I’ve now taught the prealgebra/algebra I course for three weeks. The course is taught on computers, meaning very little of my time is spent actually teaching. The computers do a good job and the students who try to learn can do so. When they need help, it is usually done in a couple of minutes. Often it is finding a mistake they overlooked.
Saying this isn’t a strain on my mathematical abilities is an understatement. I’m teaching basic algebra down to basic arithmetic. Recently, I helped a student find the remainder for long division. I spend my time checking the workbook pages the students are required to do before they can take a test, unlocking tests, once the students have completed the prerequisites and the workbooks, and solving minor technical problems. The major ones are solved by lab aides.
Outside of class, I have to check to see the students are doing their weekly lab time, send them two emails a week commenting on their progress or lack of it, and make certain the students are actually attending class. I’m also supposed to call students into my office for individual counseling if they haven’t made progress or refer them to a counselor. I haven’t done that yet. I hope to do that next week.
Many schools are running courses like this with teachers with less education than I have. All the skills I have in lesson planning, test design, and finding the right examples are wasted here. It’s been done for me. If this method of teaching becomes standard, I expect that the teachers would benefit more from education in counseling than in mathematics.
Is this a better way of teaching? The students appear to be working, which means we tend to feel good about it. We will find out whether they are actually learning more when the statistics are gathered showing if these students do better in subsequent courses.