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High School Equivalency

Program’s GED Math Bootcamp Positions Students to Pass

April 23, 2024

If you teach high school equivalency it’s likely no surprise to you that students can end up stuck—sometimes for years—trying to earn their high school equivalency credential.

Students like Mildred Pearson, who would come and go from Project Learn of Summit County in Akron, OH, with one subject matter left to pass on the GED Test.

“I did good, up until I didn’t pass my math test,” she said. “So I stopped coming, and then it was on again, off again, on again, off again. And every time I’d come, I’d get stuck on math, and I would give up.”

Mildred is not the first or the last adult learner whose dreams of obtaining a high school degree have seemingly gotten hung up on math.

“I did good, up until I didn’t pass my math test. … I’d get stuck on math, and I would give up.”

All But Math

At Project Learn, a ProLiteracy member program, Executive Director Marquita Mitchell had gained insight over the years that math was not only an obstacle to earning a GED diploma, but that learners often saved it for last. So, she had an idea.

Marquita decided to reinvent the GED bootcamp that they had been offering to create what is now the All But Math bootcamp course.

“Most people have the reading passed, the science passed, the social studies passed, and we said maybe to get everyone over this hurdle, let’s focus on just math,” she said. “And the reason why it’s called All But Math is because to enter the course, you have to have passed the other three subjects officially.”

Like any bootcamp, the course is intensive. Classes are kept to about six to eight students to build a sense of camaraderie. Bootcamp begins with students taking the GED Ready practice test. Then for two weeks the group meets six times for three hours each session. Students focus on targeted, purposeful instruction aligned to the needs identified in the practice test.

Lessons are contextualized but also hands-on to be interactive and to get the students thinking about intimidating math concepts in new ways and to build a growth mindset to overcome their fears of math.

At the end of the two weeks, the class takes the GED Ready practice test a second time.

“If they pass the practice test that night, we immediately sign them up for the official test [while it’s fresh] so that there is no gap or no ‘oh, I’ll do that later,’” Marquita said.

“If they pass the practice test that night, we immediately sign them up for the official test.”

Since the program was initiated two years ago, it has proven to be successful. Of the 32 students who have taken the course, 16 have passed the official GED Mathematical Reasoning test upon immediate release from bootcamp. Those who don’t pass often return to the next round of bootcamp, or, if they are within just a few points of passing, work for a short time one-on-one with a tutor to get over the 145 score needed to pass.

Project Learn received a grant from the ProLiteracy National Book Fund to support this effort and students like Mildred. The money was used to purchase Scoreboost for the GED Test math books from ProLiteracy New Readers Press as well as GED Ready vouchers, both of which are critical to All But Math’s continued success.

She Did It

After deciding once and for all that she wasn’t going to give up, Mildred spent six years at Project Learn working through GED math classes and took the math test several times. Then she was introduced to All But Math.

“I said, I think I can do math bootcamp,” Mildred recalled.

She enrolled and, using the Scoreboost books, she persisted.

“I like how [my instructor] taught out of the Scoreboost books because they are basically some of the things that you will see on the actual GED,” Mildred said. “It actually breaks it down so you get a better understanding of what you’re going to look for on the GED Test, so you’re already prepared.”

It took her two bootcamp courses, but at age 50, after working for over a decade, she passed the GED math test. And when she did, everyone at Project Learn screamed.

“And that feeling, it was like, ‘I finally did it. I finally did it,’” she said. “And it was worth it.”

Mildred was invited to speak at Project Learn’s graduation ceremony last July. Now, as a recovering alcoholic, she wants to go to college and become an addiction counselor to help others on a level that she personally understands.

“Don’t give up, no matter what,” she said.


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