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Chapter 4 Instructional Practices for Application-Based Mathematical Learning

Chris Weber Solution Tree Press ePub

Teaching mathematics is arguably one of the most complex elements of an elementary teacher’s profession. The nature of mathematical learning is such that students must master specific skills with a fluid understanding that allows them to apply the learning in a variety of contexts and in conjunction with other skills and understandings. In addition, students must master the requisite language and tools in order to be able to communicate and model mathematics. To design and implement instruction that ensures such rich learning, teachers must be able to weave evidence-based instructional strategies with mathematical practices and apply those elements strategically within engaging contexts.

Effective instruction includes those instructional decisions that positively impact student learning and engagement. The NMAP (2008) identifies these practices as follows:

• Maintenance of the balance between student-centered and teacher-directed instruction

• Explicit instruction for students having mathematics difficulties

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Introduction The Rationale for 21st Century Mathematics

Chris Weber Solution Tree Press ePub

In today’s world, economic access and full citizenship depend crucially on mathematics and science literacy.

—Robert Moses, Civil Rights Leader

While schools have embraced the response to intervention (RTI) model for reading and behavior, implementation of RTI for mathematics continues to lag (Buffum, Mattos, & Weber, 2009, 2010, 2012). Several factors may contribute to this lag in implementation for numeracy.

First, we have valued written and spoken language abilities over mathematics. It is also not uncommon or unacceptable for adults, including elementary educators, to say, “I never liked mathematics as a student” or “I’m not really good at mathematics.” It is less likely, however, that an educator would comfortably state, “I never liked reading” or “I’ve never been a good reader.”

In addition, schools’ hesitation with the implementation of tiered instruction for mathematics may be impacted by educators’ levels of confidence with mathematics, mathematics instruction, and intervention. Often, the teachers with whom we partner freely express feeling less confident teaching mathematics than they do teaching language arts, and they often tell us they feel less professionally satisfied with the mathematics instruction in their classrooms. This may result not only from teachers’ lack of confidence in their own conceptual understanding but also from lower levels of confidence in instructional and intervention practices for mathematics. When we ask educators to reflect on their own mathematical learning, their memories include extensive experiences with worksheets, textbook pages, timed assessments, and round-robin competitive games designed to practice automaticity. Story or word problems are often omitted. The reality is that many of us experienced mathematics instruction that was abstract, procedural, and computational. While elements of those instructional practices may continue to have some value, the overdependence on them has likely contributed to educators’ lack of confidence teaching mathematics. Adults may compute and apply formulas proficiently; however, many find the fluid application and interconnected strategies of mathematics challenging simply because those elements have not traditionally been emphasized in classroom instruction—we are products of the very system we want to reform (Ball, 2005).

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Appendix Reproducibles

Chris Weber Solution Tree Press ePub

Teachers and students can use the scoring guide that follows to evaluate responses on an assessment.

Strategies for Mathematics Instruction and Intervention, K–5 © 2015 Solution Tree Press • solution-tree.com Visit go.solution-tree.com/mathematics to download this page.

Use the following form to diagnose where and why a younger student’s mathematical thinking is breaking down.

Possible Tasks

Notes

Ask the student to orally state the name of a number.

 

Ask the student to legibly write a number.

 

Ask the student to represent a number with a set of objects.

 

Ask the student to orally state or legibly write the number that represents a set of objects.

 

Ask the student to identify which set of objects represents the greater amount.

 

Ask the student to count on and count back, beginning at different values.

 

Ask the student to identify or write the missing value in a sequence.

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Chapter 5 Integrating Assessment and Intervention

Chris Weber Solution Tree Press ePub

Success in mathematics is a moral imperative and “algebra is a civil right” (Moses, 2001, p. 5). If educators do not believe in each student’s ability to master mathematics concepts and procedures, then we would have to consider why we are bothering to intervene. We must accept that some students will simply require alternative strategies to learn, that not every student will learn the same way, and that some students will require additional time. We must also believe in our ability to teach every student. A teacher’s sense of self-efficacy significantly predicts the achievement of students, and elementary school teachers’ beliefs in their abilities to teach mathematics lag far behind their beliefs in teaching reading well (Ashton & Webb, 1986; Bandura, 1993; Coladarci, 1992; Dembo & Gibson, 1985). We must also believe, and communicate to students, that mathematics achievement is not dependent on innate ability; work ethic, effort, perseverance, and motivation exert a significant impact on learning (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007; Dweck, 2006; Seligman, 1991).

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Chapter 2 Designing Conceptual Units in Mathematics

Chris Weber Solution Tree Press ePub

This chapter is about what we want students to learn and how we will know if they learn it (DuFour et al., 2010). We build the case for common assessments as a vital part of the unit-design process and describe how to craft them. As the key lever of RTI, common assessments establish the target that students and staff are working toward and provide the evidence that can be used to extend learning for some and intervene with others. In the second half of this chapter, we provide an example unit for grade 3.

When designing units of instruction, our goal must be mastery, not coverage—depth of understanding, not breadth of topics addressed—and we will describe just such a process for building units of instruction. First, how should units be organized and sequenced?

We recommend that units be coherently organized, both horizontally within a grade level and vertically between grade levels. Since a sense of number is the basis for all mathematics, we recommend that standards and learning targets that build students’ sense of number be frontloaded within a grade level’s instructional year. Within grade levels, we recommend that topics such as addition and subtraction, graphing, and algebra be included within individual units and the units that are adjacent to them to allow for more continuity of teaching and learning and greater depth of study. Between grade levels, coherence of topics allows for collaboration between grade levels and Tier 2 intervention, which is particularly relevant in smaller schools where there are one or two teachers per grade level.

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