Algebra 1b continues our two block Algebra 1 sequence, building fundamental skills that our youngest students need to succeed in more advanced math classes.
Each week we study a new topic, diving into different types of activities and worksheets, and culminating in a quiz on Thursday. So far our units have been about Algebra 1a review, systems of equations, lines, and ratios/rates/percentages.
What makes Algebra 1b unique is our quiz system. Algebra 1b students are required to pass the quiz in each topic or else study and retake the quiz the following week. The skills they are building are important, so it is essential that students are accountable for understanding each unit. Each quiz consists of five problems; a three out of five is a passing score. Students can always retake quizzes to do better than that—many students strive for five out of five! This system allows students to take the course at their own pace and demonstrate mastery when they are ready. If a student misses out on learning about slope of a line one week, they have the opportunity to study and pass the quiz the next week.
We explore a topic like lines in a variety of ways. To start out the topic, we did a "lab" problem where we looked at twelve equations for lines and four categories, for example "these lines are parallel" and "these lines go through the point (1,5)". The students worked in groups to sort the lines into pairs which fit into a category, and then answered some questions about the process.
As we get further into a topic, we might do more routine problems to practice the kinds of skills students need to be able to do swiftly and without mistakes: graphing lines, turning graphs into equations, and finding equations from points. We do this kind of practice in many forms, to make it fun. We do everything from online work on Alcumus (the Art of Problem Solving problem generator) to problems with secret messages.
By the end of Algebra 1b, my goal is for students to both have a strong understanding of how to and when to apply algebra in problems and the skill to execute the algebra quickly and accurately.
-- Sachi Hashimoto