This school year, over 120 students from both Rockwall High School and Rockwall-Heath High School earned college credit from the University of Texas in an innovative new dual enrollment math course offered at both Rockwall ISD high schools.
The course teaches Pre Calculus using Inquiry Based Lessons (IBL) that step students though the discovery of the math concepts, a departure to traditional math classes where students follow teacher examples to gain understanding. The students received a high school grade from their teacher from a combination of test grades, homework, quizzes, and explorations. In addition, the students also received a grade from UT earned college credit for a college Pre-Calculus class that can be applied towards a college degree or elective credit depending on a student’s future plans. After taking the course, over 70% of the eligible students from both high schools earned either an “A” or “B” in the University of Texas credit portion of the class.
Learning through a new teaching method provided challenges for both the students and the teachers of the course. The classroom teachers attended two-week training in Austin last summer as well as several follow-up training sessions throughout the year. here they worked with the UT math professor who developed the course as well as other Pre Calculus teachers from across the State of Texas. Kathleen Shipman, who teaches the course at Rockwall-Heath High School, described how the course was very different from traditional math courses “The course is set up so that students play a vital role in the overall learning. The curriculum provides students with not only the “what” but the “why”. Dana Akard, along with Misti Orr, taught the course at Rockwall High School. Mrs. Akard loved the training the teachers received in Austin and noted “By experiencing the class as a student, we felt the same frustration that the student would in the beginning of an unfamiliar atmosphere. We knew students would develop a deeper understanding of math because we walked away with that greater understanding ourselves”.
The benefit of the course did not end at the end of the Pre Calculus course. As a result of taking the rigorous course, almost 200 students have signed up to take an AP Calculus class between the two high schools as a high school senior, increasing the enrollment in the AP Calculus program by over 50% in a single year. AP Calculus provides students with another opportunity to earn college credit in math; all from taking courses offered by their high school in Rockwall ISD. Ms. Shipman’s students have also appreciated the new method of learning math, “Many students have come to me saying that this is the first year that they have understood the math they were doing versus just following steps. Many students have told me that this is the best math class they have even taken”.