Wednesday, March 26, 2014

PARCC Field Test-Week 1

The moment has arrived.  Schools have begun administering the PARCC Performance Based Assessment field test!  Aren't you curious to hear about how it went?  I am.  Here are some current resources that offer reflections on the process. 

PARCC has provided the public with daily live field test updates on their website.  This offers a current count of students being tested as well as multiple ways to access twitter feeds.  If you are looking for a more detailed process that a technology director went through in Massachusetts, check out this reflection from Groton-Dunstable Regional High School. 

Maybe you want to talk to someone about the field testing process in person.  Burlington Public Schools administrative and technology teams will hold a panel discussion on April 12th at the New England 1:1 Summit.  Burlington Public Schools chose to give the computer-based field test to every student in grades 3-11 in both math and ELA.  They are the only district that made this decision and plan to test-out various devices.

This is an exciting time!  Massachusetts is completely committed to ironing out the kinks. The Commonwealth would rather identify weak spots now and give the adoption process the time that it truly deserves.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Making Mathematical Arguments

No longer can we simply teach math procedurally.   Students cannot build a solid number sense without thinking through an argument and articulating their mathematical conjectures.  But how do teachers effectively support students in this process?  This cannot be answered by purchasing the best textbook or investing in the latest technology.  Teachers must engage their students in mathematical justifications; both written and oral.  This blog post is devoted to mathematical discourse and argument.

Let’s begin at the high school level.  Common Core Standard #3 for Mathematical Practice asks students to construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.  PBS' Making the Case includes 13 video clips that all address this very mathematical practice.  Videos range from full class mathematical debates to structured group work discussions. 

Being able to defend one’s reasoning is a skill that must be practiced on paper as well.  Jawad Brown, a local 7th grade math teacher, highlights specific strategies that he uses to help develop students’ mathematical writing.  The Evolution of Writing in a Math Classroom gives multiple examples of student work as well as varied approaches to teaching written justification.
Last but not least, we must address how argumentation can positively occur in the elementary math classroom.  One of the best resources that I have come across since I began as the Regional Math Lead is  Number Talks.  The Facilitator's Guide and DVD include multiple discussion questions, strategies and video clips.  It is absolutely amazing to see what mathematical discourse and critique can look like in the elementary classroom.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Role of the Rubric

There is a myth that rubrics cannot be used in the math classroom.  Many believe that math is cut and dry; either you get the right answer or your don't.  But there are many skills that can be and should be assessed cross-curricularly.  Presenting and speaking are included in this list and the following website offers excellent performance rubrics to assess these incredibly important real-world skills:  4 Great Rubrics to Develop Students Presentations and Speaking Skills.  There are additional rubrics that can be found on Galileo that address other 21st century skills such as appropriate use of technology and academic rigor.  Check out the Discipline-Based Inquiry Rubric for more details.

The Standards for Mathematical Practices are habits of mind that make mathematicians.  But how can we gauge whether or not our students are utilizing these practices?  The following rubrics were created for the sole purpose of gathering that data:  Standards for Mathematical Practices Rubric.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Perseverance in Problem Solving

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

This is easier said than done.

How do we create a community within the classroom where making mistakes is ok?  How can we embrace the phrase fail forward?  How will we encourage students to roll up their sleeves and persevere?  If you haven't read Paul Tough's book, How Children Succeed,  I highly recommend you do so.  The book explores the grit phenomenon and pinpoints a child's ability to bounce back as the true gauge of success.

Math has historically been a very right vs. wrong subject.  Either you calculated the correct answer or you didn't.  But we as educators have the opportunity to stress the importance of learning from mistakes.  Leah Alcala, an 8th grade math teacher, has created a classroom routine that she calls 'My Favorite No'.  Take 5 minutes to watch this engaging video that explains how students' mistakes can be learning opportunities.  Leah is not the only educator who sees the value of promoting perseverance in the math classroom.  Keith Robinson was recently awarded the 2013 Fishman Prize for his work in a 9th grade Algebra classroom. Go straight to page 19 to read Gettin’ Messi: How Mistakes Make Mathematicians to see how a soccer player's 'gritty' hard work is used as a hook to engage young mathematicians.