As you can tell from the fact that it is Sunday–and almost time for the second mission from the leaders of the Exploring the MathTwitterBlogosphere project–I am struggling with my post. Glad whomever is in charge of Mission #2 did not post at 5:02 am today!!
I am a teacher on assignment. My contract is a half-time (50%) position, so I work 92.5 days a year. (I do other stuff the other half of my time with other groups of fabulous educators.) It’s a great deal. I work with great people–people who are learners and who are truly committed to making their classrooms an awesome place; a place where learning happens every day, where kids are asked to explore their assumptions, values, and beliefs about math, where opportunities exist every day for kids to build confidence, to reason, and to communicate their thinking. However, I don’t have my own classroom.
This year, I have the great fortune to spend a lot of time in Tami’s classroom. (She blogs at shouldbequiltin’.) She lets me hang-out in her 2 math lab classes. As the organizers and designers of the instructional sequence for the kids in her classes, we have chosen to focus our collaboration and planning for these 2 classes on providing an environment that supports kids building their confidence as learners, as people, as mathematicians. One way we do this is to include opportunities for mathematical discourse in the learning we organize every single day. We believe that it is essential for the kids learn to advocate for themselves, to ask questions, to become invested in their learning, to identify what they can do, and to figure out where their understanding starts to break down. Hard stuff for kids who have not felt particularly confident as learners or as mathematicians.
So…we started out our year with a planning and organizing conversation that included everyone from our 2 middle schools involved with math lab. We talked about what we didn’t want our classes to be like and what we did want for the kids who spend time with us each day.
As a learning team, we decided that we wanted to change how the instructional sequence was designed and organized, it should match our philosophy about learning and what we know is good for kids. We are about kids having enough opportunities to make connections, to see how topics, ideas, and concepts are related, and to build perseverance. We are not about marching through worksheets and workbook pages from the intervention materials the publisher of our textbook series provide, teaching the same content the same way with a different set of exercises. We are about using the quality resources shared by colleagues from the MathTwitterBlogosphere and from other high-quality sources. We are about offering our students awesome, quality, interesting tasks to investigate, talk about, reason through, get frustrated about, and make sense of, all in support of them building confidence as learners and in their math skills.
We include number talks (Number Talks by Sherry Parrish), counting circles (Number Sense Routines by Jessica Shumway), and/or estimation tasks (estimation180 by Andrew Stadel) as starting points for the day’s work. The rest of class is dedicated to kids working on tasks that relate to and support the content they are learning in their math classes, or building concepts that will support the next big topic they will work on in math class, and/or pursuing tasks that explore essential understanding and big concepts in math.
All of this is a very LONG response to the prompt that asked each of us to discuss what is one thing that happens in our math classes. The bottom line-we believe that our students are mathematicians and we have set up our classes to ensure that they believe that as well.