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”.

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.

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.

A Young Teacher’s Guide To Homework In Mathematics In High School

Most of what appears below was the advice that I wrote for teachers who taught Mathematics in my department when I was its head. It appeared in my department’s handbook.

Homework was an accepted part of what we did as Mathematics teachers for all classes except those with special needs students.

How And When To Set Homework

• It should be set daily or after each lesson.

• Write the assigned homework on the board.

• Ensure the students write it in their school diaries at the end of the lesson. In junior classes, you may stand at the door checking the homework is written in their diary as they leave.

• Discuss how long the work should take and any necessary advice.

• Lastly, early in the school year, teach your students how to use their textbook to help them do their homework.

What Homework Should You Set?

For students to achieve their full potential in Mathematics at high school, homework must be done on a regular basis. Homework, based on current class work, is meant to be an extension of the lesson and is needed for the re-enforcement of concepts.

In high schools, homework in Mathematics may consist of:

• Written exercises set for practice of skills and concepts. These are based on classwork.

• Learning work, e.g. rules, vocabulary and theorems.

• Assessment tasks – these usually count towards Semester reports.

What About Students Who Don’t Do Their Homework?

Teachers should record in their diaries the names of defaulters. Parents must be advised when a pattern of missing homework becomes evident.

Teachers should develop a process for dealing with homework defaulters.

What If Students Can’t Do Their Homework?

As most homework is based on the work done in class that day, this is not usually a problem for most students. However, if a student has difficulty in beginning homework, teach these strategies:

• The student should look for a similar problem in the work done in class. This is usually all that is needed to jog the memory.

• The student should look for an example in the textbook prior to the exercise. Each different type is usually done in full with an explanation.

• If students still have difficulty, they should see their teacher the next day BEFORE CLASS and arrange a time for individual help. Most teachers are available for a “homework help” time at lunch time or before and after school. Your teacher will tell you when he/she is available.

What If A Student Tells His/Her Parents That They Never Have Homework?

Often, there are complaints from parents who tell us that their students never have homework. This is clearly not the case! If a student has no written homework, (which is unlikely) then we would suggest that the parents set one of the following to be done:

• Ask the student to write a summary of the rules for the current unit and to work an example of each type of problem. The textbook will be useful here. Look for chapter summaries.

• Look at the student’s exercise book and find an exercise that caused difficulty. Set this exercise to be done.

• In each textbook, there are chapters on basic skills. Students can do any of the exercises from this chapter.

• Often there are chapter reviews and practice tests. These can be done.

The Review Process

Homework should, wherever possible, be reviewed during the next lesson for the greatest impact on learning to occur. This learning may, in fact, be the basis of the next lesson. A full description of a review practice can be found in the Article “Reviewing Homework in High School Classes” to be found on this website.

Even though there is a continuing debate as to the merits of homework, the advice here will help the young Mathematics teacher deal with homework successfully.

Tutors and Advice to High School Students

As a teacher of Mathematics and, later in my career, as a head of Mathematics department, I was often asked to recommend a tutor by parents or their students.

This often occurred after a student had been absent for some time from class or when a student needed a pass in Mathematics to matriculate into a particular course at university.

These are the points I made to students:

• Maths tutors can’t do the Maths for you, especially homework and assignments. The tutor is there to guide you to build your understanding of Mathematics*.

• They can help improve your confidence; explain areas that you find difficult but they can’t guarantee success. You have to do the work if you are to improve and succeed.

• They may also be able to discover where you began to have problems and work to fix that. Your parents must make that a priority for the tutor.

• You must note down areas in class where you are failing to understand the concept and ask the tutor to go over those areas. The tutor’s explanation will often provide a different approach to the teacher’s approach to the topic that will help you understand the concept/procedure.

• However, success only comes when you work hard in class and works hard with your maths tutor. One doesn’t replace the other.

• You must continue to engage with your teacher, asking questions and seeking advice when it is needed.

• You must continue to work on set homework diligently and do any work set by the tutor.

• It is also important that you accept the idea of tuition and like or respect your tutor. If you don’t like the tutor or can’t follow his/her explanations, tell your parents and seek a replacement.

• Your parents should seek a report from the tutor on progress made and on the efforts of their student, regularly.

Above all, you must be proactive in seeking to improve your understanding of the subject.

*Mathematics here can be replaced by any subject that requires improvement.

10 Tips For Teaching Middle School Math

As a teacher for 11 years and middle-school math teaching consultant, I’ve seen a wide array of different math programs and classes. I’m sharing here the 10 best teaching tips I’ve compiled over the years.

