A New Perspective…The Search for a Future

It was three years ago when, as a district we realized we could not take our current program and modify it to meet the new requirements of the Common Core State Standards, especially the standards for Mathematical Practice. So the journey began to find a new foundation for our curriculum.

We did what most districts do, we determined our needs and went searching for the solution. We wanted a program that offered an exploratory approach to learning. We wanted to be able to have applications that actually meant something, not just fabricated situations that have little engagement with students. We wanted to have opportunities that allowed teachers to differentiate for students. We wanted to have a program that gave us the ability to join our instruction with 21st century technologies. What we found was a bunch of books that had a sticker on them claiming to be Common Core aligned but in reality…a facelift with an old interior. There were upgrades such as SMARTER Balanced aligned questions that actually showed promise, exploratory classroom activities, and explanations for learning. However, none of them existed in the same series. Furthermore, ALL the technology was “To Be Determined.” From my experience that is code for, don’t count on it actually happening. We considered online programs but had fears of too much screen time for the students, a sterile form of instruction that only met DOK 1 expectations, and a complete lack of discourse. We discussed flipping the classroom and what that would mean for students. Standards based grading and if programs allowed or even encourage a process towards it. RTI and if the programs supported the teacher throughout the process. In other words, we discussed everything we could think of.

Ultimately, after 2 full years of searching we found nothing that worked for us. Nothing, until early into 2015. On a series of strange happenings I found myself in Washington D.C. at the unveiling of Discovery Education’s new Math Techbook. On the flight to D.C. I discussed with my Superintendent my disdain for online programs. My fears about the lack of a teacher in the classroom and my straight-forward belief that students learn best through teachers and that a digital textbook was not the solution.

Fast forward to 10pm the evening of my first introduction to the program where I found myself on the phone with a trusted colleague saying “we would be fools to not choose this program.” From there, I spent the next several weeks digging deeper and finding flaws on my own. I continued to present unbiased program options to my staff which they continued to toss out. Then, I presented Math Techbook to them. They didn’t say no, but they also didn’t say yes. So here we sit. Still at the beginning of our first year with Techbook and trying to find our way. The interesting thing is, Math Techbook is only part of the story.
I am the K-12 Math Coordinator of a district that is moving towards fully standards-based grading next year. This means tiered assessments, rubric scoring, grades for summative pieces only, and a whole lot more. For the past several years we have emphasized DOK 3 level tasks that encourage student discourse. We, like so many other districts have so many new initiatives going on it is hard to keep track of a normal day.

Let me introduce you to my blog…A New Perspective. I am in the middle of leading a change that changes the paradigm of math education. This blog is my form of a diary. We have a traditional program in grades K-5 that we are changing into a workshop form of instruction that is dominated by student discourse. We have adopted Math Techbook in grades 6-8 and have an exploratory program with unrealistic problems that promote strong student thinking in Algebra and Geometry. This is all followed by very traditional books post Geometry. This blog is about all of that and so much more.

So come and visit again. Share your questions, successes and failures. This blog is about all of us. It’s about what we go through as teachers. Our daily trials and tribulations. Perhaps we can grow and learn together.

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