African Americans and the Algebra Project1
Students from Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot School for grades K—8 come from all neighborhoods in Boston. The student population is approximately 50% Black and 47% Hispanic. Because the Algebra Project curriculum is designed around kid-culture, I have had great success using it with the students. It’s the Algebra Project push that says, “Find the experience that students have, so that they all have a place to enter in." They all bring something to the table whether it’s an experience they had before or one that they are creating new. The student’s voice is so important. And once students hear themselves voicing their ideas in the class they are never the same afterwards.
Lynne Godfrey, Boston
Teacher, curriculum writer, professional development provider, and mathematics educator Lynne Godfrey taught this unit to sixth-graders at the Young Achievers Science and Math Pilot School (YA), an innovative citywide Boston Public School. Currently, Lynne is the Director of Instruction, Curriculum and Adult Development for Mathematics at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School, part of the network of Boston Plan for Excellence (BPE) Teaching Academies. In this capacity, Lynne facilitates professional learning, coaches classroom teachers and residents, and coteaches the Elementary Mathematics Content Methods Class for Boston Teacher Residency (BTR). Her classroom at the King Open School in Cambridge in the 1980s is where Robert P (Bob) Moses pioneered the Transition Curriculum of the Algebra Project. With her students and other teachers, Lynne helped develop and taught the Algebra Project Transition Curriculum. She has taught grades 2-8 in Cambridge and Boston, served as adjunct professor at Wheelock College, and served as a senior facilitator with the Algebra Project.
Since its inception in 1995, YA has been dedicated to creating an exceptional teaching and learning environment in which science and mathematics concepts, explored by new technologies, are central to teacher and student inquiry In collaboration with families, students, community members, and community institutions, a democratic participatory process governs the school. Social justice through academic excellence for the diverse student body enrolled in YA is the collective commitment of all school personnel. Class size is kept small at about 20 students. Students with disabilities are educated in the same setting as their general education peers. The program of study at YA emphasizes rigorous interdisciplinary science and mathematics lessons designed to prepare all students to successfully complete the college preparatory mathematics sequence in high school.
During the writing of this profile, Lynne was upper school (grades 4-8) coordinator and mathematics coach at Young Achievers, as well as a sixth-grade mathematics teacher of 22 largely African American students. Lynne’s classroom was always a busy place, buzzing with the activity of sixth- graders whose desks are arranged in groups of two to three. Chart papers with key phrases and summaries from past lessons are evident around the room. A chalkboard and open area in the front of the classroom provide places for students to share their thinking about mathematical problems with their peers. A graduate student intern works one-on-one with the students and, at the same time, learns how to teach the Algebra Project curriculum.
As I [Katharine, second author of first edition] watched the video of Yvelyne’s experience in Lynne’s class, I perceived that this visit would be like no other I had seen in the many years that I have observed mathematics teachers at work. Almost instantly, Yvelyne was swept into the community that Lynne and her learners had become. Even before Yvelyne made her way to the back of the room with the video equipment, Lynne introduced her to the students and explained her purpose for being there. This introduction was not uncommon; typically, teachers announce to the class that a visitor will be joining them and the purpose of the visit. What followed next convinced me that this visit would be different. Turning to Yvelyne, one by one, the students introduced themselves by giving their names; several added, “Welcome to our class, Dr. McCarthy” To the reader, this behavior may seem trivial, but to Yvelyne it spoke volumes about Lynne’s classroom climate and the priority she puts on the contribution of each person to the functioning of the learning community