The Colors of Algebra
Rigor and Resilience at a "Last Chance" School

Joanne da Luz, Life Learning Academy, San Francisco USD

Teaching Key Algebraic Concepts through Interdisciplinary Mathematics Teaching Students Who Have Failed in – and Been Failed By – Traditional Schooling

Where do I teach?

What are my students learning?

Teaching Practice
What's my approach?

Student Work







My name is Joanne da Luz, and I am the mathematics instructor at Life Learning Academy in San Francisco Unified School District. In my work, I combine scaffolding with interdisciplinary group projects to support learning for those students who are particularly fearful of mathematics and have a history of failure.

In order to understand my teaching, you need to understand my school.

Students need to understand that
X * X ≠ 2x

The unique structure of Life Learning Academy is designed to reach some of the most challenging and marginalized students in our country. Operated by The Delancey Street Foundation, Life Learning Academy is committed to helping students develop healthy, productive, and independent lives by teaching rigorous academic, social, and vocational skills, and to instill positive community values through an"Each One Teach One" philosophy. Students are expected to pass on their newfound knowledge and mentor others while learning how to change their lives.

The Colors and Algebra Project

Students develop their own unique understanding of algebraic representations.

Presenting on their work elevates the status of student understanding.

Factoring and multiplying are understood and referred to in terms of dimensions and area.

Activities, journal prompts, writing assignments, and discussions all help students to keep from "talking off task."

Kenny makes a point about balance and symmetry while Stevie works out his own sense of a variable.

Stevie and Kenny worry about "making it so the audience understands" and in doing so, are interested in discussing their perceptions with each other .

During his final student presentation, Kenny makes a point of saying "factoring is like dividing " while referring to length and width.

The boys mention this as an obstacle in past math classes.




Site last updated July 5, 2006