Over the last year or so I had heard about Delta Math on Twitter but didn't really think I had a use for it. Also, to be honest, I thought it sounded boring.
At the end of last school year, my principal shared concerns that students were not doing well on standardized testing because they lose their pre-algebra skills over time. His solution was to put the lower freshman into a Pre-Algebra class. I strongly objected since that would be going backward and I have never taught Pre-Algebra let alone have any materials for it.
I started asking questions about Delta Math on Twitter. When I started choosing sessions for TMC, I saw that Zach Korsyk, the Delta Math creator, was presenting. I went to his session and saw how simple it was to use. Some lessons have interactive tutorials that are better than activities I’ve been doing. Quadrilateral properties and combining like terms both blew my mind.
Zach also explained that students don't have the same problems so they can't copy. It's a very clean and simple UI and works intuitively the way you think it would. You can assign penalties so students have to work more problems or you can just specify the amount of questions they need to get correct. There are 1000s of questions for topics ranging from middle school math through precalc and stats. It even explains how to get the correct answer after they miss it. And it's FREE. And he's a full time teacher. And he answers technical support almost immediately on Twitter.
I was sold.
Today ended our first week of school and I administered our EOC exams (I always do it on the first Friday so I can spend that day planning the first 'real' week #hack) and when they finished, they did their first Delta Math assignment. For the most part students were working quietly. I got one "This is so cool" and the only question they had was how to type in exponents (^).
I specified that they had to get 5 questions right from 5 different topics: combining like terms, solving 3-step linear equations, plotting points, converting standard to scientific notation, and vice versa. I don't plan to normally give them time in class to do it but I wanted to the first time to make sure we didn't have any problems. I titled the assignment Week #1 and assigned the same assignment to Algebra I through Trig courses.
Afterward I went and talked to my principal (former math teacher) about it and he was very supportive. I needed to talk through logistics with someone but I really only came away with him saying he thought it could even be the same amount of points as a regular quiz in class because it was still assessing their learning and not just a completion grade.
So here's my idea:
- First couple weeks will be pre-algebra and middle school skills
- Then I will start to lag skills from their current course in addition to pre-algebra skills
- Pre-algebra skills stay all year
- Current skills lag and randomly reappear
- Ideally I'd like them to spend about 15 minutes a week on this
- Although you can use it on your phone, I don't have 100% home internet access so I want them to be reasonably able to complete at school when they get done early in other classes
Here are my questions:
- Normal quizzes are 15-20 points twice a week, tests are 100 points every 2.5-3 weeks, how much should this weekly assignment be worth?
- How many problems should I require them to get correct?
- How many topics should I include?
- How do I determine the points?
My principal also made a good point that I had not considered: he said we need to give them a win. If you start a new course and you're not doing well from the beginning, it's depressing. But if they are getting (old) stuff correct in delta math then it is building their confidence and reminding them that they do know things.
Help me figure out this out before Monday :)