EUREKA — Traditional math classes can be frustrating, boring or both for students, but Eureka Middle School officials think they have solved that problem by creating their own “virtual textbooks.”
In a traditional lecture class, students who get a concept quickly may become bored while the teacher tries to bring the others up to speed. If the class moves too quickly, however, some students feel left behind. And the wait for homework to be graded and returned delays needed feedback.
Using Notebook computers in class to access lesson materials prepared by the teachers has changed that this year for seventh- and eighth-graders. Now students who grasp the material can work ahead while others work one-on-one with a teacher or in small groups to master the material, and exercises are scored immediately.
“Over all, it’s been very positive,” eighth-grade math teacher Sandy Tignor said of the program so far. “Not a single eighth-grade student is doing poorly in math. The lowest grade right now is a low B.”
The concept, part of an overall technology plan for Eureka-based District 140, is the first of its kind in the Congerville, Eureka, Goodfield school system.
When the new state core curriculum standards were announced last year, the district purchased new math textbooks for grades up to sixth. But Superintendent Bob Gold, who was assistant superintendent at the time, wanted something different for seventh- and eighth-grade math.
He met with Tignor and seventh-grade math teacher Stacy Mooney to talk about the possibility of developing an electronic textbook. The teachers compiled the curriculum they wanted to use and spent the summer preparing online “virtual textbooks” with a program that also monitors each student’s progress and scores.
Notebook computers, which stay at the school, are used in class to access the program through the district’s wireless network.
Thanks to relying on the district’s own teachers’ skills, the cost of the new equipment was “a wash” compared to buying new textbooks, Gold said.
Mooney and Tignor created a video for each lesson and developed homework problems to match. Students must have at least 80 percent of the answers correct before going on to the next lesson.
The teachers track how much time each student spends at a lesson and the students’ scores and intervene when they see trouble.
Students can access lessons via the district’s website on any Internet-capable computer away from school, but students are encouraged to do their math homework at school. Students may use the math lab during study hall or in the after-school homework club.
“They do have a lot of time to (complete their math homework), if they use their time wisely,” said Mooney.