why I teach
AVID Math 7
... or a lab
As I've taught my two 7th grade mathematics classes this year, I have formed some definite opinions about what works for my students.
- Time - good management
When I first started to use the Internet with my students, I realized that if they spent their time searching for resources on the topic I assigned, the class period would be over before they got to the mathematics I wanted them to learn. I therefore began making what I call link pages or reference pages. I often make these pages the night before a class. Here are some examples:
On some of these pages I provide information at the beginning of the page, followed by a list of links. Examples of this type of page include:
A third approach involves including links on a the unit page that I have written for my classes. Often I search the Dr. Math archives for interesting questions sent by middle school students and wonderfully answered by a Math Doctor on duty. Examples of this kind of page include:
Creating these pages maximizes the time that my students have available for the Internet, and allows me to allot more time to the mathematics rather than waiting for students to do aimless searches for information.
Time - allow enough on each topic
Since the results of the TIMSS Report have been made public, it has become popular to claim that instruction should not be "a mile wide and an inch thick." Although this is becoming a cliché, I must agree that it is true. Students of all ages need time to learn. There are different levels of learning. There are different styles of learning. If we can present mathematical experiences that address different levels and different styles, there will be a greater likelihood that all students will reach some level of understanding of the topic.
Mixing activities, manipulatives, exercises, and technology
Last year I taught Math 8 in my computer classroom. I attempted to present the curriculum using a mixture of activities, manipulatives, exercises, and technology, but it was a difficult task. It is hard to focus students in a computer lab environment.. When I really need my students' attention in the lab I do one of two things: I have them all stand and face me, and with a smile give them a short directive, or, for longer instructions, I ask them either to sit on the floor in the middle of the carpeted room or to bring their chairs to form an "audience."
The best solution, however, has been to use both the classroom and the lab on a regular schedule. It takes a good deal of preparation time to meld activities, manipulatives, exercises, and technology, but if planned well, the class teaches itself. The Traffic Jam activity best exemplifies this approach, and with time I will have more examples to share.
Emphasizing a routine of process, solution, diagram
These three key concepts came to me as I assigned Problems of the Week from the Glencoe Interactive Mathematics text. I knew that I wanted the students to draw a picture of what they were trying to learn. I wanted to know what they were thinking as they found answers using numbers or other means. Soon I found myself telling students that they must include all three components to receive full credit on their homework.
As a result, when my students took open-ended assessments they knew the three parts that were expected of them.