As you come to the end of a mathematics year, particularly in Pre-Algebra, it can be easy to think you and your student are ready to coast into Algebra 1. Are you really ready?

Join us for a conversation about how important engaging with Math-U-See’s *Bridge Materials* is and how they will help you set your algebraic student up for success as they change their mathematical thinking for the algebraic world.

## Episode Transcript

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:00:00.000

Everybody has gaps in their learning. Math is a language. And so if you don’t use it consistently or you’ve had a summer break, there are going to be gaps. And I know some of our homeschool mommies, it’s like, “Oh, but I taught it.” And yet the end of the year, you knew it. But they haven’t used it all summer and then they’re going to go into an algebra course.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:00:26.809

[music] Good afternoon, everyone. This is Gretchen Roe for the Demme Learning Show, and I am so delighted to welcome my colleague Laurie today. There are changes in our mindset when we begin Algebra 1. We’re going to talk in some depth about that today. And I’ve invited Laurie here to have this conversation with me because nobody does this better than she does. Helping you put yourself in the framework of your child to understand how they have to change their thinking to be successful. And Laurie, would you be so kind as to introduce yourself?

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:01:00.519

Yes, my name is Laurie Wardel, and I’ve been with Demme Learning for three years now. All of my kiddos went through the Legacy series. I’ve currently gone through chapter 18 of the new PSM. So I’ve been tutoring Algebra 1 for a really, really, really long time. So I enjoy it when the light bulb goes off in the kiddo’s eyes and they go, “Oh, I get it.” I love that.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:01:31.840

Wonderful. And so today, what we want to do is we want to first start by explaining why these bridge materials are going to be so helpful to you. So, Laurie?

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:01:43.526

Sure. The bridge materials were originally created for you to smoothly transition into this new algebra. But now we are actually recommending if you’ve used our pre-algebra or another pre-algebra to actually use the bridge material. And this is why everybody has gaps in their learning. Math is a language. And so if you don’t use it consistently or you’ve had a summer break, there are going to be gaps. And I know some of our homeschool mommies, it’s like, “Oh, but I taught it.” And yet the end of the year, you knew it. But they haven’t used it all summer and then they’re going to go into an algebra course. And so the bridge material does a couple of things. You don’t have to use the whole thing. There’s a readiness test that will show you where those gaps are or where, “Oh, I remember that, but don’t quite really know how to do that operation.”

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:02:43.683

If you have used Math-U-See all the way through, one of the objections we got is, “I thought I wouldn’t have to have bridge materials.” And we both know that that’s not necessarily the case.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:02:57.410

Again, this goes back to just setting our students up for success. I have been tutoring algebra for a really long time. Usually, when there is a problem with algebra, almost 90% of the time, it’s an understanding of the way fractions interface with each other. So you’re used to adding and subtracting fractions and you’re maybe a little bit iffy on it. Mr. Demme is really fond of saying, “To compare or combine, they must be the same kind.” And when you have a one-third and a one-fourth, that denominator is going to tell you the kind. And so, “Oh, all of a sudden I know I knew how to do this last year and I can’t do it.” That readiness test will show you where your student is struggling. They don’t have to do the whole readiness check, but it might just be that one issue and you’ll catch it so that they’re successful later on in the Algebra 1 because when you throw a variable or a letter beside a number and all of a sudden they’re having to do the fraction, it can look so scary, but if they’ve got that operation down solidly. So it’s just a really good way to say, “Okay, I’ve got a little bit of a gap here and I can spend the summer just strengthening that so they’re more successful in their school year during the Algebra 1 course.”

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:04:23.217

Michelle has asked the question, would you need the bridge materials if you’re doing pre-algebra in the summer before starting algebra one in the fall? And the answer still is yes.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:04:32.192

It still is yes, exactly. It still is yes.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:04:35.017

Because sometimes there’s things– one of the challenges is by the time our kids have started Algebra 1, in many instances, they’re rowing their own mathematical boat a little bit. And so we might not know what gaps are.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:04:49.538

Exactly.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:04:50.401

And so we want to use the bridge material to expose those gaps, strengthen them. So that’s not an impediment as they begin the rigors of Algebra 1.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:05:00.160

Absolutely.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:05:01.644

And Laurie, with that regard, you have said this already, but I think it makes a tremendous amount of difference to explain for our parents. It’s not a whole course of materials. It’s a diagnostic to help you ascertain what might be a shortcoming.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:05:20.849

