Teamwork, Homework, and Confidence

Jennifer White, Evanston, WY

This August I had the pleasure of attending The Academy of Best Practices in Seattle, WA sponsored by CPM. It was an incredible experience; the energy, knowledge, and people were truly inspiring. While I took away a mountain of ideas that I still need to dig through, there are a few things that I took away that I implemented immediately and my classes are running better than I would have ever thought they could. These “big ideas” are teamwork, homework, and confidence.

I have always known that teamwork is a vital skill and that CPM emphasizes student teamwork. However, I did not know what that really looked like or how powerful it is. During ABP we worked in teams the entire time and learned strategies to help teams work better. It was fun to work in teams and we learned so much from each other that I knew it was something I had to bring to my own classroom. I started on the very first day of school. I have students change team rolls daily by rotating the roll sheet based on a “get to know you” question. This has improved how well teams work together and has helped students get to know each other on a personal level. This has promoted a sense of “we are in this together, and together we can do this!” My students believe “When we work in teams, we are not alone.” Good teamwork brings synergy that is incredibly powerful to the math classroom. It also spreads the work around so that one student is not in one role for weeks at a time. Mondays are team building days; I take five to twenty minutes of the class to challenge my teams with some sort of team building activity. It has been well worth the time as my students have learned to work together and communicate better than ever before, and I have found that the time is made up because teams that work well together work more efficiently and with a better understanding. Plus it is fun! These activities have contributed to the overall positive environment in my classes and have helped foster an open and accepting atmosphere in my room.

Homework is something that my department has been wrestling with. While I was at the Academy, I took the opportunity to pick the brains of math teachers from across the United States for ideas on how they look at homework, grade, and manage the work. During class we talked about homework as a place for students to practice their mathematical skills and how educators can treat it that way. This influences the grading issue because if homework is practice then it does not necessarily need a grade or a lot of class time, but students do still need feedback to know if they are on the correct track. One of the instructors suggested having copies of the work and solutions available for students to quickly check over their work sometime during class, accompanied with a short question and answer session at the end of class. I took this suggestion and it has changed my classes dramatically. Students are coming in before the bell rings to check their work and the quality of homework questions has improved drastically. The time we are spending on homework is nearly non-existent which has opened up class time for the lessons which have also improved. Students are getting the feedback they need, the practice they need, and are seeing a quality model of what the solutions should look like. Homework quiz grades are higher than they have ever been and my students are more comfortable trying problems in a risk-free place instead of shutting down and not trying.

While both teamwork and the change in the homework procedures have had a dramatic effect in my room, the biggest affect the Academy of Best Practices had on me was to instill confidence. Confidence that I am a quality educator, that my voice and opinions are valuable and the self-reliance to move in a direction I feel is helping my students. I now have the self-assurance to speak up in department meetings and with my administration. At the ABP I was asked to dream bigger than my classroom, bigger than my department, and bigger than my school. I am. I am thinking outside of my little world and I am dreaming big. I have switched my Masters degree to Curriculum Development so that I can follow the dreams I did not even know I had until my experience with the Academy of Best Practices. I know I will stay in math education, I know that I now have the tools, the resources, and the connections to be a better teacher and to continue into the future of big dreams. Attending the Academy was truly career and life changing for me and I will always be grateful.

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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.