains teachers to use a mathematical framework continuum to formatively assess student thinking and improve student learning.
It should be expanded with fidelity to include all elementary school teachers in the region if the evidence supports positive student outcomes.
When compared with elementary and high school levels, far too little support is brought to the middle grades. The middle school experience is the lynchpin between early skills development and more comprehensive learning.
Moreover, it is at this level that students, especially those who aren’t performing at grade level, first begin to disengage and lose sight of education’s relevance to the real world.
The transition into and out of middle school represents a pivotal time in a child’s education and requires attention. There is little evidence that the relationship among schools in a feeder pattern is being managed in the interest of children, especially those who are struggling.
What We’re Doing
TCCC, alongside district and college leaders, formed the Math Pathways Project Team (MPPT) to understand and address the systemic problems that cause students to fall short of math proficiency standards and to remain behind through postsecondary education.
In February 2015, TCCC hosted the first ever meeting of the superintendents and board chairs of the four public school districts serving the tri-county region. The meeting focused on the results of the Regional Education Report and opportunities for the districts to collaborate to address shared issues. Among the outcomes of the meeting was the formation of the Lowcountry Education Consortium (LCEC), an informal group of the four district superintendents that meets monthly to discuss shared interests ranging from inclement weather policies to funding and advocacy.
After careful study, TCCC’s Math Pathways Project Team has advocated for a number of changes to advance students’ preparedness in math, including that all students complete a math course each year of high school.
Algebra Nation, a web-based tool that supplements Algebra 1 teaching and learning, was recommended to the state by MPPT and has since been implemented in 67 S.C. school districts. Through the program, students view instructional videos and receive real-time feedback. Early results show promise, and we believe Algebra Nation should be funded annually by the state.
Through the program, teachers can assign videos to students based on their learning needs, making it possible for students to progress asynchronously through Algebra 1. Students can test themselves using a practice tool and receive personalized feedback to address gaps in their understanding.
They can also receive personalized, real-time feedback from teachers, tutors and peers on the Algebra Wall, which empowers them to learn collaboratively inside and outside of school.
Whenever a student helps another student on the Algebra Wall – such as directing them to an appropriate video to address their question, explaining how to start solving a math problem or by showing their classroom where they’ve made an error – the helper is awarded Karma Points.
Each month, the student who earns the most Karma Points in the state receives a free iPad. A student at R.B. Stall High School in North Charleston received a free iPad in December 2017 for earning the most Karma Points in South Carolina on the Algebra Nation platform.
“Preparing all students for rigorous mathematics and science coursework in middle school and early in high school helps to close the achievement gap among students from differing ethnic and socioeconomic groups.”