Exactly. Well, the cool thing about this is that it’s free. So you don’t ha– this is just a service that Demme offers, which I think is wonderful. It’s a diagnostic tool to say, “Are my students or is my student ready and prepared successfully to go into algebra?” And to think algebra is just a little bit different animal. And so pre-algebra starts to get you to think differently more than just computationally, right? I can add two plus two. But now I’m having to think a little bit broader about I’m going to compare, say, cell phone bills and I’m going to use math to make a really good decision on, “Okay, this looks really great upfront, but six months from now, am I going to actually be saving money or is this more cost-effective?” That is the purpose of algebra is solving for those unknowns. So it’s thinking a little bit more broadly about math, not just, oh, there’s a factor factor product. I can do my multiplication tables.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:06:34.140

While that is uber important and that is the fluency of math, if your students are not fluid in being able to do that within three seconds, there will also be an issue in your algebra experience. So pre-algebra gets you, kind of, set to start thinking a little bit differently about math more than just computational. But I do think it’s just really, really important that we sure up those operations of computation because that is your fluency. That’s what’s going to make you successful in your algebra one experience is to be able to do that quickly and go, “Okay, I know how to add fractions. I know how to subtract fractions.” I can quickly tell you what seven times eight is without there being counting on fingers or there being a problem, so.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:07:34.563

And I think as parents, we want the best for our children, and particularly when we have maybe some math struggles ourselves. I mean, I’m loudly proclaiming math is not my favorite subject, but Math-U-See made it possible for me to instruct my kids. And for that, I will be eternally grateful. And I think it’s important for us to understand as parents, we want to level the playing field for our kids. So that’s really what we’re saying. The bridge material materials will help level the playing field for you.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:08:04.820

One of the things that I just experienced this past weekend, I was at a homeschool conference and I had two different sets of parents, one parent who had gone successfully through Math-U-See’s pre-algebra, and then accessed the bridge materials and was surprised to find that there were a couple of gaps they needed to fill. But what the parents said to me is, “Geez, I’m really glad that I didn’t find out those gaps were there because my child hit the wall and struggled.”

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:08:36.044

And then I had another parent who found their way to our bridge materials because as you’ve already said, Laurie, you don’t need to be a Math-U-See family to access these materials. And they were coming into Math-U-See from another program, and were delighted to find out that they were fully prepared to step into Algebra 1. The Bridge Material Assessment told them that there was nothing that they needed to review. And you know what? That’s a great feeling as well. It makes a tremendous amount of difference.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:09:08.025

One of the things I think that we have realized is maybe a shortcoming is we don’t necessarily make it easy for you to find your way to the bridge materials. So I have put Laurie on the spot today and asked her to teach us how to get there.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:09:25.129

The very first thing you’re going to do in order to get to this free tool is to create an account at digital.demilearning.com.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:09:34.754

Now some of you already have accounts, and we’re just going to ask you to bear with us because remember we’re trying to split the difference and be all things to all people for folks who have not yet found their way here. And we do know from our registrants that we’re kind of evenly split between people who are using the materials and know how to find their way here and people who are not. So.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:09:57.829

Perfect, perfect. So once you register an account, you’ll get to a place that’s that has two portals. You’ll want to choose the far left portal, where it’ll say homeschool instructor. You’ll click on that, and then you’ll get two windows that says, hey, do you want to go to the store or do you want to go to our digital toolbox? You’ll choose digital toolbox, and it should land you at the page that you’re seeing right now. You’ll see the logo and that it will say in an instructor account, and you can say you’ll see welcome Gretchen row. I’m not Gretchen, but I’m using her dummy account. You’ll ignore this student activity for the people that are new.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:10:46.411

You won’t have any student activity because you’ve not put in a student. You’ll turn your eyes to the whole left, and you’ll see this whole menu here. You’ll go down to products. And what is really cool about this particular product is you get the first three lessons free of everything that’s in the digital toolbox. We do not have calculus in there. So if you want to preview the next level, you want to do a side-by-side comparison of the legacy and the principles of secondary mathematics. You can do that side by side by simply watching the videos. But here you’ll hit products.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:11:32.700

