A new way to teach math to Tampa kids - WFLA News Channel 8

A new way to teach math to Tampa kids

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

It's a new way to teach math, and it's making the grade. University of South Florida researchers are using Liberty Middle School in Tampa as a lab for field research on a teaching method called "interleaving."

The basis of interleaving is that the students' homework consists of roughly half the questions from that day's concept. The other half of the homework can be questions on topics learned at any previous point in the school year.

"At first the students would turn the page over because we have front and back and say, 'What is this? We didn't do this today'," said 7th grade math teacher, Jen DeMik.  "Then, the more they do it, the more they get used to it,"

The teachers involved in this 3-year study provided USF researchers with assignments they traditionally give students on each concept.  The researchers divided those questions up and created the new homework assignments.

"So every student had the exact same questions, they just had them in a different order," said DeMik.

The constant review of topics makes it easier for students to build on concepts as they go through the year.

"It helps you remember it way better," said 8th grader Marigny Duga. 

Duga was part of the interleaving study when she was in 7th grade.

"I remembered it from the beginning of the year to the end of the year," said Duga.

"It's easier to connect in 8th grade when you're building off that math," 8th grader Guilia Falabella agrees.

The Liberty Middle School teachers notice the difference the most at test times.  They say the students are more relaxed and have more confidence. They also hope the textbook companies recognize its effectiveness and use interleaving in their material.

"Really get a hold of this and embrace it, and maybe start creating some materials that we would be able to use in the classroom," said 7th grade teacher Brendan Paul.

While this is a small study, interleaving has proven successful.  As part of the study, the students were given a pop quiz at the end of the year.  Some of the topics on that test had been taught in the traditional block format. The other concepts were taught through the interleaving method.

"They scored in the mid 70s on the test that they had interleaving, and on the topics they had the block they were in the 30s," said DeMik.

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