One year we had a student named Chelsea in our summer algebra program SAI who a few years later turned up in one of my math classes at the high school where I teach. In our summer program she was very alert and astute and positive – she seemed to learn a lot from SAI. In my high school math class, she was just as teachable and positive, and she went on to a few more years of high school math after she finished my class.
All of a sudden Chelsea is a senior, just a few days away from graduation. I hardly ever saw her in the building because even the math classes she took were in a different part of the building from my room. So when I saw her walking past my room after school one day, I called her over to see what her plans were after high school. We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes, and then I realized I had a question to ask her.
So I said, “Chelsea, I know you’ve always been a good student here in high school, so I want to ask you: Do you remember the SAI class you took with me that summer a year or two before high school?”
She said that of course she remembered it. Then I asked her, “Given that you’ve always been a good student, as you look back on SAI, do you think it helped you do better in high school math? Or would you have done just as well anyway since you’re such a good student?”
This is what was cool: her whole face lit up with her great smile and she very enthusiastically said, “Your SAI class really helped me, because when I started taking regular algebra during the school year, I already knew the that x and x2 were different, and I already knew how to factor quadratics. But a lot of my classmates weren’t clear on things like that. So while they struggled with those things, I was already at the next problem or done with the assignment. For sure, SAI was very helpful for me.”
That was gratifying and encouraging for me to hear first-hand from a student what I already pretty sure of: SAI made algebra much, much easier for a very bright student. That’s cool. That’s why we do this. SAI enriches a student’s mind so much, with dynamics like color, shape, size, texture, music, movement, activity,and symbols building a deep and lasting understanding of foundational math concepts.