You’ll go to secondary math, and you’ll see another dropdown menu will come up. Now, Gretchen has already purchased some products, so the bridge material is there for her. If you’ve not ever purchased anything, that bridge material will not be there. And so you will want to click on the actual curriculum. This getting started [inaudible] might confuse you because you think, “Oh, that’s going to tell me how to use the material.” This is actually where the bridge material lives. And here you are. So here’s the readiness check. And then depending on the gaps that you find, you will go to whatever lesson that it indicated that. You might want to do the whole entire thing as a really good summer. I was one of these mean moms that made us do summer because their jobs were to be students. And when we were on vacation, they didn’t do math. But during the summer we did reading, writing, and arithmetic, and we had to do 20 minutes. So this would be a lovely summer activity. Your children might not think so [laughter], but for us, it would be a very, very lovely thing to do. And so if you– I’m going to go back just a moment.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:12:59.857

If you already have an account, there will be a– in this particular place, there are no My product or My digital packs. But under My digital packs, if you have pre-algebra already loaded and it says Next steps after lesson 30, you can simply click on the Next steps, and that will take you right to the bridge material as well. So I don’t know if you have any particular questions. I do know that Gretchen will put the notes of the how to get to all of this information, and it’ll be– it’ll step it out for you with pictures.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:13:40.825

How are the bridge materials different than the readiness test that is found at the beginning of Algebra 1?

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:13:47.824

So the bridge material is actually– I’ll demonstrate it. I think that would be a little bit better. The bridge material, while has a readiness check, it actually has lessons for your student to complete along with the readiness check. So it’s not just leaving you out there on your own to say, “Hey, there is a gap here. You don’t know how to add and subtract fractions.” We actually give you a lesson on fractions. So I will click that and we demonstrate how to do it. We give you examples. Here are solutions to the way it will look. You even get the solutions for your kiddos to grade. So here is the way that would look. Here’s your example. And then in the material, there’ll be a place for your kiddos to practice, and then you actually get the answers. And this is what they would practice, and this is the answer that you have. Now, the caveat is if you don’t want to do this on a whiteboard, you would have to print this out because this is not in print. Everything is online. So I wanted to make that.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:15:11.087

And so I think what’s important to recognize here is a readiness check is going to show you what might be lacking. The bridge materials are going to help you surmount what the readiness check shows you might be lacking.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:15:26.223

And this is what it looks like for your students. So this would be the lesson on fractions. You’ll notice that in this lesson, there are guided notes. I particularly love guided notes. And so one of the strategies that I really recommend is that you listen to the video, particularly if this is a review, one time through to fill in the blanks. And then you listen again to follow the examples clearly so that your brain has now gone over that twice, and you can take one or two days. I highly recommend that this not be cortisol producing so that your learning center shuts down because that’s not going to be helpful. So 20, 30 minutes a day at the most, depending on the age of your student. I would not use this as a drill and kill. This is really simply a tool for you to have your child be successful in Algebra 1. If they are already, with the bridge material, frustrated, then it becomes physiologically. It’s almost like boop, your brain just goes, “I’m not going to learn this.” And they store it in your short term memory. Have you ever heard yourself say, “But you knew it yesterday”? Yeah, it was stored in your short term memory, and they were able to regurgitate it back for a moment. But it wasn’t in their long term memory so that they could really master it. And one of the ways we master is to do– for your brain is to do shorter sessions. So if you have a compunction to do more work, then you need to break that work up into 15, 20 minute increments, maybe one in the morning and one in the afternoon, if you’re on a time crunch. But don’t do it all smashed together. Give your brain an opportunity to work in the background and figure that out.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:17:28.568

Laurie, I think this is also a good opportunity for us to extol the virtues of reaching out to customer support. If you get answers on the readiness assessment that seem out of line for your expectations, customer support is always there and available to help our families. And I think it makes a tremendous amount of difference.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:17:49.224

We have several customer service representatives that can service pre-algebra, Algebra 1, geometry. And then after geometry, we have another whole department called Our Advanced Support. And again, this is free of charge. So if you get stuck in– you just can’t answer this question, you can email the question in, you can chat with us, you can make an appointment, you can– or e-mail. And somebody will respond and help you get unstuck. Now, it’s not a tutoring service, so I need to add that caveat there. We don’t go for hours in teaching the whole lesson. But if you have a particular problem where you just need a different way to think about it, we’re here to help you unravel that.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:18:38.611

