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Kids turn WASL lessons learned into a new movie

Langley Middle School sixth-grade students Maddy Jerome, Sydney Ackerman, Dominique Knight and Cara Mathews produced a DVD to help South Whidbey students improve their WASL math scores. - Jeff VanDerford / The Record
Langley Middle School sixth-grade students Maddy Jerome, Sydney Ackerman, Dominique Knight and Cara Mathews produced a DVD to help South Whidbey students improve their WASL math scores.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford / The Record

LANGLEY — No doubt about it; math isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

So when Langley Middle School math teacher Sandy Gilbert got a five-page report from the state on why kids have trouble taking the math part of the WASL — the Washington Assessment of Student Learning — she decided to start thinking outside the box.

“There was too much detailed stuff; who’s going to read it or listen to it?” she told South Whidbey school board members at their last meeting.

Gilbert borrowed a camera and had four of her sharpest math students from the sixth-grade — Sydney Ackerman, Maddy Jerome, Dominique Knight and Cara Mathews — organize a mini-documentary to translate the often arcane state instructions so kids of any age could understand them.

Of the four WASL subjects tested — writing, reading, science and math — the latter is the toughest for kids state-wide and here on Whidbey.

The state has found that students can improve their scores by reading the directions before starting, respond to the prompt and using “bullets” as a checklist.

But the recommendations are much more detailed in the areas of problem-solving, communication, logical reasoning, measurements, algebra, geometric sense and a lot more.

“We expanded from a previous video and divided up three classes and assigned each table group a subject,” Cara explained. They then had everyone prepare a visual aid demonstrating the topic chosen.

In the DVD shown to the board, one boy pointed to his drawing and warned, “Don’t assume all triangles are the same. These two have the same angles, but their size is different,” he said.

Other students cautioned about using correct labels, describing geometric terms properly, using patterns with clarity and studying the relationship among all data points in the proper fashion.

In every case — minus a few giggles and a wobbly camera — the students were very serious and totally focused as they provided good advice for the arithmetic-challenged.

“It was fun doing the posters and listening to how the others described the different errors people make,” Dominique said.

Sydney added that kids remember things much better when their friends explain them.

“We showed the DVD to all the kids taking the test from the third grade to high school,” Sydney said.

Maddy noted how important it was that children at different levels are exposed to the information.

“The little kids and the older ones usually make these kinds of mistakes so it was important they see it,” she said.

All four young ladies are 11 or 12.

And they love math.

“It’s the kind of subject you can always get better at over the years,” Sydney said.

“Math challenges your mind,” Cara added as her friends nodded in agreement.

Dominique said that, regardless of different languages and cultures around the world, math is the same for all.

“One and one make two, in any tongue,” she said.

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