A Fresh Take on Teaching Math

Our Philosophy

As math educators, we have heard students' comments about math.  "It is boring".  "It's too hard".  "I'm never going to use this anyway".  "I don't get it".  "My teacher just says things once and expects me to understand".  "I don't get the help I need in my class".

 

There is one comment we've occasionally heard as well:  "I used to like math".  This comment is striking to us.  We have to ask ourselves - why do students stop liking math?  What about the students who never liked math?  What can we do to help students to learn math?

 

One benefit of new technology and new standards is the opportunity to revisit class structures and grading systems.  Teachers now can revisit teaching techniques and use the best of what has worked in the past, along with new techniques which improve results.

 

Our classroom has been designed to increase student engagement and success in achieving math literacy.  Read on for more details on these changes.

 

Modified Curriculum

Student-paced learning

Teacher's Role

Although our standards of achievement are aligned with the Idaho Core standards and guided by our district's scope and sequence documents for each class, the curriculum is quite different at Cassia High School.  Rather than completing chapters in a book, students complete adventures developed by our teaching team at Cassia High School.  Each adventure takes students through the process of building understanding, with the goal being mastery of grouped concepts.

 

IThese learning adventures include a heavy focus on the use of technology.  Students will become literate in traditional and computer-based math as they complete these adventures.  Every effort is made to use technology that is available freely over the internet.

As students learn math they each find there are concepts they need to review.  Some students will need to review on fractions, others on pre-algebra concepts.  Our goal is to encourage students to take the time to learn about these concepts.

 

Students may not complete their course in the time allotted by the school district's calendar.  We encourage parents and students to work together with their teachers to set achievable goals for course completion.

 

Regarding Homework

 

One tremendous benefit of student-paced learning is that it gives control over homework back to parents.  Parents are the ones who are tasked with overseeing homework completion, not teachers.  Parents know their children and their capacity for homework and can make better decisions about how much time a child should be expected to spend doing homework.

 

Parents should give thoughtful consideration to how much homework their student is able to complete per night, with the realization that course completion is a function of time spent learning and working.

 

Course assignments are given due dates not as a strict deadline, but as a pacing guide for students who wish to finish their course by the end of the district grading period.

In a traditional classroom the teacher typically demonstrates the math for the student collectively.  Students are to watch closely, and must not miss any class time or they will not learn what the teacher demonstrated.  The teacher then assigns work for students to practice.  Students complete this work, typically at home, and turn it in for grading.  The next day the teacher begins demonstrating the next problem type, usually before the collected work can be graded.

 

In our classroom the teacher's demonstrations are all recorded.  Students watch the demonstrations individually.  In fact, many students watch the demonstrations as homework, and plan to complete assignments during class time.  The teacher spends class time observing students closely - looking for signs that a student needs help understanding a concept or working through practice problems.  The teacher's role during class-time has flipped, from demonstrator to coach.  This change in instructional technique is called the "flipped classroom".

 

Students complete assignments as they come to understand the underlying concepts.  Students submit these assignments electronically for grading, and the teacher reviews these assignments and gives feedback electronically as well.  Students are not encouraged to move on to a new learning adventure until they have completed their last one.

Flipped Classroom

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