Central Ohio teachers are learning new and innovative ways to teach pre-algebra using digital resources with Algebra Ready, a year-long professional development opportunity for 7th- and 8th-grade math teachers and school district math coaches. Funded by a grant under the Improving Teacher Quality Program from the Ohio Department of Higher Education, Algebra Ready is led by Drs. Kui Xie, Hea-Jin Lee, Ivo Herzog, and Nicole Luthy at The Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology and College of Arts and Sciences. Teachers and coaches registered with the expectations of improving their content knowledge in pre-algebra and algebra; understanding Ohio’s learning standards and content alignment; learning how to evaluate digital tools and content; and improving their pedagogical knowledge in teaching math with digital resources.
Participants met the professional development team at a short introductory meeting on May 23rd, where they were given Chromebooks as part of the digital resource package. They then attended a week-long Summer Institute, held at the PAST Innovation Lab, on June 12th through the 16th from 8:30 to 3:00. Teachers were grouped with their math coaches and teachers from other schools. Many of the participants found that sitting with other teachers and discussing ideas was a strength of the Institute. “We had a lot of rich discussions that not only allowed me to share my thoughts, but heard others that made me think of other ways to look at the topic,” one teacher stated.
Each day of the Summer Institute brought new activities, learning, and resources. On the first day, the professional development team gave participants a rubric designed to help teachers evaluate digital content. Teachers learned how to use the rubric, with new concepts and aspects of the rubric introduced each day, and examples like GeoGebra, for digital content evaluation practice. Several professional development modes were featured in the program, including a station rotation model where teachers were able to learn different aspects of teaching with digital content, and peer-learning from a middle school math teacher guest speaker who demonstrated resources and strategies that could readily be translated to the classroom. Through these activities, teachers were able to evaluate digital tools and content to determine if they are effective and ensure they align with the Ohio mathematics learning standards. One participant liked the “variety of digital ways to apply math… Examples of this are creating the QR codes, playing quizzizz as a small group to get the student experience, flocabulary for engagement of the audience, plickers cards for informal assessment and a variety of platforms to use to unite the class.”
By the end of the week, teachers had a collection of digital resources to take with them. They were also armed with the evaluation rubric and the knowledge of how to evaluate new resources that they might discover. Many teachers and coaches worked together to create lesson and unit plans using their new tools.
Participants had positive reactions to the Summer Institute. In her evaluation of the program, one teacher wrote, “I loved this PD! It was one of the most beneficial PD experiences I have been to thus far, because the people and activities were all math related specifically to the grade levels we teach.” Another participant said, “I really enjoyed this experience. I especially liked the math content that I can take and use in my classroom directly. I also had time to look at several digital resources that I would not have had otherwise.” Participants also gave feedback on how to improve the program in the future.
Participants attended one final group session on August 9th to wrap up the Summer Institute. Throughout the school year teachers will work with their math coaches on practical applications for what they learned. In addition, they will engage in six online modules from September 2017 through March 2018. The Algebra Ready project will culminate with professional development participants presenting at the Innovate conference, which will be held at The Ohio State University in May 2018.
— Story by Margaret Bowman and Vanessa Vongkulluksn; Video by Lin Lu