Math by Any Other Name is Still Math

By Sheila Butler

Who loves math? ME ME ME!!!! What? You don’t LOVE math? Why not? Because … It is hard; you don’t get it; you can’t remember the rules etc. etc. Let me throw this out there – everyone can learn to do math and love it (or at least not hate it) – really. I promise.

The GED as we know it – is no more. That is kind of scary isn’t it? This new test they can’t even decide on a name to call it – first it was the TASC (it is still the TASC) but now it is the High School Equivalency Test or (HSE) because that way if they change their mind on which test to use they don’t have to rename it once again, since we have 3 choices. Pretty smart thinking if you ask me; and don’t our students want a High School Diploma? This seems much more like one.

Does a name change mean we do math differently? NO! Do we do more advanced math added on to what we have always taught? YES! Don’t throw away your books, because Math is Math is Math. You will need to get at least a beginning, first and second year Algebra book and a Geometry book if for no other reason than to have questions to use for examples because making up Algebra questions out of your head is a challenging though a very fun brain activity. If you want them to come out pretty, you have to work them backwards for that to happen. It is kind of like writing or reading upside down.

There are some wonderful free sites online – my favorite is Martin-Gay Pre-Algebra Intro Algebra 3e – if they work through the topics till Chapter 16 they will pass their HSE and be also able to go to their Accuplacer – her other books are good too.

Don’t know how to do math yourself? Go to Khan Academy and watch lessons on the topics you are teaching or go to YouTube and look up the Martin-Gay book referenced above and she has a channel and will explain every question in her chapter tests (I think she explains integers weirdly so we skip chapter 2). Your students can do this too.

I have been lucky to be part of Math Camp (Adult Numeracy Institute) this year – doesn’t Math Camp just sound more fun? It teaches hands on math and yes adults need to understand math not just memorize the rules – they need to discover the rules through exploration of how numbers play together. Next year, sign up – I get to take the next level – I can’t remember its name but I will call it Math Camp squared. There is a LINCS workshop coming up in April on 2 areas of Math – sign up. If you want to come to Bloomington and it is full, let me know and I will give you my space – I am just a math junkie, I don’t really need to be trained. I am always looking for new ways to teach math.

In Math, I have added chapters 10 through 16 which includes: polynomials, FOIL and Factoring of Polynomials, Rational Expressions with Polynomials, Graphing equations, Point Slope, Quadratic Equation and I will also include Soh Cah Toa Triangles for Trigonometry and Probability with the probability formulas they give on the formula sheet. The rest of what we have always taught is still necessary. Ask open ended questions that do not have the answer obviously in the question – make them problem solve and think it out and explain it back to you. Use manipulatives to teach math. Review their Computation basics every day before they begin as they forget them.

We feel we are preparing them well for all subjects through our group activities. My student teacher scaffolded their writing instruction and used to improve their editing skills, taught them google research of topics in science and social studies, improved their vocabulary through some challenging reading and everyone went to a 12.9+ in Reading and Language on TABE A, but one of the students from another teacher who took the test was at a 9.4 in Reading and Language and he passed the HSE so that may be a good sign and he was not a native speaker. So far the 2 students that have taken the test came in with 12.9+ math scores and both scored nearly 600 but they did not post, PF or readiness test. I have 8 to 10 in the shoot ready to go when that readiness test gets here – they want to feel it before they take it for real. The test has been ordered, cross your fingers for first week of March.

Have you had any students take the HSE yet? What were their TABE scores pre and post? Did you give them a readiness test or an old GED practice test? We need to compile data so we can make predictive connections. I am telling my students they need an 11.0 or higher on TABE A before I will let them take a readiness test. We are giving them a PF Practice GED so we have a number that means something to our brains and then when we get the readiness test (hopefully next week) I will give them that and then those that are ready will take the real thing and I will look for patterns.

Basically, I am pretending they are preparing for their Accuplacer. After I give the readiness test to my 11.0 and higher students, and if they pass I will start lowering the bar for acceptable scores.

I totally do group teaching for all subjects – they use PLATO and ITTS and WIN for homework or worksheets. I am finding it is going to take me 9 to 12 weeks for students who read at a 9th grade level coming in, it doesn’t matter where they come in for math – I teach a 9 – 12 week math course and cover everything from Multiplication/Division (Tic Tac Toe and short hand division) to high level algebra and we build on each skill taught. This is the same time frame I had for my GED/Accuplacer students. I will let you all know how my first sets of tests come out at the end of March.

Remember not to talk negatively about math to your students; if you are excited and say it is fun they too will believe it is fun. Keep computing.

Sheila Butler, Adult Ed Teacher with Broadview Learning