Students taking Algebra one in Mobile County Public Schools have a new tool this year, a virtual tutoring program called Algebra Nation.
Developed by the University of Florida and an educational technology company called Study Edge, Algebra Nation combines video lessons accessible by website or a smartphone app with a workbook as a complement to a student’s algebra one lessons at school. Available to all MCPSS students taking algebra one, it provides a virtual tutor who can augment each day’s lesson and reinforce it at home. Students can actually watch that tutor work through the concepts until they understand them.
“As a second-delivery method, it allows me to let the students see another math teacher present the same type of lesson,” Causey Middle School math teacher Stephanie Maddox said of Algebra Nation. “On a whole classroom level, it allows me to be able to walk around the room while the students are working to see how they’re performing, to see how they’re grasping the concept. I also assign work out of it for them to do at home. That allows them, if they have access to the internet, if they need extra help they can watch someone do the lesson with them, or they can practice it without. So it’s been very helpful.”
Helen Miles, middle school coordinator and secondary math supervisor for MCPSS, said algebra one is a pivotal point in a student’s development of mathematics skills, and the program is a particular help to students who are having trouble picking it up.
“Algebra one is the gate-keeper, most people would say. We need more help with that,” Miles said. “So for a student to be able to go online and click a video and watch that as many times as they want to, and they can go to another person and watch them present that same material, I think that’s a great help for our students.”
And the beauty of the Algebra Nation program’s smartphone app, Maddox said, is that it can be accessed from anywhere. “If you are in a McDonald’s and there’s wi-fi, you can have access to this,” she said. “If you are in Starbucks, you can log on and have someone help you besides me. That part of it, I love.
“There’s not a lot of bells and whistles,” Maddox added. “It’s straight-forward and it’s higher-level thinking in the math. It’s not just rote 2+2=4. It’s incorporating real life and taking them to the level we need them to get in order to be successful.”
Algebra Nation is a pilot program that was brought to Mobile County after showing positive results with improved test scores in Florida. It is being provided at no cost this year, but state official will have to purchase it for it to be used beyond this year. Miles said she hopes they will consider doing so.
“What we’ve seen so far is that our students are able to go in, they’re able to review the concepts with them and then they’re being successful in the classroom, because that’s an additional teacher that’s available to them,” Miles said.