One of the most exciting facets of education is the availability of educational technology such as interactive whiteboards (IWB). It has been twenty years since the first IWBs were introduced to offices, with K-12 educators become leading users as the new millennium arrived. While this technology is becoming more prevalent in many school districts, it is still an instructional tool that many teachers have yet to master. I readily admit that I am not an expert, so I have been searching for tools and professional development opportunities for support as I integrate IWB in to my daily strategies.
In my search for training opportunities, I came across an article by Robert Marzano that summarizes some early research surrounding the use of interactive whiteboards in the classroom.
According to Marzano, research indicates that the use of IWB does contribute to increased learning progress. Additionally, three related components of IWB lead to an even greater increase in student achievement:
- Student response systems – enable students to provide answers while teachers gain immediate feedback to inform instruction.
- Graphical representation of information – makes data and information more engaging and provide connections to deepen student understanding.
- IWB reinforcers – draw attention to correct answers or important information through highlighting, a special noise, or movement of answers to a specific location.
While use of IWB along with the listed components may contribute to increased student achievement, teachers using IWB inappropriately may cause student scores to decrease. One must be careful not to jumble information, provide too many visuals, or use the student response systems but do nothing with the data. Just as proper use of IWB has a positive correlation on student achievement, using the tool ineffectively can hinder performance.
To prevent ineffective use, Marzano suggests organizing content with clear objectives in mind, only using images that support content, provide immediate feedback when using response systems, and focus on the why behind correct answers. While each of these suggestions seems simple, they can go a long way towards the development of a rich, meaningful interactive whiteboard classroom environment.
We’re born to do math. Really. Despite complaints from children and adults that “I’m just not good at math,” we all come into the world with some fundamental mathematical abilities. For instance, we – humans, horses, chimps, birds, and lots of other animals -- can subitize
Subitization is the ability to recognize small quantities without counting. We know, for example, that the picture to the right (from a BBC subitization game) shows 4 dots without counting 1, 2, 3, 4. After about 3 or 4 we humans have to resort to counting. You can read more and play the game here.
We are also able to compare. We can, at a glance, tell that 20 flesh-eating zombies in the front yard are a lot more than 5 flesh-eating zombies. This innate capability, another that we share across the animal kingdom, has great survival value. Should I stay and fight, or are there too many of “them” compared to the number of us? Actually, I guess in the case of flesh-eating zombies, I’d likely run away even I had them clearly outnumbered.
Most of us can readily tell which of two groups is larger when one has at least twice as many objects as the other. As you’d expect, the distinction becomes more difficult as the ratio gets closer to 1:1. It’s easy to tell the difference between 40 and 20, not so easy between 40 and 30, and really hard between 40 and 35.
It turns out that this ability to compare quantities correlates highly to academic success in math, and some children are better at it than others. Test your abilities here.
Prior research at Johns Hopkins University showed that adolescents who are good at those hard comparisons had a history of success in math at school. But did one cause the other? A more recent study from those Johns Hopkins’ researchers suggests that our infant skills may set the stage for the later success. Preschoolers who had good comparison skills also had good math performance once they got to school, compared to preschoolers with less comparison number sense. Now, is this type of number sense completely innate, or can we foster it even among babies and toddlers? More research to come.
Early in the year, I reviewed what types of professional development are available to math teachers. This task always involves me putting together a list of local conferences that teachers may find useful and researching courses offered at local universities. In recent years, however, I’ve found that I also spend a bit of time researching professional development that my colleagues can participate in from home or school. With the vast amount of open-source content available these days, teachers have access to free professional development resources touching on many topics.
One of my favorite online portals is the Annenberg Learner that is dedicated to providing resources to improve instruction in American schools. This site offers some materials for purchase but also has a plethora of materials available to teachers at no cost. Specifically for math teachers, there are available web-courses that may include downloadable print materials, videos, and e-mail based discussion groups. Teachers can work through content at their own pace and, in most cases, there is no charge for participation. Those teachers who are interested in earning graduate credits can register with the Colorado State University Division of Continuing Education and pay a nominal fee based on the number of credits to be earned.
Currently, the site includes materials on assessment, projects, and general math strategies in each of the content strands and grade bands. There is also a module titled The Missing Link
which helps middle school teachers fill the gaps between elementary and high school math content. With such a variety, teachers can choose the course that best meets their needs. You can even create a customized set of resources. Take a peek… you won’t be disappointed.
