A History of the Algebra 4 All Social Network
The Algebra 4 All (A4A) Social Network is a community of educators committed to sharing resources and supporting one another in the practice of teaching Algebra. The Network was originally created by Michigan Virtual University (MVU) for Michigan mathematics teachers involved in the state-wide Algebra for All professional development project. Although the official funding period for the project has ended, the A4A Social Network remains a relevant and viable resource for any mathematics instructor interested in the teaching of Algebra.
The Algebra for All Professional Development Project was a partnership between the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan Mathematics and Science Center Network, and Michigan Virtual University. From 2009 to 2011 over 1,000 Michigan mathematics teachers were trained at fifteen different Mathematics and Science Center sites across the state as part of the program. The focus of the Algebra for All training was on implementing the functions-based approach to teaching Algebra.
As part of their support for the A4A Professional Development Project, MVU created the A4A Social Network as a way to connect teachers from the many training centers around the state. Teachers could participate in discussions, post videos or photos, share lesson plans, and access documents used in the training sessions. Additionally, MVU developed online versions of the Algebra for All training activities. These online activities include a variety of original applets, training videos, and calculator tutorials that also became available on the A4A Social Network. During this time, members were formally supported by Online Peer Coaches, who actively engaged in leading conversations on the Network and assisted participants at each training site.
The online versions of the training activities were subsequently offered as Algebra for All Online, a completely online professional development course developed by MVU and offered through Michigan LearnPort. Participants in Algebra for All Online are required to use the A4A Social Network to find resources for their own use, participate in discussions, and share lesson plans developed as part of the course. Algebra for All Online continues to be a source of new members, new content, and new discussions on the A4A Social Network.
The benefits of the A4A Social Network did not go away when the official funding period for the Algebra for All Professional Development Project came to an end in the summer of 2011. By that time, the Network housed over 300 teacher-contributed lesson plans, over 30 instructional applets, hundreds of discussion threads, and over 1,300 members. Additionally, all of the online applets and activities had become available for teachers to use directly with their students. As a result of the wide variety of possible settings for Algebra instruction, the site included teachers from grades 6-12 with backgrounds in elementary, middle school, high school, and special education.
Because of the existing value and ongoing potential of the A4A Social Network, MVU made the decision to continue support of the Network with internal funds. Beginning in 2012, the Network will be formally supported by four Network Moderators with the assistance of an Instructional Designer and Project Manager from MVU. The Network Moderators actively support the site by contributing and maintaining content, supporting members, and increasing awareness of the site. While the site provides resources and support for all aspects of Algebra instruction, and math instruction in general, the historic focus of the site has specifically been on the functions-based approach to teaching Algebra. Moving forward, an explicit effort will be made to provide an additional focus on implementation of the new Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.
It is expected that the A4A Social Network and the resources it houses will remain available for many years to come. The ongoing value and significance of the Network will continue to be determined by the use and contributions of its members.