NCTM’s Algebra strand emphasizes the following:
- Understand patterns, relations, and functions
- Represent and analyze mathematical situations and structures using algebraic symbols
- Use mathematical models to represent and understand quantitative relationships
The systemic mission of making Texas students Algebra Ready is of significant importance. This is especially true as the state transitions into the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR™) in order to drive the cognitive abilities of our students in Mathematics through the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). The focus must also be on the development of the student to gain the necessary knowledge and skills that are essential for the targeted success of being College and Career Ready, as referenced by the College and Career Readiness Standards and Cross Disciplinary Standards. In order to affect this change, part of the Algebra Readiness program addresses programs that are designed to improve the teachers’ Mathematics content knowledge for instructional effectiveness in supporting struggling learners, while also developing the skills and knowledge of school leaders to facilitate Mathematics instruction that supports the success for all students in the middle grades.
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Across the state, campuses that have been awarded the Algebra Readiness Grant by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) are working with IPSI staff to implement sustaining changes in the actions and behaviors of Mathematics teaching and learning using the research-based key practices listed below.
The goal for these campuses is to increase student achievement in Mathematics at the secondary level with the main focus on strengthening the impact of Mathematics learning and teaching during the middle grades. In this effort, these campuses will ensure all students are high school and college ready, while communicating and sharing these best practice experiences with the entire state.
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The algebraic tenets below are concepts to use when preparing students for high school mathematics. In order to be Algebra Ready students need to be able to understand and use these concepts while in middle school. These five concepts form the basis of Algebra Readiness: algebraic structure, patterns, proportional reasoning, reversibility, and functions.
The generalization of arithmetic is a necessary skill when student move toward algebra. The commutative, associative, and distributive properties are used in both arithmetic and algebra. Investigating equivalence relationships with arithmetic can help students understand algebraic equivalence. Students generalize arithmetic through patterns, tables, and graphical representations.
Understanding patterns is an important step as students work toward understanding functional relationships in high school. Students need to identify and extend patterns in order to make predictions and generalizations. Students can also see that patterns in arithmetic are patterns in algebra.
Proportional reasoning is an integral aspect for preparing students for high school mathematics. Opportunities should be provided for students to develop proportional reasoning skills in areas such as percentages, proportions, similarity, and scaling. These opportunities can then be applied to algebra and the real world.
The concept of reversibility is important for high school because of the “doing” and “undoing” that is part of understanding algebraic equations. In middle school, students investigate reversibility with relationships between addition/subtraction and multiplication/division. These investigations lead to understanding reversibility in equations involving the algebraic properties including equality properties, identity properties, and substitution properties.
Understanding functions is vital as students prepare for high school because the algebra framework in Texas is organized with a functions-based approach. Students can be prepared by helping them develop the notion of a variable within a context and mathematically constructing relationships between variables. In addition, students should make connections between the various representations of a function.
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As a catalyst for change, the Instructional Coach will assist and empower Mathematics teachers with the focus of improving instruction to thereby enhance student leaning.
As a central component for facilitating improvement in the instructional processes of teachers, the Mathematics Instructional Coach must be a teacher leader that serves as a guide to ensure that the TEKS are fully implemented in each Mathematics classroom. Additionally, the Mathematics Instructional Coach is the ongoing implementation of Professional Development for the teachers in the form of observation, co-teaching, modeling, collaborative planning, and diagnosing misconceptions in the classroom learning environment.
In order to provide rich learning activities with opportunities for cognitive growth, teachers and students must have ample time with a well-defined focus and structure to explore and investigate learning in Mathematics.
To address the academic needs of disadvantaged students while closing the learning gap between student groups, Mathematics classes must be on average 80 minutes per day, or 400 total minutes in the course of a week. This will provide students ample time to investigate on, experiment and test conjectures over Mathematical content while providing the teacher with continuous opportunity for assessment and evaluation of student progress.
To facilitate systemic growth, collaboration time must be sustained for teachers to address essential needs of the students while also enhancing their own learning and planning efforts.
