Friday, November 13, 2009

A Busy and Productive Week!

What a week!  It felt like a whirlwind trying to cram every second of math into each day.  We were one day short due to conferences, but I think we made up for it.

This week's tasks:

Continue to master converting fractions, decimals, and percents.
Adding and subtracting decimals
Multiplying and dividing decimals
Estimating all problems before solving
A few tricks when estimating
Continue to plan and map out complicated word problems using
the organizational method learned from Arthur Hyde in his excellent book "Comprehending Math".

This method is awesome.  He calls it the KWCS

K( know for sure)       W( need to find out)    C(Special Conditions)


I call it the KFCS for two reasons.  It is easier for kids to remember (The chicken joint). It makes a little more sense to me.  The F for find out.

The students take the information from the problem and sort it out.  The K and the F are pretty self explanatory.  The C is quite interesting.  It asks if there are any special conditions, special things that the students need to know in their minds in order to solve the problem.   IF the problem involves time, they need to know 60 seconds in a minute, 60 seconds in an hour.  If the problem involves customary linear measurement, they need to know there are 12 inches in a foot, 3 feet in a yard.  You get the picture.

Having this information organized and sorted makes solving the problem so much easier.
Any tricks can be teased out by carefully reading the information a second time.

We are exploring the different ways to solve each problem.  This is our next important step.  We will be experimenting with different problem solving strategies, and learning to pick the most efficient method to solve.  This whole process is called braiding.  I'm only on page 50 or so of this book.

Click here to link to a clear and comprehensive explanation of this process.

Like with writing and reading, the students are stuffing their proverbial backpacks with a load of strategies and tricks to help them attack and conquer anything thrown at them.

Class Average over 90 for all of the tasks listed above!
I hope building these foundations now will make the rest of the year so much easier.

I can't wait to see what happens next!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Isn't it Important? It's All Important.

I was searching around the State Department of Education's website this week looking for the different possible certifications available in Connecticut to maybe someday in the future further my education.  Scrolling through the exhaustive list I found your run of the mill endorsements like Elementary, K-6 (mine) and English 7-12.  There were supervisory positions such as Superintendent and Intermediate Supervisor (Not for me).  There were even some vague ones like 039 Secondary Subject or 110 Unique Subject Area Endorsement?!  I even found one called "107 External Diploma Program/Noncredit Mandated Programs"  Bizarre!  

There was a comprehensive list for reading and reading instruction, at least six I could count.  These included Remedial Reading and Language Arts Consultant. These are quite essential and important to the programs within our schools.  

Curiously there was something missing.  Hopefully it was just evasive and I couldn't find the precious code. Maybe it was a misprint.  That is easy to do.  I doubt it though. 

There was not one supervisory, consultant, or specialist endorsement in the area of math education.  NOT ONE.

I could not find any university education programs that offered this as a program or certification within the state.

How could this be possible. Every school has reading specialists and math specialists.  How could there not be an endorsement or certification for math?  This sure needs some explaining.  

The State Department of Education includes the following lines in its position statement.
7. Appropriately assign highly qualified mathematics teachers who are knowledgeable about content and pedagogy.
 8. Recruit and train mathematics teacher leaders to coordinate and support mathematics instruction at all grade levels.

Knowing all of this shouldn't there be an endorsement called "Math Specialist K-8" or "Math Consultant".  

All this makes me think that the state thinks that math is not important.

I did find one proposal from November 18, 2008 in the minutes of a meeting. This stated:
"Math Specialist advanced endorsement: certification was generally seen as a positive approach for not interested in pursuing the 092. Elementary people would need the nine credits in math. Language should be modified to say program supervision, as opposed to supervision of staff. Districts can build upon these types of positions. Some of the job responsibilities are not unique to this position, but are qualities for all teachers. There was concern that those presently in these types of positions should be able to use professional development opportunities to fulfill the requirements. Some sort of caveat or “grandfathering” to address current teachers serving in these types of positions. Endorsement builds capacity of teacher leadership."

If this is the state's true intention, then get it started.  The kids depend on it!

Note: If you can find anything to contradict this information, please do so, and please let me know about it. My hope is that none of this information is correct. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Step Back For the Months Ahead

On my way to work together something triggered my thought process.  I don't know if it was an NPR news story or a story from one of the local radio stations in Connecticut.  Whatever it was, my thoughts immediately turned to my kids and how important it is during these difficult economic times and the holiday season coming up to be thankful for what we have.  Whether you have a small chunk of change, a giant portfolio, or the sixteen billion that Mayor Bloomberg (140 million spent on the campaign?!) has, it is important to remember how fortunate we are.

We need to remember to cherish the joy our children and families bring to us and not to get caught up in the holiday cycle that evokes high levels of stress in all of us.  I will do my best to treasure each wonderful moment, show them how much I care for them, and not let any economic, financial or occupational stress get in the way of my most important job, father and husband.

As the calendar turns to November and the ads turn from "Fright" to "Silent Night" sit back, relax, and enjoy the season that is upon us.

(There will be a lot of great math talk around all of the sales bombarding us for the next two months!)