I spend a lot of time, probably more than is healthy, thinking about making math class more engaging, more exciting, and most importantly, more of a learning experience. Like many others, I work to create depth in instruction. Opportunities for students to not only learn the “what” of math but more importantly the “why.”
As a K-12 coordinator and supervisor of teachers, this is such a drastic shift in instruction that the timeline to incorporating front loaded tasks into the curriculum is painfully slow. Is this because the CCSS, RTI, STEM, etc… have all hit at the same time? Is this because teachers teach what they have always taught? Is this because the expectations in a classroom are so tight in regards to timelines that teachers physically cannot fit it in? Is it because in certain years of math the application is not the easiest to re-create or to even come up with.
We could come up with hundreds of excuses but the plain truth is that enabling students to see where and how math could actually be used is, to steal from commercials, “priceless.” Without that authentic application students struggle to retain information.
This is where traditional textbooks fail. Discovery based lessons on the other hand, using Math Techbook, followed by authentic applications presented in an engaging manner are some of the basic premises to successful mathematics instruction. Add to that the obsessive abundance of prompts for students to explain their thinking and you have a tool that can change math instruction as we know it. The changes I have seen in the classroom over a span of three weeks have eclipsed several years of professional development to improve instruction.
The basic question would be how? How is it possible that a change of program can change instruction this quickly. That is a question I wish to delve further into as we move forward.
As this is my first blog post I wish to leave you with this to contemplate. My son, a rather successful 7th grade math student who has been lucky enough to receive strong instruction in math for several years doesn’t hesitate when asked about Math Techbook. “I can do all math when it asks, I just struggle to explain how it works which means I just don’t know it well enough yet.”
Yes, I consider myself a very lucky father to have a son who is reflective enough to admit struggles. I also consider myself lucky to be a high school teacher when the middle school students will have had the depth and understanding that goes with it for years to come.