Tuesday, September 30, 2014

IMP Day 2 - started The Broken Eggs

Today I started class by having two volunteers come to the board and share their sequences for What's Next numbers 7 & 8. Then I had the groups discuss their math autobiographies within their groups for 5 minutes. Afterwards I had them share the views of their groups. It is very disappointing to see how many students can not verbalize many topics they have studied in their math classes. These activities once again took longer than expected. I had to threaten to take away participation points because some groups obviously did not discuss their answers. I told the class that we will not always have every group to share for every problem.

We also started the first POW The Broken Eggs. The groups were given around 30 minutes to brainstorm. I loved when students would start "seeing the light." There were a couple of groups in my 2nd block class to find the answer!

IMP Day 1 - What's Next

I added this picture later. The young lady that came up with this explanation for #2 is such a great thinker!

Today I did the What's Next activity with all 3 of my algebra classes. The timeline says it should take 30 minutes but it took much longer than that.  I spent about 15 minutes on intro activities...

1st I asked my 2nd and 3rd block classes what their first impressions of the IMP books were and listed there answers on chart paper so we could revisit them later. Many of the comments had to do with the books being "wordy." They said the content of the book look more like an English book. I did have one student who had already taken the ACT say that the questions reminded him of the ones on the ACT. I had a few students act like they were excited about starting to work in the new books.

2nd I spoke briefly about the forward and the intro to students.

We read through pg. 3 and 4 and then I let the students work. They resisted writing the description of the pattern. I told them to write the description in a way that someone who couldn't see the pattern could write it down as they described it. I had a few students write their descriptions on the board and tried to generate the pattern from their description.  I think this helped them because it forced them to consider telling where to start the pattern and being more specific. We took about an hour for them to generate their answers and us to discuss questions 1-5.

My 5th period 50 min class only got through the first couple of questions.

Friday, September 26, 2014

IMP Meaningful Math Adventure...starting Monday

Well...the 3 algebra teachers at our school are starting a new teaching adventure this coming Monday. We are going to start piloting the traditional algebra IMP (Interactive Math Program) from It's About Time. The title of the book is Meaningful Math Algebra. The curriculum is problem based so all of the concepts are learned in context instead of just practicing isolated problems after watching the teacher work examples (which is pretty much what I have done for years).

One of my teaching buddies (Sonya New) and I have been "transforming our teaching" over the last few years. Our students seemed to be less and less successful in our algebra classes and we started seeking new ways to present our material. She is actually the one who started making major changes first. She changed her desks around where they sat in groups every day. She was also working hard to find activities to help teach or reinforce concepts.

After seeing her transformation and attending ARI, ACT Quality Core, and AMSTI workshops I was finally convinced that I needed to put my students in groups. The ACT Quality Core trainer was a man from Colorado and he taught high school math. I probably asked him 101 questions about how he facilitated his groups in the math classroom. Last year I committed to putting my students in groups for the entire year. I hated it at first but as  time progressed I decided I really liked it. I did not do a great job of assigning group roles and facilitating their collaboration. However, I did do a few activities where the group dynamics were used in a way that would make group-using experts proud! Ha ha! Another positive aspect of teaching with my students in groups and using more activities is my student engagement improved drastically. Anyway...Sonya and I found some incredible "discovery-based" activities for solving systems of equations by elimination and solving systems of equations (www.georgiastandards.org) and then we really wished we could find similar activities for ALL topics. Then I went to my 2nd Summer of AMSTI training and realized that the activities we did in the "AMSTI books" (as we always called them) were really the types of things we were looking for.

Two days after attending AMSTI training I happened to go to ISTE in Atlanta and have a chance meeting on the elevator. I met Tom Laster with It's About Time which is the company that writes and publishes the IMP books that are used in AMSTI training. (As long as this blog entry is I promise I am not giving you every single detail.) He was interested in learning more about Alabama's AMSTI program and wanted to know how they could better support teachers in Alabama. I met with him for about an hour and was very honest with him about my personal teaching transformation. I told him that although I had been to AMSTI training and had been through some of the IMP units I had not implemented them in my classroom. There were a number of reasons for this including a fear that the activities would be too advanced for my students. However, one of the biggest reasons was my misconception that I felt that I needed to teach the content first and then do the activities in the IMP books (ain't nobody go time for that...lol). I did not realize that the activities are designed for the students to go through and via inquiry and collaborative problem solving they learn the math content for themselves. (If anyone is intrigued by this go to iat.com and read more about their curriculum). Oh...by the way...did I mention that the curriculum gives many opportunities for cross-curricular assignments?

I am nervous and excited about starting the new curriculum. We have had issues with student apathy and a lack of retention. I am hoping that this change in our approach to teaching algebra will improve both. We are extremely excited that we will no longer have to spend hours searching for good activities to use to teach the algebra. We are going to just trust this curriculum which is time-tested and successful. I also intend to use this blog as a tool for reflection and recording our progress.

Disclaimer: Trying to type a blog post while "bopping" a balloon with a 3-year-old may cause some crazy writing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A 4th grader blew my mind

My daughter was telling me today about how she figured out how to multiply 8 times 8 when she had her timed test in math. She is working on memorizing her multiplication facts for 2s, 5s, 9s, and squares. She has most of them down now but a few of them were still escaping her. Therefore she was telling me that she skipped 8x8 during her timed test and did it last. She said she figured it out by counting 8 5s on her fingers which comes up to 40. Then she took her 8 fingers she had up and added 3 more for each finger. She counted 41, 42, 43 for her first finger; then she added 44, 45, 46, for her second finger and then so on. She came up with 64 and I was amazed. It took me a minute to figure out what she had done. THE DISTRIBUTIVE PROPERTY...8x8 = 8(5+3). She multiplied the 8x5 then did the 8x3 (by counting on her fingers...lol).  I asked her who showed her that and she said she just came up with it. I BEG TO DIFFER. She has had some great teachers and she is doing the dreaded GO MATH.

I keep hearing and seeing so many complaints about common core math. However, this little problem solver is a product of common core math. It is so hard to explain sometimes but I try. Common core teaches problem solving skills- not just rote memory. That does not mean that students won't memorize multiplication facts. They certainly will still memorize facts. However, they also use estimation and problem solving strategies that they can put into practice when they are not sure they are remembering their math facts correctly. I believe I have seen and heard phrases like friendly numbers and compatible numbers. I see posts about the "new way" to solve math problems and how long they take. Please consider that the students are learning problem solving strategies that will go with them as the problems get too hard to know by memory. The simpler problems are used to illustrate the concept but the concept applies as the problems get more difficult. It is similar to making students show their work on 1-step equations even though they can do them in their heads. We are teaching them the PROCESS so that when the equations get more difficult and involve more steps they can understand the correct way to solve them.

I like common core math. I love the focus on the problem solving skills and the math practice standards. I also love the incredible amount of resources that can be found to help teach algebra. I do think that schools need to have "tutoring" for parents so that they can understand the reasons for the different strategies that are being taught for solving their math problems. Faster is not always better. Comprehension and retention is the key!