One of the reasons math teachers often get a bad rap is because we fail to provide opportunities for students’ deep understanding of concepts. Ever since my wake-up call and recognition of just how tricky integer mastery was, I have tried finding ways to reach students at a deeper level. The algorithm is there, it is always there and usually discovered eventually by students. Nowadays, students visually see the concept by using integer tiles, the number line, and/or creating their own model that makes sense.
Every summer vacation I dedicate most of my time to researching the latest and greatest in math instruction. This past summer was no exception. Sometimes in my research, I rediscover a lesson I had seen before and then promptly forgot about. The task I just completed with my students is one such lesson.
The Mathematics Assessment Project offers some wonderful lessons and tasks. Students really benefit from the structure of the lessons themselves, and the built-in peer collaboration. The lesson I used can be found here: http://map.mathshell.org/lessons.php?unit=7105&collection=8
In a nutshell, students consider temperature changes that result from traveling from one city to another. The collaboration occurs when students work with others to connect one city to another through temperature changing arrows. In some cases, the destination city’s temperature is provided, in others, the change in temperature is provided, and in the last scenario, the departing temperature’s city is provided. In a lot of ways, it works like a crossword puzzle where students will figure out one answer, which will provide them the ability to find the next. Students also organically begin to discover why the algorithm works the way it does.
I followed the lesson with fidelity as I started with a pre-assessment, provided feedback, completed some whole class instruction to get students ready for the group task, and even conferenced briefly with those children who still needed some additional assistance after the activity was completed. The MAP writers recommend following the lesson the way they designed it. Before sharing their work with the world, the lessons are tested to ensure that they are effective. I would be lying if I claimed that every lesson I created that I believed would be a rewarding experience for students in my mind turned out to be so in reality. In other words, instead of experimenting with a lesson that I hoped would be successful, these lessons have been tested so there is no risk involved. Amazing!
There are some resources that are worth revisiting out there in our global math world. Teachers who share their ideas with the world are pure gifts to educators and most importantly, to all of our students. This experience reminded me that sometimes we might need to rediscover these educational treasures on another day to appreciate their value.