H.S. Students Study Calculus via Distance Learning

Distance Learning Technology Enables High School Students to Study Advanced Calculus

How do high schools provide advanced classes to one or two bright students who have completed all the math classes their high schools offer? Fulton County Schools has found a solution by partnering with Georgia Tech to provide college-level calculus classes through distance-learning technologies.

Georgia Tech is piloting an effort to provide advanced calculus courses to students at five Fulton County high schools via distance learning. Through live two-way videoconferencing technologies 34 high school seniors, juniors and sophomores are able to continue their math studies, after they completed all the math courses offered at their high schools. This spring semester 33 of those high school students will continue their calculus studies with Calculus III. The pilot program is currently with Alpharetta, Centennial, Chattahoochee, North Springs and Roswell high schools with plans to expand to other schools throughout Fulton County next year. Other metro Atlanta counties have expressed interest as well.

"We approached this partnership with the mindset of how can Georgia Tech reach out and help the state of Georgia assist students who have the academic desire to achieve beyond what's available at their local school," says Nelson C. Baker, associate vice provost for Distance Learning and Professional Education at Georgia Tech.

"This joint venture is one of many we hope to develop with Georgia Tech," says Judy H. Dennison, director of core academics for Fulton County Schools. "We have many students who need the challenge of college-level classes, and through this distance learning effort we're able to provide that in a cost-effective way."

The 36 high school students, mostly seniors, taking the calculus distance learning courses have already completed Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus and passed the exam for college credit for Calculus I. The distance learning class is a good deal for the high school students, since they receive both high school credit as well as college credit for the class. The HOPE Scholarship program pays the tuition costs to Georgia Tech, and Fulton County Schools pays the transmission costs and provides the videoconferencing equipment required for each school.

"It was a little tough getting used to the fact that your teacher isn't in the room and is on the screen, but I've gotten used to it," said Molly McLaughlin, a senior at Roswell high school who is interested in studying chemical engineering. "The distance learning calculus classes are going to prepare me for college so I'll know better what to expect next year."

"We face the double challenge of finding qualified math teachers to teach higher level calculus and the logistical challenge of serving the small number of exceptionally advanced students sprinkled throughout the county. We're finding that distance learning is a great solution," says Dennison.

Georgia Tech already participates in the Accel program, funded by the Georgia Lottery, where a small number of high school students from 10 - 15 per year enroll and attend one to two classes on campus. However, for most high school students traveling to campus for class is not practical. To qualify for the distance learning calculus class, the Admissions office reviewed students' G.P.A. in math, SAT scores and AP Calculus exam scores.

"The students enrolled in the distance learning calculus class are highly qualified students who we would be interested in recruiting to Georgia Tech for college," says Rick Clark, assistant director in Georgia Tech's Admission office. "Through this program we're able to provide them a glimpse of life at Georgia Tech, so it's important that this be a positive experience for them."

Just like the traditional Tech students enrolled in Calculus III, the high school students attend three lectures per week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. - 8:55 a.m. and a smaller recitation period on Tuesday and Thursday with a teaching assistant.

"These students are incredible," says Tom Morley, professor in the School of Mathematics who teaches the distance learning calculus class. "There's a big gap between high school and college in terms of expectations, and they are doing well. I've found that these students are bright and if they want to say something to the class they will. They don't seem intimidated by the Tech students or the videoconferencing dynamic."

When asked if teaching simultaneously to a lecture hall of Tech students and to the high school students at remote locations is difficult, Morley says, "With the distance technology I find myself having to stay in one place rather than run around as I want."

Morley has been involved in a number of outreach activities including serving on the committee that did the final rewrite for the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) for mathematics grades 9-12, conducting for several years summer workshops for Atlanta and DeKalb AP calculus teachers, running a month-long workshop for Fulton County 6th grade teachers last summer to prepare them for the new Georgia Curriculum and many more. Next summer he's teaching a workshop for Fulton County 7th grade teachers and the new Georgia Curriculum.

Georgia Tech's Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics & Computing (CEISMC) has a long relationship with Fulton County schools as well as many other educational groups, schools, corporations, and opinion leaders throughout the state of Georgia. CEISMC works toward one common goal to ensure that K-12 students in Georgia receive the best possible preparation in science, mathematics and technology. Through this relationship, the distance learning partnership developed.

"This partnership is providing a service to Georgia students that they couldn't get elsewhere," Morley. "There are many small and large counties that have the same issues. I'd really like to grow this program to address the specialized needs of students throughout the state."

Media Contacts:

Elizabeth Campell
Georgia Tech
404-894-4233
elizabeth.campell@icpa.gatech.edu

Mitzi Edge
Fulton County Schools
404-763-6834
EdgeM@fulton.k12.ga.us