Software helps personalize math instruction


In one of the mysteries, a cup of coffee is found at the crime scene. By determining how long it takes a similar-size cup of coffee to cool, the students can estimate when the crime took place. So, students take part in a lab experiment in which they periodically measure the temperature of a cup of coffee as it cools to room temperature, then plot the data on a graph. In the process, they learn about scatter plots and linear regression.

The three-phase system distinguishes Pitsco’s Algebra Academy from other products.

“We’ve utilized three different methodologies in the overall solution, so we’re really meeting the needs of pretty much every student,” said Frankenbery. “We feel like it’s this blend … of methodology that’s really what is connecting the students” to the lessons.

At Carolina High School and Academy in Greeneville, S.C., 71 percent of the students passed the most recent state math exam—but among students who took algebra using Pitsco’s curriculum, that figure was 94 percent, said Assistant Principal Michael Delaney.

What’s more, at least 40 percent of the students who experienced Algebra Academy made some kind of jump to the next level of math instruction in the following school year, Delaney said—and 19 percent moved from the lowest level to honors-level math.

Applying math to real-world challenges

While Pitsco and DreamBox have developed new ways to teach math fundamentals, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and The Moody’s Foundation have joined forces to demonstrate to older students how these skills can be applied in the real world.

“We really hope to shed light on a lot of the exciting careers and applications of mathematics,” said M³ Challenge project director Michelle Montgomery.

The M³ Challenge, which took place March 5-6 this year, provides thousands of dollars in incentives to encourage high school students on the East Coast to participate. This year, 717 teams from more than 5,000 high schools registered for the M³ Challenge, which is designed to pique high schoolers’ interest in real-world applications of mathematics.

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