Thursday, December 26, 2013

Why and How do we Share Student Work?

It is now easier than ever before to share student work.  With a simple click of a button we can capture what a student is creating in our classrooms and make it available for the world to see!  And why wouldn’t we take advantage of this remarkable opportunity to share a student’s justification, thought process and/or evolution?  Our featured article demonstrates The Power of Student Work

So maybe I've convinced you just how impactful this process can be.  But the next question is how do we authentically go about sharing student work with our colleagues?  The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has partnered with the Center for Collaborative Education to promote and support two cohorts of professional learning communities (PLCs) in twenty-six districts in Massachusetts.  One of the key features of a PLC is the ability to follow a protocol to structure discussions and maintain focus.  Check out this relevant Learning From Student Work-Protocol.  It articulates guidelines in selecting appropriate student work and helps structure reflection and dialogue around the selected pieces.

Last but not least, I’ve included some actual examples for the visual learners in our blogging community.  Expeditionary Learning has collected hundreds of samples of student work available for the public to view and discuss. The student work can be selected by discipline and grade level.  My personal favorite (featured at the top of this blog post) is the The Home of Ivy Olcott.  This piece explores standards 5.MD.1 and 6.RP.3 through an interdisciplinary math and art project.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Teaching Algebra to 8th Graders

There is a major debate taking place right now amongst math educators: is it possible to offer an authentic Algebra I course to 8th graders while still ensuring that all 2011 8th grade math standards get taught?  Teaching Algebra I to 8th graders used to be a no-brainer.  There seemed to be much repetition within the math standards in the middle grades, and Algebra I was offered to ‘advanced’ students who were ready to move more quickly.  But now that Massachusetts has fully adopted the 2011 Curriculum Frameworks for Mathematics, the new Model Algebra I course is incredibly rigorous and forces topics like simultaneous linear equations, functions and exponents down to the 8th grade.  The following crosswalks and teacher resources cautiously offer a pathway of teaching Algebra I to 8th graders while ensuring that no key standards get omitted along the way.

The document below offers a pathway to taking Algebra I in the 8th grade by condensing 7th grade, 8th grade and Algebra I standards into the 7th and 8th grade years.  Go straight to page 80 to see the Compacted Middle School Pathway.  The document shows exactly where standards get condensed and even offers a potential breakdown of units per grade level.

If our ultimate goal is to get students to take AP Calculus by senior year of high school, then there is also the option of taking enhanced math classes in grades 9th, 10th and 11th grade.  In the Enhanced High School Pathway to Calculus the department offers a way to take Algebra I for the first time in 9th grade but still work towards AP Calculus in 12th grade. 

Methuen Public Schools has done a tremendous amount of work around creating an accelerated math program starting in the 7th grade.  Julie Ward, Methuen's Math Coordinator, has included a few resources in her dropbox.  These documents have proven critical in notifying parents, selecting students and crosswalking standards.

A word of caution: this debate has in no way been resolved.  I am not necessarily approving any of these cited pathways, but simply showing you different approaches to this tall task.  It must be said that teacher knowledge of the Model Algebra I course and student readiness play an absolutely integral role in this discussion.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What is PISA and Where do we Stand?

PISA helps us compare our students with other students across the globe.  Students are asked to demonstrate knowledge of reading, mathematics and science literacy on the assessment.  There were a total of 65 participating countries and education systems and this was Massachusetts' first time administering the assessment.

Want to take a look at some of the world-wide results?  The presentation below includes additional background information, sample questions, and aggregated data in the form of bar graphs and scatterplots.

Findings From the 2012 PISA Report

If you are more interested in the Commonwealth's results, the following two links will provide you with Massachusetts' specific data.  The first is a press release from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and provides bulleted data points including lists of the top performers.  The second is an opinion piece from US News and World Report that argues that the Bay State's success has come from setting the expectation of high standards.

DESE's PISA Press Release

US News and World Report Highlights MA Using PISA Data

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

More Conceptual, Less Procedural!

The exposé below uncovers commonly used tricks in the math classroom.  These tricks are exposed as a way to teach simple memorization as opposed to deep conceptual understanding.  The seven chapters are organized by math domain for easy readability, but the index also breaks down the tricks by specific math standards.  We have all taught mathematics by introducing tricks and pneumonic devices, but this exposé will change the way you expect students to demonstrate understanding!

A Guide to Avoiding Shortcuts That Cut Out Math Concept Development

Looking for real world math resources that help teachers step away from the procedural?  Look no further.  This article highlights four incredibly useful online tools that provide relevant mathematical videos, activities and lessons.

4 Tools to Connect Students to Real World Math