Key Design Features of Intensified Algebra

The Intensified Algebra program is built around rigorous, but accessible, treatment of those topics that are most critical for success in a first algebra course and in future mathematics courses. Supporting this core is an integrated set of tools and structures that support student success.


Diagram showing Intensifed Algebra's key features; the text under the diagram describes the features more fully.

Supports for teachers

A key challenge for all teachers is enacting “high cognitive demand” tasks for struggling learners so that a high level of cognitive demand is maintained. In an extended-time algebra class, teachers are also challenged with keeping students motivated throughout the longer period. Intensified Algebra helps teachers with these challenges by providing structures and routines designed to maintain student motivation and engagement, as well as detailed, daily advice for teachers to support task enactments, including debriefing strategies, scaffolding questions, probes, and key discussion questions.

Efficient review/repair

Connecting new learning with prior knowledge involves engaging students in tasks and activities that help them access relevant prior knowledge when they need it and repairing misconceptions they might have related to that knowledge. Intensified Algebra takes a “just in time” approach to review and repair; based upon research with struggling learners, review tasks are strategically placed to help students access prerequisite knowledge, preview upcoming content in the algebra core, or repair common misconceptions.

Ongoing distributed practice

Struggling students need extra practice opportunities to develop mathematical proficiency. Our approach is based upon long-standing research that supports the use of distributed practice in mathematics.

Literacy & language supports

Researchers have begun to understand how literacy and language issues affect learning in mathematics and science classes, particularly with struggling learners, and how to support content learning through the use of simple strategies and tools for language and literacy development. The Intensified Algebra program helps students build essential academic vocabulary, comprehend and analyze key elements of mathematics problems, explicitly connect different representations of mathematical situations, and reflect upon and communicate their understandings.

Shaping attitudes toward learning

Drawing on the latest advances in developmental and social psychology, Intensified Algebra helps shape students’ motivation, confidence, and ultimate success as learners.

Assessment strategies

Intensified Algebra contains a comprehensive set of assessment activities and tools that provide struggling learners and their teachers with regular and targeted feedback to help them monitor progress, address sources of confusion, and build on the strengths in students’ mathematical knowledge to move them toward more advanced thinking and toward regulation of their own learning.

Tools to organize learning

Struggling learners have difficulty organizing and interpreting information and complex processes, thereby increasing the challenges they face when attempting to access new mathematical learning. Thus, a key feature of Intensified Algebra is the inclusion of well-defined routines and supports that help students make connections within algebra, organize information, and make their mathematical thinking “visible” to them and to their teachers.