Winder-Barrow Middle begins pilot for single-sex math classes

WINDER - When Winder-Barrow Middle School opens Friday, some 8th-graders will study in all-girls or all-boys math classes.

The single-sex math classes target 8th graders in danger of failing the math portion of Georgia's Criterion-Referenced Competency Test. Students whose scores hover around the passing mark in the math portion of last spring's 7th-grade CRCT will be selected for the class. Each 70-minute, daily math class will hold 26 to 28 students, separated by gender.

To be promoted,

8th-graders must meet or exceed those established standards in math and reading. Last year, 31 percent of WBMS 7th-graders and 25 percent of its 8th-graders did not meet math standards established by the state, Principal Mary Beth Deaton said. That is the highest percentage of

8th-graders in Barrow County that did not score high enough in math to be promoted to 9th grade.

Students who do not pass the exam must retake and pass it before continuing on to the next grade level.

The pilot program was implemented by WBMS math teachers Erica Boswell and Michael Lofton. Boswell had researched the concept while working toward her master's degree and discovered that research shows that boys and girls can learn all subjects, but biological differences cause them to learn in different ways. When Deaton took over as principal last year, she encouraged her staff to share with her any innovative teaching concepts, Lofton said. The two expressed their interest in teaching single-sex math classes, and the pilot program took root.

The single-sex classroom allows teachers to tailor their teaching to the specific learning style of their students, Boswell and Lofton said.

"Our biggest challenge are kids who have fallen behind over the years," Lofton said. He compared mastering mathematical concepts to building a house. "They must have a solid foundation before they can learn the next concept. Some still struggle with fractions, multiplication and addition facts."

Students in the single-sex classes will learn the same algebraic concepts as in the regular 8th-grade math classroom - mapping, exponents, square roots and Pythagorean theorem.

If the program is successful, will it lay the foundation for all-single-sex classes?

"I don't think so," Lofton said. "They need socialization. I don't think this works for every kid. Some are doing fine in traditional classrooms. I don't think we are ready for a single-sex school."