Ask any algebra teacher the one thing that often holds students back and they’ll say it’s their lack of fluency with and understanding of fractions. The National Mathematics Advisory Panel (Foundations for Success, 2008), notes the most important foundational skill for learning algebra not presently developed appears to be proficiency with fractions and that it must improve before student achievement in algebra can be expected.
Difficulty with fractions in the U.S. is widespread and is often viewed as a major obstacle to further progress in mathematics and other domains dependent on mathematics. The Fulton Middle School (FMS) math department recognized this as an obstacle for over 80% of their 550 middle school students as well. So late last fall they decided to tackle the problem head on as their team chose fraction fluency as the focus for their intervention program.
Research has shown that many of the mistakes students make when working with fractions can be seen as a consequence of their failure to understand that natural and rational numbers involve different ideas. As you know, the relative nature of fractions is a source of difficulty for students. The fact that the same fraction may refer to different quantities, such as ½ of 6 and ½ of 8, and that different quantities can refer to the same amount – like ¼ and 2/8, can be a source of confusion and misunderstanding.
Another mistake that students often make is to think that 1/3 of a cake is smaller than 1/5 because 3 is less than 5. Yet most children readily recognize that a cake shared among three children gives bigger portions than the same cake shared among five children. Students who struggle with fraction magnitudes also struggle with fraction arithmetic in middle grades and the struggle intensifies through middle school where the difference between low and high achieving 6th graders in math is much greater by 8th grade. Siegler, R.& Pyke, A.(2012).
The FMS teachers began by first administering a fraction pre-test to their 6th through 8th grade students to determine which students met the mastery level goal. Of the 550 students initially administered the fraction pre-test, only 99 students met the 90% mastery level goal.
Students who hadn’t met mastery were assigned to use LearnBop in an intervention program that was set up twice a week. The class meets for 25 minutes, and the lowest performing students were enrolled for intervention first. Once a student meets the 90% mastery level on the assigned Bops, they “BOP Out” or rotate out of the intervention class and another student is rotated into the class for fraction interventions as illustrated in Figure 1.
To date, more than 40% of the 460 students participating in the LearnBop fraction intervention program have met the 90% mastery level and have “Bopped Out” of the program. The program began in the late fall of 2013, and FMS teachers have been pleased with the results.
Trish Alexander, FMS Math Department Chair, says teachers have found that students enjoy using the computer and find the LearnBop step-by-step hints and graphics helpful in guiding them through solving the problems. What began as a free trial this year will be converted into a more comprehensive plan to include LearnBop interventions for additional 6th through 8th concepts that students have not yet mastered for the next school year.
Intervention programs such as this pull-out model, is just one way great way to use LearnBop. LearnBop users also have access to Nancy Bergfeld, our school specialists, who can offer assistance and support in designing effective programs for using LearnBop in their schools.
It’s not too late for you to sign up for your free trial for this school year. With the school year winding down and end-of-year assessments on the horizon, LearnBop could be just what your students need to help them learn concepts and skills they have yet to master. With LearnBop you have the flexibility of assigning individual students, small groups, or the whole class the same concepts or different concepts to work on.
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