Friday, February 14, 2014

Project PAR: Promoting Algebra Readiness

By Dawn Woods, RME Elementary Mathematics Coordinator

Many students appear to be on-track for mathematics achievement in 4th grade, but exit 8th grade without having developed critical skills in the area of rational numbers (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009). Conceptual understanding of rational numbers, as well as, their symbolic representations is a critical component for understanding everyday situations in algebra. Students must master these foundational skills and concepts at the elementary and middle school levels. Project PAR: Promoting Algebra Readiness is an intervention curriculum designed to build this rational number understanding.

Project PAR is a three-year, Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) funded research study that is working to develop a strategic intervention on rational number concepts that use evidence based strategies. The purpose of this project is to promote algebra readiness for sixth grade students by developing students’ conceptual understanding of rational numbers on a number line. The project team consists of researchers and curriculum experts from the University of Oregon (UO) and Research in Mathematics Education (RME) at Southern Methodist University who have extensive experience designing math interventions for a range of student learners as well as vast teaching experience in the mathematics classroom.

Project PAR is completing the development phase of this study where curriculum writers from the UO and RME have designed the scope and sequence for the intervention, developed approximately 100 print-based lessons, and conducted preliminary feasibility testing of individual lessons. The project is now moving into the implementation phase where classroom intervention teachers in Texas and Oregon are teaching the lessons. At this time curriculum writers and researchers will determine if the lessons have realistic expectations and goals for classroom use as the teachers use the lessons and provide critical feedback. This summer, curriculum writers will revise the curriculum based on the results of the feasibility study in preparation for the pilot study scheduled for the 2014-2015 school year. During the pilot study, the potential promise of the intervention increasing student achievement will be examined.

RME would like to thank the sixth grade math teachers Bush Middle School in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD who opened up their classrooms for the preliminary feasibility testing as well as the sixth grade math teachers at Fowler Middle School in Frisco ISD who are implementing the PAR curriculum during the feasibility study. We could not do our work with out the support of great teachers at great schools who are putting evidence- based strategies into practice!

National Center for Education Statistics (2009). The nation’s report card: Mathematics 2009. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics