The school year may be finished for students at Voorhees Middle School, but the new digital math program that was being piloted at the school since January is here to stay.
At the most recent meeting of the Voorhees Township BOE, the board approved use of Discovery Education’s “Math Techbook” in math classes for all students in grades seven and eight for the 2015–2016 school year.
According to VMS math teacher Tamie Wilhelm, the Techbook is an online digital course that supplements the current math curriculum while also being aligned with the state common core standards and containing problems that mimic those on the annual Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessments.
Wilhelm said teachers have been critically evaluating a number of math textbooks for the past two years and believe Techbook is the best program available for VMS’ “blended learning approach,” which combines face-to-face instruction and online learning.
Wilhelm said she also believes the Techbook is going to be a “perfect” complement to VMS’ one-to-one iPad initiative.
“It has appealing content, and it’s academically rigorous,” Wilhelm said. “Additionally, the Techbook includes progressively difficult levels of real-world problems.”
As such, Wilhelm said the program would provide opportunities to address the needs of all students, the ones who are struggling in math, and advanced students who will have access to higher-level course work.
VMS math teacher Margaret Frasca said the program presents students with lessons divided into three areas: discovery, practice and application.
In the discovery phase, students are presented with situations and asked to investigate and come up with a conceptual understanding of mathematical concepts.
“They’re not just told things,” Frasca said. “They have to try to discover it.”
Frasca said the practice phase, which consists of practice and play sections, is where teachers can look for student fluency in actual mathematical exercises.
In the practice section, Frasca said students will be asked to try an exercise, and if they get it wrong, they can get on-screen feedback from the program to help guide them before being asked to try it again.
In the play section, Frasca said students would earn online badges for getting correct answers.
“I’m planning to use it to differentiate, so I don’t know that all of my students will need the coach section. Some can go right to the play part of the practice,” Frasca said.
According to Frasca, this is where PARCC-like exercises will appear, where students might have to drag and drop things on screen or where problems with multiple correct answers could be asked.
In the final application phase, Frasca said students might be presented with a real life situation, or might have to watch a short video much like on the PARCC assessments and then apply the skills they just learned and react to it.
Frasca said the Techbook would provide teachers with a planning page just like a traditional textbook would, and would also have a teacher database page where teachers could see how students scored and view a breakdown of every question they answered and how many attempts it took.