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EV summer math program offers students a jump start

Thu., Aug. 23, 2012

Math teacher Nicole Bess gives the thumbs up to students who did a graphing exercise correctly using themselves as points on a grid laid out on a tarp Monday at East Valley High School. About 60 students are participating in a three-week summer math program. (Colin Mulvany)
Math teacher Nicole Bess gives the thumbs up to students who did a graphing exercise correctly using themselves as points on a grid laid out on a tarp Monday at East Valley High School. About 60 students are participating in a three-week summer math program. (Colin Mulvany)

The first day of school isn’t until Sept. 5 in the East Valley School District, but high school students are already getting a jump on math classes.

For three weeks, more than 60 students spent their mornings at the Algebra Institute, a hands-on class for students at various ability levels.

Assistant Superintendent Jan Beauchamp said each student was charged a $25 registration fee, but those with perfect attendance will receive a refund.

“Our attendance is great,” Beauchamp said.

Some students are working to regain skills lost over the summer. Others may have struggled with math or failed a previous class. Some may not have even liked math.

On Monday, students were given cards with a number on them while another student held up an equation. The students stood on a tarp with graph lines on it and formed a line to represent the equation.

“Do you think you are in the right spot?” teacher Lisa Williksen asked a student who was standing outside of the line. The student looked at his card and then the equation before moving to a different spot that lined up with the rest of the students.

While they were learning, they were also having fun.

Nicole Bess, a special education teacher working on achieving her principal certification, is the program administrator. She said the students not only attend classes, but come early for breakfast and stay for lunch. Each receives a graphing calculator, which they get to keep and can use for school.

“They’ll be good at using them,” Beauchamp said of the calculators.

Incoming freshmen were invited to attend the class, which also gives them a chance to meet their math teacher for the first time.

The program was funded through a variety of grants.

“Student achievement in math is one of our priorities,” Beauchamp said.

She said that while initial registration for the program was for 60 students, after the first day, some of them brought their friends.

Each class uses hands-on techniques to help the students learn. While some students were working on the human graph, others were learning a song to help them remember the equation “y=mx+b,” set to the tune of “YMCA” – including dance moves. Others used blocks to determine how to figure out math problems.

Bess said giving the students something tangible helps them learn and remember the formulas.

This is the first year East Valley has offered the Algebra Institute. Both Bess and Beauchamp expect the program to expand next year.

“We expect to have even more students attending next year as word has spread that this is a great experience,” Beauchamp said.

Bess said she has seen no behavior problems and everyone has been participating fully.

“The kids really want to be here,” she said.



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