Sunday, November 02, 2003

Reflection is the mark of a truly inspiring and inspired educator according to the book I just read on mentoring. I hope that I can use this blog/reflection to become more inspired and inspiring. I feel that too often the things I blog here are not all that reflective, but more chitchatty about my thoughts. I guess just the putting words to screen do help me think through my thoughts about my days but I would like to take this to a deeper more meaningful level at which I truly examine my teaching - my lessons - my classroom - its productivity.

After a day of catching up on school "stuff" - I feel sort of melancholy that all those great things I accomplished will not really dazzle my students. When I spend time writing lessons, trying to incorporate their lives in to what we are doing, I am usually disappointed they do not appreciate that we are not simply turning the page in a book. I guess part of it comes from the fact I am not really sold on our math program and its ultimate completeness. THe following is an excerpt from an email I sent to a middleweb colleague this morning about our program:
Connected Math - I love many of the higher level thinking aspects of the
program but with my 7th grade students, they need more structure, more
"math". It does not really align with the sequence of the Michigan standards
either. In order to maintain the sequence I should be using, I end up
pulling in from lots of other places.

The program assumes the kids come to me with many skills they do not have -
fractions, decimals, percents, etc. It does not give enough practice in such
areas either. It presents a problems and the kids, through solving this
problem, should "acquire" these skills. My kids just don't. Even most of the
higher level kids need more exposure to an idea.

For first unit, Patterns, Relationships, and Functions, I did use the CMP
Variables and Patterns book. But we did alot of other practice writing
equations and such. One of the high school math teachers and I were looking
at some of the equations they expect 7th graders to be able to write and for
most of them, it is just beyond their grasp, and their need at this point.

One of the 8th grade books go extensively into exponential growth which is
so far over their heads to try to see/write the equations, also.

Another problem is the program is too long - we can never, even if we use
the program exclusively, get through all the books, and there are topics in
the optional books which are on our state assessment (MEAP).

WHen our kids get to the high school, teachers there find them to be great
problem solvers, but without basic skills they need to be successful on
algebra. I am all for higher level thinking, having a student driven
curriculum, and having students learn math in context of real life
situations, but I am realist also. They need to know their basic facts, they
need to be able to +,-,x and / intergers, fractions and decimals and they
need to be able to round off numbers, understand scientific notation, etc..,
all those basic ideas we learned through rote practice, in order to be
successful in chemistry, physics, physical science, geometry, etc... This is
where I find CMP coming up short. Most of my students come to me not being
able to divide even simple problems like 550/10 or 46/2. THey have no
concept of fractions - largest, smallest, finding equivalent fractions,
simplifying fractions, etc. They cannot subtract when they need to borrow.
THey are very calculator dependent, which for most things is OK but I really
think they need to be able to do some of these things on their own.

Could it be used with just a higher level group? Maybe - but we are a small
school. I only have 3 sections of 7th grade math, with about 80 kids in my
math classes(6 are pulled out to an LD teacher for math - maybe 4-6 are in
categorical classrooms all day). Reality is what one class does, they all
do - the mix of students is kept very "shuffled".

I also struggle with CMP with what to grade - how to use some of its
philosophies (partner quizzes) and ideas to suit my students and my own
needs. Parents by and large in our community do not like it - they cannot
help their kids with their homework -there are no examples or real
explanations. The parents find the math "over their heads" and this attitude
definently rubs off on students.

AND... now back to the blog....
I do like CMP - I do not like CMP - I do like CMP - I do not like CMP. I feel like I need a daisy to pluck petals off as I chant. I am reviewing another program - MathScape - it seems much like CMP, but with more practice problems, more reinforcement. It still lacks the skill/drill type activities I feel my students need in some areas, but seems more complete than CMP. It is also very colorful and "fun" - I think students would be excited to use it, at least initially. I love the House PLan unit - it is so similar to the one I did in class last year, except with the added component of making an actual 3-D model of the house. I had thought about that last year but was not sure how to tackle it - This series does it so well. It is awesome - I cannot wait until spring so we can do this unit - I think I will try to incorporate many of the MathScape ideas in to what I already do.
Anybody reading this who uses Math Scape??? Please email me: I 'd love your input on this program.

Off for now - to reflect on my 22 years of marriage as of today :-)

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