Mesa Alta adds tech to math in grant-funded pilot program
School will test Teach To One program for three years
BLOOMFIELD — Three eighth-grade students stood passing green and red markers back and forth at a whiteboard, working to solve an algebra problem in Jennifer Augustine’s math class on Wednesday at Mesa Alta Junior High School.
“This is what we missed a lot last year,” Augustine said from the back of the class. “It may look like they’re just arguing, but they’re really working through it. It’s great.”
Mesa Alta is participating in a pilot program called Teach To One: Math for a curriculum that ditches the traditional lecture and instead focuses on individualized and interactive learning in one-on-one and group settings. It is one of 37 schools across the nation to participate in the program.
The school received a $174,890 grant from the New Mexico Public Education Department's Pathway to Math Excellence and Mathematics Innovation Pilot programs, according to James Olivas, director of data, operations and assessment for the Bloomfield School District. The grant paid for more than $90,000 in technology improvements, including approximately 180 new Chromebooks for classroom use.
The pilot program will last for three years at Mesa Alta, which is one of three schools in New Mexico to participate in the program this year. McCurdy Charter School in Española and Taos Middle School in Taos also use the Teach To One program, according to the program’s website.
The Bloomfield School District also allocated money to remodel the math wing to accommodate new technology and the program’s use of space for different size groups, including new furniture, Olivas said. The district also hired three teaching assistants to help facilitate the program.
Mesa Alta math department director Amanda Montoya said Teach to One enables students to customize their curriculum to their understanding.
“A lot of students come to their classrooms missing skills,” Montoya said. “They’re not on grade level in many areas, so there’s a huge part of this program that takes the different diagnostic tests that are given to them to find out where they’re strong and where they’re weak.”
Students learn in several formats, including on their own, in pairs, in small groups and in class settings, Montoya said. The program uses online workbooks and tutorials, as well as traditional teacher assistance and peer tutoring and problem solving.
Augustine, who has taught in Bloomfield schools for seven years, said she sees progress in her students, even in the first term of using the program.
“It’s really good to see students that struggled last year, because they’re being reached at their current level, and they’re feeling successful,” Augustine said. “When you have students that are (in special education or English language learners classes) that normally you don’t see as much work from, they’re saying, ‘I got a green (to move on to the next lesson). I know this. Ms. Augustine, I feel smart,’ and to see that with any of the kids just makes it worth it. It really does.”
Students in the school have mixed reactions about the new program. Most — including eighth-grader Cadence Dahozy — enjoy the flexibility and how the program is tailored to what they know and what they need to learn to move forward.
“It helps us learn things on our own rather than depending on other people to help us,” Dahozy said.
However, the program drew a complaints from one student.
“I hate staring at the computer,” eighth-grader David Carmona said. “I like teachers teaching, like in front of the classroom, not just staring at a computer. It’s boring, and it hurts my eyes.”
Megan Petersen is the business and education reporter for the Farmington Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.