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Augie Choice offers students self-directed options

Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, has a unique program to provide financial support for students wanting to engage in creative learning experiences. Dubbed Augie Choice, this program provides up to $2,000 to support a hands-on learning experience.

Students can take an entrepreneurial approach to this offering. They choose a topic that could have impact on their education, interests, career, and life goals.

Throughout the 2010-2011 academic year, three elementary education majors worked closely with kindergarten and first-grade students at Longfellow Liberal Arts School, Rock Island, Illinois, to help them master basic number sense concepts such as using one-to-one correspondence, counting to 100, and recognizing numbers.

Students Maggie Blackburn, Christina Mazza, and Josh Fahs present their Number Sense Project research at Augustana’s Celebration of Learning. Photo provided by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois

For the Number Sense Project, the students — Maggie Blackburn, Josh Fahs, and Christina Mazza, all in the graduating class of 2012 — used technological tools such as the iPod, iPad, or computer, as well as manipulatives such as ten frames and digi-blocks, to find effective ways for students to increase their understanding of numbers.

The students presented a poster on their findings at the May 2011 Celebration of Learning at Augustana College, Rock Island. The poster featured images of activities they used to strengthen number sense ability as well as collected data demonstrating the students’ progress using the various methods.

According to Mazza, the children who were struggling the most with numbers did not benefit from “jumping into” the technology. They needed instruction on the concepts in the form of manipulatives and visual objects before trying to demonstrate their knowledge using technology, which can be an abstract concept.

“Technology was used a lot for students to practice a specific concept; it was not used to initially teach the concept,” she explained. “For example, if a student cannot recognize the numbers 1 to 10, then they would not be able to successfully complete the software program Line ‘em Up, which asks students to place numbers in order.

“Therefore, we found that students need to initially use manipulatives and receive instruction before diving into software programs that do not provide instruction, but rather provide practice and build upon previous background knowledge.”

Using Augie Choice dollars to help kids count

Through the Augie Choice program, the Augustana students were paid for their time spent at Longfellow and for related work outside of Longfellow, including literature review, data collection and writing. Mazza says Augie Choice money also will be used for hotel and transportation expenses when the trio presents its findings at the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference in Springfield, Illinois, in October.

In addition to Augie Choice money, the Augustana students received funding from Augustana’s education department to purchase an iPad. “Since we were exploring technology and how it compares to using manipulatives, the purchase of these tools was necessary for our research,” Mazza added.

Dr. Randy Hengst and Dr. Michael Egan of Augustana’s education department developed the software used in the Number Sense Project at Longfellow School. More information about the project, including access to the software, is available at augustana.edu/numbersense.

Students can use Augie Choice dollars for domestic or international programs. For more information on Augie Choice, go to www.augustana.edu/x4793.xml.

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