As the introduction of the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in math approaches, teachers must prepare to teach with these benchmarks in mind.
Fortunately, many resources are available. In Catherine Gewertz’s "Curriculum Matters" blog, she highlights the new Mathematics Common Core Coalition. The Coalition was formed in conjunction with several educational groups including the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (AMTE) among others. The NCTM has even set up a section on their website dedicated to the transition to the Common Core.
This new website offers resources about the curriculum and development of a Common Core assessment, as well as extensive professional development materials. These materials include webinars and e-seminars with videos, handouts, and demonstrations to provide ideas for implementing the Common Core State Standards. Becoming familiar with the content and format of the new standards will help teachers make the most of the Common Core.
As a new era begins in American math education, educators will take the opportunity to apply the best instructional practices to the material covered by the CCSS. The standards were designed by National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) based on successful and effective models found around the country and the world. Professional development resources like those offered on the NCTM website can help teachers make the Common Core a successful initiative.
Most students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors make the decision to pursue those degrees in high school or earlier, according to a recent report
released by Microsoft Corporation and Harris Interactive.
Our country will have more than 1.2 million job openings in STEM-related fields by 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. To understand why there is a shortage of students entering math and science fields to fill this need, two surveys were administered: one for parents of K-12 students and one for college students in STEM programs.
Some interesting insights:
→ Students don't feel prepared for college courses in STEM: Only one in five STEM college students felt that their K-12 education prepared them extremely well for their college courses in STEM.
→ The reasons young women and men pursue math or science differ. Forty-nine percent of young women said they decided to major in STEM to make a difference, and 61% of young men said that toys and games in their childhoods sparked their interest. For 68% of the female respondents, a teacher or class was reported as the top factor that got them interested in STEM; for male respondents, this figure was 51%.
There are many public campaigns to inspire a future generation of math and science students, including Change the Equation. Research has found again and again that interest is more predictive of young people pursuing STEM careers than grades or test scores.
How do you think we could promote K-12 curiosity about the wonders of math and science?
RSA Animate delivers a fun an engaging video adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA's Benjamin Franklin award. Robinson breaks down the goals of reforming public education, including helping children find their place in changing cultures and economies in an age of globalization. He looks at the methods and goals of public education in the past and how they need to change to become relevant in the present.
As Robinson points out, the current system of public education was conceived in a different age. Yet we still emphasize the ideals of that outdated system, what Robinson calls the Enlightenment view of intelligence. This view focuses on deductive reasoning and the classics. And people who do not succeed in these areas are considered non-academic.
Robinson shares his ideas for reforming the entire educational experience in what he calls “the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth.” He encourages educators to value divergent thinking and collaboration as pillars of academic success. See what else Robinson has to say in this quirky video below!
The first several weeks of school usually bring with them a sense of excitement to both teachers and students. The challenge arises about four weeks in when the new school year feels like old news and classrooms start to feel mundane, rather than motivating. A good teacher knows how to combat this problem by engaging students in their learning. Not only will this enhance the students’ experiences in the classroom, but it will also ensure that you as a teacher never experience a dull moment.
Former educator Tristan de Frondeville recently published an article promoting Ten Steps to Better Student Engagement. Each teacher likely has his or her own way of engaging students, but if any of you have run out of ideas, the suggestions offered in this article might be helpful:
- Create an Emotionally Safe Classroom – develop a supportive, collaborative learning environment.
- Create an Intellectually Safe Classroom – create tasks that the majority of the class can complete, then include challenging tasks for those who can manage them.
- Cultivate Your Engagement Meter – Learn to recognize when your students are engaged and when they are bored so that you can continue to use the stimulating activities.
- Create Appropriate Intermediate Steps – Scaffold learning so students feel supported throughout the process.
- Practice Journal or Blog Writing to Communicate with Students – Encourage students to write to express understanding or confusion. Then, use this information to guide future lessons.
- Create a Culture of Explanation Rather than a Culture of the Right Answer – Learn to develop tasks that focus more on discourse rather than just arriving at the correct numerical answer.
- Teach Self-Awareness about Knowledge – Help students reflect on the work they have completed and encourage them to think about how confident they were when answering a particular question.
