Math Education Concepts

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My Future after Math Corps Philly

Many of you have followed my blog through the years and may remember when I started working on Math Corps Philadelphia.  It has been a remarkable experience for me!  I learned a lot, met great people, and grew as a professional and as a person.  The best part about Math Corps Philadelphia is the lives that changed (for the better) as a result of all the hard work of everyone involved.

It saddens me that we are no longer able to offer this free summer camp for Philly kids.  There are several reasons for this decision (money, politics, etc.), but I won’t go into that here.  But I will say that this was not my choice and I had very little, if any, say in this.

As I reflect upon my experiences with Math Corps Philly, I think about the things I will miss the most:

  • I will miss the kids and watching them have fun during summer camp. 
  • I will miss the parents eagerly sending their kids to summer camp to learn and grow. 
  • I will miss shopping for daily breakfast and attending recruitment events. 
  • I will miss the late nights making sure everything is taken care of and everyone has what they need. 
  • I will miss being part of the Math Corps Philly Family.

Although there is some sadness, I am very excited about my future after Math Corps Philly!  I do not know what’s ahead for me, but I am excited to find out.  Should I continue my work in Math Education, I will update you here.  Of course, I will always have a love for this “stuff,” so I won’t stray too far.

Thank you for all you’ve done to support me with Math Corps Philly through the years!

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What are Your Math Goals

Yes, I am talking to you…  Even if you are not in school or working in a math-related field (although all fields are math related on some level) you should have math goals.

My math goal is simple: Keep growing mathematically!  I will do this by practicing the following:

  1. Read books about math topics
  2. Work on random math problems and puzzles
  3. Help students learn math
  4. Teach a math course or lesson
  5. Encourage youth to work to improve their math grades
  6. Keep math on my mind

Now I know some of these items seem hefty for some people and that’s okay.  The key is to think about what your math goals are for the upcoming year.  Will you save money?  Will you clip coupons?  Will you take a course for fun?  Will you attend a math camp?  Will you improve your math grade?

There are a lot of things you can do to grow mathematically.  What are your math goals for 2018?


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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!