Q&A #2916

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Accelerated Math program

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From: Joe Green

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2007102518:05:44
Subject: AM - the good, bad and ugly

The concept of AM is brilliant - personalize the delivery of content
to its intened user. This is the same track medicine and other
disciplines are following - how to personalize treatments, drugs,
dosage, etc., to the individual instead of taking a one-size-fits-all
approach, which is just what the traditional style of teaching math is
- a one-size-fits-all approach. The teacher may think they are
reaching all students, but some are out in la-la land.

AM really is a paradigm shift in teaching. One complaint a middle
school principal had was, "I don't want a machine teaching the kids -
I want a teacher teaching the kids". A parent in this forum complained
that having a kid sit in front of a computer all period is not going
to help his math scores. Both these complaints rest on basic
misconceptions. The teacher still does the teaching - first with 10-15
minute mini-lessons, then with personalized, small group instruction.
The computer takes care of all the drudgery of teaching -scoring,
ranking, compiling, etc. The teacher can then do the fun stuff. The
real strength of AM is that it allows the teacher to get almost
immediate feedback on where each student stands. No more waiting 'til
midterms to see who bombs out. The instructor can evaluate, with a
glance at the "Assignment Book", exactly what each kid "gets", and
doesn't get. Then, with small group instruction, they can target each
kids weakness. It's really like an instructional smart bomb - specific
instruction precisely targeted at very kids who need it - instead of
broadcasting the same information to the whole class, many of whom
already get it and are bored to tears by the repitition. 

The students actually spend very little time in front of a computer
scanning theer answers in. Most of the time is spent working on
practices custom generated to target their weaknesses, with the rest
of the time spent in classroom or small group instruction.

But the program is a synergistic application; if all the pieces are in
place - hardware, software, and motivated teacher -  then it can work
wonders. But if the chain breaks at any link, traditional instruction
is probably better and more reliable. Using AM "just a little", or
"just on Thursdays" doesn't seem to work. It's a complete package, and
a teacher should jump in with both feet and commit to it, or save
himself or herself (and his students) a bunch of heartache,
frustration and wasted time.

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