Why Think About The Process Of Teaching To Improve Learning

Check out the Whole Class Discussion framework that reduces this process into 3 pages! This makes teaching much easier! Click on the Whole Class discussion framework link on this blog.

Whole Class Mathematics Discussions

Improving Teaching by Focusing on the Whole Process of Teaching and Not Just Parts! Teaching is a complex process; it is more than just asking perfect questions, or getting students to talk to other. Think of a car engine, if we only have few working parts of the engine or even missing parts, the car won’t run. Similarly, we need to think about the whole process to support students’ mathematical learning. ( I highlighted learning because it is so easy to forget this part during the process of teaching. Many times as a teacher, I get caught up on getting through the activities of teaching and forgetting to think about what my students are learning or need to learn. I made this note to keep reminding myself to make learning the center of my decision-making.) So what is the big picture to support mathematical learning? The Common Core standards outlines…

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Writing and Math

Writing helps students communicate and reflect on their ideas.

Andrea Kirkwood, a UNR Masters’ student created the following website to help teachers gain ideas on how to use math notebooks to help their students communicate their mathematical thinking through writing.

Math Notebooks

WHOLE CLASS DISCUSSION FRAMEWORK – CHECKLIST

WHOLE CLASS DISCUSSION FRAMEWORK – CHECKLIST.

Teacher Professional Development Resources and Other Classroom Resources

There are many resources to improve mathematics teaching.

Video Cases and Lesson Planning Resources

The Annenberg Learner: Teacher professional development and classroom resource

This website has videos as well as lesson planning resources

FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR TEACHERS

There are many different types of grants for teachers.Check your local communities and organizations for funding opportunities. For example, you can find funding opportunities to get supplies for your classroom. In addition, you may find funding to do research projects or go to conferences. Just knowing that there are opportunities available for you to become a more effective teacher helps. You just need to know where to look.

Check out the NCTM website below.  Make sure you look at the types for Writing Successful Proposals for MET Grants and Scholarships.

Mathematics Education Trust (MET

Why Think About The Process Of Teaching To Improve Learning

Improving Teaching by Focusing on the Whole Process of Teaching and Not Just Parts! Teaching is a complex process; it is more than just asking perfect questions, or getting students to talk to other. Think of a car engine, if we only have few working parts of the engine or even missing parts, the car won’t run. Similarly, we need to think about the whole process to support students’ mathematical learning. ( I highlighted learning because it is so easy to forget this part during the process of teaching. Many times as a teacher, I get caught up on getting through the activities of teaching and forgetting to think about what my students are learning or need to learn. I made this note to keep reminding myself to make learning the center of my decision-making.) So what is the big picture to support mathematical learning? The Common Core standards outlines the content that students need to learn and it also outlines the Standards of Mathematical practice that explicates process students must learn. We need to figure how how to integrate the Common Core Standards and the Standards of Mathematical Practice so that it fits naturally with the process of planning and teaching. For learning to take place, we need to think about the “big picture”. This is particularly true about implementing the Common Core standards. The National Research Council identified three environments that need to intersect to optimize learning. These include the Learner centered environment where what students prior knowledge and learning styles are considered, the Knowledge Centered Environment is what content and curriculum that students need to learn and the Assessment Centered environment involves adjusting teaching based on assessment. Learning takes place within the community and the broader community of the classroom. Let’s examine what a teacher does daily in the classroom. 1. Set up the classroom environment this includes designing the physical space and the social environment. (The classroom culture, development or routines for participation.) 2. Planning lessons 3. Delivering the lesson – how we structure time ( think about when and how whole class discussions can be effectively used to optimize student learning.) 4. Assessment. The most efficient way to improve teaching involves visualizing and understanding the big picture. What does effective teaching look like? What is the process involved in teaching this way? How do the various pieces mentioned above fit together? It is certainly overwhelming to improve everything at once. However, once the big picture  is understood, it is much easier to focus on the smaller parts of teaching and work toward the big picture. This is why when I wrote the book Whole Class Mathematics discussion, I organized the chapters around the daily life of what teachers do. Having a support system such as a (professional learning community, math coach, or a grade level team) is helpful to improve teaching. Many times, teaching becomes routines that we know longer pay attention to. This makes changing classroom practices difficult because we aren’t aware of what we are doing? Part of being able to improve teaching involves the ability to professionally notice.  The Whole Class discussion PDToolkit contains many resources for making teaching visible. We need to constantly ask ourselves: what are our students learning? Are we being effective? What can I improve and change. This was one of the reasons that I created this blog. It forces me to reflect on my teaching. Check out the Whole Class Discussion Framework that reduced this process to 3 pages. Click on the link that says Whole Class Discussion Framework.

Conceptual Understanding vs. Procedural Fluency

What does it mean to teach students mathematics for conceptual understanding and procedural fluency? The National Academies (Adding it Up) highlight five strands that supports students to become good math learners!

Students must develop conceptual understanding of mathematics as well as procedural fluency. They also point out that students also need to develop productive dispositions, the ability to reason logically and be able to formulate, represent and solve mathematical problems. Basically, these ideas are highlighted in the Common Core Standards of Mathematical Practice document.  The Inside Mathematics website provides further explanations and video examples of each practice.

What does this mean for lesson planning and whole class discussions?  Let’s explore!

What is conceptual understanding? You can read more about conceptual understanding by clicking on the link.

Basically, it means that students need to have a flexible understanding of mathematics to use their knowledge as a tool to solve problems.  The Common Core document outlines what students should understand and be able to do. You can also look at the progressions documents provided in this blog.

An example:

Let’s take a look the third grade Common Core standards for on Operations and Algebraic thinking.  The standards indicate that third grade students must be able to multiply and divide within 100. However, it does more than that! The standard also points out  what students should also understand conceptually.  For example,representing and solving problems, and understanding properties of multiplication is essential for developing conceptual understanding. Therefore, simply having students memorize multiplication and division facts is not enough. Understanding the math concepts helps student solve problems other related problems. This means knowledge becomes a tool to support learning.If the students forget how much 5x 6 is, then they can use their knowledge of 5×5 and their understanding of multiplications to figure out the answer.

What does this mean for you as a teacher? The Whole Class Discussion book has a chapter on Lesson Planning (Chapter 4).

It provides you with tools to find the “big mathematical ideas,” and think about planning lessons  to support conceptual understanding and procedural fluency.  This book describes three levels of lesson planning.  Long term planning, short-term planning and even planning and adjusting while teaching. This builds on the idea that supporting student learning of math involves understanding the big picture of what students should learn and adapting your teaching to build on student understanding.  This way, your teaching becomes a lot more efficient and effective!

Implementing the Common Core Standards of Mathematical Practice

The Common Core Standards of Mathematical Practice document lists 8 math practices for teaching math. This requires understanding what each of these practices means and also figuring out ways to implement all these standards as a process. This requires thinking about what you do to plan lessons, set up your classroom environment, develop classroom routines and facilitating the discussions through problem posing and questioning. I am interested in knowing what challenges have you faced and what questions you may have?