Work Based Learning: AMPED on Algebra and Geometry in Construction as a Student Based Enterprise

Below follows a discussion of how we are using AMPED on Algebra and Geometry in Construction as a piece of the implementation of Work Based Learning thru a Student Based Enterprise.  We are not experts in WBL but are looking at how we can implement it into our classes, especially since internships and apprenticeships are very hard to set up for lots of students.

Rational:  The concept of work-based learning (WBL)—learning technical, academic, and employability skills by working in a real work environment is gaining traction slowly in the United States. It is a noble goal.  When implemented correctly, WBL increases students’ educational engagement and their career readiness.  It is useful to students because it demonstrates the applications of classroom learning in the real world, and engages them by using authentic tasks and tools, and teaches them employability skills.

Elements of quality Work Based Learning include:

  • Connections between WBL and specific coursework
  • Learning of Employability Skills
  • Allows for students to complete a body of work (activity, project, etc.) that demonstrates their learning
  • Student reflection on their on-the-job learning
  • Fits within a school schedule so that students can continue in the other areas of their education
  • Provides equal opportunity for all students (no transportation or grade level limitations).


For most of us, when we think WBL, we think of internships and apprenticeships.  These are great opportunities for kids.  However, these opportunities are proving hard to implement in American schools and when implemented, are limited to mostly juniors/seniors and seldom are opened to lower grades.  Currently, several roadblocks to implementation exist including but not limited to insurance/legal requirements, student schedules, lack of connections between schools and employers, transportation, and employers not seeing it in their self-interest to provide these opportunities (think bad student employee experience).

Researchers have analyzed elements of high-quality WBL experiences.  One important element of WBL programs is the link to the school curriculum.  It is this connection that can help motivate students or see how the skills they learn in class are needed in the workplace.  This school-work connection does not naturally happen, it must be intentional.  Those who teach AMPED on Algebra and Geometry in Construction note the strong integration of math with the workplace.

There is one type of WBL that has been implemented in American high schools with success, School Based Enterprises (SBE).  It is different than internships and apprenticeships because students are learning to work in a business housed inside of the school.  Examples of SBE are where students are learning to work in a school store, a school restaurant, or in a class providing goods/services.  DECA has been doing this for many years.

The difference between the SBE model as compared to the apprenticeships/internship model is that the “boss” comes from within the school instead of from the world of business.  However with the SBE model, students can experience many of the elements that comes from Work Based Learning.  SBE has and can afford benefits to a much broader spectrum of students.

In both Geometry in Construction and in AMPED on Algebra, the students are part of a school business producing product(s) for the community.  We are not a pretend business, we are producing real products for real customers.  AMPED on Algebra is based on the class running a business of some type.  AMPED schools run a manufacturing business making t-shirts, printing banners, engraving plaques, routing wooden signs, building cabinets, or manufacturing whatever products that are marketable in the community.  Geometry in Construction is based on building larger products/projects for retail sale such as dear blinds, saunas, sheds, yard furniture, etc.  Some schools even build tiny homes/full-size homes to be sold to non-profits or to the public.

In both courses:

  • students are working to fulfill a need for a customer outside of the school.
  • we use job/employability cards with daily grades to teach Employability Skills.
  • the obstacles to WBL are removed, including scheduling, transportation, and the courses are open to lower grade levels.


The drawback for a School Based Enterprise:

  • There is not an external evaluator for students in SBE.  Teachers are the chief executives in the world of school and are not viewed by students as “real bosses” in a job setting.
  • SBEs are to be student run.  That works in some areas such as business.  We have not settled on what that looks like for us in Industrial Tech.  We can and have had student “managers” however if something get goes wrong, we as teachers are liable and must step in.   In our mind, items such as safety and customer relations are still the teachers responsibility ultimately.

Questions we are pondering:

  • How could we compensate students?
  • How could we fire students?
  • How could we hire students?
  • How do we set age-appropriate expectations?
  • What would it take to change the view of “supervisor” in a student’s mind?
  • How can you implement SBE/WBL in your school?


SBEs are our current solution to the WBL limitations.  With AMPED on Algebra and Geometry in Construction SBE:

  • We have moved students along the continuum of employability skill development using Employability/Job cards.
  • We have provided students an environment that produces products for customers with expectations.
  • We have provided this in a school setting with a minimal impact on the school schedule and FTE.
  • We have provided the experience for many more students in lower grade levels (9th and 10th) with no transportation issues.
  • We are improving student achievement and engagement in math by making connections to the work world.
  • We have exposed many more students to the CTE world than ever before.