When Sydney Conley was completing her methods courses at the Ohio State University at Mansfield, she was not particularly fond of the Algebra Project training she was receiving. However, after going on to teach at a Mansfield charter school, Prospect elementary, and Butler in the Clear Fork school district, she came to realize there is no other method she would rather use in her classroom.
“Throughout that [5 years of college] I was just like, ‘I don’t think so.'” “When I stared applying [the Algebra Project] with methods and student teaching…I saw how the kids could take it and run with it. They can really flourish with letting them discover what you’re trying tot teach.”
The core of Math Literacy and the Algebra Project is allowing students to take an active role in their own education. With this kind of instruction, they build their own ideas about how mathematics operates through experience and discussion. Conley began using Algebra Project instruction while teaching at a Mansfield charter school. When she transferred to Prospect Elementary in the Mansfield school district, this instruction became the foundation on which her students understood mathematics.
“[Instruction] was all Algebra Project, 5-step lesson, and I can say that my third graders last year completely understood the connection between area and perimeter because we did this Math Literacy lesson.”
When Conley made another transfer to teach Kindergarten at Butler, Math Literacy lessons made a huge impact in the engagement of her students as well. She used the winding game with her kindergarteners to teach the base-ten system, and they exceeded expectations.
“I couldn’t believe how much I had participation through my class. I was because they got to do it, they got to partake, and take ownership.”
Conley’s students were also using other methods they had learned in their classroom during their shared experience without being prompted. In her classroom, the students count to 100 every day. As they are counting, they clap their hands on each multiple of ten. Conley mentioned that as her students were playing the winding game, every time someone walked past ten chairs, the students would clap their hands without being asked.
“From learning about Algebra Project to now, I would’ve said, ‘absolutely I would never do this in a kindergarten classroom,’ when I started college. And now, I would’ve never thought kindergarten could do this, but they did it better than my expectations.”
However, one of the more difficult components of implementing the Algebra Project instruction is letting the students form their own ideas without help. Conley mentioned that she had not been taught with the Algebra Project as she completed her schooling, which made it more difficult to understand how the students she would teach could come to master mathematics.
“Giving them the answer is contradictory to what Algebra Project is. You’re supposed to let them come up with something.”
Even though this method of instruction did not come easily to Conley at first, she now finds it to be completely worth while.