AMPED: Algebra 1 in Manufacturing Processes, Entrepreneurship & Design

Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going.

In August the inaugural AMPED class started at our high school. We have 132 students in 3 sections learning their Algebra thru the lens of Manufacturing Processes, Entrepreneurship and Design.

Why a new class: There are many reasons. Here are the top 3.IMG_14211

1.  Our Trade and Industry classes were on the chopping block at our school. Geometry in Construction solidified the construction program at our school several years ago but manufacturing/wood shop was facing a cut.  We had to tie to academics to save the programs.

2. The highest failure rate of any math class in our district (and nationally) occurs in Algebra 1. Algebra 1 is a gatekeeper to higher math and sets the tone for students in high school. We have proven Geometry in Construction enables many struggling students to continue in math and we wanted to offer Algebra 1 students the same opportunity. By using techniques to address different learning styles and by using many activities students are responding well to the change in traditional instruction.

  1. Our district funds start-ups but is not good at funding on-going expenses.  Our district has Project Lead The Way in 2 high schools but struggles with maintenance funding. We knew we had to have a program that did not depend on on-going funding from the district. Creating of a manufacturing class had to somehow be self-supporting with little cost to our district. In addition, our free and reduced lunch population cannot afford lab fees and costs associated with the “shop environment”. The t-shirt shop allows us to be self funded as we look to the future.

Logistics: The AMPED program is being built on the same principles as Geometry in Construction.   We have 40-50 students per class with 2 teachers. One teacher is math certified and the other is career and technical education credentialed. They team-teach both sides (Math and CTE) of AMPED. Two credits are awarded, one for algebra and one for CTE.

Algebra Content: For the algebra side, we are addressing all of the common core math standards. The order has been rearranged to fit the CTE course and to provide relevance to the students while they are learning their math. For example, we start with rates/slope and linear graphing. Our big topics first semester are linear graphing, expressions, equations, and systems of equations.

Cooperative grouping continues to be a main stay in our programs, with AMPED being no exception. Many of the activities in both algebra and CTE require the effective use of groups.

CTE Content:  For the CTE side, students started with t-shirt printing production.   It was an instant hook for students and it provided relevance for the algebra. Much of the relevance comes from the world of manufacturing business and every CTE area has an element of business in it. Pretending to run a business is good, but actually having students directly involved in a real business is best.   The t-shirt business provides the element of “real” for us and for the students.

The orders for the t-shirts did and continue to come from within the high school (clubs, staff shirts, athletics, etc) and from other schools (example printing shirts for every student at one of the local elementary schools). Once the order is received, the students use heat presses in the classroom to print the shirts. Students then deliver the finished product to the customer.

Teacher discussion centers around small/large batch manufacturing, quality control, lean advanced manufacturing, one off production, additive and subtractive manufacturing.

Once the t-shirt production was established, the class was divided into 2 learning centers, design & basic woodworking. The design process utilizes the IB design model with software packages such as Adobe Illustrator and Correl Draw. The woodshop component teaches basic tool safety and tool usage through the production of simple items for personal use and for gifts. Both halves of the class are crafted to lead students into working with laser engravers. The material focus is primarily on woods initially.

Second semester, we will be incorporating the Maker Movement. Our students, like many across the nation, are no longer exposed to tinkering skills at home. Those skills were once introduced around the home craft room, sewing room, garage, barn, or home shop.  For most students, that is no longer the norm.  With the wood shop introduction first semester, we will implement a creative time for students to tinker and create using something similar to the “20% rule” from Google.

As the curriculum is assembled, an additional goal is for students to meet the major benchmarks of POE/IED for our district. Our students then can travel to the other 2 high schools to enroll in the second year PLTW class if they desire.

The Bads:  Some of the equipment ordered has not arrived or was late in arriving. A limited start-up budget put some equipment out of reach financially. Our female enrollment was restricted to 30% since we were not allowed to recruit.

In summary, as with any good teacher, we are constantly rethinking how we teach and what we teach.  We are engineering quick early wins for students along with an academic support system for marginal students.   We will keep you posted as we progress this year.