Preparing for Lesson One With a New High School Class

As head of Mathematics in a large high school, each year young, inexperienced teachers, often in their first year in the classroom would be appointed to my school. It was my responsibility to induct them into my department and guide them through the beginnings of their career. Below is the advice I would give them to help them start with their new classes to give their students that they were experienced rather than novice teachers.

The first lesson with a new class, even for the experienced teacher, set the tone of the class at least for the first few weeks.

So below is what a teacher needs to organise and do in their first lesson at the start of the year.

Prior Preparation:

ï‚Ÿ Class list ruled up as a period roll;

ï‚Ÿ A starting activity;

ï‚Ÿ Room plan for a seating plan if you are not using the alphabetical plan;

ï‚Ÿ Work outline for each student plus extras for students not on the roll;

ï‚Ÿ Assessment schedule;

ï‚Ÿ List of students with special needs;

ï‚Ÿ Your tote box with teaching needs including pencils;

ï‚Ÿ Organise the room the way you need it for each class.

ï‚Ÿ Texts, handouts for this lesson;

ï‚Ÿ Check out the students’ record cards beforehand. Make notes about issues re students. Make an effort to put a face to a name in Lesson one.

ï‚Ÿ Photos of each student, if possible from school records;

ï‚Ÿ Plan the whole lesson. Have an activity that all students can do.

ï‚Ÿ Have a list of all you need to do. Make sure you have extra activities to do to fill the time.

ï‚Ÿ A short, fun activity at the lesson’s end.

Divide your plan into a generic plan that fits all the lessons. Then ensure that you have separate files of information for each class you will see on the first day. Then you’ll be ready to start the year off “on the right note”.

Tips to Manage Autistic Children During Thanksgiving

Like many holidays, thanksgiving too can cause sensory overload in an autistic child. Having a houseful of guests, or visiting the homes of friends and relatives, along with constant activity, is stressful for everyone. But for children with autism spectrum disorder, even a marginal level of stress can cause a meltdown.

Here are some ways you can make the day easier and calmer for you autistic kid.

Plan your day with the child in mind

You’re likely to be excited to see your relatives and the large family gathering. But it may be a pressing time for your child. It may end in a disaster with the child feeling angry and frustrated with all the noise around. Think of alternatives. Spend some time playing with the “Just Match” and “Math on the Farm” apps with your child. Some quiet activities will also help.

Make sure there’s food that your child eats

Autistic kids are often averse or sensitive to certain foods. You may not know what your child may like to eat on that day. Let there be an assortment of foods. The child will feel better seeing all his/her favorite foods available. And you don’t have to worry about what he/she may or may not eat.

Keep a getaway space

Keep your child’s room out of bounds from guests. If you are visiting your relatives, inform them beforehand to keep a room aside for the autistic child. If possible, bring the “Just Match” and “Math on the Farm” autism apps on your iPad or smartphone, so that the child can play by himself and learn at the same time. Spend some time with your child in the room. It will help him/her get over the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Provide a schedule

If possible, use pictures and explain to your child the general time of thanksgiving, like when the guests will come and leave, the time for the dinner, the music that may be played, and similar things. Explain changes to the routine ahead of time.

Prepare a booklet for regular visits

If you plan to visit many people’s homes this thanksgiving season, prepare a booklet of pictures and explain to the child the persons he/she is about to meet. You can use pictures for this purpose. The child will be more prepared during the actual event.

There’s no need to panic on the day of the event. Just give time and space to your autistic child like any other day.

Helping Children Learn Math

Teaching math to children is sometimes a very difficult task. It is an entire subject that does not have the same easily explained concepts as some other topics. Each teacher has a slightly different way of instructing students about the basic and advanced concepts in mathematics. There are a few simple ways that parents and teachers can help children to learn math beyond what is in the core curriculum.

Develop The Correct Vocabulary

Math has its own distinct vocabulary. The word problems that are listed in teacher resource books go very far to try to explain real world examples of situations that require math as a solution. Ultimately, there will come a time when a student requires the correct understanding of the vocabulary of mathematics in order to describe procedures, solutions and even problems. Simple words like sum, divisor and product are all useful. This vocabulary will serve as the educational base needed to move forward with more advanced concepts. Allowing children to go forward without the correct vocabulary will result in problems in higher grades.

