Los Alamos High School And LAPS Foundation Team Up To Reach Math Students At All Levels

LAHS math student Bryce Gentile uses the IXL tool in class. Courtesy photo


A screenshot of the teacher’s report in IXL. The tool makes it easier for teachers to help students at all levels of learning. Courtesy photo



By Melanie McKinley 
LAPS Foundation Board Member

One of the hardest things about being a teacher is differentiating instruction to reach students at all levels. By the time students reach high school, the gaps in their learning can become especially problematic. Los Alamos High School (LAHS) math teacher Sue Wilson, with funding from the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation, is trying to solve this problem in math instruction through the use of an interactive program called IXL.

With IXL, the teacher first assigns a specific section that matches with the current instruction. IXL provides the student with practice problems and immediate feedback on whether the student got the problem right. If the student got it wrong, IXL shows him or her step-by-step how to do it correctly. The student then gets a similar problem in order to try again. In this way, the student works towards mastery of the content.

Wilson – along with the other LAHS math teachers who are using this tool – is able to see in real time which students are making progress and which students are struggling. Because of this, she can immediately help students who are stuck and not making progress. Wilson is also able to assign material that will help students “fill the gaps” in their understanding, and she can access many different reports that show how the students are performing individually as well as collectively.

“Before I received the IXL grant from the LAPS Foundation, I personally bought a license for one class and distributed its usage among students who were struggling,” Wilson said. “After receiving the grant, I was able to open IXL up to all of my students.  I now give my students the option to do textbook work or IXL work. Some students need the immediate feedback IXL gives them when learning new concepts. “

One of Wilson’s students, Bryce Gentile, said, “I like IXL because if I do not understand something it will show me how to properly do the problem. I do not have to wait to find out that I was doing it incorrectly. I can learn it correctly from the start.”

Wilson applied for a Great Ideas Grant from the LAPS Foundation last fall. For these grants, LAPS teachers may request up to $1,000 from the Foundation for innovative ideas that augment the basic curriculum and align with the Common Core Standards. The grants, which are offered by the Foundation twice a year, are intended to fund teachers’ requests for materials that are not typically available through the school district.

The Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation is an independent organization that supports, challenges, and invests in a successful future for all Los Alamos public school students. Since its inception in 2005, the LAPS Foundation has donated more than $1 million to fund opportunities and materials for students, provide professional development for district educators, defray operating expenses, and assist with capital improvements to enrich learning environments in the Los Alamos public schools.

The Foundation raises money through generous contributions from individuals and organizations who share the Foundation’s core values that excellent public education is every child’s right, and that excellent public education systems depend on: a well-informed and supportive community, caring and competent educators, a supportive and responsive school environment, and sufficient financing to achieve educational goals. To learn more about the LAPS Foundation and how to get involved and/or donate, visit http://www.lapsfoundation.com or call 505.500.6501.


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