The Journey of Al and Gebra to the Land of Algebra is a fictitious story that explains algebraic concepts. Throughout its development I focused on the skills, and I perceived the product to be, in essence, a series of skills tied together with a story.
Since its publication, however, the feedback that I have received from middle-grade students has revealed their enjoyment of the medieval setting and the teenage superhero main characters. Students typically see the book as a story that happens to teach algebra, rather than an algebra lesson disguised by a setting and characters.
A sixth-grader recently sent me this e-mail:
I thought the Thirteenth Kingdom and the method of explaining slope really helped. I liked the way you used the dragon show to explain it. I don’t think of slope as a number for an angle, but a line that is shown by going a certain way to the side, and a certain way up or down. By the way, I got an A for the year in Algebra.
Luke and others like him helped me to understand the value of storytelling as an effective strategy for teaching factual or abstract information. One teacher reported improved student performance following an activity in which her class wrote a sequel to The Journey of Al and Gebra to the Land of Algebrato further explain a concept and illustrate a new skill. Her assessment is that storylines make the skills personal—which builds a bridge between abstract information and concrete experiences. How have you built “a bridge” with your students?
-Bethanie Tucker,Ed.D., Author and Consultant, of Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, has been a professional educator since 1972. She has served as a classroom teacher, a resource teacher, a teacher of gifted students, and is currently a professor of education at Averett University in Danville, Virginia. While teaching at Averett, she researched and developed the Tucker Signing Strategies for Reading – a decoding method using sight, sound and movement, which has been highly successful with struggling readers. Through aha! Process, Inc. Bethanie provides training and consulting services for this method.