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TUJUNGA : School Starts New Teaching Program

September 04, 1993|ED BOND

Freshmen and some sophomores starting algebra at Verdugo Hills High in Tujunga next week may be in for a surprise: They will have to think through math problems for themselves.

"Usually they just follow the rules and don't really understand what they are doing," said Carol Gorton, assistant principal at the high school, which will be using a program called "Change From Within," with a three-year grant of $335,000 from the State Board of Education.

The program breaks students into groups of three or four to work out for themselves how to solve math problems using what they have already been taught. The teacher will only answer questions after every student in a group explains what has been tried.

The school tested the program last year as a pilot project in two classes, and the result was fewer failures and higher grades, Gorton said.

"We felt students feel much less intimidated and become more apt to try to solve problems if they didn't have to say it in front of the whole class," Gorton said. "It created a situation where they were able to express their thoughts even if they were wrong."

Woodbury University in Burbank and UCLA have been helping the school draw up the program, which is being run under a partnership that includes the Nestle Corp., Gorton said.

This year, geometry teachers are being trained to use the new technique in the 1994-95 school year. Next, Algebra II will be incorporated into the program.

"Math is a subject that many people fear and don't like," Gorton said.

"It's also one of the gatekeepers that keep kids out of the college prep program," she said.

But the emphasis on teaching kids to find solutions on their own can ease a lot of that fear as well as build a confidence in themselves that can carry over into other subjects and prepare them better for the working world, Gorton said.

"It really increased their collaboration skills of working together with other people," Gorton said.

The grant, which is one of only five the state issued this year to encourage more students to take advanced math classes, is also helping to pay for a new computer system where parents can call the school to get recorded information on their child's homework.

"It's nice to give kids a crack at being successful at something," Gorton said.

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