The edublogs awards are open for voting. I strongly encourage you to vote and nominate. It is a great way to encourage people to keep blogging and to discover new blogs.
Here are some of the categories and my nominations:
Best Individual Blog: Shawn Cornally’s Think Thank Thunk Blog http://101studiostreet.com/wordpress/
Shawn’s blog taught me so much about Standard’s Based Grading. I could not have survived my first year of SBG without him. He also does a great job of encouraging me and making me focus on what is really important in teaching.
Whenever I need to find anything, I go to the virtual filing cabinet first. Sometimes compiling information is just as useful as creating it. If I can’t find it when I need it, I can’t use it.
Best use of a PLN: Riley Lark and his Conference on Soft Skills
Riley Lark gave me the push I needed to start my own blog. His virtual conference was my debut and I learned so much from it. I was so afraid when I started my blog that no one would read it, but Riley gave me a voice.
Lifetime achievement: Dan Meyer’s dy/dan
I didn’t even know that edublogs existed before Dan Meyer. He was my introduction to the blogging community and he continues to amaze me. Dan Meyer’s work has changed the direction of my teaching. He forces me to look beyond the typical and mundane that teaching can become. He encourages me to always search for new and challenging ways to help students learn. His mantra is posted in my classroom: Be Less Helpful.
Every time my students encounter a division problem involving fractions, I have to remind them how to do them by hand and beg them not to pick up their calculators. After a brief lesson, I hear “Oh yeah, you mean Keep Dot Flop.” While I’m glad my students have a clever phrase to remember math, I worry that they memorize a process and don’t really understand the math involved. This is evident when they grab a calculator to find 1 – 7/8. I also have this concern with FOIL and Cross Multiplication.
I think I have come to the conclusion that as teachers we often focus on algorithms and not understanding. I am one of the worse offenders with this. I realized this the other day that I told students I had 4 easy steps to solve logarithm equations. I taught everything logarithm in 3 days and I’m not proud of it. As I reflect on why I did this, I think I’ve come up with a few reasons.
1. I have a state test to get ready for and my deadline is approaching. I have a wonderful Principal who encourages me to teach the students and not worry about the End of Course. He constantly says that if I teach the students then the test will take care of itself. I have great support, but I still feel the pressure. I have a deadline and I’m not sure if I’m going to make it so I cram in material and teach using algorithms instead of allowing students to discover math on their own.
2. I also believe that teachers teach using algorithms because they do not understand higher level math or the applications. While I have studied higher level math, I am struggling with my Pre Calculus class. I taught vectors the other day and my students can find the dot product and do all the great operations that go with vectors. However, when it came to vector applications I froze. I took physics 20 years ago. This week I decided that I need to take a physics class at the community college this summer. Not every teacher has a desire to do this though and not every teacher is trained in their subject area.
As we look at improving math scores in our district and across the nation, I wonder if we aren’t focusing on the wrong areas. I really believe that we need to start early with teaching number sense and not just algorithms. I don’t want to point fingers and I definitely put myself in this category. It needs to start early in elementary school with multiplication, long division, fractions and continue through logarithms and vectors. Now, how to convince all teachers to encourage discovery of math with true learning and not just have students follow a set of rules?
When my son was in the first grade he came home with some basic subtraction facts. He created some of his own problems for practice (with my urging) and wrote 3 – 5. I pointed out the problem to him and he said, “Oh yeah, I forgot, the bigger number always comes first in subtraction.” I cringed. I asked him how he knew that and he responded with that is what his teacher told him. I’m not sure if it is a blessing or a curse to have a math teacher as a mom.
I explained to my son that you could in fact do subtraction with the smaller number first. I explained the concept with money and owing someone money. He quickly caught on to the idea of negative numbers and I introduced him to the correct terminology. Of course, I think my son is brilliant, but I’m sure given a chance most young children could catch onto the idea.
I overheard my son explain negative numbers to his younger brother yesterday. My older son is now in 4th grade and my youngest is in kindergarten. My youngest son seemed to get it. If my kids can get negative numbers, why not introduce them earlier? If teachers decide not to introduce them, that is fine, but don’t teach young children wrong rules like: The bigger number always goes first in subtraction.