algebra'scool Lives Up to It's Name
by Diane S. Kendall, October 24, 2003
I am almost embarrassed to say that my fondest memory of high school algebra is the test I once got back with a 25/100 at the top. Luckily the teacher had reversed the numbers and the grade actually was a 75. Either way a math student like me could have used a bit of the kind of help offered by the DVD series algebra'scool from BestQuest.
Imagine for a moment that some of the characters of Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, and other television series favorites have grown up a bit, are all now in high school, and have discovered the best way to learn something is to teach it to others. Form a mental image of the implications of that composite and you'll at least have an inkling of the upbeat pace, sense of humor, relevant wisdom, and graphic quality of the group of characters - Mr. Frogan and his diverse students - that bring algebra'scool to life. The characters aren't puppets nor are they cartoons (take a gander at the included screen shots to see what they look like), but the cast of algebra'scool has just the right degree of sophistication and always keeps one goal in mind. They want to enliven and enrich the teaching of beginning algebra. And they do a remarkably good job of it for the seventh to tenth grade audiences they aim at.
All the basics of algebra are here interspersed with graphics, manipulatives, calculator activities and animated sequences that focus on making math relevant by relating it to the characters lives -like figuring out what the best angle is for a homemade skateboard ramp. The course is broken up into Units A - F (which can be purchased as a set or individually), and all arrive on DVD so they can be used on a properly equipped computer or with a DVD player and TV. That also means that the units (which have all been aligned to the NCTM Standards, all 50 states' frameworks, benchmarks, and/or standards and multiple textbooks) can be used by individual students to review or catch up, or by a whole class to introduce a new concept or two. It can also be used as the whole course. Instructor's materials include teaching suggestions and blackline masters for guided notes, guided practice, independent practice, additional review and tests.
But besides using DVD, a cool technology that is accessible to most any classroom, the other thing that differentiates this math series is that Mr. Frogan and his class introduce kids to 25 Frogan's Heroes. These "heroes" are people from all walks of life and varying professions, seen through the use of actual footage, who help kids recognize how algebra is used in the real world. This has been done before, but the easy-to-access footage makes it simple to add this important message to a math lesson with little or no fuss.
This series is not just another math textbook enhanced by technology. In fact, I think it was conceived and created just the way it should have been. In other words, the creators knew what technology could do and carefully helped their math educator counterparts come to see how adding a visual and interactive plot and onscreen maniplatives could help all kinds of learners conceive math concepts more concretely and move ahead at their own pace. It's great when the marriage of technology and education turns out to be a love match.
Oh, and by the way, I am getting a second chance at algebra with my seventh grader son. You'll be glad to know I am doing much better this second time around.
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