algebra’scool

Algebra’scool is an unprecedented interactive DVD program to help teachers teach High School Algebra 1.

A study by Princeton Review showed that students in algebra’scool classrooms learned three times more effectively than the control group. (click here for whitepaper)

The animated cast of algebra'scool

As the director of the project, Billy Pittard conceived and designed the overall presentation format and functionality, directed the development of the cast of animated characters, assembled the creative and production teams, collaborated with the lesson writers to optimize the use of interactive video to teach the subject matter, and directed the development and production of each lesson. To help students see the relevance of algebra to their lives, he developed a live action segment for the program to show how people really do use algebra to do interesting things in their lives and careers. He also named the product and the parent company, BestQuest Teaching Systems.

The big opportunity with this project was to use sight, sound, motion, interactivity, and humor to enhance learning.

He came to realize that algebra is natural and intuitive, but that it becomes hard to understand when presented with abstract, complex, and unfamiliar language. For example the numeral 5 is an abstraction of the quantity five, but showing five things is actually more meaningful. Similarly, using complex multi-syllabic terms like “the communicative property of multiplication” are much harder to understand than actually showing that property in action. These kinds of insights led him to develop techniques and guidelines to take advantage of the sight, sound, and motion offered by the DVD medium. He created visualizations of the mathematical processes as a more natural and intuitive way to learn. And he used interactivity to keep the program “alive” so that it could respond to students’ and teachers’ needs.

The project took three years to complete, and its 99 lessons added up to over 60 hours of video. To make this project even more challenging, it was produced on an extremely tight budget.

The following video clip is a brief excerpt from a lesson. An interactive simulation of this lesson is available at this link.

Accolades for algebra’scool

  • Association of Educational Publishers Golden Lamp Award (best of show)
  • Association of Educational Publishers Distinguished Achievement Award
  • 25th Anniversary Telly Award as best educational video of the last 25 years
  • District Administration’s 16th Annual “Top 100” District Choice Award
  • Axiem Award
  • DVDA DVD Excellence Award
  • Videographer Award

Links

BestQuest Teaching Systems

Sample lesson (online simulation)

Whitepaper of the Princeton Review study

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