Using the card to make the grade and increase math confidence
As stated in the Education Commission of the States (ECS) website, the graduation requirements shown are the minimum course requirements, however, local boards may adopt graduation requirements above and beyond those authorized by the state. In the state of California, a student must complete two units of math while in high school, grades 9-12, and must meet or exceed the Algebra 1 course. If the student met the requirement of Algebra 1 before high school, two years of math are still required, excluding Algebra 1 (ECS, 2007). Algebra is very important for all children to take in their educational career and is also a high school graduation requirement in California. The students are also learning problem solving strategies and applying algebra to solving real world situations. Researchers and teachers have investigated many strategies of effective studying in an effort to improve student assessment scores. Research by Duncan (2007) found that individual students will perform slightly better on exams if they prepare reference notes to use for their exams. The effect of making and using a note card during quizzes, however, has not been explored in high school Algebra 1 classes. Data was collected and pooled from students in two high school algebra 1 classes whom currently attend a suburban public high school located in Northern California. This mixed methods study occurred over the course of one algebra 1 unit, which consisted of two quizzes and one unit test. The experimental group consisted of one algebra 1 high school class that was allowed to use one 3" x 5" note card on each quiz, but not the test. The control group consisted of another algebra 1 high school class that were not allowed any use of a note card. There was a pre-test, two quizzes, end of unit test (post-test), and finally a post-post-test that was given after a couple of weeks to see if they retained the information. There was also a survey that included open-ended questions, provided qualitative data, and was conducted using pre-test and post-test. Although the results of this research did suggest that the use of note cards was significantly related to achievement for one specific subgroup and not the whole sample, a teacher may want to consider adopting the idea of making and using note cards on specific assessments at a students' early stage of education, so they become familiar with the process prior to high school. Students can be taught the strategy of thinking about what is known and unknown and how using a note card to quantify critical information may be helpful to learning the material.