1. Provide compelling content to study.

Years ago, a colleague I was working with said, “Maybe class can be fun, but I can’t make class compelling. I have to teach math!” It’s an assumption worth exploring.

Take Ron Berger’s middle-school math project to study levels radon in their own homes. Studying radon is boring. But Berger’s class project has got to be one of the most compelling projects in math class history. What if his students discovered dangerous levels of radon in the homes of one geographic area and published the results as they had intended? What would happen to real estate values in that area? What he found is that students were highly engaged in mapping, taking averages, looking at standard deviations- students that heretofore didn’t care one bit about radon or the other concepts.

So what’s the trick? The trick is that there isn’t one. You can’t trick students into finding something compelling if it isn’t. Take a little bit of time to develop a few topics of study throughout the year that you find compelling- the Economy, the Presidential Campaigns, the Human Body, etc. Find an authentic way to present your result- the paper, the web, a magazine. Keep the project small, authentic and do-able.

Students of teachers that do take this kind of time have better outcomes on state tests than students of teachers who only stick to the text. Almost any social studies context provides a backdrop for learning that adds depth.

Even teachers who hold a math “topics” class only once a month see real benefits, so you don’t have to abandon your regular class. And, you’ll find that students are more engaged when regular class is held.

If you want to go really deep and have solid administrator support, look into the school reform movement of Expeditionary Learning Schools who have an excellent approach to thematic teaching.

2. Don’t use extraneous rewards such as candy, purchase points, stickers, etc.

There is nothing more certain than seeing the culture of a math class decline over a period of years when a teacher bribes them. The intent of the teacher, of course, is good. A teacher cares about his or her students and wants the very best for them. “I don’t care how they learn math,” one teacher said to me. “I just want them to learn it so that they are prepared.” The teacher cared enough to purchase candy out of her own pocket, but the real message to students is this: the “positive reinforcement” of candy means “math isn’t worth doing on its own.” The research is clear on the matter too, and shows us that extrinsic, non-relevant rewards hurt learning.

Even if the effects aren’t immediate, over time so called “positive reinforcements” like these mentioned above erode an otherwise high-quality math program. As a teacher, you are much better off trying to create inherently compelling curriculum than buying candy.

3. Build a culture where students teach each other.

For many teachers, one student helping another is called cheating. But I actually found that the better middle-school math programs all encouraged students to team together at certain times throughout the week. The activities were usually graded as complete or not-complete, and when tied to meaningful tasks, such as building a survey together and collecting original data, student comprehension was greater than on individual tasks.

Building the kind of culture that works for student pairs or groups takes years and lots of practice. But before you give up and decide it doesn’t work, determine if you are following tips #1 and #2 first.

4. Give less, but more meaningful work, including homework.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study labels the curriculum in the United States as “a mile wide and an inch deep.” Their review of math texts in middle-school found that some were almost 700 pages long. With heavy pressure to teach to the standards, as a teacher you might be tempted to skip and jump to many topics throughout the text. Don’t. It achieves little learning.

Choose the most important pieces before the beginning of the year, and keep it simple. Teach the concepts you do teach with depth.

The national advisory counsel formed from the study recommended “put first things first” and suggested that indeed, less is more. Take the time to cull the curriculum to a manageable size for your students, and present them with only that. If you have to “cover” standards, find out what standards and document when you indeed teach them in class. You’ll find that teaching with depth often reaches to a broad array of standards.

It’s helpful to know what’s driving the breadth. As the national study panel concurs, publishers are trying to meet demands of hundreds of different districts by including everything that any school might want. And while publishers have been attempting custom publishing, it is just as difficult to create a math curriculum for a small district as a large one. Thus, the challenges of book publishing lead to a single, uniformly created overarching textbook. Often this is a very large text or an entire series.

In the classroom, teachers and students become overwhelmed and unable to handle the scope or breadth of learning in this form. As teachers, we have to recognize that predominantly negative emotions surround math in middle-school, and that anything we can reduce those emotions will go a long way toward gains in learning learning. Placing a 500 page text in front of a 7th grade student is unlikely to help, so use it sparingly and build little, home-made notebooks for daily use.

5. Model thinking, not solutions or answers.

Don’t show a student how to solve something. Instead “think aloud”. For example, you might have a whiteboard with a problem up, and start by saying, “o.k., I notice that the 4 numbers I am to sum are all in the thousands category, and that the first is near 3,000, the second near 5,000, and the third… I am confused about…” Model exactly what you thinking including confusion, emotions, skills, strategies and more.

