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The Saylor Foundation K12 Algebra I Course

The Saylor Foundation

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Note that this resource was reviewed during the Spring 2013 review period. The resource may or may not have been updated since the review. Check with the content creator to see if there is a more recent version available.

Review

This resource was reviewed by OSPI in Spring 2013. Learn more about the review process and the data analysis approach.

Background from OER Project Review Team
Saylor is a non-profit foundation that hires teachers and professors to create course blueprints, locate, vet, and organize OER into a structured course format. This Algebra 1 resource is intended as a self-directed online course. It is also useful for the homeschool community and alternative classroom programs. The reviewed resource was under development upon our review and only units 1-4 of a 10 unit course were available to preview. This should factor into the viewer’s analysis of the review results.

Publishers' Criteria (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Strongly Disagree) to 3 (Strongly Agree). Focus: 1.6, Rigor & Balance: 1.4, Consistent Content: 1.4, Coherent Connections: 1.6, Reasoning: 1.27, Standards for Practice: 1.27.

EQuIP (Learn more)

Not Recommended (0.4)
Chart with scale of 'meets criteria' from 0 (None) to 3 (All). Alignment: 1.2, Key Area of Focus: 1.0, Instructional Supports: 1.0, Assessment: 0.6.
Unit 3

Achieve OER (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Weak) to 3 (Superior). Explanation: 1.4, Interactivity: 1.6, Exercises: 1.0, Deeper Learning: 1.25.
Unit 3

See standard error chart for the review scoring

Reviewer Comments (Learn more)

Extreme (0.4)

The object provided consists of an outline of an Algebra 1 course consisting of 10 instructional units together with a sample of lessons in the first four units. The lessons themselves consist of links to various online resources providing instruction in the specific topics in the course outline.

The course outline is very comprehensive and demonstrates thorough coverage of content standards aligned to CCSS for High School Mathematics. Because only a portion of the finished modules were provided, review of the object for coverage of CCSS content standards was limited to identifying the content standards covered in the course outline and verifying coverage of those content standards covered in the initial units only. If additional curriculum is developed to cover the topics contained in the full outline there is potential for the course to align well with CCSS Content Standards.

The major area where revision is needed is in addressing the CCSS standards for mathematical practice as well as providing instructional units and assessments that demand rigor and provide coherence and focus on key CCSS standards. The instructional units provided were limited to activities with very low cognitive demand and consisted primarily of showing simple algorithms to perform rote calculations followed by practice exercises that ask students to repeat the same algorithm demonstrated but with different values for the variables. In unit 3, for example, lesson 3 is identified as “average rate of change”. The instruction for this lesson consists of links to several different sources which all consist of various electronic versions of simple chalkboard demonstrations of a common algorithm to create a graph of a linear equation in slope-intercept form given the values of the coefficients for slope and y-intercept. Student practice exercises generally consist of providing various values of the coefficients and asking students to follow the memorized algorithm to plot the graph of the equation without requiring students to interpret the meaning of the equation in context or engage in problem-solving to develop deeper understanding of the relationships between the variables and coefficients as well as the relationship between changes in the variables or coefficients and features of the graph. In order for the product to cover the CCSS content standards identified in the course outline and especially to meet the CCSS standards for mathematical practice, lessons that engage students in more complex problem solving will need to be added to the curriculum. Without supplementing practice of rote algorithms to develop computational speed and fluency with complex problem-solving, the proposed curriculum will not provide students with opportunities to learn how to reason abstractly or quantitatively nor will students be exposed to problems with sufficient rigor and cognitive challenge to develop skill in making sense of problems in new situations and persevering in solving them without being provided with a simple formulaic algorithm.

It should also be noted that in the example above as in other sections of the course, the lessons provided may not necessarily align with the stated topics in the outline. Providing practice creating graphs of linear equations may or may not address the topic of average rate of change depending on the amount of supplemental instruction and extensions provided by the teacher. Without teacher supplementation to help students make additional connections, in this case between the examples in the lessons and a conceptual definition of average rate of change, the lessons themselves may fail to address the content standards advertised in the outline.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Disagree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

This curriculum is designed to unite existing online content into a CCSS Algebra 1 course. There does not appear to have been anything created by those who combined the existing sources into a course. The result is a curriculum whose quality varies greatly. As could be expected, some of the sources include rich application problems that provide a coherent balance between the conceptual and procedural whereas others involve a short video where only one or two basic procedurally focused examples are worked out. The disparity in quality is a detriment to the coherence and rigor of the course.

A great challenge to the review process is that at this time the course is unfinished. The four units, out of ten, that are completed follow a well-thought out sequence. There are many lessons in each unit and often several links for each lesson. The links send students to external sites that include explanations and sometimes exercises. At times there seems to be a loss of focus in the flow of the lessons within the units due to the use of trying to piece a course together from disparate sources.

