Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Math Teaching: Preparing for Analysis and Response

As I think ahead to developing the math learning/teaching program, I am thinking of the analysis I will do in the days ahead.

What will I analyze and how will I analyze it.

Math Tech Use
We use two main software programs that can be analyzed. Those programs are Khan Academy and Symphony Math.

Symphony Math
My analysis with Symphony will include who finished the program and when. There's a correlation with the rate of finishing and math standards acquisition. Those who finished early, quickly grasped the standards, and those that finished later had more difficulty with the standards. I'm wondering how we can use this knowledge early in the year to foster greater confidence, engagement and growth with those that struggle. One way that I've determined will help is to spend more time on Symphony at the start of the year with those who struggle with substantial support since the early Symphony assignments do build good essential fact knowledge, fluency, and understanding, and that foundation supports all standards study.

Khan Academy
I continue to be a big fan of Khan Academy. I find that the third of the class that grasps concepts quickly use this learning vehicle with strength and promise. Not only do they shore up all the details with regard to the grade-level standards, but they access numerous enrichment threads on Khan Academy and learn to learn online. This is terrific. For those solidly at the grade level with regard to standards acquisition and those behind, I don't find Khan Academy as effective. I am going to explore this more next year after analyzing this year's students' Khan accomplishment--over 1/3 of the class completed all of the 5th grade Mission which is awesome. Another factor that I honor with Khan Academy is the pace and depth with which the platform is developing--I believe this organization truly cares about learners and is doing what they can to foster a top-notch education support.

I'll analyze the math MCAS results carefully with the following questions:
  • Were there areas where everyone struggled? If so, that means I have to re-look at the teaching in those areas to see how I can strengthen that.
  • Were there students who scored very differently than their classroom performance on systemwide tests, class participation, and other assessments/observations? If so, I will look deeply at those students' test results to see if I can determine what caused the difference, and how I might prevent that in the future?
  • Who showed significant growth from the start-of-year assessments and last year's PARCC? Were there students who outperformed expectations, and if so how? Why do I think that happened and how might I replicate that in the future?
Math Program
I've been analyzing the program throughout the year. Areas where I see room for greater growth include the following:
  • More engaging home-study activities. When homework is engaging, more students engage with it, talk about it, and learn from it. For example our start of the school year spaghetti-marshmallow challenge homework was engaging and powerful.
  • More hands-on exploration, project/problem based work, and teamwork. This kind of teaching fosters good learning in so many ways. This summer I'll work to build these explorations into the program. I'll use Boaler's YouCubed site as a reference for this. An early exploration I want to develop is one that focuses on the "behavior of even and odd numbers."
  • Greater and more targeted differentiation. I use differentiation a lot in the program, but I want to think deeply about how I do this beginning with a thorough analysis of fourth graders' MCAS scores and performance. I want to target my activity in this area mainly on students who fall one to two years behind with the standards--I want to look closely at their profiles and think about how we might maximize their support and growth with mathematics.
Culturally Proficient Math Teaching
We are noticing some cultural trends in math performance, and I know, in part, this has to do with the need for greater culturally proficient math teaching/learning activities, response, and programming. This year I will continue to study and reflect on how we can make our overall program more culturally proficient with a focus on math teaching and learning. We know that everyone can learn math, and I surmise that factors of programming are hindering that fact. Our team will put into place a better orientation at the start of the year as one way to mitigate this issue. We're also providing computers to all who do not have computer access at home. Further we are including a number of culturally proficient learning events, discussions, and reflection throughout the year. 

The Math Teaching/Learning Environment
I will continue to look for support with regard to modernizing the math teaching/learning environment. I will write a few grants that will create a learning environment that is more conducive to success for all students--that grant will include inspiring, multi-cultural signage, better furniture, and a few other supplies that will lead to a more welcoming, modern learning place--the kind of places signature companies like Google and Apple create for their innovative teams and employees.

Interdisciplinary Math
As much as possible, I'll intersect other subjects with math learning and teaching. This means using relevant scenarios, data, and hands-on explorations. I'd love to connect the study of matter with volume, and more of our STEAM projects with geometry and other math standards. When students see and work with the real-world aspects of math, their enthusiasm and dedication for the discipline increases.

Professional Learning
I'll use my professional learning hours this summer to read, research, reflect, and apply considerable information related to the math standards, cultural proficiency, growth mindset, social-emotional learning, cognition and STEAM to develop my repertoire for teaching and learning math. I find that when I learn up-to-date information, I am able to teach and share with greater enthusiasm, and that enthusiasm is contagious to students.

Good analyses of the math program elements above lead to better learning and teaching. I wish that we had the opportunity to analyze these elements more as a collaborative team in the system, but in general, our system has not adopted new, dynamic distributive leadership models that would provide the autonomy, mastery, and purpose that develop this kind of proactive, positive teamwork. Just this week the Bill and Melinda Gates Education Foundation featured articles about the value of distributive leadership, teacher leadership, and educator voice and choice. These articles are worth reading as you work on your own and with others to foster systemwide growth and development.