Top 5 Strategies to Boost Algebra Readiness

Middle school and high school can be challenging, especially for students who are struggling with the foundational skills necessary for entry into algebra. Struggles in this area can cause students to feel insecure and frustrated, especially when more advanced math concepts are introduced. Without proper support and specialized instruction, some may stop applying themselves altogether.

Here are 5 strategies for identifying students who need extra assistance or a different instructional approach as they prepare for algebra, along with ways to keep them motivated as they move toward algebra readiness.

AVOID COGNITIVE OVERLOAD

Cognitive overload can occur when learners have too much to process. Using a dual-topic approach, like building number concepts and then assigning problem solving tasks, can reduce the risk of cognitive overload. For example, students may work on fractions and denominators during the building number concepts component, and then move on to drawing a number line as the problem-solving task. This dual-topic approach keeps students engaged and helps prevent mental fatigue.

ENHANCE INSTRUCTION WITH

ONLINE TOOLS

Were you ever struggling in math until you got a teacher who somehow made it “click” for you? Students having difficulties in math may simply need a different instructional approach. It can be challenging for a single teacher to vary his or her approach so that every student in the class “gets it.” Fortunately, technology and tutorial videos can be used to reinforce difficult math concepts and assist with teacher modeling.

UNDERSTAND STUDENTS’ READINESS FOR GRADE-LEVEL MATHEMATICS

Math instruction can be adjusted to meet a student’s skill level when a teacher can assess and understand that student’s starting math achievement level, as well as the difficulty level of a given task. The Quantile® Framework can provide this insight, and the data obtained can be used to place students into the right curriculum or intervention and monitor their progress throughout. Be sure to use a reliable math screener to ensure proper placement for each student.

TEACH EACH TOPIC TO MASTERY

As students build their foundational math skills and work toward reaching grade-level instruction, the practice of previously taught skills creates retention of those skills and concepts. This distributed practice is successful when strategically used to reinforce the basic skills that are used to teach the main math lesson. This practice is also successful when implemented at the beginning of a lesson and as a tool for home study. Distributed practice builds skills and concepts that last and creates opportunities for students to feel successful along the way!

DIFFERENTIATE INSTRUCTION

In the math classroom, it is important for educators to understand the individual needs of each of their students, and then meet each student where they are by differentiating instruction accordingly. To accomplish this, try providing a quiz every few lessons to gauge the skill level of each student, and provide an extension activity for those who are progressing on track. Extension activities can be small-group or independent learning projects. Critical thinking, independence, and deep learning connections are at the forefront of these activities.

Each of these tips and tools is part of the new edition of TransMath, a comprehensive math intervention curriculum that targets middle and high school students who lack the foundational skills necessary for entry into algebra and are two or more years below grade level in math. The new Third Edition emphasizes fewer topics in greater depth while accelerating students to more advanced math, from number sense to rational numbers to understanding algebra.