Integrate Lessons Into Everyday Life

There are limits to the operational memory of a child. There are also some basic facts about memory that will present problems if the lessons are not reinforced later in the day. New concepts like division or multiplication need to be refreshed within a few hours after they are first introduced. Homework normally helps with this. A better way would be for parents and teachers to integrate mathematical concepts into everyday life. This could include asking a student to divide resources between a group of classmates for a project, or it could include attaching creative games to other activities and subjects so that there is some awareness of the importance of math outside of testing. Additionally, establishing an environment that reminds children about mathematical concepts is helpful. This might mean hanging math posters around a room, or making games available that will help a child to practice the skills that have already been taught.

Move Beyond Procedural Understanding

Some students are able to move through many years of school with just a procedural understanding of mathematics. This means that the operations that are necessary are memorized, but they are not understood. It is important to teach children exactly how and why certain operations work. Rote memorization of division and multiplication will not help when more advance algebraic concepts are taught in high school. There are teacher resource books available that provide the tools needed to explain how division or fractions actually work.

How I Passed the CSET….Little Tips and Pointers That Made the Difference Between Pass and Failure

The CSET — Your Path To A Rewarding Career!

Few careers can provide the levels of responsibility, satisfaction and fulfillment that teaching brings to California educators. Each day, thousands of teachers across California help their students to study, to learn and to reach for their dreams.

Good Teachers Create Great Lives

Teachers can touch lives in ways that no one else can. Everyone remembers at least one teacher who provided them with encouragement and inspiration, with the help and advice that they needed just when they needed it most.

You are one small step away from becoming such a teacher.

Good Teachers Also Lead Great Lives

But teachers don’t just inspire and educate. As a teacher, you’ll enjoy respect from your family and friends, and a social status given to few other professionals. You’ll have long paid vacations that will enable you to travel the world or pursue your own goals. And you’ll have an income that will bring you independence and a career path that can lead you from challenge to success.

All that stands between you and a rewarding career of educating, guiding and inspiring students right now is your CSET test.

Pass The CSET exam, Pass On Your CSET test Knowledge

The CSET exam is a series of single-subject tests intended to prove to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing that you have the basic CSET test knowledge and ability to teach your subject in a classroom. There is also a CSET Multiple Subject exam which is required for K-8 certification.

Currently there is a

  • CSET Mathematics
  • CSET English
  • CSET Social Science
  • CSET Science
  • CSET Spanish
  • CSET Business
  • CSET Health Science
  • CSET Home Economics
  • CSET Physical Education
  • CSET French
  • CSET Spanish
  • CSET German
  • CSET Industrial and Technology Education
  • CSET Art
  • CSET Agriculture

    With hard work and, no less importantly, the right CSET test preparation, you should find it easy to pass the CSET and start your teaching career.

    What You Need To Know About The CSET

    Whichever subject you intend to teach, you’ll find that passing the CSET test will require you to make use of two sets of skills: recalling the CSET knowledge that you possess about your subject; and answering exam questions quickly and accurately.

    Both of these skill sets are vitally important on the CSET.

    What is the CSET?

    The CSET is a single subject exam, intended to replace the old Single Subject Assessments for Teaching and Praxis II tests. There are three types of test in the CSET:

    Single Subject Teaching Credentials are mainly used from grades 7-12 and authorize a teacher to teach one particular subject.

    Multiple Subject Teaching Credentials allow teachers to teach a range of different subjects and are generally used in elementary schools for grades K-6.

    Education Specialist Instruction Credentials allow teachers to teach students who have a particular disability or special need in grades K-12.

    Each exam in the CSET contains a number of subtests and lasts up to five hours. The sub-tests themselves are not timed however, allowing you to spend more time on areas that you find difficult and less time on the parts that you know best.

    Time management will be an important element in getting the score you need to pass the CSET exam and become a teacher.

    Two Types Of Questions, Two Types Of Challenge

    CSET exam questions come in two forms: multiple-choice questions ask you to choose the best answer from a number of options. In these questions, it is important to remember that the best answer isn’t necessarily the only correct answer. You may find that two CSET exam answers look correct but one answer will be more correct than the other. (This also means that when two answers look the same, you’ve got a 50/50 chance of guessing the right one.)

    Constructed-response CSET questions ask you to discuss, describe, analyze, explain etc. Often you’ll be asked to complete more than one task. Always read the question carefully and make sure that you have completed all the tasks.

