Sunday, July 26, 2015

Curriculum - searching for the grail.....

So how do you select curriculum in a small district?  Form a committee?  There is only a few of us in the entire district (Grades:  4K-5, MS, HS, Admin -- ~7 to 8 of us).  So as the HS teacher, the only HS teacher it feel likes it starts with me.  So like any other school you ask for books and start searching through them, and finding what?

I hope for the book that helps our school make the students better problem solvers and learners, ready for whatever they do upon graduation.  And I am constantly thinking about what that should look like in a textbook.  How does that text book progress from Kindergarten to Calculus?  (or 4K versus Kindergarten)

I am feeling like I am searching for the holy grail, I need the theme song to Indiana Jones just to survive it.  I am sent books that are over a 1000 pages long (1300 pages/180 days --- 7.2 pages per day -- CRAZY!) -- I know that I don't have to teach the whole book - but we (the students and I) get to carry them around all the same.

I have looked at integrated and non-integrated, CCSS aligned, ACT College and Career Readiness models.....  And it leads me to one common belief, it is what we do in the room, not which book we have that matters most.

It is how we make sure they understand concepts versus procedures.  It how we lead them in problems solving, encouraging/modeling persistence.

The curriculum is not that important, the teaching is...      except....

Except I really need the text book series to have assessments and workbooks - because with so many different preps there is no time to make everything I need.  (Which is why I am scared of CPM, great book - but I don't feel I can prep for it, not enough hours in the day).  I currently make a lot of my own assessments with projects, but sometimes I need to use book assessment or worksheet as a base for a class (then just add a question or two, cross one off, etc).  This modification process is what keeps me sane (or at my present level of insanity).

So as a small district searching for texts you would figure someone would have made good assessments that use high level skills and practices -- cause big or small we all want that resource.  You wish for assessments that would be awesome (I mean they are written by the authors!),  But often they are the same "pump & dump" - little different than the 10 plus year old texts I have -- except they cost $100 each.

Perhaps I want too much, but I will keep combing the desert in search of that text book series that matches my school's vision.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

STEM, Teaching Math is more than just the M

I have been lucky to be part of a STEM grant at UW-Platteville the last couple of days (STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) - we, the participants, have had the opportunity to do some STEM projects, reflecting on practices and working with a great group of dedicated excited educators.

And the big thing for me - with 2 days out of 8 done is a new mantra to repeat - that STEM has M (math) in the STE part too.  Meaning that the STE part can have a huge impact on my students - a bigger impact in their ability to problem solve, their ability to be ready for the world versus just doing M.

So a question discussed was: are you a STEM teacher? The question followed the story of a 5th grade teacher using STEM to teach Math (and her need to teach parents that M is STE).  And my answer today is I am a math teacher who has large STEM projects.  I integrate STEM into math as I can but I rely on the projects I assign to do STEM things (and also the math practices).  For me the next step is continuously improving my lessons to include more STE - to teach more math concepts.

The practices we want are there in the STE part and any math room will always have M - so a message to myself : keep pushing the STE part.  Keep finding the projects, keep making the math learning happening through discovery.  Keep using a holistic approach and make each class just a little bit better (continuous improvement).


A day without math is like a day without sunshine.

is still true (love that phrase)!!  Now we know that STE portion is pure sunshine too.