Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Maine

Week 2 (January 18-25) Chapter 2 - Making the Case for Change: Strategies and Compelling Examples

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  • 27 Jan 2013 8:46 PM
    Reply # 1190897 on 1183083
    Wayne Dorr
    This assignment was a powerful generator of upteen issues, concerns for our kids' futures, and the great responsibility we all carry.  Reading all of your responses led me, once again, to think about how much I respect what classroom teachers do.  I looked at this matter of real world math and what are we preparing them for from both a practice in math education view and what the future might hold perspective.  I'd offer several sources that illustrate, 1) instruction that reflects the type of student
    who sits in front of us today - techno savvy, used to instant information (sometimes without thinking about it), fascinated by real world problems, and socially oriented almost 24 hours a day.  There was a piece written in the October, 2012 edition of Kappan entitled "10 Reasons to Flip" (kappenmagazine.org) that describes both the power of flipped classrooms for mathematics, as well as the 21st Century reasons to do so (I'm hopeful that you might have access to this article - when you go onto the Kappan site, you can see that edition, and the title, but they charge to view it, unfortunately).  As I read it, it occurred to me that whole math depts. might want to read it together, because it really is relevant to solid math instruction via student engagement.  and 2), I reviewed several sources regarding what future jobs might look like, and was particular struck by three news articles that appeared just this past week on the loss of millions of jobs in mid-level pay ranges and skills. The Sunday edition of the Kennebec Journal - kjonline.com - carried a lengthy piece entitled "It's man vs. machine".  The authors point out that, since the recession started in 2008/09, millions of positions held by the middle class have disappeared and are not returning.  A particularly startling question posed by a computer scientist at Rice University, "Are we prepared for an economy in which 50 percent of people aren't working?" Seemed to me that this whole scenario lies at the heart of Shawn's question - what are we preparing our students for?  It also seemed to me that the CCSS' expectation, as well as Steven Leinwand's, that students must be capable of abstract and quantitative reasoning must rise to the highest priority in mathematics education.  I found Sally Bennett's reference to the Guardian article an interesting companion piece to this issue.  (I decided that in the future, I want to be a mechatronical engineer!)  One last thought on educating students about slight-of-hand math and marketing on the web.  You might want to take a look at a couple of very short articles in the June 30th edition of The Economist, Economist.com/print,
    entitled The Psychology of Discounting, and Something Doesn't Add Up.  Angela Mazilli's response about her experience in the pharmacy and the mater of proportional thinking is also illustrative here.
    Once again, I gained a ton from you all.  Thanks

  • 28 Jan 2013 12:27 PM
    Reply # 1191432 on 1183083
    Deleted user
    I'm sorry to be so late on last week's prompt, we had midterms here and I got a little behind. I'd like to add two books as reference to what we might be preparing students in the future:

    Science for All Americans  by F. James Rutherford and College Knowledge by David Conley.

    These have been a good reference for me over the years.
  • 29 Jan 2013 11:02 AM
    Reply # 1192459 on 1183083
    Kim Smallidge
    I too apologize for the late posting...
    Mental math is generally what I use most often in “the real world”. I estimate my grocery bill, a sale price, a quantity, etc. I also analyze data available to me when considering things like cell phone plans, cable vs. satellite tv, auto insurance, health insurance, test data, etc. Rarely do I perform long division or division with fractions in my day to day use of math. In light of how I use math on a regular basis, I often see a disconnect between the math that gets taught and the math that is deemed necessary in “the real world”. 

    This year I am fortunate to be co-teaching a 4th grade math class with a colleague. We are intentionally making the mantra of our class, “why?” “how did you approach that?” or “can you explain your thinking?”. The number sense and knowledge that many of them are able to share with their peers, as well as with us, is encouraging! In addition, the discussion also helps us to figure out misconceptions that students bring with them, as well as determining which students are great at procedures but shaky in the foundational understanding of the math at hand. In classrooms where procedures are emphasized over actual thinking, I feel we are selling our students short. 
  • 30 Jan 2013 1:45 PM
    Reply # 1193661 on 1183083
    Heather Dority
    In the real world, I use mental math, measuring for materials (in our house), percentages for discounts, estimating for pricing, etc. 

