Friday, December 20, 2019

Math Program: Conditions for Success

The team has been working on the math program for years. There's been lots of discussion and debate as we translate state standards and system-expectations into a student-centered teaching/learning program. So far we have put into place many structures that work well with regard to supporting every learner.

What have we done?

Team with Families
We communicate what we are doing and how families can help us out weekly. We also place almost all teaching/learning materials online so that interested families can access the materials 24-7. Families have responded favorably by reaching out with clarifying questions and information. They've also helped out by working with their children on home study assignments and enrichment when possible and desirable. Family members are a critical and helpful part of the learning team.

Team with Colleagues
We have a 90-minute period every Friday when all teachers and teaching assistants related to the fifth grade team teach math. Together, we target what we'll do and how we'll do it. We mix and match student-teacher groups depending on need and provide needed accommodations as helpful to students. Further, about every two weeks, the entire team meets to discuss the math program including how we can maximize our individual and collective efforts to help all students.

Multiple, Accessible Practice Opportunities
We provide students with lots and lots of varied practice opportunities including unit paper/pencil study packets, online practice tests, a website resource that includes examples, practice opportunities, explanations, and games, small group teacher help, and more.

Brain-Friendly, Positive Program Teaching/Learning Strategies
The team continues to read and study the many ways to teach math deeply and effectively. We embed new research and strategies regularly into the curriculum program to best support students so essentially while we are teaching math, we are also teaching students how to learn. Some brain-friendly strategies we use include the following:
  • Multi-sensory learning: see it, say it, hear it, touch it, create it.
  • Visual learning: match concepts with visual models including pictures, animations.
  • Rhymes and repetition via math concept songs, poems, stories.
  • Relevancy via math problem solving and activities that relate to today's world in ways that matter.
  • Ready response practice exercises where students can practice on their own and immediately see if they are on target or not.
  • Make it big: when a concept is difficult enlarge the models to make a bigger impression on the brain.
  • Color coding concepts to deepen the learning.
  • Inquiry-based teaching/learning with multi-step performance tasks.
  • Math dances with Go-Noodle and other venues.
  • Current events talks: looking at how knowing math is related to current events issues.
  • Think aloud introductions.
  • Collaborative learning events and practice.
  • Regular varied assessments to inform the teaching/learning program.
  • Student reflection and decision making via showcase portfolios.
The math program includes five sixty-minute periods a week, two RTI periods, and as available extra time during school and after school for student study and practice. Of course it would be great to have even more time for math, but our team teaches many other subjects as well.

We are trying to integrate math into project based learning and other topics of study during the school day, but the foundation focus of the math program and the need to practice to solidify these skills makes this a bit more challenging, but we're still working on this.

Support for Students Who Need More or Different
We continually assess how children are doing and together look for ways to help those who are not meeting expected learning progress or success. So far that has translated to extra one-to-one teacher or teaching assistant support, parent-teacher discussions/strategizing, targeted online supports, coaching meetings, and more personalized approaches to support success.

We have many materials that assist student learning including the following:
  • white boards, markers, erasers
  • one-to-one chromebooks
  • dice, tiles, colored pencils, paper, scissors, tape. . . .
  • presentation board, speakers, document camera
  • math website: Magnificent Math
Our many years of debate and discussion related to the math program is resulting in a solid program with wonderful potential for even more growth and success. The hard work and many times messy collegial work has moved us forward in ways that matter.