Math Boot Camps: From Struggle to Success
by Letisha Woods
“Learners would be more likely to pass their exam if their deficiencies were targeted and specific interventions created to maximize their engagement, reduce their preconceived dislike for math, and provide an alternative venue with different peers.”
The Region 15 Math Boot Camp is an idea born from a GED® coordinators’ meeting. Its premise is to provide an opportunity to strengthen and assist struggling math students in order for them to pass the official GED® test. In the Capital Region, we determined that many of our adult students whom we serve identify math as their least favorite subject. The ABE /GED® staff noted that while some participants had passed the reading language arts, science, and social studies portions of the test, many showed test scores on the GED® Ready practice test that indicated cause for concern (the yellow range in GED® Manager). In addition, feedback from instructors, learners, and re-testers indicated that math support and intervention were necessary. It was concluded that for this select group, they would be more likely to pass their exam if their deficiencies were targeted and specific interventions created to maximize their engagement, reduce their preconceived dislike for math, and provide an alternative venue with different peers. Therefore, we set out to construct a formalized solution.
The synergy that the coordinators exuded as we planned and put strategies in place to match the deficiencies of the target population was amazing. Our first planning session took place on a Saturday morning and consisted of the coordinators and math instructors from each of our localities. Each locality selected several instructors from their teaching staff to attend. The aim of the planning session was to provide an opportunity for the coordinators to discuss the purpose and the goals of a bootcamp. Instructors were asked to watch GED® Live videos to gain insight into the sections found in the math subject areas. Then, the group collaborated with each other on strategies and interventions that could be implemented in the various math content areas.
The focus for the Math Boot Camp was divided into the four math content areas: Number Sense, Algebra, Geometry, and Advanced Math. Two instructors were placed in a content area. In addition, two additional substitute instructors were hired in the event that a substitute was needed. Each team of instructors created a lesson plan and a list of supplies needed for their sessions. The lesson plan would extend to three sessions. The coordinators were asked to assist with supplying the instructors with classroom supplies which included: a laptop computer, calculator, and LCD projector.
Selection of Participants
Participants were selected from GED® Manager, teacher recommendations, TABE 11/12 post-assessments, re-testers, current students, previous students, GED® Ready test, and GED® Official math non-passers in our region. Once this information was collected, it was used to place students in their content area of need. Each class could hold at least 20 students. Students had the option of attending all three sessions or just one session, although we recommended all sessions which would better prepare them for the test.
Transportation was provided for students who needed it. Richmond Adult Education contracted with the Richmond Public Schools district to use school buses to transport students from the Henrico Adult Education Center on Nine Mile Road and Richmond Alternative School on West Leigh Street to the Henrico Carousel Lane location.
Day of Class Operations
All students were required to sign in and were given a name tent, spiral notebook, and a pencil. Instruction was offered from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. with a fifteen-minute break at 10:30 a.m. Everyone in the building was required to take a break. The instructors were asked to leave the classrooms as well. The coordinators provided the learners and staff with refreshments and drinks during the break.
End of Session Evaluations
Fifteen minutes before classes ended, students were asked to fill out an evaluation form. The survey asked students to provide feedback on their experience in the sessions. Instructors were also asked to complete a survey providing feedback on “what worked” or “what didn’t work.” and whether the bootcamp met the needs of students.
Overall, the bootcamp was a success. A total of 90 students were invited to attend with 50 percent participating. All participants, with the exception of the group who participated in the Number Sense session, received a GED® Ready voucher or official test voucher. Survey findings noted that students felt the instruction was delivered clearly, he or she was knowledgeable about the subject matter pertinent to the instruction received, and that they were able to answer questions effectively. Learners indicated that the instructors were organized and prepared and they also provided examples and useful techniques that could apply to the concepts taught.
While plans for a math bootcamp in 2020-21 were canceled due to the pandemic, it is hoped that once in-person instruction reaches a more stable state, this promising initiative can be reinvigorated to help more of our adult learners during the course of this year.
Letisha Harris Woods is the GED® Program Coordinator for Richmond Public Schools Adult Education in Region 15. While her background is in advertising and real estate, she started her career in adult education 19 years ago as an ABE/GED® instructor. Letisha holds a master’s degree in business administration from Averett University and as an educator, it is her philosophy to empower our adult learners to never give up on their dreams.