STEM & Teacher Training | News

U Florida To Build Teacher Network To Support Middle School Math

A "design and build" shop for education at the University of Florida just received a $250,000 grant to build a teacher network to go along with a new tool introduced in 2013 to help students with algebra. The Lastinger Center for Learning, which introduced Algebra Nation to Florida teachers, will now be able to give them additional supports with the new funding.

Algebra Nation is a free online Web site specifically designed to help Florida middle school students learn the concepts needed to pass the state's Algebra 1 end-of-course exam. In spring 2012, when the initiative was first announced, 40 percent of students failed the test; in high-needs schools that failure rate would top 80 percent. Since the initial launch about 250,000 students and 4,000 teachers in all 67 Florida school districts have become active users in the e-learning system. The Florida Legislature has invested $2 million in the program.

Algebra Nation uses short videos, study guides and practice exams to help students learn each algebra concept. The application was created in partnership with Study Edge, a Florida-based online tutoring service.

The new teacher network will provide multiple forms of professional development and best practices to accompany the study site, including:

  • Videos of classroom instruction that show mathematical practices;
  • Searchable discussion forums;
  • Lesson plans and classroom materials; and
  • Guides to help teachers spark classroom discussions.

"We want teachers to share their own strategies," said Joy Schackow, STEM professor-in-residence in Pinellas County and Algebra Nation's math expert. "But we will also be providing resources for them."

The latest grant came from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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