When you do this, also let your students know how mathematicians think. One piece of research that is helpful to know is that mathematicians spend a long time thinking about how to set up a problem, a little bit of time doing the problem, and a long time “looking back” by asking the question, “Does this make sense?’ Model that for your students, by putting up a complex problem on the board and spending time not just jumping into a solution, but just talking about what strategies you might use to solve the problem.

6. Provide feedback that is immediate, relevant to the task, non-comparative, and leads the way to next steps.

Many teachers believe that grading is a form of feedback. It isn’t. Grading, when done well, can be a form of assessment of learning, but the distinction should be clear. Grades are not an effective tool as assessment for learning. Grades are the end of the road, when you assess what has been learned, but they should not be intended to inform a student where to go next.

Take, for example, three groups of students who received different kinds of “feedback” on math papers they had “turned in.” The first group received only narrative feedback (no score) informing them where and how they made mistakes. The second group received a grade (or score) and narrative feedback. The third group received just a grade. Not surprisingly, the students who received narrative feedback improved when re-tested. Those who had received only a grade did not have the information to improve, and performed the same when re-tested. But here is the surprising part. There was no difference between “grade-only” group and the group that received the grade and narrative feedback. Why? The students who received both a grade and narrative feedback completely ignored the written suggestions and only looked at the score. “I got a blah, blah, blah… what did you get?”

Because we live in a world where grades and formalized assessments are so important, work with the system by differentiating assessment for learning and assessment of learning.

When you are grading, one guide is to reference Rick Stiggins strategies of assessment for learning. That way, when you are conducting an assessment of learning (i.e. grading), you’ll notice that you are momentarily stepping out of the role of improving a student’s learning and won’t have the conflict of trying to do two things at once.

7. Change mimeographed sheets to problems you and your students personally develop.

A pervasive aspect of our culture is to give out page after page of information. In faculty meetings, business meetings and conferences, hundreds of pages of documents are handed out. It makes us look organized and prepared. It’s also a way to “cover” content. But for a middle-school math student, it also makes it hard to determine what is important. Was it the fractions part? Was it the decimals section? Was it the number line? Was it the triangle puzzle problem? Was it the cartoon?

Instead of another mimeographed page, have your student write their own story problems. Tell them to add artwork for comprehension. Give them the latitude to make them fun. Celebrate them by posting them in class. Give them 5 home-made story problems they create for homework instead of a mimeographed sheet with 30 problems, and really dive into improving them through revision.

8. Use story to teach math.

Write a story, a real story with characters and plot, and add the math problem set. Write about wizards that need to use angles for their sorcery. Write about spice trading ships on the deep seas. Write a story that lasts a whole page before even getting to the math portion. You’ve engaged the right-side, or less analytical, part of the brain and you’ll see a powerful effect of enhanced engagement.

9. Get math tutor volunteers once a week for two-months before state testing.

As a teacher or administrator, spend time during the fall months by planning for and scheduling a single day each week during the months of February and March (right before testing) to have volunteers come in to teach math in small groups. But what’s nice is that if developed correctly, these volunteers don’t need to have any special training in math.

Start with a simple plan. Each student has 10 skills they have chosen to work on during the whole class tutoring session and have written down their practice problems in class. The phone calls are made, the specific planning with an administrator is done, and volunteers come in and help the students answer the 10 questions during class with support. Schedule tutoring once every week for two months before testing and see your scores greatly improve.

10. Work with the emotions your students have for math.

10a. Ask your students how they feel about math. Use a bit of class time periodically to gain a better sense of where they are. And, just let them feel how they feel. If they like math, they like it. If they are bored, empathize. If your students can’t stand math, you will gain far more ground by seeing their perspective than trying to prove they are wrong. As a teacher this is hard because we are so accustomed to trying to “fix” the situation, and of course, our ego is tied to student emotion. If our students are bored, we feel like we aren’t doing the right thing. But the larger truth is that there is an ebb and flow in all of us for the topics we are learning. When the boredom, frustration and negativity does emerge, try understanding it. Perhaps class does feel a little boring. That’s o.k. Sometimes it will. And then slowly, over a period of years, build those compelling pieces into your classes so that you punctuate boring times with excitement and joy.

10b. Go slowly. Changing the direction of your math class is like trying to change the direction of a large ship, especially when dealing with emotions. Even once everything is place for the changes to occur, you will notice the “ship’s” momentum going in the same old direction before you sense any real shifts. This is part of the process. It took me three years to develop a coherent math program at my middle-school and even then, we occasionally slipped in to old patterns. Good luck!