Algebra? There’s an app for that

Willamette University students develop an iPad app to help their younger peers

The Associated Press /

SALEM — Willamette University students hope to help younger students trying to get into college crack the code of algebra.

With that in mind, the college students have developed iPad applications to increase students’ understanding of the mathematics discipline, according to the Statesman Journal .

“Algebra is the gateway to college,” said Project Director and Willamette Professor of Education Steve Rhine. “It is most correlated with going to college of anything you take in high school.”

One app called Card Clutter helps students understand the relative value of numbers by arranging cards in order with face values ranging from negative fractions to absolute numbers. Those expressions sometimes stump students when solving algebraic equations.

Salem-Keizer students soon will get a chance to try the apps as student teachers from Willamette University enter high school classes this winter. Many of the apps are available for free on iTunes.

Parrish Middle School math teacher Ryan Hari likes the technology and finds it especially useful in his math-intensive classes for struggling students. He was one of the first to field-test the apps and received eight iPads as part of the grant.

Recently a handful of his students tapped the touch screens in rapid fire to solve for “x.”

“Do some Alge-Bingo for me,” Hari told Zack Sheldon, who quickly got to work.

“It makes it fun and easy,” Sheldon said.

Willamette’s program is part of a joint effort with Western Oregon University, George Fox University and Pacific University to increase student success in algebra. They received a $740,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to create the Center for Algebraic Thinking.

In Oregon, about one 1 out of 3 high school students failed the state math test last year. The main reason is a lack of proficiency in algebra, Rhine said.