Thinking Vertically: Session Participants and Facilitators are Excited About Algebra II and Beyond Professional Development

Posted on June 10, 2009

The Dana Center's Algebra II and Beyond, a two-day professional development session that provides teachers with new ways to think about mathematics content in upper-level courses, is generating a buzz.

"I am excited about going back to my classroom and implementing these activities as well as sharing this with other teachers," said one recent participant.

For over a decade, the Dana Center has developed and delivered professional development sessions for teachers and leaders. These sessions enable participants to gain a deeper understanding of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and how to implement these standards in classrooms and schools.

two participants working together in the session

But much recent mathematics professional development has focused on middle school, Algebra I, and Geometry. The Dana Center's Algebra II and Beyond session fills a critical need by bringing together high school teachers of upper-level mathematics to focus on the content of their courses.

"It's one of the few forums where teachers of advanced courses can come together and have time to look closely at the vertical progression of concepts in the courses they teach," says session facilitator Susan May.

Teachers need support in making these advanced courses accessible to all students, especially as Texas raises the level of mathematics that our students must know to graduate. Algebra II and Beyond begins to provide that support.

Session facilitators also encourage teachers to consider how the high school courses lead to college and workforce readiness as described in the recently adopted Texas College and Career Readiness Standards.

chart paper showing alignment workThrough studying the relevant math TEKS, considering the College and Career Readiness Standards, and engaging in hands-on activities, session participants analyze the vertical development of mathematics content. By the end of the two days, they have developed a deeper understanding of how important mathematical concepts unfold from Algebra II through Precalculus, Calculus, and Statistics.

The two-day session enables teachers to work through classroom activities and assessments that illustrate the vertical progression of content. As they study the activities, they pay close attention to areas where content overlaps two or more courses.

For example, students work with exponential functions in both Algebra II and Precalculus, so during this professional development, teachers work on activities from each course to see precisely how implementation of the standards differs from one course to the next.

two participants working together in the session two participants working together in the session

The vertical perspective of these sessions has proven extremely popular with teachers: "We have been gratified," says Dana Center facilitator Kathi Cook, "by how enthusiastic the teachers have been. They liked the vertical development of the content so much that some of them asked if we could develop a session that includes Algebra I and Geometry teachers."

"It's clearly meeting a need," Cook said. "Teachers really want a vertical study of their content."

two participants working together in the session

One teacher, inspired by the session activities, even planned to ask her department to work on vertical alignment starting in seventh grade.

While studying the vertical development, participants discuss instructional strategies to help students understand the content and become prepared for later high school courses as well as courses they may take after high school.

Session participants have been uniformly positive in their reviews. Teachers leaving the session are already making plans for implementing what they learned. One teacher said, "I plan to try to be more cognitive about the way I present topics to my Algebra II classes so that as they move to Precalculus I can be sure they are ready." Another noted that she was excited about "seeing exactly where the differences are in the Precalculus and Algebra II TEKS [and] getting new material to use in the classroom."

written by Amy Dolejs, staff editor

edited by Sarah Searcy and Rachel Jenkins, staff editors

layout and design by Amy Dolejs, webmaster

photos by Phil Swann, designer