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School to name their favorite subject and you thought they responded “Algebra!” — do not check your hearing. Chances are, you heard right. Algebra Project emphasizes math at early age I f you asked fifth-grade stu- dents in Wendy Gallimore’s class at Allison Elementary District, it is the first such pro- gram in the nation to target ele- mentary school students. Recognizing that their stu- That’s because Gallimore’s stu- dents, along with fifth- and sixth-graders in Danalynn Zach- arias’s and Kim Rohall’s classes, have been immersed in the Alli- son Algebra Project, a teacher- driven program that emphasizes the importance of math — spe- cifically, algebra — in gaining entrance to college. The program is not only unique to Allison and the Twin Rivers Unified School dents needed more support in math, the Allison teachers sought out and developed the Algebra Project at their school site — initially as an after- school program, and then as part of their curriculum. The teachers not only implemented the program, they’ve worked to make sure it is aligned with state standards. The Allison Algebra Project is funded by CTA’s Institute for Teaching (IFT), a nonprofit or- ganization that supports and promotes innovative teacher- driven programs in selected Cal- ifornia schools. IFT is supported by dues contributions from CTA members last year. For this proj- ect, the IFT has joined forces with the Sacramento Valley Or- ganizing Committee/Industrial Areas Foundation (SVOC), the Twin Rivers Unified School Dis- trict, and UC Davis’s School of Education/CRESS Center. Students in those classes de- velop algebraic reasoning through classroom work, enrich- ment activities and field trips. Parents are invited several times a year to a Family Math Night where they can spend an evening eating, doing algebra exercises with their children, and connect- ing with other parents. Nearly 100 parents showed up for a recent raucous Family Math Night in the school cafete- ria. As more than a dozen Span- ish-speaking parents received instruction translated through specialized headphones, others worked intently as their children explained the math concepts they are learning in class. “I love it!” exclaimed Rene Perry, an already-active parent who was pleased with the Par- ents Night turnout. “Parent in- volvement for the Algebra Proj- ect is awesome. Parents want to be involved, and these events make that possible.” Because of her involvement with the school, Perry knew in advance about the Algebra Proj- ect and asked that her daughter, Leah, be placed in the class. “She had been struggling with math, but now she is already working at grade level,” Perry said. “The Algebra Project was started because so many stu- dents get to high school think- ing they aren’t good in math, so then they don’t think they are college-bound,” said Sister Maribeth Larkin, an SVOC staffer who is working with parents in the project to get them more involved in educa- tion. “This is about preparing children for math so they can prepare for higher education.” The Algebra Project was TOP: Students refining their math skills at the Allison Elementary School Algebra Project. INSET: A Spanish- speaking parent receives instruction translated through specialized headphones. 24 California Educator | december 2009 • january 2010 founded in 1982 by Harlem-born and Harvard-educated civil rights leader Dr. Robert P. Moses, who once said, “Becoming literate in mathematics is a life-and-death CTA photos by Dina Martin

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