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Origins of High School Math Cohorts

Since 2002, the Algebra Project has been developing a “Math Cohort Model” that will prepare students who previously performed in the lowest quartile on standardized mathematics exams to graduate high school in four years prepared to succeed in credit bearing college mathematics courses.  The model keeps students and teachers together for successive years of high school in order to “harness the peer culture.”  Classroom pedagogy creates an environment in which students engage in deep mathematical thinking while also developing positive attitudes towards STEM education.  The Cohort Model also pushes students into leadership roles in and outside the classroom, providing opportunities for them to take responsibility for the classroom environment as well as to engage their peers and community members.  They can become co-agents who engage actively and positively with teachers, parents, and others in their pursuit for a quality education.

The Cohort Model was originally developed at Lanier High in Jackson, MS, where participating students completed Algebra I and graduated on-time at almost twice the rate of their peers.  Then, in 2008, the National Science Foundation granted the Algebra Project a 5-year, $4M Discovery Research K-12 award to research this model in four sites which had not previously engaged with the Algebra Project: Mansfield, OH; Los Angeles, CA; Eldorado, IL; and Ypsilanti, MI. The Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the South Bronx, NY collaborated with David Henderson of Cornell University and Kelly Gaddis of Bard College, to develop and implement components of the program. Northwestern High School in Miami, FL, in collaboration with Florida International University, is also implementing high school cohorts.

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