One of the struggles I have as department chair is coming up with what we should be doing in our PLC time. I decided that we needed to start examining the CCSS much closer, and really start implementing things this year that we are going to be asked to implement next year.
Why? Because if we can get started on implementing some basic ideas of the CCSS now, then there will be less work to do later. It makes sense, and we jumped in with gusto.
… crickets chirping …
Okay, perhaps we got off to a rocky start at first. But the entire department started coming together and thinking about what the Standards for Mathematical Practices really mean, and we all agreed pretty quickly that #3, Construct viable arguments, is going to be the easiest to implement right away, as well as provide some very useful impact in our classrooms. The same thing goes for 5 and 7, use appropriate tools and look for and make use of structure.
All of the 3 PLCs in my department started on a plan in their content areas (Alg 1, Geometry, and Alg 2) to begin to make plans and more importantly, IMPLEMENT the plan in their everyday teaching. I know I have seen a positive impact already.
Here is what I have implemented.
First, I model every problem I do with words. Here is what I mean by this statement on a very easy example, with some steps from the left side left out, nothing from the right.
2x + 5 = 5x – 4 [the problem]
+5 = 3x – 4 I subtracted 2x from both sides of the equation because 2x – 2x= 0, and I only subtract from the 5x bcs they are like terms.
9 = 3x I added 4 to both sides because –4 + 5 = 0, and like terms.
3 = x I divided 3 to both sides because 3 / 3 = 1, which gives me x all alone and the answer.
I noticed an immediate change in the lower level learners. They immediately started nodding their heads and following along. Of course, this was Alg 2, so the example we were doing was a rational radical problem, and the words were the only way they could understand what x^(4/5) means.
I asked them to do one problem exactly as above in class in the last 5 minutes, and I had over 3/4 of the class finish the problem in the time allowed. They did the work! More importantly, they were understanding the process. Writing out the because to every step gave them the structure to understand not just WHAT they were doing but WHY. They could explain.
Then we came to homework. I gave them the following assignment. 78-80, 83-85, 88-90, Pick ONE problem from each section, and explain every step as above.
I expected tons of complaining and whining. I did not get it. The assignments turned in were very good, with mostly decent explanations of why. There were some higher level learners who thought that the WHAT was enough. Next week I will hand them back and disabuse them of the notion.
The surprising thing to me was the number of ELL and SPED learners who turned in homework for the first time all year. Maybe because it was at the beginning of the semester and they turned over a new leaf.
But I am thinking that partially it is because they got to choose which problem they did, and they were explaining WHY they were doing what they were doing. It is still early in the semester, and I am not sure if it will continue. I will update more on this issue though.
As a first step to CCSS, I think it is a good one, albeit small. I will also report on some things other teacher in my department are trying. CCSS is slamming down on us hard, and we have to get ready now, not wait for our district to tell us what to do.