At Steepletown – #WeDoMathTogether
“I am really bad at math” is a phrase we hear when enrolling new students. Initially, my response was “me too”. Recently, I have changed my answer and say that “math needs to be learned and practiced” (quoting our Educational Coordinator, Melanie Grandy). The GED Math test often feels like a towering, thunderous mountain that needs conquering and only the brave and courageous adventurer type can look math in the eye and say “I will beat you”.
In reality, the new math test implemented in 2014, is a formidable challenge. Really. Passing means accomplishing College Ready math skills. The GED testing service states that approximately 45 percent of the math test focuses on quantitative problem solving and approximately 55 percent on algebraic problems. The days of memorizing, recognizing and applying lists of algorithms are over. Now, the student needs to “understand and apply” mathematical fundamentals and apply them to real-world problems in context.
How do support and assist students in accomplishing this? Well, we found out that if “we do math together”, students are grasping, retaining, and mastering math! In the past month, it was not unusual to walk past a student filled computer lab to the small conference room, where two or three students and a staff (Emilio or Melanie) worked together for hours learning and practicing Quadratic Equations. It started with a staff or a volunteer (Liz) at the white board with equations at the top. Then a slow progression of questions and explanations as the students each worked on the procedural steps in their notebooks. More questions, more explanations, sometimes frustration, then some laughter, eventually excitement as the answers to the problems turned out to be CORRECT!!! As time went on, one of the students would be at the white board, talking the other students through the multiple steps of solving algebraic problems. The staff just looking on (with some inner pride and satisfaction on their face). Math is hard. The majority of students take the math test more than once before they pass. But they pass. They pass a difficult test and earn a huge sense of accomplishment and pride.
When you see a tweet or read on Facebook about a student passing their math test – hopefully you will understand the effort involved and degree of accomplishment. And we will continue to do math together.