UF’s free tutoring app helping Fla. students prep for high-stakes algebra exam

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Algebra Nation’s online practice tool closely resembles the end-of-course exam and also features an interactive, Facebook-style discussion forum known as the Algebra Wall.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Last spring, nearly half of Florida ninth-graders flunked the statewide end-of-course Algebra 1 exam—a gateway test that Florida high school students must pass in order to graduate. University of Florida education researchers, using a powerful online teaching tool they developed, are offering incentives and challenging students across the state to “kick it up a notch” as they prepare for this year’s testing, which will begin April 20.

UF is sponsoring its second annual, statewide “Algebra Nation Test Yourself! Challenge” to support the students’ effort. Algebra Nation is a free, first-of-its-kind, Web-based tutoring tool specifically designed to help students prepare for the Algebra 1 exam. In less than a half-year after its 2013 launch, Algebra Nation was being used by more than a quarter-million students and 3,300 teachers in all 67 Florida school districts.

The two‑week Algebra Nation Challenge, which runs through April 19, motivates students to prepare for this high-stakes test with a chance for valuable prizes for students and their teachers. Florida students have the chance to practice for the upcoming Algebra 1 end-of-course exam by working algebra problems through Algebra Nation’s online Test Yourself! Practice Tool. This tool simulates the end-of-course testing environment by allowing students to answer standards-based problems in a format similar to the required exam.

Students earn entries into the Algebra Challenge by completing practice tests with at least 80 percent accuracy. With each entry, students also earn an entry for their teachers.  Each entry will be placed into a raffle for prizes. Algebra Nation will give out 100 class pizza parties and 10 iPad minis to students, plus five Caribbean cruises for two to teachers!

The 2014 Test Yourself! Challenge was a remarkable success, with over a million questions answered by students all across the state. Nathan Howe, an algebra teacher at Sunlake High School in Pasco County and a cruise winner, said, “I still can’t believe I was a winner of the teacher prize. The Bahamas cruise was by far the best thing I’ve ever won in my life.  It was also the first cruise I’ve ever been on, and definitely the trip of a lifetime.  Thank you Algebra Nation!”

The Challenge is more than just pizza, prizes, and fun. It helps students learn algebra and succeed on a high-stakes exam that they must pass to earn a high school diploma.

“Success in algebra is increasingly becoming a major determinant for future academic success,” said Don Pemberton, director of the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, which created Algebra Nation with Gainesville tech firm Study Edge. “Getting kids motivated to take advantage of the Algebra Nation tools is a key to their success.”

The Algebra Nation team will award 50 pizza parties at the end of the first week of the Challenge, and the rest of the prizes at the end of the second week. For more details on how the Algebra Nation Challenge works, please visit www.AlgebraNation.com/Challenge.

Students logged in to Algebra Nation can watch dynamic concept videos that come with corresponding study guides. Florida master teachers from diverse backgrounds provide the instruction on the videos and students choose the instructor that is the best fit for them.

Algebra Nation’s online practice tool closely resembles the end-of-course exam and also features an interactive discussion forum (Algebra Wall) where Florida students and teachers can ask and answer questions about algebra. Algebra Nation is now used in over 1,500 schools across Florida.

Students, parents and teachers can access Algebra Nation’s free resources 24/7 through their computers, iPhones, iPads, and Android phones. To learn more about Algebra Nation, go to www.AlgebraNation.com.

Melody Pak, Algebra Nation, 352-327-8218; melody@algebranation.com
   Ashley Dodds, Algebra Nation, 321-446-4556; ashley@algebranation.com
   Sylvia Boynton, UF Lastinger Center, 727-742-3759; sboynton@coe.ufl.edu
Don Pemberton, UF Lastinger Center for Learning; 352-273-4103; dpemberton@coe.ufl.edu