Category Archives: Math

The Role of Community in Math

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Today's math teachers have a lot to balance. From following the Standards for Mathematical Practice, to incorporating real-life application into math problems, to finding resources that are flexible enough to meet a range of students' needs. 

Cathy Fosnot's Contexts for Learning Mathematics is a rigorous K-6 classroom resource that uses a workshop environment to bring the Standards for Mathematical Practice to life. Rich, authentic contexts provide a backdrop for fostering the use of mathematical models as thinking tools, tenacious problem solving, and the reading and writing of mathematical arguments and justifications to ensure the development of a positive growth mindset.

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What Makes Math Intimidating for Teachers?

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Raising students’ math achievement doesn’t mean ripping up your planning book and starting over. In Accessible Mathematics Steven Leinwand shows how small shifts in the good teaching you already do can make a big difference in student learning. Thoroughly practical and ever-aware of the limits of teachers’ time, Steve gives you everything you need to put his commonsense ideas to use immediately.

In this video, Steve talks about the intimidation that mathematics gives teachers when they are accustomed to simply knowing how to get the right answer, and how to combat it. He states: "the issue of intimidation is a natural tension when you know you're being asked to do things that you're not prepared to do." 

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Shifts and Challenges in Teaching Math

1Math in Practice is a comprehensive, grade-by-grade professional learning resource designed to fit with any math curriculum you are using. It identifies the big ideas of both math content and math teaching, unpacking key instructional strategies and detailing why those strategies are so powerful.

Rather than providing another sequence of lessons and units to take students from the beginning to the end of the year, Math in Practice focuses on developing deep content knowledge, understanding why certain strategies and approaches are most effective, and rethinking our beliefs about what math teaching should be. 

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The Importance of Numeracy

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Building Powerful Numeracy for Middle and High School Students brought the world of research on numeracy at the elementary level to the secondary level, helping teachers build numeracy in their students and showing how that work supports students in understanding higher math. Now, with Lessons and Activities for Building Powerful Numeracy, Pam Harris continues her work by offering lessons and activities that promote her strategies for teaching as much mathematics as possible with as little memorization as possible.

In the following video, Pam talks about the importance of numeracy and why it's necessary to build numeracy from a young age. "Math is not about memorizing rules," explains Pam, "it's about using relationships and connections. Numeracy is the beginning of that."

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The Resurgence of Inquiry-Based Instruction

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Because inquiry sometimes seems so hard to define, Steph Harvey and Smokey Daniels created the chart below to highlight the contrasts (2015) between it and a "coverage" approach. Notice that they do not label old-school teaching as “traditional.” That’s because progressive, student-centered, and inquiry-based learning is just as strong a strand in the American tradition (think John Dewey, Jerome Bruner, Francis Parker) as the skill-and-drill paradigm that has dominated the last three decades.

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Heinemann Fellow Ian Fleischer on Bringing His Students Back to Loving Math

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A few years ago, I taught a fifth-grade student named Carter.

Carter was a delight. Kind. Soft spoken. Funny.

Often he was curled up around a library book, or, when he wasn’t reading, Carter was usually in some conversation about game strategy: a new chess move, an impressive feat of Minecraft engineering, or the dreaded probability he’d end up on the “wrong” capture the flag team that day.

Carter was seen by all as a “good–at-everything” kid. I also considered him a “math kid.” I didn’t worry about Carter. He’d understand the math. He’d do the work. He’d ace the test. You know, a math kid.

I’ll admit, Carter’s dependability allowed me to concentrate on the rest of my students—ones who didn’t understand or only thought they understood, or who were just plain disengaged.

But Carter? No worries there. He was a lock. Or, so I thought.

One mid-October afternoon, I overheard Carter talking to his good friend Patrick. “Ugh,” Carter said. “I hate math.”

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