    CSET Test Taking Tips for Essay Writing

    CSET Test Preparation– How To Cram Fast And Effectively

    Whatever your subject, the CSET exam is going to expect you to have memorized vast amounts of information. Some of that CSET information you’ll know well because you use it every day. But much of the details that will turn up in the exam will be the sort of knowledge that will normally have you turning to the books to find the answers.

    In the CSET, you’ll need to be able to recall those facts from your memory. That means being able to cram.

    Top Methods To Quickly Complete CSET Test Preparation

    At some point, just about everyone finds themselves having to cram for an exam. It might not be the best way to learn, but it’s often the only way to pass the test.

    There are a number of effective techniques that you can use to fill your head with the information you need to breeze through your CSET exam.

    1. Organize Your Priorities

    No one excels at everything. There will inevitably be some subjects at which you are stronger and others at which you are weaker. You’ll need to make sure that you spend more time memorizing and learning your weaker areas than your stronger ones for the CSET.

    Don’t worry if it looks like there’s a huge difference between the amount of work you have to do and the amount of time you have to do it. The next step will be to chop down the work and preparation required to pass the CSET.

    2. Pick And Store for the CSET

    Once you’ve identified those areas that will need the most work, read all the information through once. Highlight the most important points (don’t just underline: it’s easier to picture a highlighted page than an underlined sentence).

    There are a number of different methods that you can then use to store your CSET exam information in your head:

    o Break up what you need to learn into bite-sized chunks. There’s a limit to how much you can stuff into your short-term memory in one go. Take each piece a little at a time.

    o Acrostics help you remember a list in the right order by turning them into strange sentences. My Dear Aunt Sally is the famous way to remember to Multiply and Divide before you Add and Subtract. You can create your own acrostic for any set of facts on the CSET.

    o Turn your CSET notes into musical notes. If you can put the words you’re trying to memorize to a tune you like, you’ll find them much easier to remember. You might not be able to hum in the exam, but you can sing in the shower — and in the process, keep memorizing for the CSET;

    3. Get the CSET Rammed Right In There!

    Cramming only puts the information you want in your head for a short time (using what you’re memorizing will keep it there for the long term). In order to stop what you’ve memorized falling out before your CSET exam, you’ll need to keep seeing it and going over it right up until you need it on the day.

    Acing The CSET

    The actual content of your exam will depend on the subject you’re thinking of teaching. The official CSET study guides will tell you what you’re supposed to know before you walk into the CSET exam room. You should certainly be familiar with the CSET guides that apply to you.

    What the CSET study guides won’t tell you though is how to ace the CSET when you aren’t sure of the answer. That isn’t because you can’t do it; it’s because they don’t want you to know how to do it.

    Here are 5 Ways To Ace The CSET (Even When You Don’t Know The Answer)

    1. Do the easy questions first

    Use the first few minutes of the exam to zip through the paper. You’ll certainly find some of the questions easier than others. Do those straight away. It will make you feel a bit better and give you more time for the tough questions. And if you find yourself getting stuck on a question, make a mark, leave it and move on. Come back to it at the end when you’ll have more time, more focus and less panic.

    2. Use a process of elimination

    This is an absolute must on any multiple choice question. There will always be one or two questions that are outrageously wrong. Knock them out quick and your score doubles.

    3. Drop extreme language and numbers

    One way to pick the bad answer choices from the good is to look at the wording of the answers. The examiners generally prefer the correct answer to be wishy-washy. Any answer choice that uses words like ‘all’, ‘never’ or ‘always’ are probably wrong. Similarly, on math and science questions, the highest and lowest figures are usually bad choices too. Take them out.

    4. Identify similar answers

    Another way to hone in on the right answer choices is to pick out any answers that look the same. Usually on the CSET exam, two answers will be extreme, one will look right and one will be right.

    The one that looks right has been put there deliberately to confuse you.

    The examiners are hoping that as you rush through the exam, you won’t notice that there’s a better answer right next to it and pick the wrong choice. That’s mean, but it actually does you a favor. When two answer choices look similar, one of them is likely to be right.

    5. Use previous questions

    One of the great things about long exams like the CSET is that the answer to one question can often be found in another part of the test. It’s going to be almost impossible for the examiners not to repeat a subject or duplicate a point. If you’re scratching your head over a question, move on and keep an eye out for it later. There’s a good chance that they’ll give the game away in a different question.

    Those are just five simple tactics you can use to ace the CSET test. There are dozens of others and you’ll need them all to put yourself in the classroom and in front of the blackboard. To learn all the tactics you need, and to make sure that your CSET test preparation is right on track, check out our Study Guide and start your teaching career with top marks.

