From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 19 - August 3, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Adding it all up: perspectives of students, parents
Part 1 of a three-part series
by Casey Dean

Not many students seek out extra math classes, particularly during free time or over the summer. However, Pinedale has seen a considerable number of high school students enrolled in online courses and summer tutoring programs. This three-part series delves into the reasons given by students and parents for seeking mathematical education beyond that offered by Pinedale High School, explores the research surrounding the Interactive Mathematics Program and reveals the basis for the support teachers and administrators give the curriculum.

PHS has observed a steady increase in interest in supplementary math programs over the past few years, and PHS principal Richard Kennedy reports math scores in statewide tests have continued to improve relative to other Wyoming high schools.

There appears to be a common, if quiet, lack of faith in the recently implemented IMP. Several students were hesitant to discuss the program for fear of angering teachers or administrators; many parents expressed the same sentiments. However, locating strong student proponents of the IMP approach is difficult; meanwhile many students are turning to math education resources outside the PHS curriculum.

Private tutoring sessions, online courses and outreach programs are the primary sources to which interested students and parents turn, but some have employed DVDs for supplemental math education in the traditional approach.

Upcoming senior Nate Stroud was opposed to taking an IMP class last year, but could not enroll in a traditional math class at PHS. So he turned to an online source of classes, as did several other members of his grade. Apex Learning serves to “deliver proven online learning solutions that increase educational opportunities for all students,” according to the Apex website.

Such expanded opportunities were also taken advantage of by classmate Keegan Latta, who not only enrolled in an online business math class, but also a history class and is investigating a humanities course, primarily because he couldn’t find classes he wanted to take in the school, said his mother, Laurie Latta. She feels the primary flaw in the PHS math program is not necessarily IMP, but communication.

“My main concern ... is resistance to the idea of dialogue” about the math curriculum, which creates tension and discourages cooperation between administrators, teachers, students and parents. Latta pointed out that she feels IMP can be strong with powerful teachers and compromises.

Meredith Noble is one year younger than Nate and Keegan, and enrolled last year in Apex’s algebra I class.

“I felt my math skills were dwindling ... traditional math is looked down upon, but you need those skills,” she explained. Both Meredith and her mother, Ann, also noted how little IMP challenged the upcoming junior.

“Meredith didn’t seem concerned when she missed the class, and that bothered me,” Ann said. She put more effort into her Apex class, which is expected of online classes, and feels more confident about her math skills after completing algebra. However, her mother was left a little frustrated after the endeavor.

“It was discouraging that it became difficult to take an Apex class at the school,” she said. During the statewide testing period, those students taking supplementary classes had no access to school computers for three weeks, according to Ann. She recalls checking her daughter out of school and taking her to the public library and eventually hiring a private tutor to help Meredith catch up after losing so much time. Meredith did complete the class and “did well,” her mother noted.

Private tutoring was the resource several parents turned to for their children this summer. Upcoming sophomores Kathryn Konicek and Morgan Holz join classmates Kelsi Dean and Dylan Strike twice each week for algebra classes taught by Rollie Myers. After teaching in a junior college since 1964, Myers began providing substitute services in Pinedale, teaching math almost all the time. Although he pointed out that he doesn’t know enough about IMP to make a judgment, when he has tutored students in mathematics, “they didn’t have the background ... they needed tutoring in traditional math.” His students, who do have experience in IMP, articulated the standpoint that test scores on national and statewide tests do not correlate with grades or number of IMP classes taken.

“I was an A student in IMP and I thought I learned more than what (my ACT scores in math) showed,” Morgan Holz reported. She challenged the approach of a math program comprised entirely of story problems and little repetition. “When you see an algebra problem, you have no idea what any of it means,” she said.

Her mother pointed out the positive aspects of the newer program at PHS, which in part attracted Morgan to continue her IMP education, in addition to possible outside traditional courses.

“One: they work well together,” Sue Holz said of Morgan and her classmates. “And they are incredible problem solvers.”

Sue said that Morgan, like Keegan and Meredith, has always excelled in math, and even loves the subject, so “I was thrilled when they all wanted to do this (class),” and Sue is a strong supporter of Morgan taking advantage of educational opportunities in all subjects, “which she has,” Sue said.

Morgan’s classmate Kathryn said, “IMP is really easy, which is the problem,” Her parents, Julie and Ken, encouraged Kathryn’s involvement in the summer class when she expressed concern about her ACT scores.

“She felt weak in algebra and ACT scores,” Julie said. Of the algebra class with Myers, Julie said, “she seems excited.” Kathryn has taken extra classes in the past, once traveling to Chicago for an enrichment program. She and her parents anticipate the possibility of more classes in the future.

“We’ll probably just see how it goes ... see what looks weak.”

What looks weak may actually be IMP, as Pat Sterck realized. Though the IMP website lists hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States and Canada that accept IMP math credits, she realized her daughter, Elise, has plans that may not include one of those locations of higher education. Upon contacting the University of Wyoming School of Pharmacy to find suggested coursework for potential students, Sterck reports she was informed that the school was not familiar with the IMP curriculum at PHS; it was recommended that algebra, trigonometry and calculus be taken in preparation.

Furthermore, Elise Sterck “personally felt I was not getting enough education with IMP ... my scores went down on the ACT and PAWG.” So she is currently taking algebra I online through Brigham Young University. She is taking part one over the summer, part two in the fall of her sophomore year, part one of algebra II next spring and part two of algebra II next summer. Having started to learn concepts of algebra in middle school, Elise said some of what the BYU class covers is familiar, but she has forgotten much, having shifted into a different mode of progress with IMP. The class “brings up new things I probably should know but don’t,” Elise said.

While some teens would rather spend their entire summer plopped in front of the television, not many imagine an afternoon of math movies. Taylor Irwin and Shanna Corwin, both upcoming sophomores, opted to take DVD classes in introductory Algebra and Algebra I, respectively.

Her freshman year IMP class served only to “reiterate the year before,” said Taylor. She too, felt she was not being challenged enough in her math class.

Anna Corwin, Shanna’s mother, also noted the pace at which her daughter’s IMP book moved.

“I was excited about the new math in the middle school, but last year it just didn’t keep progressing,” Anna said. Concerned about the amount of algebra her daughter was facing, she and Shanna choose a program of 30 half-hour lessons in addition to workbook assignments for the summer. Anna noticed this summer some of the impacts IMP did have on Shanna’s math skills.

“They (students) do understand the math ... it is making algebra easier for Shanna,” she said.

The focus on algebra is a common thread among these students and corresponds with the IMP design of mixing disciplines each year and introducing more Algebra throughout the four-year curriculum rather than isolating the subject in one year early in mathematical education.

The lack of confidence may be due to insecurity about a new, different program and difficulties in adjusting from traditional to an interactive math program, in addition to the ongoing conflict and tension surrounding the issue. Next week, data collected regarding the goals and efficacy of IMP will be addressed with respect to the demonstrated desire to enrich the program in Pinedale.

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