Two of Michigan's 7th grade Grade Level Content Expectations for math are:
A.PA. 07.09 Recognize inversely proportional relationships in contextual situations; know that quantities are inversely proportional if their product is constant.
A.RP.07.10 Know that the graph of y=k/x is not aline; know its shape; and know that it crosses neither the x nor the y-axis.
OK. I can teach that. We look at the length and widths of rectangles with fixed areas in the context of building a garden with a predetermined amount of mulch. We do a group activity where students are given a set amount of money to earn performing a service. For each of these, they create their tables and graphs, write their equations, and we analyze the situations in context of the problem.
But somehow, there always seems to be a disconnect, something missing, from the lessons. My students, at least half of them, do not understand the concepts of factors and multiples, and do not know their multiplication facts with automaticity. These are concepts they should have mastered in late elementary school, but still lack at the end of 7th grade.
How do we find the missing piece? Where is it? How do we get all the pieces of mathematics to fit together when students are simply moving on up the ladder of school without first mastering the concepts at each grade level. How do we get all these pieces together, organized, fitting together perfectly before they advance to the new math curriculum that expects all students to master through Algebra II?
Our school, along with others across the state, sees a train wreck when the bulk of the student population hits Algebra I as freshmen (The more math ready students took Algebra I as 8th graders). Suddenly, all those years of being sent along the continuum of math classes, without being ready for advancement, catches up with them. Here starts the catch-up effort, finally.
Wouldn't it make more sense to catch them earlier, provide some intense remediation when they first start to struggle? Not only would we provide students the opportunity to develop a strong numerical foundation, perhaps some of the math phobias we see could be overcome.
But then again, over 80% of this years 7th graders scored proficient on the almighty MEAP test. The state test seems to think they are doing OK. Oh, wait.. it is because the cut score is set so low that students with less than a 40% score are labeled as proficient. When the state says less than 40% is good enough, who am I to question? Maybe I need to rethink my grading scale. If we count 40% as proficient, that must equate to at least a B, so let's call 50% an A! From now on, scores of 40% and above will get A's, 30-40% get B's, 20-30% C's. Report cards will be amazing! Just think of all the kids on honor roll!
OOOOOOppppppsssss....... that won't solve anything will it? They will still get to Algebra I unprepared for the material, the train wreck will still happen, and kids will be struggling to graduate in 4 years.
Where do we implement change? How do we implement change?