This key element must be provided to teachers in order to ensure that time is devoted to study and disaggregate the TEKS. In addition, the intentional plans must be made to anticipate where students will struggle in the acquisition of new knowledge, while also discussing what evidence must be present on behalf of the student to illustrate mastery. Lastly, it will provide the teachers the opportunity to discuss the Mathematics for student preparedness, as well as teacher content strengthening.
Rigorous and relevant learning experiences are vital to students becoming engaged in many domains, ensuring that students are challenged and supported in Mathematics.
In order to personalize learning and extract the full potential of the 21st Century learners that occupy our Mathematics classrooms, students must be engaged cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally. Within this key practice, the design for rigorous and relevant instruction must be met in order to break down the barriers of isolated learning experiences. The acquisition of new skills and Mathematics content on behalf of the teacher is one of the greatest contributors to combatting lack of student engagement in the Mathematics classroom. Consequently, the professional development of teachers and administrators must also meet the engagement needs of the learner in the same manner as that of the students.
As teachers continue to enhance the TEKS through instructional practices and learning activities there is a need to utilize supplement instructional resources that will guarantee high quality and aligned learning experiences.
To provide effective instruction, classrooms must contain supplemental instructional resources that will compel teachers to facilitate student-centered activities and differentiated instructional strategies. To accomplish this task, these resources must be more than multiple-choice item banks and TEKS aligned to address specific data related gaps that have emerged from campus trends. Additionally, this supplemental instructional resource will impact the level of planning and collaboration about the instructional models used with teachers during the Common Planning Time.
Classrooms brimming with 21st Century Learners necessitate that technology be utilized to enrich the Mathematics TEKS through connected communication, exploration, and collaboration.
Enhancing the TEKS in the Mathematics classroom is the role of various technologies. Extending beyond the boundaries of a computer, our technology must create a bridge to language and engage learners in visual learning opportunities while being efficient, sustainable, portable and cost effective.
Community partnerships, especially with parents, are a vital role in promoting and augmenting a students’ success in Mathematics, ensuring that schools provide essential support for both the parents and the students.
The involvement of parents and families in the Mathematical education of a student is a critical component to ongoing support and success for students. In addition, opening and maintain effective streams of communication that is two-way is an essential for the sustainable success for a campus and its students. Parents must be engaged in discussion regarding school programs and progress towards Mathematics achievement for their respective students. In turn, collaborating with the community, volunteerism, and learning at home are essential to promoting success in Mathematics.
To continue the evolution of instruction, appropriate and engaging Professional Development is essential to deepen the pedagogical content knowledge of Mathematics teachers.
Within the Algebra Readiness Grant, teachers are required to attend the MSTAR (Middle School Students in Texas Algebra Ready) Foundations (Grades 5-6 or 7-8) as well as the Algebra 1 EOC Success training. In tandem with these training opportunities, the ESTAR (Elementary School Students in Texas Algebra Ready) will be available to support elementary teachers and students in the vertical strand focused on Algebra Readiness. Many other Professional Development opportunities that address teacher content knowledge, as well as the pedagogical content knowledge base of Mathematics teachers are being developed and delivered during the participation in the Algebra Readiness Grant. See Project Share for more opportunities.
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Through Project Share, the Texas Education Agency’s online learning community, all of the teachers, administrators and support staff in the Algebra Readiness Grant have been grouped to share and collaborate implementation of the Key Practices in the grant. Additionally, professional development opportunities and teacher resources are being utilized to help sustain the effort of improvement for the grant campuses.
For more information, or account access, contact Texas Education Service Center (ESC) or email Project Share.
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In preparation for reform in the Mathematics classrooms at the middle grades, teachers and administrators at the Algebra Readiness Grant campuses have received extensive training in the sustainable implementation of the Key Practices described above. All training materials referenced are available via Project Share and the various groups that Algebra Readiness Grantees represent. Additional trainings are provided by the Technical Assistance provider, the Institute for Public School Initiatives Division of College Readiness. For more information, see the contact information below.
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