Three seventh-grade classes at Evans Middle School are using student-created businesses to teach the math standards in Pre-algebra.
“I intended to come in and do something different,” said Nancy Van Wyk, a fourth year teacher who is changing how she delivers instruction this year. Using concepts such as “flipped classroom” and “project-based learning,” she is offering students the opportunity to learn in a different way.
A flipped classroom reverses the typical lecture and homework elements of a course. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions. By doing this, Van Wyk carved out time to allow students to learn pre-algebra concepts through a real project. “After cross-walking the standards, most can be applied to opening a business,” she said.
This year, students are working in small groups to start a business. Her goal is for students to make the connection between pre-algebra instruction and the real world. Projects include creating video games, developing a new board game, writing a musical, product development, and several food-related ideas.
Last week, for example, a local business owner shared his journey from concept to business start-up. Jeff Hendred, co-owner of Polar Express, talked about how he developed his idea, did research, wrote a business plan, and opened his business almost two years ago. He shared the struggles of turning an idea into reality, financing, and marketing. Students listened intently and asked a lot of good questions. Hendred talked about what he looks for in employees and how they represent him when he is not there.
“I learned it is rough starting out,” said Elaine Prose.
North Lindell is working on a video game project. “Knowing how he got his money will help us,” he said. “And keeping relationships with friends who might be able to help you is important.”
Van Wyk records her lessons for students to watch at home. There is also an on-line quiz each week. If students don’t have computer access, there are opportunities to watch them at school. This allows students to do all book work in class, and access to the teacher if they have questions. “Now I have more time to address student questions,” she said.
And a grant from the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation allowed her to convert her traditional classroom into a 21st century space. Technology, including Google Classroom and Swivel, allow her to record lessons and provide access to lessons and quizzes online. “How do I mix what worked in the classroom previously with what would be more fun and relevant for students?” she said.