Math Accessibility at New Community

by New Community Academy | Jul 19, 2016

At New Community Academy, our students often come to us with various learning barriers, operating at different levels across important academic skills. Math is one of the areas where we see wide disparities between our students’ abilities and comfort levels, as well as one of the areas where we feel most strongly about designing a learning environment and curriculum that will serve kids not only in attaining a diploma, but in living productive and successful adult lives. That’s why our curriculum combines both “traditional” math concepts and Applied Math skills that will have practical uses for our students beyond their high school careers.

The cornerstone of our math curriculum is blended learning, which combines online coursework with one-to-one assistance from trained educators who are there to supervise students’ learning and be sure that each one of our kids achieves mastery. We use the KeyTrain curriculum, which is part of the acclaimed WorkTrain program designed to certify students in career readiness. While New Academy students move through traditional high school math curricula such as Algebra and Geometry at their own pace, they also progress through KeyTrain and Applied Math concepts to ensure that they have a deep understanding of the math skills they’ll need to use in careers and life skills areas.

One of the unique advantages of a New Community education is our focus on applicable skills for adulthood, so our Applied Math training works with everything from making change to personal finance and using data and graphing in the workplace. We work with students to help them understand concepts such as the costs of higher education, budgeting, debt management, and financial goal-setting. As our founder, Kimberly Gunderson jokes: “We need them to understand you don’t pay $80,000 in college costs just so you can go be a barista!” Through Applied Math, students understand how to responsibly manage costs and investments to further educational and career goals, so they can make clear decisions and operate as confident, independent adults.

Applied Math also helps students to show prospective employers that they have a firm grasp of necessary mathematical skills for the workplace. While making change and working with percentages and averages seem like basic concepts, in truth, they’re skills that students in traditional educational settings often learn on paper but don’t know how to use in the real world. New Community students learn not just the theory of practical mathematical skills, but also gain experience in using those skills to achieve success in daily living and on the job. Our students, regardless of their perceived “aptitude” for high school mathematics, develop a relationship to math that allows them to understand its value and use it effectively outside of the classroom setting.