In its current state of completion this curriculum does not provide enough incentive for it to be widely used. On the other hand, it shed light on many valuable online sources that may not be commonly known.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Disagree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

The Saylor curriculum has a logical structure to it. Each unit opens with a sample problem or two to motivate the student. Then it includes a brief statement about the material to be covered, followed by the specific learning outcomes, both in everyday language as well as the matching CCSS standards. A time advisory is included with an overall completion estimate as well as approximate times for each unit and subunit. This would provide a nice checklist for students following the course of study.

Units tend to consist of Explanations and Worked Examples. The Saylor course makes use of six different, free, online resources for its guided curriculum. It is interesting to note that there are a variety of materials used in this way. PowerPoint presentations, Khan Academy videos, in addition to well-made videos from other sources, and some websites where students must read the information and worked out examples to gather the information they need to master. Further explorations and/or practice required by the student for complete understanding is encouraged by searching these websites for extra help when a student is struggling with the material. It appears to be intended as a stand-alone, independent study course. It is hard to visualize the entire course as it is currently incomplete.

The biggest drawback I see is that the Standards for Mathematical Practice are never even mentioned, thus negating their significance in the CCSS. The level of collaboration, meaning-making through questioning, reasoning, and critiquing of logical arguments are all lacking. There are also several links that did not work correctly or went to a different site than intended. At least one Checkpoint (3.3.1.3) went to the Math Help website, which is labeled as “for subscriber’s only.” The Checkpoint for 3.2.1 is also confusing. It says…”if you struggled with the quiz, there is an interactive slope activity and a slope worksheet.” This is not at the same website; one must go back to the previous explanation site to find these.

I checked out several of the activities and checkpoints from the four units available. I looked closely at each of those included in the unit we used for an in-depth study (Unit 3: Linear Equations and Inequalities in Two Variables). While the quality of these interactive activities seems worthwhile, I am alarmed at the number of such activities. For example, Unit 1 has 18 activities listed, Unit 2 has 9 activities and Units 3 and 4 each only have one! Unit 1 includes 7 Checkpoints, Unit 2 has 8 Checkpoints, Unit 3 only two and one in Unit 4. This makes me wonder what will happen in the upcoming 6 units. Will the number of activities included continue at the same low level as in Units 3 and 4, or increase to the levels in the first two units?

As a teacher, there are several of these sections that I would find useful to help a struggling student master a concept they find difficult. They would be more appealing if they included some pictures or something to stir the senses instead of the same old text on a webpage. The links one goes to from the Saylor curriculum have interest, but the gateway leading you there could use a makeover.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Disagree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

Focus - The curriculum is incomplete at the time of review. Only the first four out of ten units were available for review. Strengths of the curriculum include a well balanced compilation of various digital instructional materials (Khan Academy, Illustrative Mathematics, Open Algebra, CK-12) to address specific clusters of standards. Each lesson contains an explanation component (sometimes including practice problems) and a checkpoint (formative assessment with immediate feedback) for students to assess their learning. Of the available material much of the content addresses grade level topics. For example, function notation, domain and range, and writing equations and inequalities are all covered within the first unit.

Coherence – More connections could be made to previous learning of material. Opportunities are missed to make connections across learning progressions (i.e. arithmetic sequences to linear functions). In unit 3 (Linear Equations and Inequalities in Two Variables) sense making could be enriched by going deeper in interpreting intercepts and having students explain the meaning of slope in a context.

Rigor - The curriculum appears to be designed for independent learning and this makes it difficult to address some of the practices (especially SMPs 1, 3, and 4). Application problems and modeling tasks are present and are at times rich (1.6.7 Task “Yam in the Oven”) while some are lacking (3.4.3 Task “Equations in Standard Form”).

There are no extra supports or extensions for learners working above or below grade level.

No flexible grouping or pair-share activities are included.

Students are not asked to communicate their understanding and reasoning. More open ended practice problems and tasks would need to be included to address SMPs and assess conceptual understanding. Moderate revision would be necessary to create conceptual depth and a platform for students to communicate their mathematical thinking.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Disagree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

The Saylor.org Algebra resource provides links to videos of lessons done from other websites. It is set up in a concrete sequential way; and as a result, students can learn at their own pace. This resource could, at best, be used in a classroom as a review of a particular lesson a student missed. Although there are videos of lessons, I found hardly any additional practice for students and no problems that would challenge student’s critical thinking skills. After analyzing the specific unit that Saylor.org submitted for evaluation (Linear Equations and Inequalities in Two Variables), I found it offered only two formative assessments and very little practice. Additionally, I found the basic concepts where introduced in each video, but very little depth was provided. Overall, I found this curricular resource offers lower level experiences that lack the rigor and critical thinking skills needed for students to understand the concepts being taught. I would recommend this to possibly be used in a retention class or as a supplemental resource.

I would use these materials in my classroom: Disagree
(On a 4 point scale: Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree)

Creative Commons License
This work by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.