  • Tips for Teaching Young Children

    How do we teach in a way that hooks into a child’s natural desire to learn?

    Children are naturally curious. They explore, experiment, touch, ask questions, and are motivated to learn. To them it’s all play, and they don’t need adults praising them for their efforts.

    Wondering how you can help children succeed? Consider the following characteristics of how they learn to help you teach in ways that improve their ability to make sense of new concepts.

    1. Young children learn when subject areas are integrated

    Offer children thematic units rich with content and they will be interested and motivated, especially if you can bring real things to touch and explore that relate to the theme.

    Basic literacy and math concepts can be taught and reviewed as the theme content is shared. A “winter” theme offers many opportunities to teach the letter W, to count and record the number of mittens on snowmen constructed in an art lesson, or to create patterns for paper scarfs.

    A child learning about the life cycle of a butterfly may act it out with creative movement and poetry, paint the process with a large paper and paint, illustrate and label the stages in science and literacy lessons and listen to related stories and songs. Avoid pursuing a theme if the children have lost interest. Ask yourself if you are presenting enough “real objects”. New themes get everyone motivated and enthusiastic.

    2. Children learn in lots of different ways

    Visual learners watch closely when you demonstrate an activity and like to draw and play with shapes and puzzles. Auditory learners understand ideas and concepts because they remember information they have heard, follow spoken directions well and remember songs easily.

    Although all children learn through touch, some learn best combining touch and movement (tactile/kinetic learners). Some children like structure while others learn more easily in an unstructured environment.

    If you want busy, happy and on task children, give them a variety of lessons that meet the needs of different learning styles.

    3. Children often do not have the vocabulary to express themselves

    Inexperienced teachers sometimes misinterpret a child’s unwillingness to participate as stubbornness or bad behavior when in reality, the child may lack the skills to explain himself. Use reflective listening to help children communicate why they are upset.

    Sometimes children work well in groups, learning to share and develop ideas. At other times they just need to be alone with ample time to figure things out for themselves.

    Do not expect perfection. Relax and have fun with your students!

    4. Children progress when concepts are taught in a structured, step-by-step way

    When concepts are presented in a structured step-by-step process with each step building on previous knowledge, children learn with less effort.

    For example, expecting a young child to understand the concept of a food chain without previous experiences with, and vocabulary about, chains and links is assuming too much.

    5. Children’s abilities to observe and process information develop at varying rates

    Some four-year old children have superb small motor coordination and draw and cut beautifully, but have delayed speech patterns. Other children may be verbally eloquent but be physically uncoordinated or be at a scribbling stage in drawing.

    Just as children develop physically at different rates, they also progress academically, socially, emotionally, and artistically at varying speeds. Effective teaching happens when teachers remember that learning is developmental.

    Offer open-ended activities to meet the developmental stages of all students. An open-ended activity involves children at a wide range of developmental levels. Children are less frustrated working at their own level and they do not have to compare their results to a set of identical worksheets.

    6. Children learn best when given things, objects, and stuff to explore

    When teaching young children, always use concrete materials, as children need sensory experiences when learning new ideas and concepts.

    Take advantage of the many educational learning materials available to teach geometry, number sense, pattern skills, symmetry, classification and other math concepts.

    Use science materials like magnets, light paddles, scales, weights, and collections of birds’ nests, as well as book character toys and puppets to enhance literacy.

    7. Children need instruction, practice and time to learn new skills and concepts

    A child doesn’t learn to ride a bike by only looking at the bike and exploring its properties, he/she also needs time to practice and guided instruction.

    Practicing concepts and skills does not need to be dull and repetitive. Do not automatically think “worksheet” when you think of skills practice. There are lots of ways to practice skills using puzzles, games, diagrams, art and more.

    8. Children won’t learn if they are over tired, hungry, upset or worried

    Be flexible and understanding with young children. Check to see if kids are hungry. It’s easier to let a child eat part of her lunch early, than attempt to make a hungry child concentrate on a task.

    Sometimes a child needs to be left alone and creating a small retreat space in the classroom can help students who are too overwhelmed by home or other circumstances to cope with their peers or teacher.

    9. Motivated children pay attention

    Young children are generally motivated to learn about everything. Unless they have often been made fun of when investigating or presenting their knowledge, they have a strong desire to find out and share information.

