Transforming my Math Teaching

I can’t believe that I have not written a blog post since September. I suppose this is evidence that it has been another busy year.I’ve been busy as the mom of three boys since August, as we are fostering a toddler. It has been such an amazing experience, but of course it is difficult to fit in everything (eg. writing blog posts). At the same time, I’ve been learning so much teaching for my second year in the Innovation Institute (an integrated PBL program), as well as being Innovation Coordinator for the program. And this year I’ve finished the final two of five workshops for Math Specialists in International Schools (MSIS).

I am not exaggerating when I say that the MSIS workshops with Erma Anderson and Steve Leinwand have helped to transform my math teaching. I am teaching biology and IB Math Studies this year, so unfortunately I am not teaching Common Core at present. However, there are still so many strategies from the MSIS workshops that I can incorporate into my math teaching – and sometimes in my science teaching as well.

What do I now do differently?

  • I keep my lessons as simple as possible.
  • I provide images/prompts/questions and ask students ‘What do you notice?’ and/or ‘What do you wonder?’
  • I plan for gradual release (PPTs) of information for problems and rich tasks.
  • I try to be intentional about eliciting student explanations of thinking (Why? How do you know? Convince us. Explain that please. How did you “see” that?)

There are some strategies that I used previously, but continue to reflect on and improve:

  • providing descriptive feedback (not a grade until summative)
  • opportunities for self- and peer-assessment
  • encouraging collaboration
  • using rich tasks whenever possible
  • having students (not only the teacher) model their thinking for each other
  • encouraging use of multiple strategies
  • fewer questions for homework

What does every good lesson need? It is obvious that a good lesson starts with the goal or objective; should have a task, problem or activity; and some sort of evidence of success. I have been more focused on also planning key questions in advance. This has helped me to elicit student thinking and student discourse in a more intentional and effective manner.

If you would like to have a better understanding of Common Core and how it can transform teaching and LEARNING in your classroom (and ultimately ensure students are excited, engaged and confident math learners) I highly recommend the MSIS (Math Specialists in International Schools) workshops with Erma Anderson and Steve Leinwand. One of the best professional development experiences I have had in many years!