Wednesday, June 24, 2015

IMP Problems of the Week and Rubrics

For some reason today I have been thinking about how much I enjoyed doing the Problems of the Week (POWs) with my algebra students. (Disclaimer: We did not do them every week...we did about 2 or 3 each 9 weeks). Here is a post with a picture of part of a POW writeup that was good. And this post (toward the bottom) has a portion of one of my favorite write ups from this year. One of my favorite quotes from a POW was "every time we use this I go deeper into thinking than I ever have in math."

When I attempted to grade the first POW writeups I was so disappointed. I had a rubric that I used to grade it that I found at and it was so helpful. Our Instructional Partner, Dr. Shelley Montgomery (@DrSMontgomery), came by and I was talking to her about my students' writeups. She asked me if I had given my students the rubric when I gave them the assignment. I didn't even find the rubric until I got ready to grade the assignment. I went over each of the categories for the POW Write-up and gave examples...but I did not give them the rubric ahead of time. Don't judge me! HAHA! Please remember I am a math teacher and I was not accustomed to grading writing assignments. I ended up giving the writeups back to the students WITH my grading rubric. The 2nd attempt at the POW writeup was much better. As the year went by my students really improved in this area. It was frustrating how many of them just did not pay attention to details. I am hoping that the experiences they had using rubrics in my class will serve them well as they use them in their future English classes - I know that their 10th grade English teacher uses them often.

If you are teaching using the IMP curriculum please go to the gphilly website. There are many awesome resources which will make your life easier. AND...give the grading rubric to the students on the first day that you go over the POW in class.

As a math teacher I feel that there are 2 different ways to use rubrics. The POW writeups are similar to the types that English teachers use. However, before this year I had mostly used rubrics to help me to grade my tests consistently. Awarding partial credit can get confusing when you can't remember how many points you gave for portions of the answers being correct. I have not included these "rubrics" on the quizzes or put them on the board for my students to look at while they are taking the quizzes but I feel that it would be a good thing to do. Maybe if the students saw the ways in which you were going to award credit they will be more willing to try problems that seem difficult at first.

Even the teachers had to PERSEVERE in problem solving to figure out the POWs - Coach Whitt was cracking me up on this day!

I love that the students learned how to ask for help and find other ways to help themselves via the Internet or asking for help from their parents or friends. I allowed that for POWs as long as they included how they received help in their writeups.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sonya New's Reflection after Year 1 teaching IMP Meaningful Math Algebra

Once again I thought that anyone who is reading any of my blog posts concerning the IMP curriculum might like to "hear" from someone else. We are so blessed to have 3 teachers at Etowah High who implemented this algebra curriculum at the same time. Having the opportunity to collaborate throughout the year was incredible! 

The Mom of  2 little ones (like both under age 1 year little) takes a little more time getting her thoughts together. I once again thought you might enjoy hearing from the 3rd teacher (I posted Gary Webb's reflection in a separate post and my reflections in this post) who taught the IMP Meaningful Math Algebra curriculum for the first time this year. Here are Sonya New's thoughts:

Teaching Algebra with the It's About Time curriculum is a much needed complete departure from the norm.  I was always the Algebra teacher that would look at the word problems in the textbook and think wow what a great question and would assign it just to have students not attempt it because "it was too hard" or "I didn't understand what it was asking me to do", so as the year progressed I would resign that kids just couldn't do those problems and basically stick to practice of the most basic problems.  Even after "going over" the "hard" problems my students didn't seem to get it.
When we received our new textbooks my students opened them to discover mostly words, very few numbers, and virtually no "traditional" practice problems.  Students are taught Algebra through situations.  Many students have found Algebra to be a very attainable subject that once thought it was "so hard".  As a teacher and lover of math I have also discovered that Algebra doesn't have to be so structured, formulated, and procedural.  The concepts of Algebra are often "common sense" and when approached from that direction make sense to many students.  By the end of the year my students were no longer afraid of the "hard word problems." They were not intimidated to try them anymore.  They would try to make sense of a problem and work their way around to a solution. Still not all would get the correct solution but at least we had something to work with ;-).
There were times during the year I would question the curriculum.  Are my students really getting it?  What about this formula or this method?  When is this concept covered?  I have learned to relax and trust the progression of the curriculum.  Things are not taught in a traditional progression, but the topics do get covered.  I am still working on my balance between completely trusting and supplementing more practice but I am coming around.  I anticipate each year to get easier for me to understand the beauty of the curriculum and to do a better job of facilitating.  I know this one thing for may have been my first year to use the curriculum and there were definitely flaws in my implementation but I don't want to teach Algebra using anything else!!!