For some middle school students, Algebra 1 is not an easy subject to master.
However, there is one simple math equation that all of Redondo Beach's students can now solve without a need for linear equations, polynomials or quadratic functions: $2,500 plus $2,500.
The answer? $5,000, or, the total amount of two grants Algebra 1 teacher Gina Ball won for on Monday after the 21-year teaching veteran was named a "Math Hero" by Raytheon's MathMovesU program.
"I was blown away ... I just never expected to win this," said Ball, who has taught at Adams for the past 13 years. "I am completely flabbergasted is the only way to put it."
Ball's title of "Math Hero" comes with it a grant for $2,500 to use in her classroom and a matching grant of $2,500 for the school to use at Ball's discretion.
Ball, who was chosen to run the school's iPad pilot program last year, said that she hopes to use the money to get current technology into the hands of as many Adams students as possible.
"We are going to come up with a really creative way to make the money stretch, but make sure we touch as many lives as possible," said Ball, who added that using the iPad in the classroom better engages her students.
"We take away their technology from them as it is for seven hours a day, and if I can somehow bring their world into my world, then I think I am not only being a good teacher, I am being a current teacher," she said.
Staying current with the times and her students is what Ball says is one of her major teaching philosophies.
"I think that the kids these days are not the kids that we were back in the seventies and eighties when we were going to school ... I think you have to change with the times and grow with the times," said Ball. "You cannot sit there and lecture these kids for 45 minutes and expect them to listen."
Admittedly, Ball said, algebra can be a boring subject, but by using the iPad, she has been able to connect with more students.
"I personally love algebra, but to make the children love algebra, you have to really appeal to their senses," said Ball. "I definitely know I reached them through the iPad because it is a medium they knew, a medium they appreciated and they felt special using it."
While teaching remedial classes with the iPad last year, Ball said math proficiency amongst her remedial students went from 33 percent to 45 percent—a result Ball at least partially credits to the technology.
However, while Ball views technology as a useful tool, she said it will never substitute for good teaching.
"I think to have a good teacher using technology is basically icing on the cake," Ball said. "If you took away all of my iPads tomorrow, I would be fine, but I would be really sad."