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  • Teachers, Textbooks, and Big Ideas in Math

    Posted By John Woodward, Ph.D. | Jun 07, 2017
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    American educators have a well-honed way of thinking about curriculum. Typically, district committees compare and then adopt a curriculum to meet specific goals or guidelines. More recently, curriculum adoption in math has been driven by state or national standards.

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  • Site-Based Math Professional Development: Where to Begin?

    Posted By John Woodward, Ph.D. | May 24, 2017
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    Rita Bean’s and Diane DeFord’s article about instructional coaching offers a highly sensible list of dos and don’ts for working with teachers in their classrooms. Crafted from what is clearly a great depth of experience, Bean and DeFord apprise the reader immediately of the highly political nature of coaching. For example, if coaches communicate explicitly or implicitly that they are there to “fix them and their classrooms,” then the chances of a successful working relationship plummet dramatically.

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  • How Should Principals Take the Lead on Math Professional Development?

    Posted By John Woodward, Ph.D. | May 10, 2017
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    Professional development researchers have told us for a long time principals need to be instructional leaders. That prescription entails visible support for new instructional strategies as well as the need for persistence, follow-up, and even the use of data to sustain or refine new practices. Unquestionably, all of this is important. But where does a principal start today in a world awash with new teachers, many of whom struggle to teach to state or national standards? As co-authors of the K-8 mathematics professional development program, NUMBERS, Michele Douglass, Mary Stroh and I have done a lot of thinking about how principals can orchestrate successful change.

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  • Teach Your Teachers Well

    Posted By Michelle George | Apr 12, 2017
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    A few weekends ago, I was playing music with some friends and we tried out the old standard, “Teach the Children Well” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Singing the lyrics reminded me that the teaching mandate goes two ways; the parents need a little guidance along the way as well as the children. The same applies, I believe, to education. Teachers need good teaching, and the basic principles of educational practice are essential for effective professional development (PD).

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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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