    Reinforce thinking processes rather than praising the child. Saying “That’s an interesting way you sorted your blocks. Tell me what you were thinking” rather than, “Samuel is so smart” will focus the children’s attention on exploring the blocks. Making too much fuss of any one child can result in a competitive atmosphere.

    10. Children learn by teaching others

    When children have an opportunity to communicate their new knowledge to adults or other children it helps solidify concepts. Some children need extra time to find the correct words to explain what they are thinking so patience is necessary.

    To help children share their knowledge, use descriptive words as they play or work and they will copy your vocabulary.

    11. Children Need to be Active

    If children have been sitting still too long, they will let you know it’s time to move. Even the best, well planned, interesting lessons fail if the children need a break.

    Take plenty of movement breaks, go for walks around the school, march around the classroom or jump up and down! You will have more alert and focused students.

    Summary

    As children experience your love and acceptance and realize that you are willing to help them, they relax and learn. Keep a sense of enthusiasm, wonder and curiosity about the world around you, and your students will imitate your behavior. Your classroom may be one of the few places where their opinions and ideas are valued.

    Assessing Student’s Bookwork In Middle School Mathematics

    Some school assessment programs in middle school and junior high school include a mark for bookwork as part of the reporting process in some, if not all, subjects studied.

    Below are a set of criteria that I have used to assess student’s bookwork in junior high school Mathematics. (Much of what follows below is my adaptation of ideas shared at a local district meeting of Heads of Mathematics during the late 1990s).

    The criteria are:

    1. Headings, references and dates are stated for each lesson.

    e.g.: Monday Classwork/Homework

    5/6/13

    Future Maths p.238 Ex52 No.7-9

    2. Working and explanations are clearly and logically shown.

    3. Work has been checked (ü/x) and corrected if mistakes are found.

    4. Cover of the workbook is neat and labelled – Name, Form and Teacher.

    5. Hand-outs are glued into book in the correct place.

    6. Book is correctly ruled up and work is neat and legible.

    At this point, I would like to stress the importance of criterion 1. This is particularly important for students who miss class time through illness. By checking the student’s workbook against another student’s workbook the teacher and the sick student are able to record what was missed during the student’s absence and organise a ‘catch-up’ program.

    Mathematically speaking, criteria 2 and 3 are the most important. Some teachers may give greater weighting to these two criteria in assessing bookwork.

    One final point. The teacher can also train the students to do a self-evaluation of his or her bookwork or have a peer do it for them. Below are the items in a self/peer evaluation to check off with a “yes/no”.

    Self/Peer Evaluation

    1. All work checked and corrected. yes/no

    2. Working and explanations shown. yes/no

    3. Ruled up, neat and legible. yes/no

    4. Headings, references and dates included. yes/no

    5. Hand-outs glued into book. yes/no

    6. Book cover is neat and labelled. yes/no

    Standard: Almost all “yes” Very Satisfactory

    “Yes” sometimes Satisfactory

    Mostly “no” Unsatisfactory

    With my classes, these self/peer evaluations were done a few weeks before my formal evaluation of the student’s bookwork to encourage the students to improve their bookwork. The evaluation criteria that were unsatisfactory, i.e. had a “no” grading, tell the student where improvement must be made.

    How Soon Can a Child Learn Math? Part II

    As was noted in the previous article, age requirement for beginning mathematics with your child will be depended upon a few things: 1) your readiness to come up with creative ways to teach and command attention and; 2) your willingness to exercise patience and a loving attitude. Early childhood learning, whether its mathematics or reading, works best when abilities are allowed to unfold naturally and isn’t hampered by the pressure of expectations one way or the other.

    Below are practical tips for preparing your child’s mind for basic mathematics. These exercises can work well with preschoolers as early as three. However, a child a little younger can also be instructed if the child demonstrates proficiency with the 1 – 10 counting sequence and exhibits an eagerness as well as a quickness for learning. It is essential to utilize good teaching practices particularly for children this age for optimal success.

    Institute a routine to impress upon the child that these sessions will indeed become a part of his/her day. All in all, let your intention be to make this an exciting time to begin your child on a productive journey of learning experiences.

