I gave up my planning this semester to supervise a classroom full of students working independently on online classwork. These students are taking everything from English 12 to AP Psych to Latin 3 to Econ/Personal Finance. There are also three students in here that are taking Algebra 1, only one of whom has taken it in a classroom setting before.

This makes me incredibly nervous for the math and science future of these students. I know that online classes do work for some students, but to not have a teacher around to ask questions to or show you different methods the very first time you’re learning something just doesn’t sit well with me. How do you check your answers and know that you got the right answer because you did things that were mathematically sound and not just through luck? What do they do when they don’t understand something (because who doesn’t go through Algebra 1 questioning *at least* one thing that they learn)? Plus they have to learn how to type everything in Cambria Math on Word, which is a skill I don’t think most people need to have. Maybe I’m wrong about that last part though.

I don’t know the grades of these students either, since I’m not in charge of their actual course, but when I check and see what they’re working on they’re doing tasks that would be done in the first half of our current curriculum. So either the online course runs in a much different direction than the in-class course or they are so incredibly behind. There are other students at our school taking AP Calc online as well. Who does that?? And why?!?

I haven’t even had terrible experiences with online classes to be giving me this predisposition. I took both Intro to Web Design and Visual Basic 1 both online in college, and they ran fairly smoothly. My professors were easy to contact via email and it was nice to be able to work on some assignments with other classmates whenever we wanted to (at the gym at 9 P.M. on a Sunday night was our go-to). I know that online classes can be run well! But math?

The school I teach at is piloting a PBL/blended learning environment next year which will include portions of math being taught online, but again there will still be teachers around and available to these students during the day. They are still going to be expected to do some math, both by themselves and with other students, in the physical presence of a teacher who can correct any misconceptions and guide them in their learning.

Then again, I accidentally told my 2nd block today that the larger the absolute value of “a” in a quadratic, the wider the parabola will get, so maybe you don’t need a teacher to learn math after all.