Provide as much professional learning as you can.
In June and July of 2018, we offered a two-day professional learning session with IM Certified facilitators. One of the things that made the experience so effective was that the facilitators asked teachers to participate in the lessons as both teachers and students. As teachers worked through the problems themselves, they developed a greater understanding of how to prepare their instruction to actively engage students in the math. We do not think we could have made the shift to a problem-based curriculum without this type of professional learning.
We also invited paraprofessional educators to a two-hour workshop on the new curriculum and it was a resounding success. This school year, several teachers have told me that our paraprofessionals are more involved simply because they had a chance to review and work through the material.
To provide ongoing support, we offer professional learning throughout the year. In October, I held a district-wide video conference using the Zoom platform. During this hour-long session, our middle school math teachers shared their challenges and successes, which gave me ideas for future professional learning topics. At CPPS’s next professional development day in January 2019, we will host a mini-conference that will focus on strengthening teachers’ content knowledge in areas where students are struggling, based on our assessment data. As with the summer training, IM Certified facilitators will join us in this effort.
In addition, each month we offer a two-hour virtual session to provide teachers with a deeper look into both the mathematics and routines within each unit of the curriculum at each grade level.
Changing math classrooms
As a result of our efforts, teachers now have a different idea of what math classrooms should look like. They understand that it is beneficial to engage students in productive struggle and to promote discourse and collaboration to help them develop their mathematical thinking skills. They see how real-world contexts and connections are increasing students’ interest in math. When I visit classrooms, I see students making connections between concepts and procedures, rather than simply memorizing procedures.
I realize that as a math supervisor I may be biased, but I believe math is the most important thing we teach and that students learn a great deal about problem solving in general by problem solving in math. Our goal is to not only improve achievement in math but to help students develop the skills to become productive citizens. By moving to a problem-based curriculum and providing teachers with the resources they need to make that shift, we are well on our way.