The mere mention of technology in the classroom gets me so excited. I love talking classroom tech with teachers, no matter how novice or advanced their skills are. I love the advances being made in technology, and the opportunities that are opening up for our students across the nation and the world. Technology is merely a tool, but it is a powerful tool that can open a whole new set of doors that previously remained closed for some learners.
Part 4 of 8, Strategies for Integrating the Mathematical Practices into Instruction
By Dr. Michele Douglass
There are few times that students in math classes or on assessments are asked which tool they should use to complete a problem. Think about the test questions that ask students to measure something. If it’s a length, the ruler is aligned to the object within the test question. If it’s a temperature, a thermometer appears in the question. We even provide the manipulative that students should use to solve a given problem.
Although the mathematical practice of Using Appropriate Tools Strategically is one that should be easy for most of us to implement, our testing world has never required us to use this practice as it is intended.
Fast-forward to classrooms teaching this practice or, better yet, classrooms where students are using this practice independently. They know how to use the tools and when to use them appropriately. Tools can be anything from mental math; pencil and paper; physical tools such as rulers, protractors, compasses, etc.; to calculators and computers. Mathematical tools also include graphic organizers, charts, tables, and manipulatives. What is critical in the development of this practice is that students are given opportunities to use each tool and to learn when its use is appropriate.
Lately the news is filled with stories of discrimination, hate, and violence. One example is an interview I watched last week with a young man from Ferguson, Missouri. He was standing on the sidewalk dressed in a tank top and low-slung jeans. I don’t remember his exact words, but he said something like, “A cop comes up and he says, ‘Pull up those jeans; you look like a criminal.’ What am I supposed to do with that?”
Now I have no doubt that the officers in Ferguson, and everywhere in the world, have dealt with enough problem characters to be tempted to categorize people on sight. I also know without a doubt that every kid in baggy pants is not out to rob, pillage, and plunder. Police men and women have tough, dangerous jobs and often have to make quick judgments. As educators, we are often tempted to make judgments just as quickly when we meet new students.
Our series on the mathematical practices continues by looking at a practice that is often grouped with the one we will discuss in our next blog. Both require an understanding of the content in a way that allows you to represent it. If you are like me, when you read this blog post’s title, “Models with Mathematics,” you think manipulatives. However, the practice we will discuss here is not about manipulatives; it is about using mathematical symbols to represent a situation.
The contest is simple: if you are in the education field, you are eligible. Simply write a blog post about one of the four topics provided and submit it by October 17, 2014. We will choose the top 3 entries and invite the public to vote on which they like best. The entry that earns the most votes wins! The blog contest winner can then start writing one blog per month, valued at $100.
For more details, please visit www.voyagersopriscontest.com.
Happy blogging and good luck!
Since I started teaching, towards the conclusion of every single summer, I get excited, anxious, nervous, and giddy…all at the same time. Another school year is about to start and I have a whirlwind of emotions, sentiments, and feelings swirling around that simple fact.
It doesn’t matter if I’m returning to the same school I’ve been at for several years or starting at a brand new school; I experience the same feelings. As long as I’m still teaching, I doubt the excitement will ever dwindle. The impending dawn of a new academic year brings a tornado of feelings that just can’t be ignored for many in the teaching profession. But, that’s what’s fantastic, amazing and incredible about the job we do; the rush of emotion, anxiety, and excitement reoccurs at the start of each new school year. I don’t know of many jobs where you get to relive these types of good feelings over and over again.
This Fourth of July, I was at our local park with family and friends, waiting for the fireworks to start, when an acquaintance walked by and stopped to chat. He checked in with everyone in the group, and then turned to me with a grin and said, “How are you enjoying your extended vacation? It must be great being a teacher and only working nine months a year.” Smiling, I explained that, actually, I was mid-way through my summer semester at the local university and just home for the weekend. He looked to my husband as if to check my story and then, laughing, he said, “Yeah, well most teachers are just sitting at the beach or in front of the TV. Teaching must be great.” I smiled and nodded, encouraging him to move on to his own chair.
In fact, sometimes I find myself feeling embarrassed about having time off in the summer. It’s like a guilty secret that everyone knows, but we avoid talking about. Now that the summer session is over and I have a few minutes to reflect, I wonder why it is that many of us feel defensive about the time we have to unplug and refresh ourselves. It seems that educators, and many other adults in the United States, think that we have to be running at full speed all the time in order to be productive.
As a teacher, I look for anything and everything I can use to connect to my students, and get them excited about the learning that is going on in my classroom. I am not afraid to take risks, especially if my students will benefit from them.
A few years ago, a colleague and I decided to take a risk for our middle school’s monthly “Club Day.” We were going to host “Dog Club,” where we would bring in our dogs (and have some of our colleagues bring theirs in too) and spend the day teaching the students about dog behaviors, training, maintenance, walking techniques, and much more. We had never brought our pets into school, and we weren’t even sure we were allowed to do so. After a discussion with our principal about the benefits of Dog Club, we got the green light.
By the time spring break hits, many teachers are counting the remaining days until summer vacation. How many times can one person be asked, “Will this be graded?” or “Why do we have to do this?” or “When am I ever going to need to know this?” I begin to question why I’m assigning a minimum of five typed pages when I know that I will need to read every last word. It’s not that I’m ready to quit teaching, but I’m always grateful to have the summer to regroup, take a few classes, and revitalize myself for the next year.
This summer I have received a special gift, and I’d like to share it with those educators out there who are a bit weary as well. I’ve been reminded that teaching is a noble and valuable profession. What we do as educators is important because we have the power to change lives.
When I was little, like many others out there, I kept a journal. Having read books like The Diary of Anne Frank and Zlata’s Diary, I too wanted to write down my thoughts. It was mostly the ramblings of my 10-year-old self, which segued into the drama that was my middle school years. To me, writing was therapeutic; when I wrote something down, I felt better.
It was great to be able to look back upon my entries and see exactly what I was thinking or feeling at that age. Fast-forward to now: I still am “journaling,” but in today’s terms this is called “blogging.”
I’m going to make a bold statement, but one I believe needs to be said: educators need to write, or journal, or blog. Education is quite a different profession than most; it is ever-changing—new methods and techniques are evolving while others are dying out, and it is constantly in the limelight. Given these conditions, teachers need to document what’s going on in their own teaching worlds.