If you’ve had the pleasure of taking a math class in Ms. Lynn’s room during the 2019-2020 school year, you’ve already witnessed the amazing power of funding within the Chatham School district. The Chatham Education Foundation, or CEF, is a local non-profit organization that raises money to fund teacher’s grants. Recently, mathematics supervisor Stacy Winters applied for and was accepted a grant for CHS’s math department. Dubbed a ‘vertical classroom’ or ‘the thinking classroom,’ the recent project in Chatham High School focuses on room D172’s Honors Algebra 2 students. Although not yet 100% completed, the new room is now outfitted with whiteboards across all walls, standing whiteboard desks, and glass boards that can be written on either side. The funding from the CEF awards the class with items such as dry-erase markers, wipes, tables, chairs, and, obviously, the various boards in the classroom allocated for student use, some of which are electronics that operate similarly to smartboards- minus the projector.
For the students of Ms. Lynn’s Algebra class, their workday is like no other. The whiteboards promote increased collaboration, greater mobility and movement, and easier problem solving – including better student-teacher discussions about a problem. Far better than the window-writing that I did in Ms. Lynn’s class, the students are able to work through their many problems on the boards, with plenty of space for everybody. With a quick glance around their room or to a neighbors spot on the wall, one can see the next step if they’re stuck or the proper corrections if they’ve made an error. As some of you may remember, the majority of content in Algebra 2 is the graphing of various function types, and much practice is needed to master this skill. Thus, an Algebra 2 classroom is the ideal candidate to serve as the first ‘vertical classroom’ of the school, as graphing is done quite easily in this type of environment with access to these innovative workspaces.
For those who have taken Algebra 2 sometime in the past, I encourage you now to recall back to the many long and tedious hours spent graphing rational functions, plotting asymptotes, and locating x-intercepts. Personally, the memory conjures up feelings of frustration and difficulty, as I too struggled with the learning process of the class. Just last year I was in Ms. Lynn’s class, the very place that is currently serving as a guinea-pig for the change that could potentially sweep CHS’ math department. Not long into the year, I found my solution: window-writing. I often did my graphs on the windows of Ms. Lynn’s class as other students scrambled to find space on either the small whiteboard at the back of the class or the portable smartboard located in the corner. Unfortunately, space where students could work like this was not available to everybody. If it had been, or if I was granted even better spaces to do this work, it is likely that I would’ve found the class easier.
If the completed project turns out to be as successful as anticipated, we can expect to see an expansion of this type of environment throughout the math department (with the help of CEF, of course!), so you may be lucky in years to come, and have a class just like this one. In the meantime, however, students reap the benefits of generous CEF contributions everyday, which – just to list a few – include the VR headsets in the language classrooms, the rest relaxation room, and even the Tedx Youth event that occurred last year – and that’s just at CHS!