AUBURN — Tuesday was a beautiful summer day, the temperature already 80 degrees at 10:30 a.m.

Instead of lounging by a pool, Quinn Myrick, 15, worked on geometry at Edward Little High School.

He had lots of company. The air-conditioned library was packed with 50-plus students at tables, books open, pencils in hand as they chatted and worked on algebra and geometry.

“I’m doing math to get ahead,” Myrick said. “I signed up for it.”

So did 79 others.

Students asked for math work this summer, said teacher Lisa Whitman. So she and fellow teacher Shannon Reed designed “summer math.”

It’s not typical summer school.

“This is not for kids who failed,” Whitman said. “It’s for kids who might be a little behind and want to get caught up, or for kids who want to get ahead.”

The class is taught in the customized learning style, in which teachers no longer lecture, and students work on their own or in groups, conferring with teachers.

“It has a lot of room to learn your own way and at your own pace,” said Marshall Chadbourne, 15, adding that he wouldn’t have signed up for it “if it was the regular math class.”

His goal is to complete geometry by January, then start Algebra II. He hopes to take pre-calculus his junior year and calculus his senior year.

“It’s always a good thing to get ahead,” Chadbourne said.

Whitman and Reed created summer math after co-teaching a customized-learning math class last year.

“The kids asked us, ‘Is there any chance we can do a bunch of work over the summer and assess in the fall?’ Whitman said. She told them she’d rather there be some checks along the way.

She and Reed talked to administrators, who agreed to provide teachers $25-an-hour stipends. When the class was announced to students, they reacted with cries of, “Yay!” and applause, Whitman said.

Eighty students signed up, more than expected. Two more teachers, Jon Berry and Jim Carmichael, agreed to teach.

Students are assigned weekly work to do at home and come to class from 9 to 11 a.m. on Tuesdays. There, students ask questions, take quizzes and get feedback from teachers.

“And they’re off and running again,” Whitman said.

Alexis Bellefleur, 15, Mariah Parent, 15, and Melissa Pawlina, 14, said they signed up to get ahead in math.

They aren’t giving up much summer, Parent said.

“It’s only a few hours a week — and I see my friends here,” Parent said. “The class is more laid back than those during the normal school year. Teachers don’t mind students talking “as long as you’re getting your work done,” Parent said.

Pawlina wants to complete Algebra I by the middle of her freshman year, then start geometry.

“I’m going to do math throughout high school,” she said.

Customized learning, which Edward Little is working toward for all classes, is motivating students to do more, Whitman said.

As schools move toward a proficiency-based diploma, students need to know the material before they move on, rather than the old-school method of pushing students forward if their grade was 70 or higher.

In the old way of teaching, if a high number of students did poorly on a quiz or test, the whole class would review the material, even those who got A’s, which can be a waste of time, Whitman said.

“Now the kid’s got an A, it’s, ‘Congratulations! You did well. Guess what, you get to move on.’”

Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin said she’s excited to hear students are taking ownership of their learning and that they asked for math over the summer.

“Just because the school year ended, it does not mean learning needs to end, too,” she said.


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