Triggering and building the aha moment in math

The aha moment... It's what every teacher, including Michelle Schwendemann, lives for. As a ninth-grade math teacher at Benjamin Carson High School in Detroit, Michigan, Schwendemann is fortunate to frequently see that look of understanding and newfound confidence in her students' eyes. For the majority, using Renaissance Accelerated Math® in her class is one of their first experiences with math success.

"Accelerated Math fits well with our program because so many of our students come to us below grade level and need to receive intense interventions," Schwendemann said. "Accelerated Math lets them start at their individual levels and move up at a rate that's comfortable for them. It's my experience that as students fill in those gaps in their knowledge, abstract concepts begin making foundational connections and their growth accelerates."

Accelerated Math fits well with our program because so many of our students come to us below grade level and need to receive intense interventions. The program lets them start at their individual levels and move up at a rate that’s comfortable for them. It’s my experience that as students fill those gaps in their knowledge, abstract concepts begin making foundational connections and their growth accelerates.

Michelle Schwendemann | Ninth-Grade Teacher | Benjamin Carson High School

This is supported by growth data from Schwendemann's three algebra lab classes last year (see chart), which shows significant first-quarter to fourth-quarter improvements in percentile ranks. This program is used to assess each student's foundational knowledge, create an individualized Accelerated Math plan for success that incorporates state standards, and monitor progress quarterly for necessary adjustments.

Schwendemann, who has used Accelerated Math successfully for 10 years, finds that the program combined with other Renaissance math products help her create a learning environment where students feel safe and thrive in mathematics. As they file into class, students know to grab their laptops and work on MathFacts in a Flash to strengthen basic math facts automaticity needed to support higher-order critical thinking. During this time, Schwendemann conferences with students who need assistance and additional Accelerated Math practice exercises, then all students work on individualized objectives for 70 minutes.

While there is structure, there is also a flurry of interactivity that not only engages students in their learning, but also promotes understanding through problem solving. Students adhere to "Three Before Me"—which means they should refer to their lab notes, instructional videos, or a peer mentor before asking Schwendemann for help. They are also encouraged to work in small groups with peers who are tackling the same level of objectives, or perhaps with a student who has had prior success on a certain objective.

Benjamin Carson High School currently has 445 students, 95 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch. Schwendemann says Accelerated Math helps her overcome her number-one challenge as a teacher: to get students to believe in themselves.

"Setting up parameters for success in the classroom supports students not only in learning mathematics, but in learning to have faith, patience, and confidence in themselves," Schwendemann said.

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