In our district, we have been focused on improving math instruction and successful comprehension of Algebra content. We recognize that success in Algebra is a result not only of good instruction in the course, but excellent preparation in the grades leading up to the course. We've tried several options and formats for the course for struggling students, including a 2-year Algebra A/B course, a Power Algebra course, and a 2-period year-long course. Next year we are piloting algebra courses using the Carnegie Learning curriculum.
What I love about our school system and school is that we first ask the question, "What's best for our students?" Then we try to find a solution. We aren't afraid to try something new or take risks, as long as what we are doing is what we think is best for students.
Our struggling algebra students would end up in a path that typically included Algebra A & B in ninth grade, Geometry Principles in 10th grade, Algebraic Connections in 11th grade, then Algebra II non-Trig in 12th grade. These students never "catch up." The Algebraic Connections class is a class that doesn't prepare them for the ACT, and these are the students who will most likely end up in remedial math classes in college.
This is not a problem unique to our high school, as there are students across the state and country who are struggling with math classes and are taking remedial math classes in college. Algebra I is often called the "gatekeeper" to high school graduation and success beyond high school.
In one of our recent meetings, our district's assistant superintendent of curriculum said something that I thought was inspiring, amazing, and over the top! He said, "Our goal needs to be to do away with Algebraic Connections." In other words, our students need to "catch up," and get on the grade-level path which includes Algebra II in 11th grade.
This type of thinking is called "Moonshot Thinking."
At Google X, Astro Teller is the "Captain of Moonshots." Fast Company magazine calls Teller's moonshots "his catchall description for audacious innovations that have a slim chance of succeeding but might revolutionize the world if they do."
While Google applies moonshots to technology, moonshot thinking can be applied to any aspect of life. According to Google, "Instead of a mere 10% gain, a moonshot aims for a 10x improvement over what currently exists."
Check out this video from Google on Moonshot Thinking:
(If your device won't display the video above, click here to play:
At the ISTE conference this week, we all got to hear Moonshot Thinking from inspiring educators like Pernille Ripp, Bob Dillon, and Rafranz Davis. Their Ignite sessions challenged us to throw out small improvements and make changes that push us to improve 10x. When we're trying to improve 10x as opposed to 10%, it challenges us to throw out what we know and look for answers in ways and places we haven't explored before.
I appreciate the vision for math from our Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, the inspiration and challenges from Pernille, Bob, and Rafranz, and I am encouraged by the heart of the educators I connect with on Twitter who are working hard to make education and learning wonderful for students. NOW is the time for ALL of us to take action and shoot for the moon!