Crossroads

I am not sure what I hope to accomplish with this post but I feel like it needs to be written for reasons that I can’t put my finger on.  I feel like Joe and I are at a crossroads with our collab classes and to be quite honest I am not sure what to do.  These kids are the reason I teach.  They have had terrible education experiences especially in math.  They struggle with the language.  They have special education needs.  They have a variety of 504 plans that present other challenges with their learning.  They are socio-economically disadvantaged.  Those are their obstacles but I don’t believe they have to define who they are.  The question I am currently facing is how do I work within their obstacles and meet their learning needs while also teaching the content that I am supposed to teach.

I feel like we have done some good things thus far.  Our warm-ups have been amazing, we have done some good teaching, had some great projects but it doesn’t seem like it has been enough to keep the kids excited about learning.  Feeling a little unmotivated myself after winter break I decided to renew my enthusiasm by focusing on two Mathalicious lessons this week.  I have never hidden my love of using Mathalicious in my classroom.  It is one of if not the most valuable tools I have in the classroom.  Our first two units in 7th grade math, Rational Numbers and Expressions & Equations do not lend themselves as well to the use of Mathalicious (although they just added a great Integers lesson so I am hoping more and more keep coming!) but now that we are in the Ratio and Proportions Unit it is the golden opportunity to throw in some Mathalicious love.

Anyway, this week Joe and I decided to focus on two lessons “Harmony of Numbers” and “Jen Ratios” to intro the ratios unit this week. I will write a separate post on those lessons but I want to focus here on what those lessons did in our room this week.  Once we hooked the kids with that first Piano Guys video in Harmony of Numbers they were on the edge of their seats.  There was little to no being off task or bored or unengaged.  They were excited to come to class every morning and eager to get started.  It was fabulous.  We stopped at key points in the lesson to reinforce skills that they were lacking and they seemed to get it and we loved every minute

So what is the problem?  Well I have a lot of content left to teach but am really feeling the need to try and teach the rest of it through Mathalicious as much as possible.  On the pro side of that, I have the Ratio and Proportion, Geometry, and Stats and Probability units to go and those all have a plethora of really strong lessons developed by Mathalicious.  My hesitation just comes out of fear that what if it doesn’t work and even though I think they are learning we come the end of the year and it flops?  I know we aren’t suppose to talk about state tests or teach to them (I have never taught to the test for what it’s worth) but let’s be honest when push comes to shove those scores are a part of teacher accountability and I have to think about that somewhat.  I have a lot of content left to teach but is it better to miss some of that and get the kids excited about learning real world math and cover what we cover or do I need to do what so many of us do and just plow on through whether the kids learn it or not?

The problem is I know the right answer here and that is to abandon the direct instruction altogether with this crew (which I already had for the most part) and just use Mathalicious and a few other resources as a tool to get the kids excited about applying math and let the chips fall where they may.  It is just a little scary to take the plunge.  I am thinking two Mathalicious lessons a week with additional resources inserted as needed would be life changing for the kids and for me .  Anyone want to convince me one way or another?

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5 thoughts on “Crossroads

  1. At 64 I’ve had my share of these moments. The thing is the plough thru method, even done more gently, still has me wondering if they’ll learn it well enough for the tests. Nowhere has this issue been more stark than my present teaching in Thailand, where foundations are broken, procedural learning is even more endemic, and kids are taught passively, without encouragement to ask questions. One student once told me, “You make us brave to think”. There is so much work to do to undo. Good work. Even if scores might be higher otherwise, which I doubt, I must live with myself. And education’s standards are mostly, if not completely, for the mind. One day I hope there will be standards for the heart.

    • Wow it is so interesting to hear about your experiences in Thailand. I agree completely that I have to live with myself first! The kids are loving it so far and I hope their learning reflects that. I would be interested to hear more about your Thailand experience!

  2. To make my comment more succinct, I describe myself, not as a teacher, but as a facilitator of expression, and my context is mathematics.

  3. As a former math resource teacher, I cannot express the importance of making the math real for the students. Students can make big connections through real world math problems. I would make homework practice on past skills that will help them for upcoming tasks. The best thing I was told when wanting to try new techniques is “you will not hurt the children.” The students will be okay. With my 7th grade inclusion, I have had to do lower grade level mathalicious problems to work towards one at grade level. I will say with ratios and proportions, patterns will come in helpful for determine proportional and non-proportional graphs. I’m talking too much… Let me know if I can help. My students loved the Nike Shoes problem about shoe size and price. We just finished ratios and proportions. We are on to equations and expressions.

    • Thank you so much. Our district does it the other way for some reason, expressions and equations before ratio and proportions, I am not sure why! I haven’t done that shoe one yet but it is on my agenda to squeeze in. We have done all Mathalicious so far this week with just some breaks to reinforce some skills and it has worked great so far. Thank you for your advice and encouragement!!!

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