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For some students, higher math classes can be tricky because their fundamental math skills aren't what they need to be. But the state is trying something new to keep these problems from slowing kids down.
It's a problem math teachers see all the time: kids in algebra classes that don't have the basics down.
Elk Ridge Middle School Math Department Chair Amanda Doty says, "We're trying to teach more advanced concepts and they're getting hung up on maybe simple algebra or negatives or something they should be more concrete on."Doty says the curriculum is what it is, and if a student is having trouble with a particular concept, teachers can't really go back to cover that concept. Ready or not, Doty says eighth-graders have to be in pre-algebra or above. "Even if they haven't mastered the ‘Math 7' stuff as a seventh-grader, they're still advanced because there is nothing else for them," she says.
USA Today says the number of low-performing students in algebra classes more than tripled between 2000 and 2005. Doty says it's common to see students in geometry classes making mistakes in simple math.
"They understand the geometry concept, but it comes back to, maybe, they can't solve the equation," Doty says.
But the State Office of Education is trying a new testing system that can determine more effectively the problems students face.
Superintendent Patti Harrington says, "The computer will sense that and automatically tell the teacher walking out of the lab, ‘Here's exactly what the student is having trouble with.' As opposed to, ‘Repeat the whole year in subtraction or repeat the last chapter.'"
Harrington says the test is so precise, it can point out at which month of which year a student is performing.
"The tutor will know exactly what the child is struggling with and be able to remedy that particular problem," she says.
Harrington says this system is being tried now in Logan, Sevier and Juab districts. Lawmakers will present a bill during this week's special legislative session to allow pilot districts to be exempt from U-PASS accountability from the old form of assessment. She says there are similar tests for language, arts and sciences.