Escape the Classroom

Ashley Boyd, Lake Cormorant, MS

After participating in my first escape room, I knew I wanted to provide a similar experience for my students. Teamwork, perseverance, communication, and problem-solving – all concepts I taught throughout the year – were required to successfully escape.  What better way to “live out” our learning than using it to “escape?”

What is an escape room?
The basic premise of an escape room is that a team of players is locked in a room and left to solve a mystery in order to escape (exit) the room. Themes and storylines may vary, but the urgency and need to escape are essential.

How I planned our escape experience
My first step in the month-long process of creating this unforgettable experience was gaining administrative support. They are familiar with my out-of-the-box ideas and offered our school conference room as the room to escape. I then began collecting supplies. I reached out to friends, fellow teachers, and even the students to collect a variety of locks and boxes. Additionally, I collected household items, basic school supplies, and a variety of odds and ends I felt might be used as clues. Next, I started working on a storyline. I brainstormed ways in which our math concepts could be incorporated to build and develop a strong storyline. Finally, a team of three students and I developed some content-based clues that followed the storyline and added to the mystery of the room. Not all clues were content-based, but all of them were focused on team collaborative learning. To escape, students were required to calculate a tip, find unit rate, and solve equations in addition to solving riddles, matching combinations and keys to locks, and searching for clues written in invisible ink.

The day of the escape
The class was divided into teams of 10-12 students. One group came to the escape room while another teacher monitored the others. The team was ushered in and the scenario was explained to them as the door was shut behind them. The team was monitored through a video baby monitor. This allowed clues to be slipped under the door when the teams were stuck or off track.  When the time was up or escape occurred, a team of volunteers rushed in to reset the room before the next team arrived.

Personal take-away
Getting students to enthusiastically engage in challenging problems is hard; however, I discovered keeping my classroom centered on that concept throughout the year allowed students to develop a love for it. My students rose to the challenge of the escape room. They blew me away with their ability to work together and solve hard problems. Using CPM is a vital resource in getting students to be independent passionate problem solvers.

Planning advice
Participate in a few escape rooms before planning your own. This will give you so much insight and many ideas. Then…GO FOR IT! The excitement and achievement you will see in your students will be beyond rewarding!

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Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.