On the bright side…

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Karen Wootton, Director of Curriculum & Assessment, karenwootton@cpm.org

I began my teaching career in California where I had never even heard of such a thing as a snow day. When I moved to Indiana and began teaching, I panicked when I was presented with the prospect of school cancellations. How can teachers do their jobs knowing a day or more of teaching might disappear? How do they plan ahead? How do students feel about the break in learning? How do families make summer plans when a school year might end later than the calendar says it will?

When I moved to Maryland and my kids started school, I was able to enjoy snow days for the wonderful gifts that they are: a day to sleep in, play in the snow, and enjoy an unexpected holiday. I gained perspective. I realized that missing the one day or a few days of school was not going to do any serious damage to anyone’s education in the grand scheme of things.

Fast forward to 2020. My kids are gone and on their own. I am no longer in the classroom, but I am working full-time for CPM. And we are all experiencing “snow days” in the extreme.

I am very grateful that my job can continue during these chaotic times. In fact, my days are really not that different from what they were before social distancing went into effect. I am also grateful that I have not had to adapt my lessons to an online platform for distance learning. Kudos to all of you who have stepped up in a very short amount of time and adapted to this new form of education. How challenging it is to take a curriculum that relies on students working in teams together and adapting it to synchronous and asynchronous learning! I am sure it is challenging for students as well. While the occasional snow day has its joys, this extended period of time away from classroom learning, friends, and activities is challenging for them as well.

There have been some good things that have come from this corona-era. Like it or not, some people have been forced to learn technology they have been avoiding. Of course, teaching your older in-laws how to use Zoom or FaceTime can be frustrating, but the stereotypical actions can make you smile as well. Seeing preschoolers in their Zoom classes can be adorable as they mug for the camera or talk over the teacher since “mute your microphone” has no meaning to a four year old.

Where the sun is truly shining brightly is on the suspension of nationwide standardized testing. Here is an opportunity not to fret over addressing every standard that is listed for the grade you teach or focusing on intervention for your bubble students. You can now take some time to address the bigger issues: first and foremost, checking on your students emotional and physical well-being. If you are meeting with them synchronously, take time to let them share the things they like about their days as well as the things they are not happy with. Ask if they have hobbies they are getting to enjoy. Are they baking? Are they creating? Have them share this part of their lives that is not school focused. Building relationships with students is a key piece to student learning. If you are comfortable doing so, share your struggles as well as the things you are able to enjoy. Let them know you are human and experiencing some of the same emotions they are.

You can also use this time highlighting the Standards for Mathematical Practice through interesting puzzles and problems. What a great time to introduce Fermi problems to your students! Yes, they are at home and have the internet at their fingertips, but explain the process of a Fermi problem and see what they can do. Or, if you have not already done so, introduce them to Notice and Wonder. Send the students a strange, interesting, or challenging image, and ask What do you notice? What do you wonder? The image below is from a lesson in CPM’s 8th grade support course, Inspirations & Ideas. Let students submit their wonderings and noticings, and then choose some of their questions to guide them to some interesting math. How much gum do you think is there? What would that weigh if it were chiseled off?

Wall of used gum

Another approach is to let them explore an interesting website with the goal being able to report back something cool or interesting that they learned. For example, this site, gapminder.org is very interesting. Direct students to the Tools, where they invite people to “play with data.”

Please do not forget our good friends at Desmos who have so many wonderful activities available. Send students a link to an activity (prepopulated with the code) and let them enjoy it! And although the deadline for the art contest just passed, you can still have students use the Desmos graphing calculator to create beautiful images. Maybe next year they will be able to enter the contest!

In this unpredictable time, give your students the gift of time to ponder interesting questions and ideas. You have an opportunity to foster curiosity and let students explore without worrying about hitting standards. If your students come back next school year with a more curious mind, it will have been time well spent.

Next school year? What will I do?

Don’t panic! Deep breath in. Deep breath out.

Yes, students are missing content right now. Across the country teachers are making valiant efforts to keep the learning going. But we all know that there will be topics skipped, and those topics that are addressed, students might not master.

Whatever you do, do not plan to start next fall where you left off this school year. That will, in the long run, do more damage than it will help. Just as when I learned to work with snow days, we all need perspective in this situation. Take the 10,000 foot view of life after COVID-19. Meet (virtually) with your department, and ask this question: what are the big ideas students really need from this course to do the next course, or more importantly, be successful in life? For example, while there are numerous standards addressed in 8th grade, I think we would all be thrilled if our algebra students came to 9th grade able to solve an equation, graph lines identifying the slope and intercepts, and make tables of values to graph other functions. Are there a lot of other things in the list of 8th grade standards? Of course there are! But some of these skills can be addressed when they arise without a lot of fanfare or hand-wringing. “Oh, you don’t know how to find the volume of a prism? That darn COVID-19! Well, let’s take a quick look.” This “just in time” instruction is determined by students’ needs rather than your assumptions. It is sad that students will not have the chance to do the exploratory problems that lead them to come up with the volume of a prism or the other topics that might have been missed, but this is one of the sacrifices we will need to accept when we move back to normalcy. As topics come up that you realize students need assistance with, you can use the Parent Guide to give students a quick review and some problems to practice. But do not assume that because the topic was not covered this school year, that they do not know it next year! Your students might surprise you.

Please try not to fret over finishing every lesson this year, hitting every standard, or assessing everything you normally would. There is nothing normal about life right now, so don’t pretend like it is. Honor students’ feelings of fear and anxiety and be a stable presence for them. You might be feeling the same feelings, and you can let your students know that. But be sure to offer some perspective for them as well. When your students are your age, these three, six, or even nine months will be just a small part of their lives.

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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.