What's the Difference?
Standard vs Success Courses
Our standard courses are for generally regular learners, but they are struggling in math because of external reasons (such as gaps, jumping too many curriculums, bad math experiences, etc.), or internal reasons (such as math is just more difficult to understand than other subjects, poor study habits, etc.). These courses are good for students who can generally sit through a learning lesson and track okay (if the lesson is clearly taught).
For students who…
- Have various gaps in their math education
- Have had poor experiences with math (poor curriculum, bad experience with a teacher, poor learning habits, inconsistently taught, etc.)
- Are fine in some other school subjects, but not in math
- Have to really work hard to take in and understand math concepts
- Can sit through a school lesson reasonably well if it is clearly taught and of appropriate length
- Can do multi-step math problems if they are explained well and at the appropriate level for the student's understanding
Our Success courses are for students who REALLY struggle in math. They not only struggle for typical reasons, but also have additional learning challenges on top of it all (either diagnosed or suspected) such as dyscalculia, dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, autism, etc. These students cannot focus long on a school lesson at all, easily forget what was just taught, and struggle with concepts that require several steps to get to the answer. They also tend to have notable meltdowns, beyond your basic tears during a math lesson. These courses are for situations where math has come to a near standstill and needs to get un-stuck.
For students who…
- Have large gaps in math education
- Still struggle heavily with very basic math operations (times tables, long division, fraction or decimal operations)
- Struggle in other areas of school as well
- Easily forget what was just taught
- Have lots of trouble focusing, even with short lessons – become very easily distracted
- Tend to have meltdowns easily, especially during math
- Math has almost come to a complete standstill (student has massive math anxiety)
- Have trouble with multi-step problems – struggle to work a problem that
involves more than one step
- Have been diagnosed (or suspected of having) dyscalculia, dyslexia, ADD (but not gifted in math), autism, etc.
Further Explanation of Standard Courses
Our standard Denison Algebra courses are full, standard high school math courses written specifically for students who struggle with math. Many extra supports are built into the courses to help the typical struggling student.
To begin with, the lessons are not overloaded with too many topics for a struggling student to understand. The topics are spread out in a sensible manner allowing struggling students to wrestle with the appropriate amount of new material. Students receive daily, bite-sized video instruction from a veteran math teacher, so they have support throughout the whole course. They take guided notes along with the video, working examples as the instructor works them, so students have easy-to-read notes available for reviewing and reminding. The assignments are of appropriate length and come directly from the notes and examples worked in the video, so there are no surprises or extra challenges in the homework that can tend to discourage struggling students. There is also a physical consumable textbook, which is very important for students who struggle.
The notes and assignments are all bound together, so nothing gets lost or disorganized. This helps remove stumbling blocks including unnecessary cognitive load, enabling students to focus on simply learning the material. The notes are guided, so there is not a lot of writing for the student during the lesson. However, working math problems and taking notes on paper is essential to the learning process because students benefit from the tactile and visual aspect of having a printed book. Since it is consumable, students do not have to get bogged down trying to accurately copy problems out of a traditional textbook. Because algebra concepts are so easy to forget, students are taught and encouraged to flip back and use the previous notes as help (which is possible because it is all bound in one book).
Additionally, there is a robust Solutions Manual where every problem is worked out by hand by the instructor, so students can see exactly how their problems should look. Another huge tool for support is the complete library of solutions videos, where the instructor works and explains every single problem in the entire course (homework assignments and tests). This allows students to get help on any problem right there in the course.
A final important support is the fact that learning skills and learning habits are directly taught in all of the lessons. Students aren’t expected to just “catch on” to how to learn upper-level math. Instead, they are taught easy-to-implement habits and skills needed to effectively learn upper-level math that they can use in their current class and carry to every math class going forward.
Further Explanation of Success Courses
Our Success courses go one step further for the student who really struggles due to a processing learning challenge. This can be a diagnosed challenge or just a suspected challenge. Some of these typical learning challenges are dyscalculia (a specific and persistent difficulty in understanding numbers), dyslexia, ADD (but student is not gifted in math), autism, and so forth. While Success courses were not written with one specific learning challenge in mind, they were created to help a wide variety of students start making progress. They contain all the support elements that the standard courses include (see above for details), but the lessons and assignments are shorter and more spread out. This is to aid students who lose focus easily and those who struggle grasping more than one concept per lesson. Extra review is built into Success courses as well (beyond the regular review in the standard courses). It is assumed that these students will easily forget what was taught.
In order to be able to spread the lessons out in this manner, the course has been modified. For example, in a typical algebra 1 course, you will have essential algebra 1 concepts, as well as concepts introduced that will be retaught in geometry or algebra 2. While it is helpful to have an introduction to these topics in an algebra 1 course, it is not essential. Those topics have been left out of the Success Algebra 1 course so students can focus on and learn the absolute essential topics of algebra 1. Then students are taught the other topics when they take Success Geometry and Success Algebra 2.
Two common questions that arise with Success courses are 1) how they count on a high school transcript, and 2) whether they prepare a student for college (or even ACT/SAT tests). Concerning high school transcripts, these courses can count as either a regular course or a modified (special ed) course, depending on what parents are comfortable with. If a student is working to the best of his or her ability, spending as much effort as other students learning algebra or geometry, then it should count as a regular course. The courses cover the same essential topics as standard courses, the numbers are just kept fairly simple and the lessons are in bite-sized chunks. But parents are free to count the courses in whatever way they prefer. Remember, this is for students who otherwise might not make any progress at all in high school math courses. So, if they are working hard and successfully complete a course, they should get a full algebra credit on their transcript.
The question about college prep and test prep is a bit tricky. In one sense, the answer is YES, these courses will set students up to have a chance at being successful in college and standardized tests. But keep in mind, these are students who have many obstacles to overcome. When a student has completed all the Success courses, he or she will still need additional help to make it through a standard college algebra course or to be prepared for the challenges of standardized testing, but they will have had lots of exposure and success working with upper-level math concepts (plus hopefully some confidence built in there). So, they stand a very good chance at continuing their education and being successful if they choose. However, these courses are not typical “college prep” courses. They are modified courses. Their intention is to move a student in a positive direction, making progress, gaining confidence, eliminating anxiety, and introducing abstract, upper-level math concepts in an easy-to-understand format, so when they see it again in college study or test prep, they have a chance at understanding and being successful.