    Tips for early preparation conducive for creating junior mathematicians:

    o Build upon toddler activities of counting using fingers 1-10 by purchasing computer programs, DVDs, workbooks for toddlers – ages 2.5 through 4.

    o Using other objects in your environment to count: apples, oranges, toys, etc. During car trips, count the number of a particular color of cars. Count the number of seconds between green and red lights. Do this throughout the day so that it becomes a habit! If the child is not receptive, (ill or temperamental) do not attempt to engage him/her. Remember to associate learning with the good feelings of fun and enthusiasm.

    o After they have mastered counting 1 – 10 and are able to do it with ease, make a first attempt at teaching basic addition.

    o Introduce basic addition as a new game! Grab a total of 4 oranges (or apples, etc.). Initially keep the sums to numbers under 5.

    o Start with one orange. Place it in front of the child and ask him/her how many oranges he/she sees. Confirm pleasantly that it is ONE orange.

    o Now grab another orange and state clearly that you will now add another orange. Place it a little apart from the first orange and then ask how many oranges are there? If the answer is TWO oranges – state that he/she is correct and reward with praise. Be sure to give hugs and kisses.

    o Here is the important part of the exercise. Slowly enunciate how 1 orange PLUS 1 more orange equals 2 oranges! Get them to comprehend the concept – slowly, calmly and patiently. Never add a negative tone. If you do, the exercise becomes heavy and undesirable; possibly sabotaging a constructive attitude needed for future proficiency in math.

    o Add additional oranges (or other fun objects) as learning capacity expands, gradually moving up to sums equal to five.

    When complete mastery of basic addition has occurred now would be a good time to introduce workbooks (and other instructional tools) featuring basic addition. Once the child gives cues that he/she is ready to move on, subtraction beginning with differences under 5, could be a next step.

    Just a few more suggestions, if the child has a hard time understanding the concept behind the word PLUS use a substitute like “add ___ more” and so on. The bottom line is to ensure that a basic understanding of addition takes place. Again, keep it fresh and fun by “adding” all kinds of things around the house. Ensure that it becomes a habit by doing it daily! Stop before the child tires of the “game” simply because it creates eagerness.

    Research a good kindergarten curriculum to determine which concept to tackle next and don’t hinder with superficial (i.e. age-appropriate curriculums) limits, especially if he/she is content and capable of learning it.

    Bear in mind that with early childhood education, especially mathematics – consistency and progression is key!

    Mini Math Bio – Thales, The Father of Geometry

    Thales, the Greek mathematician from Miletus, Ionia (today’s Western Turkey), is credited for formulating the very first “Principles of Geometry.”

    Imagine, although human beings were alive on earth for hundreds of thousands of years, they had to wait until 6th century B.C. to find out the following interesting rules that guide the behavior of triangles and circles:

    Thales’ Rule No. 1: If you draw any triangle inside a circle, if the tip of the triangle is resting on the circumference and the diameter of the circle is forming the long side of the triangle, then the angle formed by the other two shorter sides forms a 90 degree right angle – regardless of the length of the shorter sides. (This rule is also commonly known as “Thales’ Theorem.”)

    Thales’ Rule No. 2: The diameter of any circle bisects it into two equal parts and into two arcs of equal lengths.

    Thales’ Rule No. 3: If two triangles have one side that is of equal length and two angles that are of equal degrees, then those two triangles are identical.

    Thales’ Rule No. 4: Two straight lines crossing each other form four angles around their intersection point. The angles opposing one another are equal angles. That is, two intersecting straight lines form two pairs of equal angles.

    Thales’ Rule No. 5: A triangle with two equal sides, i.e., an isosceles triangle, have equal angles where the equal sides intersect with the third side.

    We owe the beginnings of our modern-day mathematics and geometry to a man who was so in love with what he is doing that one day, according to Plato, Thales fell into a water well while gazing at the stars. Thus perhaps it won’t be too much off the mark to say that Thales was also the very first “absent minded professor” we had.

    Preparing Students For High School Maths

    A Guide For Primary School Teachers

    A High School Maths Teacher’s Wish List

    What has occurred in recent years as many more students complete high school and seek a tertiary education, is a growth in parents wanting their children to do Mathematics at a higher level. They see Mathematics as a key to tertiary entry and insist that their children be given the opportunity to do the subject at the highest level possible even going against the school’s advice on the matter.

    Therefore, high school Maths’ teachers must teach almost all students for all their years at high school irrespective of their innate ability in the subject.

    This trend will not go away and high school teachers need the help of primary teachers to prepare their students to enter the rigours of high school Mathematics.

    This article is written based on my experience as both a high school Maths teacher and as a Head of Mathematics who often had to advise parents on what was best for their students in the subject. Much of what I write here was presented to primary school teachers in a workshop on the topic.

