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Contact: Christine Payton Nov. 29, 2011
(337) 482-6397, payton@louisiana.edu
 
350 MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS TO COMPETE IN ALGEBRA COMPETITION
 
Three hundred fifty Louisiana middle school students will compete in a hands-on algebra competition on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Dr. Peter Sheppard, associate professor of mathematics at the university, founded the competition, which is now in its third year.

His intention was to provide students with an opportunity “to get excited about learning advanced algebraic concepts and problem-solving skills” by using Hands-On Equations®, an instruction program developed by Dr. Henry Borenson, who will be present at the event.

“ Hands-On Equations provides students with a tactile approach to learning advanced algebraic concepts in earlier grades,” said Sheppard. “We developed the competition as a means for teachers to employ this creative instructional strategy in after-school math clubs because very often curriculum constraints limit the time teachers can devote to this learning approach in their regular classrooms.”

Competing students will come from 20 middle schools from the Iberia, Lafayette, Vermilion, and St. Martin parishes. The competition will take place in the university’s Student Union Ballroom from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the award ceremonies scheduled at 12:30 p.m.

Borenson, who created the innovative Hands-On Equations program, congratulated Sheppard “for inspiring so many middle school students to be excited about learning algebra.” Borenson said to the competition developer, “By demystifying the abstract concepts of algebra, you have enabled these middle school students to solve advanced equations and word problems—and have fun at the same time.”

The competition is funded through a grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents, Louisiana Systemic Initiatives Program and the State of Louisiana STEM Goals Office. It is part of a larger project that also provides participating teachers with professional development in algebra instruction through two years in consecutive summer sessions and four Saturday sessions throughout the school year. The teachers use the Hands-On Equations approach in after-school programs or math clubs.

Heather Olson from Edgar Martin Middle School in Lafayette Parish is one of this year’s teacher participants. She commented, “Middle school students have a hard time understanding and grasping algebraic concepts. Since I have been using Hands-On Equations, my students love to solve algebraic equations because the approach is like a game. Forty-three students joined our after-school math club. The students are enjoying solving the algebraic equations, especially the extremely long equations.”

Hands-On Equations uses numbered cubes and pawns and a semblance of a balance scale to represent and solve algebraic equations. Since 1990 Borenson and Associates, Inc., the company Borenson founded, has provided the Making Algebra Child’s Play workshop to more than 50,000 teachers of grades 3 through 9.

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Document last revised Tuesday, November 29, 2011 9:35 AM

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