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Pa. college to study math progress of county students

December 23, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County Public Schools will partner with Wilson College of Chambersburg, Pa., to research the effectiveness of a computer math program in some county high schools.

Leslie Hobbs, supervisor of secondary mathematics for the school system, said the three-year, $350,000 grant was awarded to the school system to coordinate a research project with a college and six other school districts.

Washington County, along with Allegany, Baltimore, Prince George's, Queen Anne's, Somerset and Wicomico counties, will place Cognitive Tutor, a math assistance computer program, in some of their high schools to be researched by Wilson College, beginning next fall.

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Karen Adams, who taught at Boonsboro High School for six years and is now a Wilson College math professor, will head Wilson's research after compiling her own statistics on the math program in Washington County for the past two years.

Adams approached the school system about two years ago to see if it needed any math research performed on students.

Cognitive Tutor, a pilot program funded through a Technology Literacy Program grant, was originally used in 2001 as a pilot program by eight classes of students at South Hagerstown High School. The funding for the grant has since been cut off.

Adams, working to earn her doctorate, was focusing her dissertation on mathematics education and artificial intelligence and wanted to run statistical surveys on county students.

Hobbs told Adams she could perform a study on Algebra I students using Cognitive Tutor at South High.

The computer program has students spending 40 percent of class time on the computer and the other 60 percent working in the classroom.

Adams found students who take algebra over the course of a year learn best from the program, as opposed to students who take the math class one semester per year.

With the grant, Hobbs said she expects to install Cognitive Tutor at North Hagerstown, Williamsport and Boonsboro high schools during the next school year because those schools are larger and have teachers already trained in the program. She said teachers at those schools will receive additional training over the summer.

This spring, Hobbs found the Educational Technology Research Grant posted under the No Child Left Behind act, written specifically for a college and school system research partnership.

Adams and Wilson College psychology professor Beverly Ayers-Nachamkin will oversee the grant research, which will begin next fall. The two professors, along with student interns and research assistants, will study the effectiveness of the program by comparing students using it to students using just a textbook approach. Wilson will also break up performance based on gender, race and poverty levels as the federal act mandates, Hobbs said.

"We're looking for the most appropriate strategy to help children learn algebra," she said.

Hobbs expects the programs to be installed in other county and state high schools this spring after Washington County receives the grant money.

The grant will provide funds for purchasing, installing and evaluating the effectiveness of software in mathematics education.

Hobbs said the objectives of Cognitive Tutor are consistent with Maryland High School Assessment objectives. High School Assessments are the new state standardized test for high school students and will be used as a graduation requirement beginning with next year's freshmen.

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