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  • The Problem with Word Problems Might Be the Way They Are Taught

    Posted By John Woodward, Ph.D. | Mar 22, 2017
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    Traditional algebra word problems have a bad rap and for good reason. Students are hardly enamored with content of the typical word problem, and its relevance to the real world is questionable at best. Amdahl and Loats (1995) captured this sentiment in their amusing tour of beginning algebra: “Folks who write math books live very different lives from you and me. They seem to spend a lot of time on trains, for example, which leave cities you and I rarely visit, in hopes of meeting their buddies on trains at destinations in-between….They launch rockets across rivers, build bridges, and agonize over how tall various trees are. After a couple of years of math classes, you’ll be uncomfortable hiking through the woods without your calculator handy.” (p. 104)

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  • The Future of Work: Robots, Artificial Intelligence, and What They Mean for Math Education Today

    Posted By John Woodward, Ph.D. | Mar 01, 2017
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    Much has been said about the state of American manufacturing in the last year, and a series of recent reports present an intricate picture that takes us beyond some of the confusion and common misconceptions. Except for the understandable decline in manufacturing during the recent recession, manufacturing productivity since 2000 has been surprisingly robust. Ball State University’s report even suggests that growth in manufacturing going forward is steady and on an upward path. With all of the news of outsourcing in areas such as textiles, furniture, and apparel, how can this be?

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  • How Can We Teach if We Don’t Take Care of Ourselves First?

    Posted By Jeffrey Sprague, Ph.D. | Jan 18, 2017
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    The modern challenges of public school teaching are diverse and deep. While it is clear that academic achievement is “job one” for schools, we now are faced with a dizzying array of risks and challenges from our students, parents, and society. Some might say it’s “depressing” and it’s not a joke. Recent years have seen an explosion of, and discussion about, schools traditional use of “exclusionary discipline.” Typically, teachers have sent students to the office to see an administrator (or another person) to respond to most forms of disruption in the classroom. But a contemporary view of exclusion is that it’s harmful to students and doesn’t work in the long run. We hear about the “school to prison pipeline,” and “trauma informed care” at a time when budgets are declining, and perhaps the students we receive at school are more challenging than we remember. Most teachers and administrators I work with agree with this, and yet we are all left wondering, “What are alternatives that work?” Others (maybe you), wonder if we are in an era where there are no “consequences” and challenging students will ruin schooling for everyone. We know what we are doing is not the right thing, and yet it’s stressful to feel ineffective without understanding what else to do.

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  • Making Sense of Close Reading in the Intermediate Grades

    Posted By Nancy Boyles, Ph.D. | Nov 30, 2016
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    When close reading gained prominence a few years ago, I was a little insulted that as a professional developer in the area of literacy, anyone could think the instructional strategies I shared with teachers did not help students to read “closely.” Then, I learned more about close reading and saw that it truly did push teachers and students to a whole new level of rigor. In time, I’ve also learned there are a few principles and practices that when applied well will make teaching the process of close reading achievable for teachers and the outcomes of close reading meaningful for students.

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  • Online Resources for Mastery Learning

    Posted By Michelle George | Nov 16, 2016
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    Mastery learning is one of those buzzword phrases in education that pedagogists often toss about in an effort to define and refine good teaching practices. The term goes back to a true icon in the field of education, Benjamin S. Bloom, who suggested that all students can learn and achieve at high levels; they might just require different strategies and time in order to achieve mastery.

    Mastery is generally defined as “command or grasp of something”. In an educational sense, mastery learning is achieved by an intentional strategy in which teachers decide on specific learning goals, make formative assessments to determine where teaching and learning needs to occur, provide directed instruction, and continue formative assessments and correctives until all students have achieved a preset level of mastery for the learning goals1. The concept of learning mastery is simple and nearly any educator would agree is desirable. The rub comes in the implementation. Mastery learning is hard work. Fortunately, today’s Internet resources provide a plethora of resources to help make the goal more attainable.

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  • Civil Discourse is Doable

    Posted By Michelle George | Oct 12, 2016
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    During a recent professional development training, I was talking with some teachers from neighboring schools, and the topic of our current contentious presidential race came up. One teacher said his school had decided to ban any sort of political campaigning or sign posting. He said the administration was concerned about inappropriate discussions and aggressive disagreements, so the decision was made to simply avoid the whole thing. I was flabbergasted. If we as educators can’t provide frameworks and processes for students to have intelligent and respectful conversations about the leadership of our country, where are our young people going to learn to be active citizens? In my mind, learning the art and practice of civil discourse is an integral responsibility of public education in the United States.

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  • The Making of a Mentor

    Posted By Michelle George | Sep 28, 2016
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    When I was a third-year teacher, I was asked to mentor a new teacher in our building. I wasn’t exactly asked; it was more like I was informed of this new opportunity for which I would receive a $150 stipend. This new teacher was brand new to the profession, and she taught in a totally different discipline. Her prep period was in the morning and mine was at the end of the day. She was upstairs, and I was downstairs. We met sporadically and commiserated a bit. I was nearly new myself and had no training for this responsibility. I did my best. I observed her classes and congratulated her on what went well. I often baked brownies for her when she was feeling particularly overwhelmed. Yet, even at the time, I realized what I offered did little to help her develop skills for teaching. The money would have been better spent buying her a few Post-it®notes and some very strong coffee. Recently, I was again offered the opportunity to mentor some new teachers, and this time, with a bit more experience and training, I hope to do a better job. Mentoring fellow teachers is important work and can be mutually rewarding, but a mentor has to be more than just a paid buddy.

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  • PD for Teachers of Reading: What DOES Make a Difference?

    Posted By Louisa Moats, Ed.D. | Sep 30, 2015
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    Very few of us were ever taught what we needed to know about reading or language when we completed our degree programs or were licensed to teach. As teachers, the professional development we received often seemed irrelevant. Even after graduate school, what I had been taught left me helpless in the face of students who struggled to read. The knowledge I eventually applied to various instructional programs, I acquired haphazardly from my doctoral courses, from conferences, and from other teachers … too late to help me with my first students.

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  • How to Get the Most out of Collaboration

    Posted By Staci Bain, MIT | Sep 09, 2015
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    Your new schedule awaits your return, sitting silently in your mailbox at school. With palpating heart and sweaty hands you skim the page to find … COLLABORATION, Professional Learning Communities (PLC), Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 2:00–2:45 It’s back. Written in the schedule again. The only difference is that this year it looks like you will be collaborating more often, not less. Three days of teaming? You panic. With mind racing you wonder, “How will I survive this year? Summer, oh summer – how I loved you! Wait. Should I have taken that secretarial position at the local bank?”

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  • A New School Year

    Posted By Alexandria Mooney | Aug 13, 2014

    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.

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