Math innovations add up to future student success
Math coach Joanna Burt-Kinderman has plans for the future of mathematics in Pocahontas County.
Burt-Kinderman has worked with the middle and high school math teachers in implementing a new style of lessons to prepare for the Next Generation math classes to be implemented by 2015. Instead of waiting for that deadline, math teachers here are slowly implementing the new lessons in order to help the students make a smooth transition.
ﾓWeﾒre trying to focus on big mathematical ideas that transcend any one particular grade level or time, and Iﾒve been working with teachers to develop projects based on something the kids donﾒt understand well or that we canﾒt really figure out why theyﾒre not retaining,ﾔ Burt-Kinderman said. ﾓSo far this year, weﾒve done four master lessons ﾖ one on number sense, one on geometric/spatial relationships. Weﾒve done models of linear relationships and transformations of functions lessons.ﾔ
Instead of following the same formula of ﾓthis is how you add, subtract, or multiply,ﾔ the lessons focus more on why the problems are solved the way they are.
ﾓWeﾒre really focused on examining the whys of content and in so doing, are one step ahead of not only what our state is doing, but the nation is doing in general,ﾔ Burt-Kinderman said. ﾓWe need to stop teaching kids how to do things and start enabling their minds to think about why things work the way they do. Thatﾒs particularly important for any kind of engineering, any kind of computer science, any kind of job market in the future.ﾔ
Teachers are collaborating and implementing the new lessons together. Once Burt-Kinderman meets with the math teachers, she researches ways to implement the lesson and then asks the teachers which way they would like to use it in the classroom.
ﾓWe then implement that lesson, and so far, Iﾒve been teaching the first lesson so somebody is watching me teach,ﾔ she explained. ﾓNot with the idea to say if Iﾒm a good teacher, but did we together think of a better way to engage the kids in growing this idea. So, every time we do an implementation, one teacher is teaching what we both made and the other teacher is assessing what we both made.ﾔ
The lessons and ideas that Burt-Kinderman is implementing, are similar to lessons used in other countries which are far more superior in mathematics. Countries like Japan and China are leading in math and have 40 percent of their eighth graders proficient at an advanced level. The United State has eight percent of its eighth grades performing at that same level.
On the national level, West Virginia is one of the most deficient states in math.
ﾓThe NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress] results, to me, are a serious call to action,ﾔ Burt-Kinderman said. ﾓOf all 11 states monitored on the 12th grade level, our stateﾒs high school seniors rank last, 11 percentage points off average. Almost half of our students showed below basic achievement on this test. Thirty-nine percent showed basic. Only 12 percent of our kids ranked proficient. Thatﾒs not excellent, thatﾒs proficient. We have to do better.ﾔ
Burt-Kinderman said one of the main ways to raise the comprehension of the students is better professional development for the teachers.
ﾓNot only are we asking math teachers to shift how theyﾒre dealing in a classroom, weﾒre also asking them to make a significant shift in how they understand mathematics at all,ﾔ she said. ﾓYou really canﾒt just deal with what you are teaching without having a good reach of where it came from and a good reach to where itﾒs going. Better professional development will lead to better learning outcomes of our students.ﾔ
Although Burt-Kinderman has helped Pocahontas County get ahead of the curve, she reiterates that this is just the beginning.
ﾓI want to reinforce that our work has just begun,ﾔ she said. ﾓ[We are] at the beginning of the curve of what these folks say we need to do.ﾔ