Preparing students for proficiency in algebra starts in the elementary grades.

With this fact in mind, Anne Stuhlman, director of curriculum in Region 12, brought a new remedial math program into the district that features kinetic, visual and audio qualities to engage students.

Comprised of 390 lessons of 30 minutes each, the program offers a fractions learning component designed as a dice game.

Students employ brightly colored construction paper strips in 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 and 1/16 segments. With the roll of the die, any one of these fractions will be shown -- say 1/16 -- and the student then has to manipulate the fraction segments so he can remove 1/16 from the whole line.

The game continues until one student has successfully rolled all fractions needed and cleared the whole construction paper line.

Called "Do The Math," the program was developed by educator Marilyn Burns as an intervention program to support students who are struggling with elementary arithmetic.

"By the end of grade five," Ms. Burns writes in her program overview, "students should be fluent with whole numbers and, by the end of grade six they should be fluent with fractions."

Burnham School in Bridgewater and Booth Free School in Roxbury have groups of two to four students being tutored by trained paraprofessionals and special education teachers.

Those schools' principal, Cathy Colella, views the program as being "phenomenal. We're seeing great progress with the kids," she said last week.

"Students learn mathematics sequentially," Ms. Stuhlman explained. "The greater the number of modalities you can bring to bear, the faster the concept comes together in the kids' minds."

--Susan Tuz