    I found this chapter particularly disturbing!  The one sentence where it said if the power went out everything would stop..except in schools!  It was a great reminder for me that I need to incorporate more calculators, more real life problems (and problems solving in general), more estimating, and more of showing my students where they are encountering math in their daily lives.  I think a lot of them don't understand how this math we are doing will help them ever.  They have such a hard time telling me how or why they came up with their answer.  They are sooooo timid in explaining their thinking because they think they are going to get the "wrong answer" or will answer wrong.  They are unwilling a lot of the time to take a risk and I  think we are to blame for this lack of risk taking -- and only wanting to get the right answer.
  • 03 Feb 2013 3:27 PM
    Reply # 1197331 on 1183083
    Tom Light
    I am also having a tough time catching up.  "The faster I run the behinder I get"!

    In any case, one of my favorite uses of math is to solve little foolish problems.  I find it fun to look at the world in a mathematical way.  It may be estimating how long it would take me to walk across the country or whether 1,000,000 dollar bills would stretch around the equator.  (At 25,000 miles x 5000 ft/mile, 125,000,000 feet so it would take 250 million 6" dollar bills).  I model this type of problem solving with my class and ask them to solve these silly problems some times.

    In the "real" world, I find myself using math frequently. For example, when I stack firewood (how many cords did I burn last year) and when I buy a cord and it looks short (then I need to know something of the volume of a triangular prism - usually that's the shape the wood is lying in when it's delivered. I use math to check if a claim is true.  I use fractions and measuring when doing a woodworking project.  I use data analysis when looking at social, environmental, and other issues. I use probability when I play "Oh hell" with my friends. 

    I try to help my students see the math in the world around them.  One thing I judge that I don't do enough is having students construct mathematical problems.
  • 19 Feb 2013 8:39 PM
    Reply # 1212708 on 1183083

    I think I'm farther behind than everyone else!

     

    I would challenge my students to come to class with something that they thought did not have math in it. If they were successful, we would take a break and do something different that day, such as game day or free time.

     

    Imagine their frustration as I was able to find some way to explain or describe what they had with mathematics! It didn't take long before the students themselves were providing the explainations of the mathematics in whatever their classmates brought in!

     

    Needless to say, they started seeing the world through a different lens and I seldom had to answer the question as to why we were learning this math!

     

    Making real world connections, no matter how small, like what kind of math is in grass (rate of growth, area covered, etc) can open the eyes of our students!

     

  • 26 Mar 2013 9:25 PM
    Reply # 1252509 on 1183083
    Maureen Brown
    So I am a little late getting into the topic...

    I have read through many of the posts and what strikes me as a common thread is the fact that we all agree that we are preparing our students for a world that we can not fathom. Our one common thread is mathematics - but how our students will use it, and the technology that they will use to do it is changing by the month. 

    I was struck by the comments in the book about the tedious long division - we spend so much time teaching long division - using an algorithm that makes no sense to our students when we could be discussing, discovering what division really means. 

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading p.21/ 22 -the idea of the "one little measurement" issue causing a person to lose a job - how often do we have children memorize equivalencies but do not get into the fact that "borrowing" in inches and feet is not the same as "borrowing" in our base ten system. Is it our explanation, rote method, or a lack of understanding of place value....or all three? 

    Many people quoted Jim Rubillo's life's key questions (p.14) - I shared these with my math teachers...and we discussed ways to start a math class, lesson, idea with them...
    But my favorite was the letter from the attorney (p.22/23) is something I intend to use with my algebra class when we start our unit on statistics. I intend to share it with my math teachers when we discuss why our lowest NECAP sub test score is data/stats. 

    One site that I direct students to when they ask about "Who uses this?" is http://weusemath.org/?q=careers
    and info for teachers who want to include STEM 
    http://www.micron.com/foundation/educators/k12-educator-resources
    http://www.ams.org/samplings/mathmoments/mathmoments
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