CSAP reflections

I’ve had a few days to digest CSAP, and get back to blogging!

I felt pretty good about how our curriculum aligned to the 9th grade CSAP math.  As expected, there was a heavy focus on proportional thinking and reasoning.  I would estimate 30-40% of questions could be solved by using proportions.  And our kids feel comfortable solving proportions, but it is the recognizing and setting up part that is a challenge.   There is still quite a disconnect on calling a class Algebra and having to cover all of the standards that are tested on CSAP when only one of the six is actually a standard on Algebra.  With only about 2 units (10 days each) to cover the algebra benchmarks sufficiently for CSAP, we are doing a huge disservice to our students when it comes to advanced algebra and other math that builds on these skills.  Traditional courses teach this framework of algebra in a whole year, not 2 units.  How will our district handle this? 

Another issue is the students who I KNOW are advanced based on the evidence that they show me in class making careless mistakes on a test.  For example, a question that involves algebraic representations of line lenghts ask students to use perimeter (a much lower level of geometry) to demonstrate how students can set up algebraic equations and solve for variables.  My very competent and smart student, who is earning an A in a junior level class as a freshman, made a careless mistake regarding what perimeter is.  Are they really testing her algebra skills, or are they testing how well she works under pressure, how detail-oriented she is, her knowledge of perimeter,…?  This is a huge issue of math teachers and assessments.  Do multiple choice tests really assess what they set out to assess?  So ready critical thinking skills, reading comprehension, and paying attention to details should be a heavy focus in my class from now on.  What is the best way to focus on that?

Fun with Voice Threads

Ok, so I just wanted an excuse to try Voice Thread, but I like it. I even saw math stuff when I was browsing, so I will have to investigate further. My “homework” from my administrator is work in a small team (with the lovely and much more talented than me, Tonia Johnson) to write an educational philosophy statement about the new Science and Technology academy that will be a small school within a school at our new high school. What will education at that academy be like, and how will it be different than any other school? In our efforts to solicit information and input, we designed and launched a voicethread. Check it out and please comment!
http://voicethread.com/share/68461/

Colorado Conversation Roundtable

I have not been able to blog as often as my mind has been racing since EduCon2.0.  Luckily, I have great colleagues that I have had some old-fashioned face-to-face conversations with.  In that spirit, I have decided to attempt a roundtable at the Colorado Conversations (tomorrow).  I am a high school math teacher, so I would love to start to delve deeper into the pedagogy and technology in other math and science classrooms. 

If you are a classroom teacher or coach of math or science, lets share how technology is effectively used in the classroom throughout all grade levels.
Items that I am curious about, in no particular order. (Please add to list)

How does technology engage unmotivated math and science students?
What does “interactive” really mean?
How will technology help students develop a good grasp of basic concepts on which we constantly build?
How do you balance complex, project based learning, with mastery of basic skills? Do we need to balance?
Does technology make math and science concepts more attainable to low achieving students?
How is technology used in elementary and middle school levels to promote mastery of math concepts? How can technology can be used to reach more elementary and middle school teachers to help with math preparation and education?
How can we support math and science educators with technology so their instruction represents more modern ecuational models as opposed to traditional “sit and get” approach.

Networking and collaboration

This is a cross post with global learner blog

It’s time to walk the walk.  I keep silently listening to all the ideas about using technology to connect to one another, or network.  I connect in a way that I am a silent observer but I have been more empowered to speak up and reach out to people.  So as a starting point, please join my wiki at http://reginawiki.wikispaces.com/Journal+Prompts and add any ideas for math journal prompts.  I am looking to ask the right questions.  Not the regurgitate ones and not the ones that ask them to come up with a problem and solve it.  Something on a higher level that will force them to articulate a concept and realize that they really do understand it or they don’t understand it to the level that they thought they did. 

I am using Gmail and asking students to reply in Gmail to slowly start getting them used to this.  I hope to work on their voice and articulation by doing this.  Then I will progress to blogs maybe next year until this type of reflection becomes habit for them. 

I am excited to see what we can put together and I hope something may inspire another teacher out there.  Please let me know.

P.S.  If you haven’t worked with an RSS “reader” yet, check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0klgLsSxGsU and then set up a reader with google and subscribe to your favorite blogs (like mine!)

Not fair

I have been searching for purpose for so long.  I had such an amazing weekend with tremendously talented people and I was among them; I was one of them.  There  is so much swimming in my head.  I want to blog reflections and I want to start on future projects.  I want to put together action plans to get the balls rolling and keep up the momentum.  I want to organize ways to reach out to other teachers in my building so they can be as excited as I am.  But I have to clean the house and now work on grad school assignments that are already late.  The best part of the conference was that I was physically removed from all of my normal distractions.  It wasn’t what was physically there, it was what wasn’t there that made the difference.  I could have watched from ustream and even participated in ustream chat and skype chat and took notes on google docs while I watched everything, but it wouldn’t have worked.  Interesting to think about when we are removing our classroom walls.  We can reach people, but are they in the place that they need to be to hear us? We focused on great conversations about education ALL WEEKEND, over breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even drinks.  It was cool.  But I’m back home now and just the mess of the house is distracting enough.  Is it fair to blow off the family or home anymore because I feel passionate about education?  Of course not.  It feels like going back to work after Christmas break in reverse.  I had the opportunity to focus 100% on home, family, and friends over the two weeks of break and it felt great.  It is sinking in how much it stinks that I can’t give 100% of myself to anything.  It isn’t fair. 

