Monday, February 20, 2012

A Great Read For Any Math Teacher

Recently, I have been doing some reflecting on the kind of year that my students and I have been having. This is my fourth year teaching and I think that it's vital that things continue to improve as I go along this journey. I am very pleased to report that things continue to move in the right direction. As a matter of fact, I feel as though this has been a period of tremendous growth for both the kids and myself.

For the last couple of years, I have been sporadically checking the dy/dan blog that is put out by the very talented and insightful Dan Meyer.  I hope one day to find enough time left over at the end of the day to crawl out of the Lurker role and insert myself into the active community of learners that this man has perpetuated with his Socratic ponderings of "What if".

Last spring, instead of a invitation to inquiry, I found a recommendation for a required reading. Malcolm Swan has written an outstanding resource for math teachers called Improving learning in mathematics: challenges and strategies. Of course spring time is not a good time for me to start reading anything, so I bookmarked it and held on to it for summer reading. And thank goodness I did wait. There were so many amazing ideas and strategies in this short piece that I did not know where to begin.

In the end I decided to dedicate myself to one strategic change and incorporate it into the daily routine this year. The new practice that I chose to incorporate into our daily routine is the regular use of student whiteboards to develop our mental math skills. At least that is how it started out. I had some games and gimmicks that I had developed a Notebook document around and the kids loved it. I soon realized that I could be having the students show me their current level of understanding at any point in the lesson with these whiteboards. The largest boon to our learning came when I realized that this was the perfect vehicle to throw in random review questions through out the course of the year. This one simple, elegant, powerful idea has been a real game changer for our learning community. I can't wait to read through the resource again to see what strategy we can claim for our own next year! Commit, implement and adapt! Growth will be your reward.