    Most, if not all of the points I make in this article, will be known to experienced primary school teachers so it is aimed more at those new to the profession.

    Mathematics is a subject discipline where the student must develop his/her understanding of Mathematics. Learning rules and procedures can take the student only so far. It will not help in the modern world of real life Maths problems in unfamiliar contexts.

    To help prepare students for high school Maths, upper primary school teachers need to attempt to develop the following within their students.

    1. A work ethic and one which is self-motivating. Often, students in Mathematics will need to work alone and unaided.
    2. A homework ethic. The speed of teaching the syllabus requirements in high school is dictated by outside authorities. This means that the teacher must cover a mandated syllabus in a specific time. For the student, this means that homework is an essential part of the learning process if he/she is to keep up with the pace of teaching.
    3. A study ethic. It is important that students learn that homework does not equal study.
    4. A belief that all students can do some Maths.
    5. An understanding that Maths is an essential part of everyday life and we all do Mathematical things successfully every day, often automatically.
    6. A belief in students that asking questions in Maths is a ‘cool’ thing to do.
    7. A belief in students that Maths is unisexual, not just for the boys.

    Below is a list of what I call essential preparation that is not directly Mathematical but will assist students greatly in their study of Mathematics as well as other subjects.

    Students should be taught:

    • Study skills
    • How to be powerful listeners
    • How to ask questions
    • Checking procedures
    • Estimation as a checking device
    • Various problem solving techniques
    • An effective setting out procedure
    • That the answer only is not enough. The students must explain in written Mathematical form how they achieved their answer.
    • That there is often more than one way to solve a problem
    • An understanding of order convention
    • Examination technique

    Communicating mathematically is a skill that needs to be taught. It involves students being taught the following:

    1. The correct use of Mathematical terms including their spelling;
    2. Correct use of all Mathematical symbols;
    3. Logical setting out;
    4. Justification of each step where necessary;
    5. Logical reasoning;
    6. The use of neat and clear figures, accurate and appropriate diagrams;
    7. To work vertically down the page to allow ease of checking and the elimination of errors in copying;
    8. The translation from one form of expression to another, e.g. numerical/verbal data to diagrams/tables/graphs/equations, and
    9. Correct and appropriate use of units, e.g. in area, volume and so on.

    Lastly, you can give your students a taste of high school classes by doing the following. (You might call these suggestions an Action Plan).

    • Set your classroom up with desks in rows and teach a number of “Chalk and Talk” lessons.
    • Insist that students work on their own while doing Maths exercises in a quiet environment.
    • Use textbook exercises.
    • Run some formal, timed examinations in a formal classroom setting.
    • Do regular problem solving exercises. Ones in unfamiliar contexts so they get accustomed to the idea that problem solving is an everyday event, not just one that comes up in assessment.

    As I alluded to in the title of this article, this is a high school Maths teacher’s wish list. Whatever you can do as a primary teacher to help develop this wish list would be greatly appreciated by Maths teachers but more importantly will help students to step into the rigours of high school Maths more confidently.

    Does Elementary School STEM Career Day Make a Difference?

    Stem Career Day at Manchester Elementary in Manchester, Maryland was a day that held excitement and anticipation. The idea was conceptualized in the early part of December. How do we find a variety of STEM Careers to show students the wave of the future? We surveyed parents about their jobs and their willingness to take a day off of work to share their careers’, education, day-to-day requirements, and successes and failures within their lives. We received an eclectic response which included: Hazardous Waste Management, Financial Analyst, Global Production Executive, Software Licensing Manager and IT Program Manager and Nurse to name a few. With these parents willing to come in for the day, the schedule for third, fourth and fifth graders was created and set in place for a February Date.

    In December we wanted to get an idea how the students felt about Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics before the day of the event. We sent a pre-survey to all 3rd, 4th and 5th grade teachers to be read aloud to the students, but completed with only the students’ prior knowledge regarding STEM Careers. We also sent a post-survey immediately after the day was completed. In some cases the teacher gave the post-survey the same day as the day of the event.

    Our Day was a high-light on the county’s CETV Spotlight on Youth and there were positive comments from students, teachers and parents after the event.

    Issues and Trends

    The need for STEM careers in 2020 will increase from today’s needs by approximately 50% (Department, 2015). Issues, Trends and Need for community involvement in schools is an issue for today’s school agendas. There are numerous businesses, companies and associations in the areas surrounding schools that have an aspect of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in their day to day processes. But are the elementary schools benefiting from these community connections?

