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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Reflection: A Pause in the Math Teaching/Learning Path

Standardized tests offer us one window to student learning needs and
success. The key is to streamline those tests so that there is time for
worthy, interactive, rich learning endeavor which builds a love of learning
and depth of understanding and application. 
Yesterday our team received a collection of positive standardized test scores related to students' math knowledge, concept, and skill.

The scores which were very positive prompted reflection with regard to next steps in the math program. Our efforts have been successful and we want to continue down that teaching/learning path.

I analyzed the scores first and acknowledged that we had made some good decisions as a team with respect to Response To Intervention (RTI) grouping/focus and math interventions. I also realized that the depth of the new common core standards had impacted students' efforts since throughout the math teaching year we've stayed focused on those standards. Finally, I believe the blended approach to math teaching and learning, frequent formative assessment/reflection, and varied learning menus supported students' growth.

The scores also moved me to think deeply about the math days to come which take on a bit of a staccato pattern interrupted by testing days and special events. As I thought ahead, I decided that we'll meld explicit teaching with lots of review and practice.

The explicit teaching will focus on building depth. To do that I'll follow the lead of two experts I recently learned from, Michael LaFosse, the origami expert, and Mahesh Sharma, a math education expert. LaFosse and Sharma, experts with significant experience related to math and education, focused on precise language, concrete models, hard work, attention to detail, educators' foundation knowledge, and lots question-and-answer student-teacher interaction.

For practice and review we'll use That Quiz, a simple, straightforward math platform that lends itself to independent study menus and student practice and review.

Our goals include the following:
  • Strengthening student ability to apply concept, skill, and knowledge to solve multi-step math problems in efficient, explicit ways.
  • Review and deepening of all math concepts, skills, and knowledge taught.
  • Review of PARCC test strategy, process, and math content.
  • Re-look at math RTI groups and set the course for the next leg of the RTI efforts.
  • Completion of Khan Academy math for grades 3,4, and 5. Completion of grade 6 for advanced students. 
The success of a math program depends on the following:
  • Educators' deep knowledge and skill related to math content, concept, and skill. 
  • A blended teaching/learning program that includes a multi-faceted platform of tools and resources.
  • The use of concrete and visual models. 
  • Lots of time for math talk and discussion.
  • Regular formative assessment, review, reflection, and revision. 
  • Time on task with students.
  • Differentiation as one way to meet multiple student needs. 
This weekend I'm sure I'll have more to add to this post as I listen to two more math experts, Keith Devlin and Diane Briars, at the Teaching and Learning 2015 Conference. 

It's an exciting time to be a math teacher thanks to the wonderful tools and expertise available to lead the way. If you have any thoughts on this post, please write a comment. I look forward to learning more.