Math Education Concepts

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Quick and Dirty Guide to CCSS Math

Written For Tutors

In all my years of tutoring (20+) I have yet to go through one full year without a major issue arising, in mathematics education, that tutors have to face.  This year (and over the past few years) that issue has been Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  Many tutors want to know how to help their students when standards have changed, or become more uniform across states.  These changes have resulted in the development of mathematics curriculum and use of new texts in many school districts.  However, although many states have adopted the CCSS, the standards do not require a specific curriculum or text.  (This leaves the door wide open for companies to sell their products claiming to be aligned with the standards.)  To make matters more confusing, many districts can make their own decisions about what materials to use to teach their students.  This creates a struggle for many tutors: the materials changed suddenly, the expectations are higher for students, and parents can’t begin to explain why their child struggles with the content.

In light of this, I have good news… for tutors!  The standards are for teachers to worry about; your concern is helping your students learn the material being taught.  Below I listed a few tips/strategies for helping your students during the CCSS era.  Many of the tips here are not original or new, but may be more relevant to the expectations placed upon students as a result of the CCSS.  So, let’s get going…

Please feel free to add to these or modify them to accommodate your students’ needs.  I hope this is helpful and will alleviate some stress!

  • Help students think critically and analytically – higher order thinking is an expectation
  • The standards are for teachers to use during instruction – no need to feel compelled to include them in your instruction
  • Know and understand the standards so you can help your students – know what your students are expected to do and understand
  • Tutor with the same confidence you had before CCSS adoptions – students will trust you more if they feel you are confident
  • Get your students accustomed to justifying their answers – if your students can justify their answers, then, most likely, they understand the concept taught
  • Change the format of the problems so you can check for understanding – students should understand the concept behind the problem rather than just the procedure for solving it
  • Know the language used in the standards – encourage your students to use and know it as well
  • Speak positively instead of negatively about the standards – if you resist the change, so will your students, but they will hurt in the end
  • Don’t panic – or your students will panic as well
  • Relax – so your students can relax and learn

Resources:

  1. Common Core State Standards
  2. Common Core Math Standards
  3. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
  4. National Research Council’s “Adding it Up”
  5. EdReports.org
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Concept-Based Learning and Math

Concept-based learning is not a new idea, but one that should get far more attention than what I’ve seen.  I recently found the following definition on “What Is IB?”

“Concept based learning is about big transferable ideas that transcend time, place, situation. Content just focuses on facts while concept focuses on making sense of those facts and the world around us. Content based teaching may not get beyond information transmission/superficial learning. Concepts are a way to organize and make sense of learning.”

When thinking about teaching and learning mathematics, concept-based learning makes the most sense.  Why? Situations change, contexts change, numerical values change, students change, etc.  If a concept is taught and learned, then changing the context or situation will not affect how to apply a concept.

I recently helped a student prepare for the math section of the upcoming SAT.  One question in the practice book showed the graph of a line with no numbers.  The question asked the student to select the equation of the line.  If the student knew the concept of graphs of lines (slopes, y-intercepts, etc.) then they would have been able to solve the problem easily.  They could determine whether the slope was positive or negative and whether the y-intercept was positive or negative.  Without the understanding of these concepts, the student was not able to answer the question.  Once I explained the concepts and details, then the student understood.

Concept-based learning should be a central focus when teaching mathematics.  Otherwise, students will continue to stumble over content when situations and contexts change.

What are your thoughts on concept based learning?


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Math Education Facelift

This photo is borrowed from Computing Technology for Math Excellence (http://www.ct4me.net/about_this_site.htm)

This photo is borrowed from Computing Technology for Math Excellence (http://www.ct4me.net/about_this_site.htm)

Recently education has been seeing major changes as technological advances are happening in our world.  Math education is, of course, impacted by these changes.  Almost gone are the days of traditional lecturing, class exercises, and homework assignments using a chalk board, pencil, and paper.  Many schools are integrating iPad programs, using flipped classroom methods, offering online course, etc.  Of course these are your more affluent schools but it puts pressure on other schools to do the same so their students can be competitive in the workforce.  Where does this leave me, the traditional math educator?

One of two things will eventually happen.  1) I will assimilate or 2) I will leave the industry.  Although my heart is in math education, I haven’t fully embraced the technological advances happening around math education (iPad programs, apps, flipped classrooms, MOOC, etc.).  I have had experience with most of these new methods of teaching, but it has been an adjustment.  My students have also had to adjust to the changes.  Many of them do not like it, but it’s the new direction of math education.

So I am writing this blog because it may be my last on this site.  Although I will always have my hand in math education, I’m not sure the direction I will take as we progress as a world.  Change is difficult, but should be embraced.  I am working on embracing this change!


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Tangible Parting Gifts

I can’t believe the year has gone by so quickly!  It’s already the end of May and there’s only one week left for final exams.  While my time at Salesianum School was short, it will be remembered.  I have memories that will last me a lifetime.

My memories are those that made me laugh, yell, admire, love, and befriend!  Any high school math teacher can relate to the mixed emotions that are experienced in (and out) of the classroom!  It’s not new.  Maybe some day I will share some specifics about those emotions and experiences.

Today, I want to share two tangible gifts I received this year.

1. A t-shirt with my name on the back.  The significance of the t-shirt is that the students labeled me as a teacher who “Keeps it real.”  I gave it to my students straight, no chaser, and they appreciated that.  If they asked questions, I did not sugar coat the answers (whether the questions were about math, friendship, dating, or life).  One of the parents purchased the t-shirts for the entire class (Thank you Mrs. R.).

T-shirt designed by 414-2.

Keepin’ it Real T-shirt designed by 414-2

2. A”K” shaped crepe.  One of my students hosted a French exchange student this year.  Toward the end of the 4th quarter my student earned a 92.2.  He needed a 92.5 to get an “A.”  The exchange student asked me to boost the student’s grade.  I told him I would if he would make me some food using an authentic french recipe.  So they made crepes (the french exchange student used his mother’s recipe – or so he said he did).  It was delicious, so I will deliver on my word.  He was a good student so I would have bumped him .3 points anyway (especially since he missed a few days of school while he was away at France as an American exchange student).

K-shaped crepe made by French Exchange student and his host

K-shaped crepe made by French Exchange student and his host

These are two of the tangible gifts I received this year.  The intangible gifts are too many to name here.  But to name a few I gained friendships, respect, knowledge, love, life-lessons, memories, and so much more.  I will miss my students, but they will always be close in my memories.


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Summer Math Camp Campaign

Help fund a FREE Summer Math Camp for Philadelphia students!

Math Corps Philadelphia

Val and Basir Tutoring College intern, Valerie Reason, tutoring Basir during our Super Saturday program. (Both Val and Basir will be participating in our Summer Math Camp.)

On July 6, 2015 we will launch our Summer Math Camp.  Our goal is to compensate our high school students who will tutor our 7th grade students.  We will also compensate 2 college interns to work with the camp.  In addition to compensating our tutors and interns, we would like to provide meals for the Summer Math Camp participants, as well as supplies.  In order to make this camp the success we envision, we need funds!

On April 17, 2015 we launched our Indiegogo Campaign to raise $20,000.00.  As of today, May 9, 2015, we have raised $1,273.00.  We are grateful for all the donations that are pouring in, but we need more!

Please MAKE A DONATION and help spread the word about our Math Corps Philadelphia Summer…

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