Starting Strong 2021

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Joel Miller, Salt Lake City, UT 

The ongoing pandemic has changed the way we live and learn. It has affected, and continues to affect, me in ways I never imagined. I was not a very effective teacher at the end of the 2019-20 school year and I have had to learn new skills and change some of my beliefs about teaching and learning. It is important to acknowledge the trauma that has taken place in order to begin to move forward into a new year. 

Acknowledging the trauma of last year also means we need a plan for a strong start to the new school year. So what does it mean to Start Strong in 2021? As I think about how I would start the school year strong, I know that I would want to help my students be the best learners they can be. I would prioritize building relationships with students while creating a strong, safe, and equitable classroom culture. I would empower students to see themselves as capable learners by using rich tasks, engaging in discourse, using effective teamwork practices, and providing classroom support. To start strong I would use grade level content and instructional rigor that focuses on the depth of instruction rather than the pace of instruction. I would also focus on students’ strengths and assets rather than deficits and gaps by building on what students already know in order to provide just-in-time support to advance their learning. This is what it would mean to me to start the school year strong. So how could I make this happen?

The good news is that the CPM curriculum is already designed to accomplish this goal. In each course, the intent of Chapter 1 is to start the year strong. The core problems are rich tasks that allow students to use their strengths to engage in mathematics. Additionally, those strengths can be formatively assessed in the moment by teachers to help them make decisions moving forward. Chapter 1 is specifically designed to build relationships both between students and between the teacher and students as well as to create a safe and equitable classroom through the use of Study Team and Teaching Strategies and collaborative expectations. It is an overview of the concepts that will be covered throughout the course. As teachers formatively assess students, it will become clear which concepts teachers need to simply “drive by” and which concepts they will need to dive into to help students be successful this school year. Giving students the opportunity for just-in-time instruction, in the moment that they need it, not only creates equity in the classroom, but allows them to do grade level work and engage in a rigorous learning environment. 

The CPM Starting Strong 2021 learning event invited participants to engage in a variety of activities that helped them achieve these outcomes and start the year strong. While this learning event was developed in response to a crazy pandemic year, the overall intent is not new. It is important to start every year strong. The revelation, however, is that with every CPM course, no new tasks need to be created. It is all right there in Chapter 1. Students have “gaps” every year. Students need to feel safe and empowered every year. Students need the opportunity to be successful with grade level coursework and be recognized for their strengths every year. And, as teachers we need to start the year strong as well. As teachers we are empowered to help students become independent learners. We need to build relationships and create a safe and equitable class and school culture. We need to recognize our own strengths and support each other while we support our students. Let’s focus on what we can do and not on the barriers. Just like we should do for our students, we can acknowledge it has been a difficult year and then move forward. This is what it means to Start Strong. And I hope we all find ways to do so.

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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.