    Early exposure to STEM careers does make a difference (Dejarnette, 2012). Many programs are provided at the middle school and high school level, but exposure at the elementary level is necessary to impact students’ perceptions and dispositions. In middle school there is a direct link between perceptions and career interest. By exposing students at an early age their positive perceptions increase (Buldu, 2006). Studies continue to show an increase in positive perception to STEM careers when students are introduced and exposed to 21st century careers. When students in sixth grade are exposed to STEM Professionals a measurable improvement was recorded towards these types of jobs. Pre and post surveys showed a 10% positive increased to the question, “When I grow up I want to be an engineer.” (Bouvier, 2001). Interest must increase in all students including students from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM-students of color, women, and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds (National, 2011). The President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology assert that improving the interest and attitude toward these careers among young students is as important as increasing the overall level of academic proficiency and attitude in STEM academics. (PCAST, 2010).

    Results

    The survey was designed to be anonymous. We emphasized to students we wanted their unbiased answers to the questions. The survey began with, “When I grow up I would like to be:” Students wrote down their top 5 choices. Pre-STEM Career Day 24% of students wrote down Careers. (STEM Careers tallied were any job that had correlations to engineering, computer science (technology), or additional science careers.) Post-surveys revealed that percentage was at 33%. As trends and issues would suggest we need to make sure there is particular interest in educating girls at the elementary level in a variety of STEM Careers. The pre-survey showed that 24% of girls and boys listed these Careers. Post-survey results differed from overall results showing that girls listing STEM Careers increased to 33%, boys increased to 39%.

    Pre-Survey Results:

    “When I want to grow up… ” Overall – 24% Girls – 24% Boys – 24%

    Post-Survey Results: Overall – 33% Girls – 33% Boys – 39%

    • All percentages have been round to the nearest whole percentage.

    Students were also given a rating scale for questions that would determine how they felt about these Careers.

    1. I think I could have a STEM Career.

    2. I see how STEM careers effect the world today.

    3. I think I could be successful in my STEM education.

    4. I see how technology is used in STEM careers and I think, “I could do that!”

    5. I think I would like to be a Scientist / Engineer when I grow up.

    6. I think I could create something important for the world.

    The results of two of these question show an interesting result. Although only 24% of girls chose Disagree or Strongly Disagree to having a STEM Career, 49% chose Disagree or Strongly Disagree to becoming a Scientist or Engineer. The boys had a different result. Only 15% chose Disagree or Strongly Disagree to having a STEM Career, but a much larger portion, 52% chose Disagree or Strongly Disagree to becoming a Scientist or an Engineer. This may be due to specific choices for STEM Careers in technology fields exclusive of science or engineering. Part of the education we should be sharing in the classroom is how much technology there is in both science and engineering. Diversifying these careers so that students see the “big picture” in science and engineering is a next step in our educational process.

    Conclusion

    What can be done at Manchester Elementary School to increase STEM Career awareness? We will continue to provide a STEM Career Day for our school. Next year we will prepare to take on the entire school. The initial planning is to include primary classes with a half-day event with the theme being a “hands-on” day. Intermediate students would have the discussion groups delivered last year, but also include an additional hands-on aspect to the day. When the teachers were surveyed regarding STEM Career Connections they made with their curriculum lessons many teachers limited the number of careers discussed that very closely aligned to the lesson they were teaching. Ex. Teaching Weather – Career Connection, Meteorologist. When in truth teachers could explore Climatologist, Environmentalist, Hydrologist, Information Technology, and Electronic Maintenance. As teachers it is our job not only to teach the lesson, but provide real world connections. Real world connections lead us directly to the world around us and the careers that will be available to the graduates in the 21st century.

    References:

    Buldu, M. (2006). Young children’s perceptions of scientists: A preliminary study Educational Research, v48 n1, 121-132.

    DeJarnette, N. (2012). America’s children: Providing early exposure to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiatives. Education, 133(1), 77-84.

    Department of Education. (2015). Science, technology, engineering and math: education for global leadership. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/STEM%20%20.

    Hawkins, D. (2015, October 15). Biases and stereotypes at school sideline girls in stem. NEA Today, 60-61.

    National Research Council. (2011). Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Board on Science Education and Board on Testing and Assessment, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

    PCAST, President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. (2010). Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for America’s Future. Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President.