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.