Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Reflections after 4 months of IMP Meaningful Math

I am totally sold on the idea that anyone who is purchasing math textbooks should take a hard look at the IMP curriculum - whether your district uses the integrated or the traditional approach. I feel like using this curriculum has made me become a better teacher. I know that I am doing more with my students than I have ever done before.

When I first started working through the book (and I still feel like I am a newbie for sure!) I tried to be so literal. It is recommended for you to go through the curriculum without supplementing (especially the first time through). Because I have not been through the book before I had moments where I was unsure whether or not I should introduce a concept - especially technical vocabulary or formulas - because I didn't want to mess up a future lesson where the students would have the opportunity to approach problems with a more intuitive, context-driven method. For instance, in Overland Trail when students are asked to write the rules for the graphs I had several students (even after being introduced to slope-intercept form) who used a table and worked the pattern back to the point where x=0 in order to find the y-intercept or starting point. Teaching them this curriculum has shown me what it really means to allow students to use different approaches for solving problems. I do not think I understood what that meant prior to teaching this curriculum. I allowed students to "approach" solving equations from different ways - if they wanted to solve an equation by getting the variable on the right side instead of the left I allowed them to do that. HAHA! I have now seen what different approaches look like in a classroom. I truly have some students using formulas, others using tables or graphs, and others writing a paragraph which just explains how they reasoned through the problem. What an education I have had!

Another thing I am realizing is that BALANCE is a key. There are going to be times that we need to stop and give notes in which we make the connections to the "naked math" (my AMSTI buddy Melanie Griffis calls it that!) like they will see on state exams or the ACT. I can remember when Jim Delawder made the comment in our training session that what we will do with the curriculum is so much harder than the way they are tested. Now that I have taught it a little while I totally understand his comment. However, if the students don't make the connections between the IMP-style problems and the standardized test style problems then their math ability will not be reflected in their test scores or future math courses. I also remember Jim telling us in our training that he usually pulls sample questions to practice with the students to show them how questions covering those concepts will appear on standardized tests. We just want to create a system that works for us. Sonya New (my often-mentioned algebra teaching buddy) and I have a goal of identifying places in the curriculum where we take a pause and teach the "naked math" version and practice the standardized-test version.

Lately I have been thinking about how I have always found the need to find materials to supplement the textbook we were using. The difference now is that it is so much easier to find some practice worksheets instead of trying to find or create activities that build concepts around a context. Most of the textbooks I have used in the past were mainly a collection of "naked math" worksheets with a few application problems that were stand alone. In the past I rarely ever assigned those application problems. My students seemed to struggle with the basic problems so I rarely ever went to the "next step." Now that I am teaching with the problem-based curriculum that teaches everything within a context things are so different. The students engage with the problems because of the context.

I am going to publish this post because...I just am. However, I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head that I would like to express but I am at a loss right now. I may add more later:)