And I have to just extol the virtues of that upper level support. Being that math hesitant parent, my four kids who utilized that, that was a wonderful support to me as a parent. Because I knew if I got stuck, my kids still had a place to go and a place to be helped. And I think that makes us a little bit unique in the sphere of the math world and the homeschool environment because not every upper level math program will offer those kinds of supports to you. So make sure that if you all find yourselves hitting a brick wall, you take advantage of reaching out to us because we want you to be successful.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:19:16.775

Well, I really love it when a student calls because they’re invested and they want to know. I had this little guy. He was out on the farm, and he had really terrible service, but he talked 90 miles an hour. And he said, “I think this problem is wrong. You’re using the wrong formula. You’re not using all of it.” And he was just talking 90 miles an hour. And I finally got in, “Hey, you don’t put shingles on the floor.” And he kept talking, went, “Thanks,” click. But he got it. That’s all I needed to say. You don’t put shingles on the floor. And that’s why you don’t use that part of the formula. So it was really cute. So students can call in as well. So I just wanted to put that out there. If your parents are fine with you doing that, you can give us a call and we’ll help you get unstuck.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:20:05.485

I think it’s also important to note here for parents, maybe who don’t have a child yet who has experienced algebra, that you’re not going to understand every lesson the first time you sit down.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:20:18.388

Right.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:20:19.350

If you’ve had a child who has had that experience, that math has been easy and they grasp everything the first time, this may feel like you’ve stepped into an alternative universe. And I don’t want you to be panicked. I’ve had conversations with parents who are like, do we have a math disability that is already all of a sudden reared its ugly head? And the truth is no. We’re just requiring more sophisticated thinking.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:20:47.031

And one of the things I think that is so valuable, my colleague Sue Walker taught me this a good 10 years ago, just because you close the book and say, I don’t understand right now, doesn’t mean your brain doesn’t keep working on that understanding. Laurie, we talked about this a little bit yesterday. Can you elaborate for a little bit on why that’s so important, not to just keep banging your head against the wall trying to–?

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:21:14.567

Yeah. So I’ll give you my thoughts on it and then I’ll give you some strategies. Have you ever had a moment where you just couldn’t remember somebody’s name or just some random– that’s me. And then all of a sudden, you’re, I don’t know, doing some mundane activity and boom, it comes to you. Well, your brain never stopped working on that. You did. You consciously left that but your brain didn’t. And all of a sudden, it came to you. So when we tire– and I know Gretchen is probably– she’s used this a million times. I’ve used this a million times but I’m going to give you a little bit of brain– what’s going on in your brain. So you have the learning center right back here and it is highly, highly sensitive to cortisol levels. And then you go up further in your brain to your hippocampus which is part of its job. And this is simplistic but it makes cortisol. So when your child is crying and you’ve been sitting there for an hour and a half, it becomes physiologically impossible for you to impart any new information and even sometimes even do things we actively know how to do because the frustration levels are too high. And then what has happened is you have created a pathway, a neurological pathway in your mind that I hate math, right? And so those neurological pathways are really, really hard to overcome. Our goal is for that pathway to grow up with all the weeds. And we’re going to create a more positive experience in math, a usable experience in math with our little neurons. So my strategies for that, if you come up with a subject, whether you’re a math whiz or you’re scared to death about Algebra I, I really, really recommend a couple of things. Short bursts, like I’ve already said. We’re a mastery program. I am now right now giving you permission to not do every problem. You do not have to do every problem. Now this isn’t a pass to not go the way of rigor. What it is is permission for it not to become busy work because our brains don’t like that. We’ve already mastered it. I already know how to do it. For young men, the tendency is they don’t want to write anything down and they don’t. They certainly do not want to show their work. My strategy is to talk to the student and work out a plan that we’re going to do– out of the five problems that I have assigned, you have to work out too. And then at the end of the day, you have to tell me how you did this work. That’s mastery. If they can teach it to you, then you can move on. And so both of our curriculums that we offer have really strategically put systematic reviews. One is called a systematic review and the other it’s called a targeted review. I always do those reviews. In the legacy, there are three of them. I don’t necessarily do three of them, but I always did at least one. And then sometimes the reviews would review different things in the legacy. So I would pull out different problems from the three. But I did that in short spurts. And so the math class, I know I used a different one when I first started homeschooling and we did that. It was an hour and a half, two hours every day. And I’m like, “What am I doing? This is just dumb.” [laughter] It wasn’t fun for my kiddo, and it certainly wasn’t fun for me. And so after that, I just changed my philosophy; you can have two sessions, but just not that hour, hour and a half at one single. So that would be the first strategy that I would do. If you’re stuck, go back and rewatch the videos. One day, watch the videos, do a couple of the example problems. Because again, your brain is always working on this. It’s just doing its thing in the background, almost like a computer doing its thing. So go back and watch the videos.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:25:42.496

