Innovative Math Strategies Used at EWC
May 16, 2008
TORRINGTON, WY -
It is no surprise to be asked to, "Solve this problem," when you walk into an office occupied by four Eastern Wyoming College math instructors. Instructor Bob Creagar continues, "Move the blocks and pawns to make both sides equal."
That's pressure. First off, the blocks are numbered, while the pawns are differentiated by color only--blue and white. This is a new method of solving an algebra problem, and algebra was never your friend anyway.
Pressure is added when you learn that this strategy has been used in the public schools for several years to teach math to children as young as the third grade. Left to your own devices, i.e., having enough time and more information about the pawns, you are certain you could solve the problem. But, it is easier to avoid solving the problem by asking questions about how this relates to what is happening in the Eastern Wyoming math department.
It is just one of the innovative strategies that EWC math instructors Creagar, Cheryl Raboin, Mary Nielsen and Geri Lewis, are using to move into the new century, both in teaching their own classes and in training aspiring math teachers.
"We hosted the math articulation meeting, which consists of math instructors from all of Wyoming's community colleges and the University of Wyoming, in February, and have been increasingly developing ideas since that time," said Raboin. "Teaching math is changing from teaching rules to using manipulative tools, so we need to prepare teachers for this style."
"The blocks and pawns are a change in approach where we use concrete, hands-on learning tools versus the abstract method," explained Nielson. "Students transition from the manipulative tools to the abstract when they are ready. We are also teaching
Raboin noted that she had used the method in a class and that students were able to pick up how to solve the equations in short order.
In other strategies, math instructors this year have begun using "Elluminate Live," a conferencing tool for communicating in their online college algebra classes. They will begin using Query Star, a compressed video program, to teach business calculus online in the fall of 2009. Both online classes are being co-instructed by Raboin and Creagar.
"This is the 'Year of Algebra'," for the American Mathematics Association of Two Year Colleges (AMATYC)," said Creagar. "As such, we will be focusing on algebra for our upcoming meeting in Colorado Springs, CO."
Specifically, Creagar, Raboin and Nielsen, are on the Wyoming team that will be looking at ways to revise the math 1400 (college algebra) curriculum, and studying how to revise pre-calculus. There are also team members from the University and other community colleges.
Changes made to the curriculum will not be overnight, but, rather, thought out carefully to ensure we do what is best for our students," said Raboin.