why I teach
AVID Math 7
... or a lab
At Frisbie Middle School I have available to me both a classroom and a computer lab, and I have thus been able to develop our AVID Math 7 mathematics curriculum to use technology as a tool. (AVID - Advancement Via Independent Determination - is a middle school through senior high school program designed to prepare students, many of them first-generation college-goers, for four-year college eligibility.)
At Frisbie I teach mathematics and the newspaper and computer elective classes, for which we use a Macintosh computer classroom with 20 Internet-accessible computers and 14 older models. This year my class schedule includes two sections of Math 7 in two-hour blocks.
During the first hour, students work in their regular classroom, while for the second hour the Macintosh computer classroom is used. This unusual arrangement has afforded me the opportunity to develop a technology-rich mathematics curriculum for my 7th graders, using activities, manipulatives, software, and Internet-based lessons.
My Traffic Jam Activity provides an example of how this curriculum works for a specific lesson. I introduce the lesson using our textbook, which explains how to do the kinesthetic activity. I then provide another way to look at the problem, using small plastic "people" as manipulatives. For the second hour of our class period, we move to the computer lab and students work through the problem using a Java applet written by Mike Morton of The Math Forum.
Some teachers might stop here, but at this point my classes are only midway through the activity. Most of my students will find an answer, but they will not have a good concept of the mathematics behind the problem. Therefore, we use a third class period to revisit the problem in the classroom, working through the kinesthetic activity again (now knowing the answer!) and beginning to look at patterning. We work all period using this approach, and I then assign it as something to think about - which gives those inclined to pursue it enough time to come up with a reasonable answer.
A fourth class period can be used to develop an algebraic view of the problem. Sometimes even more time is needed before the problem can be formalized.
As a member of on the 7th grade AVID team of language arts, history/social science, mathematics, and science teachers, I have helped to develop a number of interdisciplinary units. In class, students work through the activities in these units through cooperative learning and with manipulatives. Followup lab activities typically use a great variety of software and/or Web pages.
A first version of this curriculum is on the Web. I consider it a "first version" because I am certain that as I teach it again next year, I will add to, revise, and improve it. I believe that it is of paramount importance to develop a mathematics curriculum that integrates activities, exercises, manipulatives, and technology. Manipulatives and technology are valuable tools for teaching and learning.