And then the second day for the legacy, read the teacher’s manual, do a couple of more problems. And then you do that several days. And then in the middle of that, take a break. Don’t do any math at all for a day. Come back and watch the video. I use that strategy only when I’m stuck on a concept. If it’s a computational errors, that’s going to happen when kiddos are not paying attention or it says 7 times 8 and they added. And so those are things like, “Um, let’s go back and read that, see if you can find your mistake because you’ve made a computational error.” Those are those don’t bother me as much as– it’s an understanding error. They’re really not understanding why we’re doing what we’re doing. And those take time to get unstuck from that. And so small bursts with just figuring out a different way to say it. So that’s why I really like you to call a CSR, because they may say it in a way that finally goes, “Ahh.” And they’re saying the same thing, but they may just put a different spin on it and you get it. So those are a little bit of my strategies when one of my students is stuck.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:27:00.909

And I think that also makes a difference. You mentioned something that I think is really key. Often we have students who, up to this point in time, have managed to hold all in their heads. And now, they have to write it out. And that becomes an impediment because they’re frustrated. They don’t want to do that. And I had this conversation with a dad this past weekend at the homeschool conference I was attending. And the challenge is, when we have a multi-step problem and we don’t write out the process, we don’t know where it fell apart.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:27:38.999

Exactly.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:27:39.862

And so my strategy for that would be, if this is something you keep repeatedly experiencing with a student, I would turn to my students and say, “Great, you’re going to have to work this out and figure out where the wheels came off the wagon.” But we’re not doing that in our academic day. That would be something–

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:28:02.314

Perfect.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:28:02.570

–to be required to do on their own time. And it doesn’t take long before you recognize, “Geez, I don’t want to do this twice and lose free time because I didn’t do it right the first time.”

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:28:13.572

Right.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:28:14.111

So it becomes an incentive to work it out in the moment instead of recognizing that if I get it wrong, I’m going to lose free time because I have to revisit it, so.

**Laurie Wardle:** 00:28:24.937

That’s a great strategy. Great. That’s really good.

**Gretchen Roe:** 00:28:27.742

I want to thank you all for joining us today. Please know that in the show notes, we will have the navigation in written form that Laurie walked you through today. And I think that will be to your advantage. We’ll also have that comparison between the Legacy Edition and Algebra 1 principles of secondary mathematics. I think you’ll find that comparison to be valuable. And then, of course, if you have further questions, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and give us a call, live chat us, or drop us an email. We want your success. Thank you all so much for joining us today. This is Gretchen Roe for The Demme Learning Show. You can find the show notes and watch a recording at demmelearning.com or on our YouTube channel. Be sure to rate, review, follow or subscribe wherever you may be hearing this, especially if you really enjoyed it. Take care, everyone. Thanks for joining us. We’ll look forward to your joining us again soon. Bye-bye.

[music]

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## Show Notes

Demme Learning’s *Bridge Materials: Pre-Algebra to Algebra 1: Principles of Secondary Mathematics *are suitable for any student preparing to begin the *Algebra 1: Principles of Secondary Mathematics* course experience. This is not a whole course of study. This is a diagnostic tool to help you and your student understand what might be a gap in their understanding and allow you to fill that gap before you begin algebra.

We promised you two resources in the episode. The first is the verbal navigation Laurie presented in the event, provided again here. Please note, as we aired there was an update to the Digital Toolbox. Please refer to these articles.

The *Bridge Materials* inside the Digital Toolbox were updated and took effect just before our episode. Please refer to this article for steps on how to access the *Bridge Materials*.

The second is a thorough comparison of the differences between Math-U-See’s *Legacy Algebra 1* and *Algebra 1: Principles of Secondary Mathematics*.

## We Are Here to Help

As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our staff. You can do that through the Demme Learning website where you can contact us via email, live chat, or phone.

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