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Solving an algebra problem

Parents getting a refresher so they can better help kids

OLYMPIA – A group of River Ridge High School parents clutched pencils, calculators and cups of coffee last week as they tackled something that can be daunting: beginning algebra.

“It’s been so long since I took an algebra class,” said Bill Monical of Lacey. “I needed a refresher.”

Teacher Jami Gore said she created the school’s monthly Algebra Class for Parents after hearing “I can’t help my student at home” repeated at parent-teacher conferences for nearly a decade.

When some of her friends who have older children began telling her the same thing, the National Board Certified Teacher decided to put her love for teaching and math into action.

“My goal is by the end of the year to have a full classroom (of parents),” she said, noting that the school has about 300 students in algebra classes.

In addition to lowering adults’ stress levels when they’re helping kids with homework, Gore hopes the class will boost family involvement and standardized test scores at the school.

“Everything we’ve done right now is super-relevant,” Gore told the parents as they reviewed a packet of sample problems.

Even for parents who took algebra in high school, concepts such as linear equations, the order of operations and distribution don’t always come back very easily – especially if it has been a decade or two, or more, since they learned it.

“I think that unless you have a job where you’re forced to think abstractly, then that part of your brain atrophies,” Gore said. “The essence of algebra is abstract.”

Gore plans to hold the classes once a month and go over the main concepts that are being covered in algebra classes. She’ll also provide tips and information to help prepare kids for the end-of-course algebra exam.

Parent Joy Gerchak said she’s attending the classes so she can provide extra support for her son Jacobie, 14. In fact, they attended last week’s class together.

“I’m here for him,” Gerchak said, adding that she was proud her son was sharing what he has learned with the other parents in the room.

During last Wednesday’s class, Gore used an overhead projector to show parents some of the concepts.

Next, parents were asked to try to solve similar problems on their own.

The room was fairly quiet, with the exception of erasers sliding across papers and some heavy sighs.

River Ridge parent Heather Taylor instinctively covered up her paper when Gore walked by her desk. Then she giggled.

The desks, the tricky problems and the teacher pacing in between rows?

Yes, it made her feel like she was in high school again. “It takes you right back,” Taylor said, smiling.