An encore for math

Students at Rochelle Middle School are offered math as an elective

Shop, music, chorus, technology, computer, art, math: most would say math does not belong in that combination of elective classes. However, for a small group of students at Rochelle Middle School they are spending their encore time in an extra math class.

New this year at RMS Katie Queller-Zillis is teaching a math intervention classroom. Based on math teacher recommendation select students spend one period of their encore schedule working with Queller-Zillis in an extra math class.

“Math intervention is an extra math class with a small group of students to help boost up students who have struggled but teachers know they can do well in math,” explained Queller-Zillis.

While this is the first year RMS has offered the math intervention class, it began a step ahead thanks to the Farmer's Insurance grant Vic Worthington was awarded for the school. With grant money, Queller-Zillis was able to start the school year with a classroom equipped with tools to help the students visual math problems in a hands-on manner. The room is equipped with a Smart Board and document camera allowing Queller-Zillis to lead students while interacting on the board together. Students are also able to see the math problems with visuals using fraction towers and graphing blocks.

With the fraction towers students are able to stack cubes and see addition and subtraction of fractions by eliminating and adding blocks manually rather than writing the problem on a piece of paper. On the graphing blocks students are able to graph with rubber bands on a peg board.

“The benefit to having the manipulatives the students are doing the same type of problem in a slightly different way,” explained Queller-Zillis.

The curriculum in Queller-Zillis's classroom may match what the students are doing in their regular math class other times she may teach a lesson the students previously struggled with and at other times she pre-teaches to give the students a head start. Rochelle Middle School is on a trimester schedule and a students may be in math intervention for one trimester or the whole school year.

Queller-Zillis, math teachers and the students have seen the impact of math intervention in the regular math classes. After a trimester some students have been able to take another encore class as they have seen progress in their math skills. Queller-Zillis explained a few students have found math to be easier to understand since they began her class and they choose to stay in math intervention.

The farmer's grant enriches the opportunity for students to catch up and excel in math with the tools purchased through the grant.

“The tools help the students to actually see the problem and not just on paper,” stated Queller-Zillis. “I am teaching the students that math is not a bunch of tiny rules to memorize.”

With the grant money Queller-Zillis was able to purchase a license to Front Row Education. The website is majority of the students favorite tool purchased with the grant money. Queller-Zillis explained students are able to use the website for common core standard lessons and fluency practice.

“Students have seen their grades and work improve while working in math intervention. The objective is to do better in their regular math class,” explained Queller-Zillis.

Students are coming to Queller-Zillis for extra help with homework and to use the tools during their homeroom time to stay ahead in their math class.

“I have really enjoyed the opportunity to teach math intervention,” stated Queller-Zillis. “I am able to work with a small group of students and concentrate on math without the stress on grades while helping the students to improve.”

In an encore class students are give a satisfactory grade, but work is not based on an A,B,C scale.

The class began with a bonus from the Farmer's Insurance grant and is providing a math bonus for RMS students.

“These are kids I know can do well in math,” stated Queller-Zillis. “I believe some of these kids will go on to advanced math classes and possibly careers heavy in math.”