Algebra II – Raw Materials

I now know that in addition to AP Statistics, my other preps will all be Algebra II. I intend to use SBG in my Algebra II classes, just as in AP Stats. The basic approach will be the same: define learning objectives (LOs) and then assess and reassess them. If “nobody” seems to get an LO, then I will be reteaching it. Fine and dandy as far as it goes – hooray for the LOs!  But what should be my TOs (Teacher Objectives)? Beyond the syllabus, what should the Algebra II experience be for the students?

Our school has three de facto tracks for frosh math. Students who did not do well in Algebra I or its equivalent in middle school, take Algebra I again in their first year in high school. Students who did pass Algebra I in middle school take Algebra II as freshmen in high school.  Finally, the top middle school performers in math have the opportunity to go into what we call Pre-AP Algebra II.  Originally conceived as an advanced course, with more challenging problems, Pre-AP Algebra II has just become a place for the better students – not a course whose syllabus is different than the regular one. (For us, Geometry is a sophomore course in the normal sequence).

I will be teaching the middle track, the regular freshmen Algebra II students. Who are these students?  What are the “raw materials” I will have to work with?

In December 2009 I did an analysis of the Algebra II students’ performance. Here is the mid-term grade distribution for the Algebra II freshmen.

This data is across all teachers who had Algebra II at that time – there were no great differences among individual teachers as far as grade distributions.

Another way to assess freshmen students is to look at a longitudinal study of math performance.

My AP Statistics students do end-of-year projects that usually look at student performance in our district.  Below is the data gathered in one such project. This group looked at one cohort of students (6th graders in 2002) and how their state test scores in math changed over the years.  It is clear that a teacher of freshmen will see a drop in performance when compared to middle school. This trend is mirrored across the state and from the data we have, it appears that  it holds not only for state scores, but for class grades as well.

So – if past experience repeats – I have to look forward to students who are not especially well prepared (mathematically) and who for cognitive and social reasons are likely to have a drop in performance compared to their middle school scores.

How should one address these issues? How would they influence my choice of TOs? To be continued…

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