I’m a huge fan of writing in math class! While I was teaching, I had my fifth graders write in their math journals every single day. Whether they used the journals before the lesson to write down estimations, during class to show their reasoning through a problem, or at the end of class for an exit prompt, the journals were always a safe and not-graded place for students to jot down their thoughts. No matter the prompt, I always learned so much about what they understood by reading their entries each day.
This year, as a math specialist, I get to see student writing in math classes across many grade levels, and it’s so incredibly interesting. I’m able to see where it all begins, in kindergarten, before students are even writing explanations in words, to fifth grade, where the writing becomes very articulate. In each lesson I plan with teachers, we incorporate a writing aspect that we use for reflection after the lesson. The students’ written pieces, in addition to our classroom observations, help to ground our reflective conversation after the lesson.
Imagine going to school each day and entering a classroom filled with students who are eager to explore mathematical ideas, willing to embrace failure and struggle, and persistent with any math problem you give them. As teachers, we have often been led to believe that the greatest math lessons come about when we have good curriculum materials and interesting tasks — those are important, without doubt, but the new science of the brain is telling us that engaged and successful students come about when students believe they have unlimited potential and that they can learn anything.
Studies even show that our brains grow the most when we’re struggling and challenged, and if you believe in yourself, as a teacher or a student, your brain will grow more when you encounter challenge than if you doubt your potential (see a 1-minute video explaining that below).
When I started teaching, I remember being overwhelmed by the many things I was “supposed” to do during a lesson. Grab students’ attention, check for understanding, make sure everyone had an opportunity to share their thinking… the list went on!
Sometimes it felt like I spent more energy making sure I checked off each part of my lesson than actually teaching. But over time, I learned to internalize all these different strategies and plan lessons using a variety of effective techniques.
In our new video series, funded by Cisco Systems and created in partnership with the Rodel Foundation of Arizona, we get to explore the approach of the Rodel Math 20/20 Initiative. Included in this approach is a three-phase lesson structure (adapted from Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics) that helps teachers make sure they are covering — and then internalizing — the parts of an effective and engaging real-world math lesson.
One of the major themes throughout the Environmental Science course that I teach to our seventh graders is energy. We flow through the year like an electron, looking at how energy flows in ecosystems, the costs and benefits of obtaining energy from different protein sources, how energy is created from fossil fuels, the impact that energy generation has had on our atmosphere and climate, and finally, how alternative energies can be utilized to lessen the human footprint.
We do this by utilizing Illinois State University’s Smart Grids for Schools program.
My first example of love was from my parents, which is probably true for most people. Their care and attention to my moral, spiritual, and physical development provided the template for what I hope to achieve with Laila and Joshua, my two children. In the space between the example that I saw and the habits I hope to repeat, learning took place. This relationship is essential to creating an infrastructure that allows great teaching to flow.
You must set a vision of excellence that is visible, practical, and impactful. For many, this vision requires an intentional shift. Throughout my work at Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School, it has become clear that there are three high-leverage actions that begin to facilitate this change: establishing common language and expectations, building a standards-based foundation, and maintaining a tight feedback loop. Here are some dos and don’ts to consider when engaging with each action:
What are your plans for the summer? The beach, visiting family in a faraway city, or backpacking in a national park? How about studying green energy in San Diego, going to Space Camp to study physics and astronomy, or updating your curriculum map with NGSS-aligned resources as you lie next to the pool?
If you’re an overachiever and the second set of options appeals to you, please attend the next #TchLive Twitter Chat on Thursday, May 19th, 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET. Boeing Science Laureate Tom Jenkins and Teaching Channel’s NextGen Science Squad will be hosting the event.
This is the last in a six-part series titled Making in Schools.
When I talk with other educators about our work at the Creativity Lab, they say, “Great! What do we do to get started?”
Often they want to do it all — fully integrate making into their class, start an elective or club, set up a school makerspace. I encourage them to pick one small thing they can do — do one making project, start a club, find an area of their classroom to use as a makerspace. Taking on too much at once is overwhelming and soon gets dropped, becoming another one of those things you tried once. But starting small and building from there allows making to take hold and become what you do.
I had the chance to attend a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago to hear about the Century Foundation’s research report on Taking Action on School Diversity. Secretary John King was also in attendance, as this is a key focus of his work in the Department of Education.
The foundation and research were new to me, so I wanted to share with my Tch community.
Modeling with mathematics is the practice of making sense of the world through a mathematical perspective. Take a moment to look around and get curious: How do you use mathematics to make decisions in your everyday life? Maybe you’re deciding what to make for dinner. Does the recipe have enough servings to feed everyone or will you need to modify it, perhaps by doubling or halving the amount of each ingredient? When should you start making dinner if you’d like to eat at 6?
These questions can be viewed from a mathematical perspective. There is something to count, measure, or quantify and the answers to these questions have real and interesting implications for our lives.
Children also need opportunities to identify mathematical problems in their world, determine what information will help them solve a problem, develop mathematical models of situations, and revise their models to more closely predict real world phenomena. This is the work of modeling with mathematics, a mathematical practice identified by the Common Core State Standards as central to the work of K-12 mathematics.
When we set out last spring to design a “Choose Your Own Adventure” professional learning opportunity, we were confident we had created something meaningful and unique. We were less confident that we would have any takers. We did our due diligence, created a promotional video to inform the potential participants, created a construct for teachers to earn activity related points which would equal professional development hours, and established some dates for face-to-face workshops that would help enlighten our colleagues about Teaching Channel and the power of Tch Teams.