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Week 3: Chapters 6-7, Question #2 Which of the equitable strategies resonate with you?

Which of the equitable strategies resonate with you? What is interesting to you about that

Challenge: In collaboration with colleagues, use the equitable strategies to revise a lesson, a unit,
a course sequence, or any other activity provided by your program to make math more inclusive.
Share your plan in the discussion board.


Duane Dorion's picture

The equitable strategy that resonated with me for sure would be "Work to change ideas about who can achieve mathematics."  I work so hard with all my students to have the belief in themselves that they can achieve anything that they set their mind to.  I use this so much in my math classes.  I feel that as teachers we can increase our students self-esteem and they become better students as a result of this.  I work extremely hard on this because its so fulfilling as a teacher to see the students self-confidence increase.  I have had three students get 18 on Hiset tests this year and two of them were female.  I use this as motivation for both sexes.  I have my students work collaboratively together in the classroom doing this activity inside the classroom and also in one room of their house also.  The activity that I do is based upon linear footage of the room, square feet of wall and ceiling, I am looking for the students to calculate carpet, drywall, trim work, base etc... in a room.  We do this activity in the classroom first then at home later.                           






Patricia Helmuth's picture

In adult education, students are assessed on intake and then channeled into a class that reflects their scores on the assessments. Students who don't do well, for example, with basic computational skills will most likely be put into an ABE class unless they got a really high score on the part of the test that assesses application, which brought their average score up to what would be required to be put into an HSE class.

The students who are placed in ABE classes may spends months trying to master multiplication or division, and then if they can do that, they move on to fractions, decimals, and percents. Conversely, I have two classes right now, both of which are not tracked into an ABE or HSE class because they are grouped for other reasons. One of my classes is for students who are under 24 and the other class is at a satellite location. In each case, there is no funding for two teachers, so I teach students who test at all levels. 

I have often used the term "ability-levels" in the past to describe this disparity in test results, but I believe this term to be incorrect. I say this because I spend a lot of time working with my students on functions and open-ended tasks, and most students, regardless of what their initial assessment results may have indicated, are able to work through these tasks even though their basic computational skills seem lacking. For example, I had a student this year who tested 3 times using our state assessment and never got a score above the 5th grade level. However, she was always right there (many times ahead of the other students) when we worked on functions and open-ended tasks in class and when it came to taking the TASC exam, she passed.

In sum, offering all students high-level content, as Jo Boaler asserts, is imperative if we want to level the playing field for all students. Should we be holding them back because they can't remember all the steps to do long division?

ecappleton's picture


You make a powerful case for not holding our students back. I was really interested to read about your experiences with multiple levels in the same class (whether those levels are real or perceived based on standardized tests). This section of Boaler's book hit me as well, because I realized that most math classes I've been in are grouped by ability, based on the TABE test. In NYC, the programs are generally big enough that classes are at two or three different levels of math (though there are some programs where students are leveled by reading scores and all subjects, including math, are taught in the class). I really have never thought about this before. Ability grouping just seemed to be obviously correct, but my experience using low-entry, high-ceiling problems has shown me that many kinds of people can be successful in the same room, though they may not get to the same place with any given problem. I was working on the Cuisenaire rod trains problem in a math circle with teachers recently where some teachers were building each train with rods one at a time, one teacher immediately skipped to numbers, and a staff developer with a Phd in math education worked on a 3-dimensional version of the problem. Everyone was fully engaged the whole time. At the end, we were able to build from the concrete towards abstract and representational solutions.

The reality is that all of our classes are multi-level. Boaler has helped me see that this isn't something particular to adult education and, more importantly, it's not a bad thing. What would it take for our field to embrace multi-level (i.e. diverse knowledge, diverse experience, diverse skills) classrooms in the way you have?