- Use Questioning Strategies that Make All Students Think and Answer – Ask questions that students can answer as a group. Simple math questions can be answered by holding up fingers to represent the answers and may help all students participate and respond.
- Practice Using the Design Process to Improve the Quality of Work – Teach students about the draft-and-revision process to ensure that their final product is their best work.
- Market Your Projects – Create a list of projects and ideas that extend learning beyond the classroom. Help students see math in the world around them.
We’ve seen articles like this in the past, but I just love the ideas that Tristan shares in his article. I’m going to be working on teaching my students more about self-awareness of their knowledge. Tell me, which one of the tips will you try first?
Sometimes when it rains, it pours…literally. I know that many students from around the country are well into their school year, but for students in New Jersey the new adventure is just beginning. In addition to the stress that typically accompanies this time of year, New Jersey, along with many other states along the East Coast, is dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. I can’t even begin to compare the effects of Irene to the devastation that other storms, such as Hurricane Katrina, have caused. However, many people were affected, houses and businesses were damaged and many are still without power. I feel fortunate to have been only mildly affected with a 5-day power outage (and grateful that it returned about 1 hour before I had to report to my back-to-school meeting). But, as always, I began to think about how math relates to what is going on around me.
After a bit of research, I came across a website that includes several math activities dealing with hurricanes. Each of the activities requires students to understand the math behind the storms and to write about their findings. What a great opportunity to incorporate writing in math class! Suggested activities provide the opportunity for students to research hurricane strengths, identify the number of people displaced by a particular hurricane, and calculate the scope and cost of the damage caused by the storm. The projects suggested on the site are specifically geared towards Hurricane Katrina, but students can certainly complete similar tasks dealing with any storm.
Using current events in math does not simply provide a context for mathematical thinking; it may also create awareness and help students understand the scope of such natural disasters. Working on these activities doesn’t have to be depressing for students. Instead it can help them recognize the impact and, perhaps, brainstorm ideas for how they can help. Though not every student is affected by such events, why not help them to be more aware…and learn math at the same time.
As you begin planning lessons for the new school year, you may want to take a look at the Teaching Channel. The website offers free videos of teachers in the classroom delivering effective lessons to their students. You can watch the teachers' interactions with their classes as well as brief interviews with the teachers and students. The Teaching Channel has videos for all the core subjects at a variety of grade levels, including great math lessons.
One featured video shows Ms. Warburton teaching her algebra class about "mixture problems." In one example, students start with 8 liters of a 25% saline solution and some 70% saline solution. The question is: How many liters of the 70% solution should you add to the 25% saline solution to get a 40% saline solution? To help her students get a handle on this challenging question, she first makes a physical mixture of two colored liquids to illustrate how the weaker solution dilutes the stronger one. Then she walks the students through a "Mixture Picture," so they can organize the information more clearly. Finally, Ms. Warburton introduces the "See Saw" method as another way for students to visualize the information and solve the problem.
This video offers inspiring math teaching ideas, and there are many more available. The site includes PDFs of supporting materials and a discussion board for other educators to provide feedback about the videos and share their own ideas. The Teaching Channel is a great back-to-school resource. Do you have a favorite teaching video?
Sixth grade math students at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, California aren’t just learning math—they’re teaching it too. After teacher Eric Marcos created screencasting videos on his tablet PC for a student in need of extra help, his students wanted to make their own tutorial videos. Marcos compiled his class’s work onto MathTrain.TV, which is available to students worldwide. The class also has a podcast and an app on iTunes for the iPhone and iPad.
While online video tutorials are becoming widespread as technology receives increasing emphasis in education, not many are created for students, by students. The sixth graders at Lincoln Middle School enjoy staying after school to work on their videos, and the project has them spending lots of time thinking about math. Marcos points out that his students must understand concepts deeply in order to create meaningful instructional videos. And the students love doing math in a creative environment and helping out other students. As Marcos says, “they’re taking an active role in their own learning.”
MathTrain.TV is gaining a global following. Marcos even presented it at this summer’s ISTE conference. Students can view videos made by the sixth graders at Lincoln Middle School as well as screencasts about how to create their own tutorials. To read more about MathTrain.TV, check out the MindShift blog. The web continues to be an evolving source of math resources and learning opportunities for students.
Watch the story on Eric Marcos and his students' videos here!