Guest Blog: John Seelke, High School Math Teacher
This item comes from John Seelke, a high school math teacher and 2007 Presidential Awardee in Math and Science Teaching (PAEMST) in Washington, D.C.. I met John at a teacher town hall with Secretary Duncan at SiriusXM in July. At the time, I was struck by his passion for teaching and reaching at-risk students. He recently passed along a strategy called “Remediation through Acceleration,” which he uses to help students who are behind in math while teaching the regular curriculum. –Laurie Calvert, Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow
For years, math teachers have faced the conundrum of what to do with students who are in their class but are not fully prepared to tackle the grade-level material. For some teachers, the solution has been to focus on remediation (for example, spending weeks on positive and negative numbers in an Algebra I class). I found this strategy unsatisfying, however, because it continually leaves students with gaps in their knowledge, and those gaps are simply passed on to the following year’s teacher.
As a new teacher at McKinley Technology High School, I struggled to get kids caught up while also teaching them the material within the curriculum. Fortunately, my principal introduced to me the idea of “remediation through acceleration.” The concept introduces students to higher-level thinking and higher-level problems. Within the context of those problems, the teacher offers remediation to students who need it.
On the first day of the school year, I adopted this method in the first lesson for my pre-calculus class. Instead of spending the class on review, I had the students create a unit circle, using concepts they should have learned from previous classes (plotting points, using a protractor, etc.). By the end of the second day of class, students had used the assignment to create a unit circle and a sine and cosine graph. By monitoring each student’s progress at every step, I could tell which students struggled with math concepts, and I targeted them individually. Most importantly, the students moved ahead with important material in the pre-calculus class and felt proud that they were learning something new.
Download from the IES Clearinghouse: Research on Helping Struggling Students in Math.