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High school math program uses real-world experiences to teach algebra lessons

AMPED on Algebra teaches students math skills they can use in everyday life.

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Math students at Green Mountain High School (GMHS) are getting hands-on experience in their AMPED on Algebra class. It’s a math program that has all the objectives of a traditional Algebra 1 classroom and teaches real world project-based lessons through business management. 

The students run a T-shirt printing company that teaches them about mathematical variables while maintaining a bottom line.

Credit: Byron Reed

“AMPED originally stood for Algebra 1, Manufacturing, Processes, Entrepreneurship and Design,” program co-creator Alex Adkisson said. “The business has to be good, we have to make money, [and] we have to make a profit, because then we can invest that money into the students' projects.”

According to Adkisson, the AMPED on Algebra program was built on the same foundational principles as the Geometry in Construction program in order to help students better learn Algebra 1 by showing them how they can use math skills in daily life. 

Rather than building a house as in Geometry in Construction, the AMPED on Algebra program runs a complete business that makes products and sells them.

Credit: Byron Reed

“We run a student-run business--not a make-believe business, but a real business with real money and real customers,” Adkisson said. “It costs this much per shirt. It costs this much to decorate that shirt. We can sum those two costs, and we can tie the math side into it to find a break-even point if we price it out for a certain amount to sell it.”

Credit: Byron Reed
AMPED on Algebra co-creator Alex Adkisson

Production rates and quality control are taught to help students understand and apply Algebra 1 content. The school said for the 2021-2022 school year, about half of all Algebra 1 students at GMHS are enrolled to take Algebra 1 as the AMPED on Algebra program as compared to traditionally-taught Algebra 1 classes.

“I do think we challenge and get students to really be those world problem solvers to think about how to approach a problem,” Adkisson said. “When you put it into that contextualized manner, it helps it click a whole lot more for students and for teachers as well.”

Credit: Byron Reed

“Algebra can turn into variables. You don’t know how many t-shirts you’re going to sell, so you need to figure out how many you have to sell so you can make a profit,” freshman Anna Carballo said. “I’ve never had a math class like this, so it’s definitely something new and exciting.”

Adkisson said his program teaches business analysis and quality control. He said all the profits go back to the students.

“It goes to kids' projects," he said. "They all make their own shirts, designs, things like that. It goes in to fund that and then it also can help us maintain and expand equipment."

Credit: Byron Reed

The AMPED program is in nine schools in the Jefferson County School District and in 250 schools nationwide. Adkisson said plans are in the works to implement a new electronics class like AMPED for third-year math students in secondary schools next year. He said they will use newly-released COVID relief funds called ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds for those classes.

“It’s that outer piece that helps drive the curriculum,” Adkisson said. “It’s something that they can tangibly see and work towards, which is a big deal.”

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