New program empowers accelerated math students

Quakertown Community School District mid­dle school stu­dents are devel­op­ing incred­i­ble STEM-related projects as part of a new pro­gram called Math Extensions.

Used for the first time at Strayer Middle School and the Sixth Grade Center, accel­er­at­ed math stu­dents are able to pick a project of their own choos­ing and, col­lab­o­rat­ing with one or more class­mates, set goals for the project, doc­u­ment their work with a design note­book and blue­print, write a rubric to score their per­for­mance, and make a video.

This is what this pop­u­la­tion of learn­ers needs,” said Adam Smith, Teacher On Special Assignment at Strayer. “They have the free­dom to choose and say what they want to learn about. It’s a self-directed learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty that they wouldn’t nor­mal­ly have access to. It empow­ers them to have more con­trol over their learn­ing in the class­room, and gives them a sense of ownership.”

An Extension Project Showcase will be held on Monday, March 21st from 3 to 6:30 p.m. in the Strayer Gymnasium. Parents and fam­i­lies are wel­come to attend this open house.

Math is a part of each project cre­at­ed, but STEM, lan­guage arts, sci­ence, social stud­ies and a student’s cre­ativ­i­ty are also incor­po­rat­ed. Projects include:

  • Calculating space­ship tra­jec­to­ries: Use func­tions to mod­el rela­tion­ships between time and distance.
  • Creating a roller­coast­er ride: Model real-world sit­u­a­tions with non­lin­ear functions.
  • Crossing the Darien Gap: Use sys­tems of lin­ear equa­tions to solve real-world problems.
  • Design your own sky­scraper: Use trans­for­ma­tions in archi­tec­tur­al design.
  • Bridging the gap: Design and build a bridge that has a Strength to Weight ratio high­er than 2,750 lb / g/lb.
  • Investigate DNA exon­er­a­tions: Use lin­ear equa­tions to mod­el real-world data.
  • Not so Bored Game: Create a board game incor­po­rat­ing math­e­mat­i­cal ideas and con­cepts from the cur­rent school year in order to advance through­out the game.
  • Make’em Go!: Design and cre­ate a mov­ing vehi­cle that moves with­out using elec­tric power
  • Fresh Kicks!: Design, engi­neer, and build a pro­to­type of a shoe an ath­lete would wear while competing.

They are on task, and they know what their end goal is,” said Jacki Clymer, who teach­es a Math Extension class and describes her job as tak­ing more of a sup­port­ive role. “I’m enjoy­ing the cul­ture of the room. Everyone is try­ing to devel­op the best project. They’re the ones rais­ing the bar.”

Eighth-grader Matthew Hudson, the sky­scraper design­er, said Extensions gives stu­dents “the free­dom and respon­si­bil­i­ty of adults. Go big or go home. Don’t hold any­thing back.” 

It’s a real­ly cool class,” said Eliana Galleo, an eighth-grader, and cre­ator of Fresh Kicks!. “We have to think about the process from begin­ning to end. There’s a lot of plan­ning involved.”

Math Extensions was designed by QCSD’s Office for Teaching and Learning. Strayer Assistant Principal Zach Garger, who played a key role in the devel­op­ment, explained that Extensions “is a vehi­cle to help stu­dents take charge of their learn­ing and sup­port mid­dle school math achievement.”

Both Mr. Garger and Mr. Smith praised Chris Deily, the teacher leader for Extension train­ing, for doing “a tremen­dous job of com­mu­ni­cat­ing, plan­ning and sup­port­ing our teach­ers in get­ting this up and running.”

We’ve placed a lot of demands on the Extension teach­ers, and they’ve real­ly come through in a way I’m very appre­cia­tive of,” Mr. Smith said. “They’re hav­ing the stu­dents take risks, try­ing some­thing new and learn­ing in ways they might not be used to. It’s been a learn­ing process for all of us, a great learn­ing expe­ri­ence that will make future years more successful.”