There are thousands of resources for teaching and learning mathematics on the Internet, but these tools are often unreliable, require payments, and contain advertisements. NCTM’s Illuminations
provides interactive, free resources for teaching and learning mathematics. Teachers and students can search through a database of over 100 Web-based activities and games. Alternatively, one can search for resources appropriate for a specific age group.
Dynamic Paper is one of my favorite resources for educators. The Dynamic Paper tool allows educators to create colorful worksheets that display information exactly as the user wishes. For example, a teacher can create a number line that goes from -15 to 40, in increments of 5. Or 7 color tiles that each measure 1.5 inches by 1.5 inches. The completed worksheets can be exported as a PDF or JPEG image.
Deep Sea Duel is a great activity for students. In this game, Okta “the crazy octopus” challenges the player to choose numbered cards in order to reach a specified sum. The first one to reach the sum wins. The player can adjust the difficulty of the game by selecting Okta’s level of strategy, the number of the cards in the game, and what types of numbers are included.
Search through Illuminations to discover more useful tools and games for teaching and learning mathematics!
Last Tuesday, President Obama hosted a science fair at the White House to underline the importance of S
ngineering, and M
athematics learning, or STEM education
. At the fair, the president proposed an $80 million increase in federal funding directed toward math and science education
. A large chunk of that money would be used to train specialized math and science teachers. Some would function to incentivize math education at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. While this proposal, along with the rest of the president’s 2013 budget plan, requires approval by Congress, it acknowledges STEM’s critical importance and potential for growth. In addition, President Obama stressed the positive impact of many educational grants from private sector businesses and organizations.
By taking part in science fairs and other STEM activities aimed at exploring practical problems, students become engaged with the subjects and are more likely to pursue them at a higher level. And since many students find math to be a particularly difficult subject to grasp, focusing funding on teacher training could boost student success markedly. As the Common Core makes its debut in classrooms, U.S. math education is already in a state of evolution. Greater emphasis on STEM and better teaching practices will hopefully increase math’s popularity with students.
The President’s overarching goal of promoting and strengthening STEM education is to encourage students to pursue these subjects at the collegiate level and in their careers. Currently, only 40 percent of math and science majors complete their degree, and projections show that the country will need one million college graduates in the next decade to fill anticipated job openings requiring math and science skills. We need to attract students into these fields, and the government’s commitment to STEM is encouraging. With our country’s rapid technological growth, it’s important to keep math education up-to-date both in its content and how it is taught.
As educators prepare to implement the Common Core State Standards, initiatives to support teachers and schools in this challenging endeavor are greatly needed. Student Achievement Partners, a non-profit organization founded by lead players in the development of the Common Core Standards, recognized this need and thus launched achievethecore.org.
This website provides educators with free resources for implementing the Common Core Standards in both mathematics and ELA/literacy. For example, you can find a collection of resources that offer insight into the instructional shifts required by the math standards. Or you can browse through a list of vetted articles, research studies, and websites that address the Common Core Standards. Alternatively, you can read testimonials from educators who are already implementing the Common Core Standards.
The website is easy to navigate and won’t bog you down with extraneous information. Check out one of my favorite tools: a free template that educators can use to print wallet-sized cards featuring key Common Core instructional shifts. Beyond the instructional element of these cards, they serve as a reminder that teachers are not alone as they face the challenge of implementing these standards.
How does a teacher’s understanding of mathematical concepts affect students’ learning outcomes? What types of math skills do teachers themselves need to effectively teach mathematical concepts? How does a teacher’s knowledge of these concepts develop through experience in the classroom and professional development?
The Learning Mathematics for Teaching (LMT) Project at the University of Michigan has been investigating these questions since 2000, when they set out to develop survey measures to evaluate educators’ knowledge for teaching elementary mathematics. Drawing on research, theory, personal experience, and the study of math curricula and student work, the LMT team developed surveys quite different from traditional subject matter or certification assessments. These survey questions ask teachers how they would address common problems that may occur during a math lesson. For example, a question may ask a teacher to explain a mathematical procedure. For more examples, check out this list of sample items released by LMT.
Since the initial development of these surveys for elementary math, LMT has created additional surveys that can be used to measure elementary and middle school teachers’ math content knowledge for teaching number and operations; patterns, functions, and algebra; geometry; rational numbers; proportional reasoning; and data, probability, and statistics.
These surveys have been used in a number of research studies, such as assessing the extent to which various professional development programs improve teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching, how knowledge of math for teaching develops, and how knowledge of math for teaching corresponds to instructional practice or attitude toward teaching. With this data and continued research, we can see a future with great advances in teacher training for math educators.