The Disengaged or Apathetic Student

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John Hayes, Eagle River, WI,

Sometimes as educators our lessons can be engaging, rigorous, relevant, and purposeful, but we still end up with a student that just does not want to put any effort into the class. We have done the usual things such as contacted the parents, conferenced with our PLC, and had long discussion with and about the student. What are some suggestions that might engage that student?

  • Incorporating movement – It is hard to give our best effort day in and day out especially when we have to sit for an entire day. Start your lesson with movement that includes discussion during that movement, to get students engaged mathematically.
  • Creating relationships – With some students you can create a relationship during class but with others you need one-on-one time to really get at what is going on in the student’s life.  How about you and the student take a Walk and Talk?  
  • Goal setting – Set small behavior goals for that student “I’m going to check your notebook every day to make sure you are giving an honest effort with the classwork. Here are some of the things I would like to see when I check your notebook…”
  • Make them accountable – I like to make these students the salesman during a Traveling Salesman. By giving the same sales pitch over and over they become proficient at their sales pitch. Maybe they even become an expert! Later in the course when that topic comes up, they will remember their sales pitch and engage in the conversation.
  • What are their strengths? – Use the Pick Three strategy to help their teammates value the student’s participation. As an educator, if you use your professional noticing and pick up on the student’s strength, you can show other students the value of that strength.
  • Give their thinking value and as a result, give them status as a math student – When circulating through the teams ask this student a question and after they respond, ask other teammates to reflect on their thinking. This sends the message that the student’s thinking is valuable to the team. Ask them to repeat what they said and ask teammates to respond. If this student cannot answer the question then tell them you will give them a few more minutes to talk with their team and you will come back for their answer. Nine out of ten times the student will ask the team to explain it to him/her and be able to answer when you return. Over time this can build student confidence and students may choose to engage even when not pressed. 
  • Pay attention to status in the classroom – Which students have higher status and which students do not have as much status? If the disengaged student has less status find ways to assign status to that student (make them the Facilitator, support them through pre teaching the vocabulary of the next section in the book so they can bring value to the conversation, ask them to share their work or thinking with the entire class.)
  • Mindset Monday – some students think there is a math gene and they do not have it. Use videos, quotes, and strategies from Jo Boaler and other sites to get ideas for promoting a growth mindset. 
  • Address the unproductive beliefs listed below that the student may have about mathematics:
    • Students can learn to apply mathematics only after they have mastered the basic skills.
    • The role of the teacher is to tell students exactly what definitions, formulas, and rules they should know, and demonstrate how to use this information to solve mathematics problems.
    • The role of the student is to memorize information that is presented and then use it to solve routine problems on homework, quizzes, and tests.
    • An effective teacher makes the mathematics easy for students by guiding them step by step through solving problems to ensure that they are not frustrated or confused.
    • Mathematics learning should focus on practicing procedures and memorizing basic number combinations.
    • Students need only learn and use the same standard computational algorithms and the same prescribed methods to solve algebraic problems.

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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.