LEARNING LIFE: Factoring for challenges at Research Triangle High

Feb. 03, 2013 @ 08:41 PM

It’s quiz day in Melissa Grisham’s mathematics class at Research Triangle High School.
“You don’t need your devices yet,” Grisham tells her 18 students as she walks to the whiteboard on Thursday. “You will need them later.”
First, she wants to walk through the steps of factoring polynomial equations.
Some kids are restless. Bored.
But DeVon Eaddy, for whom mathematics has proven somewhat of a struggle during his first year in high school, pays close attention.
Grisham writes a sample equation on the board and asks, “What do we do next?”
“List the factors,” Eaddy says, raising his hand.
Then they find the greatest common factor before employing the FOIL method – first, outer, inner, last – to make sure their solution matches.
Messages on the wall offer reminders:
“You must factor before you can simplify.”
“Don’t forget to always distribute the – sign to all terms.”
“You must FOIL.”
The class goes mostly quiet after Grisham passes quiz papers to each student. They hunch over their tables, working on calculators. Some coughs, a few squeaky chairs, but otherwise the room is silent.
One student seems to finish the quiz early. He walks over to return it to Grisham, but she asks, “Did you check it?” He goes back to his table to confirm the solution.
Eaddy takes his time. He checks his work. Once he finishes, he turns the paper in to Grisham and returns to his table to watch a math video on his laptop.
With a few minutes to go, as more students turn in their quizzes, restlessness seems to set in again.
On one side of the room, someone is drumming on something. Steadily. Monotonously.
“Want to stop beating over there?” a student asks.
“No,” someone else replies with a giggle.
That gets the students laughing.
After class, Eaddy reflects on the quiz he just took.
He’s trying to do better in math. He gave up yearbook so he could spend more time working on this troublesome subject. He’s doing what he can to focus and follow instructions. He’s taking the advice of his tutor.
“My tutor says to write down my steps instead of talking them out,” Eaddy said. “I think I did all right on the quiz. I felt like I got the answers right. I worked through the steps.”

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For this series, The Herald-Sun chose four students and their families to follow through the 2012-13 academic year to explore what these different opportunities for learning are all about.

The students are:

--Cameron McNeill, a junior at Riverside High School, part of the Durham Public Schools system.

--DeVon Eaddy, a freshman at Research Triangle Charter High School, a public-supported charter high school.

--Bella Cude, a sixth-grader at Duke School, a Durham private school.

--Henry and Scarlett Edwards, home-school students in Chatham County.