I am teaching an unusual algebra class this year. Basically, it is a section of algebra in which roughly half the students have been identified as special needs. Most of them have IEPs (Individualized Education Program) which indicate that they need to graduate at math competancy levels below those of high school algebra. They are in an algebra class because now our state requires that all students be "exposed" to algebra.
I am frustrated for several reasons: 1. This is a "regular" algebra class. All the state objectives need to be covered. This is difficult to do with so many of my students profoundly handicapped by their lack of understanding of basic arithmetic. (I'm not whining about fractions, mind you. I mean things like 8 times 12 are so mysterious that using a calculator is even a hit or miss proposition. Things like proportions are tricky, tricky, tricky.) 2. Some of the students in this class are extremely capable. Their arithmetic skills & understanding are well-founded. I feel as if I end up shortchanging these students. 3. No amount of creativity seems to help students understand. I have had low-functioning students before and the trick is to get them to discover the rules and make them their own. (The shortcuts for powers come to mind.) This year, I can create all sorts of opportunitities for discovery and it never happens. 4. Retention of previous materials almost is at the negative level. What we learn today is negated by the passing of a mere intake of breath. Along the way students lose what we learned yesterday and the day before. . .etc. 5. Sometimes the IEP requires that the student be given all sorts of extra stuff--like unlimited time and directions (read--tell them how to do it)--on tests. Most of the time I feel okay complying, but I don't think that the result is what the average person would call learning algebra.
(I should note for the international crowd that following the IEP is a federal requirement.)
Anybody out there who can throw me a lifeline? Advice or encouragement?
Thanks, DeAnna McDonald
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