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Mansfield Algebra Project growing, showing results

Excerpted from Richland Source, By Mindy McKenzie, originally posted Sept. 17, 2013

“The Algebra Project changed everything about teaching math to students because it really pulls on the kid’s knowledge and allows them to engage much more in the classroom,” said Amy Bradley, second grade teacher of Mansfield City Schools, in Mansfield, OH.

“The Algebra Project began in Mansfield Senior High School after we received a grant in 2008. The Algebra Project, Inc., won a $4,000,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant for work in four sites, including ours. Mansfield was the most undeveloped and smallest of the four sites, but we kind of grew the biggest project in the end. We received two other grants that we worked on locally from The State of Ohio Board of Regents and The Ohio State University,” said site director for the Mansfield Algebra Project, Lee McEwan.

Dr. Nell Cobb, an associate professor of math education at DePaul University, specializes in research with the Algebra Project. From her perspective, the growth at Mansfield is noteworthy. “In terms of the Math Cohort project at the high school, Mansfield had the most growth nationwide,” she said, “That’s success because some of those students were not on the college track and now they are enrolled in college and joining the military.”

The growth has not stopped. In fact, the program recently stretched its reach one step further.

“For four years the Algebra Project was strictly in the high school and then in the early part of last year we brought it to grades K-8,” said McEwan.

“We will be using the tools of the Algebra Project in grades K-16 and this is very exciting for both Mansfield City Schools and the university,” said co-director of the Ohio State University-Mansfield Algebra Project, Dr. Terri Bucci.

Integrating a better understanding of math and science in schools will help prepare students for future success. “It’s one of our goals to prepare students for this new world that has such a big focus on math and science. If we aren’t connecting the way that we need to then we are not setting them up to participate in that world. We are trying to make a seamless connection between Mansfield City Schools and the university,” said Bucci.

Teachers want to allow students to choose a method for problem solving that will best accommodate them. “The kids have more freedom to explore different paths to problem solving and there is less fear of being wrong with justifying their thinking. This has been a huge confidence booster and we are seeing the students feel empowered,” said Bradley.

“We are involved in a teacher preparation program here where we can prepare future teachers to be able to teach the Algebra Project. The idea is to teach them from the very beginning,” said McEwan. The Algebra Project has been implemented at The Ohio State University-Mansfield. “We are working extremely hard to align the content and the way we teach the courses with the way we want them to teach,” said McEwan.

As the program moves forward, the future is not without challenges, but also has even higher aspirations. “We are looking towards growth, but funding is an issue. It is difficult to get resources,” said McEwan. “The next big thing we are working on is to build a center at The Ohio State University-Mansfield that would coordinate all of the activities and would have some administrative help,” said McEwan, “We want to expand the Algebra Project beyond Mansfield City Schools in the future, but it will take time.”

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