“What do Algebra support classes look like at your school?”

We built and sustain the Desmos Fellowship for lots of reasons. One of the biggest is that those 80 educators make us much smarter about important questions in math education.

At our Fellowship Weekend in San Francisco, CA, we realized that several of our members had been asked to teach support classes for Algebra students who need extra math help on top of their usual period of math. These teachers were wondering how they could help students generate necessary fluency and confidence in mathematics without relying on the kind of memorization and drill routines that diminish confidence and make for an inflexible kind of fluency.

We posed that question internally to our entire group of fellows and thought we should share the results with the wider world. Here is a digest of their thinking:

Growth Mindset and Confidence

Thao Phan spends time at the beginning of each unit helping students build a growth mindset and confidence through math talks and by solving tasks using “vertical non-permanent surfaces.” She said, “I want my students to have a toolbox of resources they can access and to see as many ways to solve and verify a problem as possible.” To accomplish this Thao uses different representations such as number lines and area models along with visual patterns, algebra tiles and other manipulatives to help students feel confident in their understanding of topics in her algebra class.

Vocabulary Support

Paul Jorgens has taught many support classes over the years, and in his experience, mindset, preteaching, reteaching, and homework support were the keys to success. He said, “It is so awesome when students come in [to their main class] with some knowledge to share to the group as a result of the preteaching.” Paul believes that vocabulary and achievement are tightly related and has lots of ideas for helping students develop that vocabulary.


Veronica Enriquez views support classes as a place where teachers can do many of the things that there isn’t time for in the traditional Algebra class. She shared some strategies for helping her support students learn to enjoy mathematics: “We did a lot of hands on activities and explorations that related to what was going on in the regular classroom. They used shadows to determine the height of different buildings using proportions, launched paper rockets and used inclinometers to try do determine the maximum height and the path of the rocket.”


Allison Krasnow has found that support classes allow teachers “the opportunity to make deep, lasting change in how struggling students view math, view their own math abilities, view their relationship with their math teacher, and their success in high school.” She spends time building a culture of learning, part of which involves goal setting and self assessment. Allison supports students in achieving goals by helping them develop habits of mind. She also posts goals on index cards so that students with similar goals can work together, and makes time for pair sharing of progress.

Here are some of the resources the Desmos Fellows have used in Algebra support classes.

Have a resource or strategy to add? Let us know on Twitter @desmos.