Philly Conference, so far

In my efforts to unlock the mystery of why and high school students decline in math across the country and simultaneously to strive to be a better math teacher, I have realized that it is teachers that make the difference in both counts.  What a great, liberating and exciting discovery!!

We (my cohort from the district who are in Philly) had great conversations over lunch on the vision and realization of our new high school and futures of our students.  What is in our control and what isn’t? Ultimately, what will matter.  Anyone got an answer?

It was amazing to see the Science Leadership Academy today and how real the kids our–just like mine.  It wasn’t the kids that made the difference and to be honest, it wasn’t the laptops.  The difference was in the teachers.  It is only a two year old school.  No issues of tenure and resent of administration for forcing changes on them.  Everyone from the administration to the support staff was on the same page and seemed to have the same values. 

Quality secondary math teachers are few and far behind.  If they are good at such high level math required in college, they get a much higher paying job in an industry rather than teach high school students.  There aren’t a lot of secondary math teachers around, especially in Colorado.  This is not a new discovery, but a connection that I have made to this curve that I am chasing.

On that note, I will continue my journey of becoming a good teacher.  I hope it keeps be busy enough to enjoy teaching for the next 27 years so I don’t fall into the ruts of some of my colleagues.  I still will be organizing myself to most efficiently use my time so that I can be a good teacher.  More good stuff to come the next to days to help me prioritize my goals so that I can become the teacher I hope I can be.

Organization

This is only my third year of teaching, so I am still learning much of the basics.  My head is swimming with things that I want to try, work on, figure out, discuss, improve, implement, test…  This is also the third blog that I have started.  Can’t seem to get it right yet, but I’ll start by categorizing my head swarms so I can keep my blogging productive and organized. 

1.  Diagnosing and Assessing–I have slowly learned to not assume and take things for granted in education.  Assessing is a hard thing to do, but I am coming around.  I can determine a yes or no if my students “get it.”  However, I am now realizing that assessing is very different than diagnosing.  What do the students get?  What do they not get?  Why don’t they get it?  Why do they get it?  This is the information that I am ultimately after–that all teachers are ultimately after.  I know most of my students struggle with math.  But I have to stop assuming what they are struggling with and find a way to better diagnose.  Then the next step will be how to address it.  Our district uses MAPS which produces a numerical score that is supposed to fall into  a continuum of learning targets to pinpoint where a student is and ultimatelyl tell me what they know and what they don’t know.  Does anyone else use MAPS and find it helpful?  I just don’t see a number on a continuum telling me what I want to know.

2.  What works–What makes it connect with students?  How can we present it and explain it in ways that clicks with them?

3.  Engagement–Getting kids to class on time, getting them to pick up a pencil, and getting them to not side talk are the basics that fall under classroom management.  How do we get students to take ownership in their education?  How do we get them to be active learners instead of just passive workers that show up, fill in the worksheet, and leave?  Too often my students’ parents work as laborers and are mentally disengaged from what they do.  They punch the time clock, do busy work, and collect their paycheck.  My students seem to want the same out of school and maybe that is what is was for them before high school.  They want to know what they should write, where they should write it, when and where they should turn it in, and why they don’t have an A for that  I whole-heartedly agree that the role of the teacher is changing into a facilitor of learning and not one who doles out the knowledge.  So I am slowly trying.

4.  Time and energy focus–This feels like a constant battle.  Some quality lessons take a lot of time to produce.  Are they worth it?  Some quality lessons require minimal time to produce.  How much work should I assign so that I can grade it efficiently and not get backed up.  I have been struggling with this for all three years.  Then there are the demands of the curriculum; if my students don’t get it, I want to spend more time on it.  Where is the best place to put our time and energy so they don’t get left behind, but we also don’t beat the dead horse?

5.  technology and connections–Using technology is easy.  Using technology well means that I have to really figure out 1-4 first.  Technology has to be an integral part of all of this.

6.  Work/life balance–Can anyone master this one?  I imagine this will be my persistant struggle.  I am a creature of routine and that is the only way I will be productive.  Must find a routine time to blog and learn from blogging.

Getting it rolling

Across the nation, we are seeing significant deline in math skills as students progress to higher grades.  This is the trend I am chasing.  Why the drop?  What are we doing wrong and what can I do to change the projections?  I am a third year math teacher after working as an engineer.  I am still in the very early stages of learning how to be a good teacher.  In addition, I am in the process of getting my masters in math and balancing my work life with my family.  Journalling and collaborating is what will be most useful to me on this journey.  Wish me luck!