No one would deny that education is vitally important to the future economic and political success of any country. Mathematics is the subject that will be at the foundation of all new discoveries, especially in the areas of medicine, renewable energy and transportation technology. Yet, we are at a crossroads and now face the complex challenge of improving our education system. One facet of this improvement has to be in the area of mathematics education. There are many different voices calling for mathematics reform. Where do we look for a solution? Is it in the curriculum, assessment, or in the classroom?There is no one right answer but we have come far enough to realize that teachers hold the key to improving student learning. Such a simple and obvious statement belies the importance and complexity of improving the teaching of mathematics.
Teachers tell us that they are ill prepared to deal with the challenges of teaching mathematics when they graduate from their college or university program. This is especially true of elementary teachers who usually enter the teaching profession with very little background knowledge in mathematics and how to teach it. Teachers face classrooms every day with students who have a wide range of ability levels, diverse learning styles, a wide range of literacy skills, and a lack of intrinsic motivation. These challenges can be overwhelming to new and experienced teachers alike so, how do we prepare teachers to know and understand the mathematics needed to teach effectively?
We know from a large body of research in mathematics education and through our many years of working with teachers in the classroom that improving a teacher’s capacity to teach mathematics must include the following components:
Teachers need to learn how to unpack familiar mathematical concepts into those elements that combine and lead to an understanding of the concept.
Knowledge of what is an adequate explanation of a concept or justification of a procedure.
An understanding and exploration of solutions or methods that is different from their own.
This type of ‘on-the-job learning’ can only take place with a supportive school leadership team, excellent teaching resources and a professional learning community within the school.
Neufeld Learning Systems Inc. (NLSI) combines the excellence of The Understanding Math Series of programs and our Professional Learning Series (PLS) to improve a teacher’s capacity in the instruction of mathematics. The Understanding Math programs “unpack” the mathematical concepts into their discrete sub concepts. These concepts are developed from the concrete to the pictorial to the abstract using multiple representations. This approach makes mathematical concepts accessible to everyone. The Understanding Math Series of programs combines a highly interactive computer based learning environment that enables students to learn from their mistakes and at their own pace.
Our PLS provides a series of leveled workshops that lead participants to further develop their instructional capacity for mathematics. The workshops give teachers the theory and practicality of effective implementation strategies. The focus is on integrating a variety of resources – technology, instructional strategies, manipulatives, textbook, etc. – into their mathematics program. This approach lays the foundation for a program that gives each student the opportunity to make connections in an inquiry based, student centered learning environment.
There are 3 levels of professional development workshops in our PLS:
If improvement is sought in student performance on standardized tests then there must be focused attention on affecting what happens in the classroom while teaching students mathematics. Change has to be connected to changes in teaching. Teachers, like students, learn best by doing, reflecting, exploring, proving, additional practice and the process repeats.
Ideally, the workshops would be organized for early in the school year (first third) so that there is carryover from the workshops into their classrooms. Our Math System Specialists work closely with district leadership teams to support the smooth integration of The Understanding Math System into the district’s professional development framework.
“Any successful reform initiatives have to affect change at the instructional level, in the classroom.”
-Michael Fullan, 2006
Understanding Math - Features
The Understanding Math Series of programs consists of 10 distinct programs.
Understanding Numeration is designed for Kindergarten to 3rd grade. Five key concepts within numeration are addressed; counting, operations, comparing and ordering, place value and problem solving.
Understanding Math is designed for the 4th to 10th grade levels. There are nine programs within Understanding Math: Algebra, Equations, Exponents, Fractions, Graphing, Measurement and Geometry, Percent, Probability and Whole Numbers and Integers.
Understanding Math - Benefits
Grade Bands: 6 – 8
Go Deep To Address the Common Core; 3 Part Lessons in Algebraic Thinking
This session will share lessons that students have difficulty in understanding and teachers have difficulty in teaching. Participants will receive software and 3 part lessons to "get started", "work on it", "reflect and connect". Participants are welcome to bring laptops to the session to follow the lessons online.
Grade Bands: K – 5
Build It, Write It, Talk it, Now Own It - Go Deep to Address CCSS & RTI
We will demonstrate methods to "hook" students to deeper conceptual understanding by modeling specific lessons involving paper, manipulatives and computer. Participants will receive 3 part lessons to address CCSS as well as all three tiers of RTI and access to software. The lessons will be adapted to a wide variety of learning environments.Lessons include:
Grade Bands: 3 – 8
Build, Write, Talk, Own!! Go Deep to Address CCSS & RTI
We will "hook" students and teachers to deeper conceptual understanding by modelling 3 part lessons for all grade levels in many learning environments involving fractions, area, patterning, algebra and more. Participants will receive access to CCSS standardized tests as well as lessons to specifically address RTI and hence maintain the sanity of the teacher.
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