Explicit Classroom Norms to Teach Kids How to Learn From Solving Problems

This blog post is the fourth in a series of four blog posts exploring the student experience of problem-based learning. The first three posts are available here: (1) “How Do Students Perceive Problem-Based Learning?” (2) “Inviting Students to the Mathematics” (3) “Concrete Representations that Give Students a Way to Get Started.”

Okay, so the kids can get started and represent their thinking. But are they really learning? Am I really teaching? What are we doing here?

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First Impressions: The First Units in IM K–5 Math

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou 

When I think back to my 8th grade math class, I cannot recall the exact problems I struggled with or exact things the teacher said or did, but I can distinctly remember how I felt each day walking into that classroom: anxious. From the very first day of school, I struggled, and my feelings of failure and self-doubt only compounded as the year progressed. I just could not keep up. While many, many years have passed, and details have faded from my memory, I have never forgotten how badly I felt about myself as a learner of mathematics each day.  

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Concrete Representations that Give Students a Way to Get Started

This blog post is the third in a series of four blog posts exploring the student experience of problem-based learning. The first two posts are available here: “How Do Students Perceive Problem-Based Learning?” and “Inviting Students to the Mathematics.”

Once students have an invitation to the mathematics and understand the situation, how do they get started answering questions?

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Inviting Students to the Mathematics

How do we invite students to the mathematics, and explicitly signal to kids that they have ideas that matter in math class?

In this series of blog posts, the first of which is available here, we’re exploring how, in order to be successful in a problem-based classroom, students have to shift their thinking about what being a good math student looks and sounds like. What do you notice about your own students’ beliefs about how they should participate? What are you curious about now, as you think about what it takes for students to be successful in a problem-based classroom?

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How Do Students Perceive Problem-Based Learning?

Does problem-based learning mean students need to forget everything they knew about how to act in math class?

As a teacher, and then as a coach and teacher-educator, I’ve been thinking for a long time about the shifts teachers need to make when using a problem-based curriculum like the IM Math curricula. Recently, though, I’ve gotten to be in classrooms not as a coach or a teacher, but just to observe. Sitting with the students, experiencing math class from their perspective, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the demands placed on them as learners in a problem-based setting.

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Making Sense of Distance in the Coordinate Plane

Linda Richard, Curriculum Writer

I used to teach my students a catchy song to memorize the distance formula. We all had fun goofily singing this song. My students hummed it to themselves during tests and successfully calculated distances. I was pleased with this outcome—but what did my students actually understand about distance in the coordinate plane? In retrospect, very little.

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Presenting IM Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2

Kate Nowak, Director of 6-12 Curriculum

When I was teaching high school mathematics, my local colleagues and I spent a whole lot of time creating problem-based lessons. We were convinced that this style of instruction was a good way to learn, but the textbooks in use at our school simply contained definitions and theorems, worked examples, and practice problems. One day I was talking to my dad about how much time I had been spending lesson planning. His response was, “People have been teaching geometry for, what, 3,000 years? Shouldn’t the lessons be, like, already planned?”

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