The Achievement Gap and Middle School Math

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Is anyone familiar with the kids’ book The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater? The main character lives on a very boring, uniform street. One day, a bird drops some paint on the roof of his house. Instead of painting over it, he supplements the Big Orange Splot on his roof with lots of other…

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I recently read a post by a teacher who was concerned about the Common Core’s apparent focus on making sure that kids are understanding the math they are learning, as opposed to simply being able to just calculate correctly right away. I have a strongly differing interpretation of a story she shares about her son…

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I currently serve with City Year and I taught as part of TFA last year. On my way to the airport for winter break, I saw public recruitment advertisements both for TFA and for City Year. The City Year ad was on the public bus I took to the airport. The TFA ad was glued…

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It is very frustrating to me that many students (and an apparently-increasing number of administrators, politicians, text book authors, and even teachers) seem to think that the most effective way to learn math is to have students practice problems that are the same as problems that the teacher has already shown the class how to…

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TFA has gotten pretty good at using student data to inform instruction and track progress of students and teachers. (Sometimes I think TFA doesn’t always track exactly the right things, but that’s a topic for another day!) I’ve recently been thinking about broadening the use of this student data beyond the typical “Oh, <student 1>…

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I’ve recently been learning more about loan amortization. When you make a fixed monthly payment on a loan (say, a mortgage), at first most of the money in each payment just covers interest and very little actually goes towards paying off the principal. Towards the end of the loan period, most of each month’s payment…

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I have recently been thinking about the implications of repeating academic course content again in future courses. I have been thinking about this in two contexts: 1. A curriculum purposefully designed to cycle back through topics or skills students have seen in previous courses. 2. When a college student ends up in an intro class…

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Aug 08 2012

Is Algebra Necessary?

There was a recent piece in the New York times asking Is Algebra Necessary?   Here is my response: http://havingneweyes.com/2012/08/07/is-algebra-necessary/

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Jul 28 2012

Next year

Instead of returning to my placement school for next year, I will be joining City Year Orlando (more on that later). Instead of renewing my contract for next year, which usually happens pretty much automatically, I was told by my school that I could reapply as a new applicant to the district and find out…

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Feb 23 2012

Things that happened today

1. I am observing a teacher at another school as part of my certification program. I am scheduled to go visit the other school next Wednesday. This afternoon, I was told that the district-wide math interim test would be next Wednesday, also. Not only is this one week before the end of the quarter, but…

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Feb 12 2012

On bullying

There have been a few situations in the last few weeks when some of my students have been bullying another student….one student for being “from Africa” and one student for being “so gay.” The counselor, the other teachers, and I have hopefully dealt with these situations in a way that will stop these particular students…

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Feb 12 2012

On failing

Until this year, I had never really failed at anything. I was always pretty good at most of the stuff that I did and the few things I wasn’t good at (all sports, for example) I decided weren’t for me and I moved on to other more interesting things. In school and in all of…

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Feb 12 2012

On misbehavior

As I student, I never misbehaved. I was in an environment where everyone else was mostly doing what they should be doing, so I guess I just got in the habit of doing what my teachers asked me to do. Since this kept working out very well for me, it never even occurred to me…

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Feb 12 2012

Respect

At the high school my students will attend in two-years if (by an act of god) they pass 7th and 8th grade, there are currently three seniors who have just earned full ride scholarships to Ivy League schools for being extremely high-achieving first-generation college students (one of these students has passed 18 AP classes, for…

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On the last day before winter break, I printed out little cards for all of my students with a note that said something along the lines of: “Dear so-and-so, I hope you and your family have a joyful and restful winter break!” and I attached a candy cane to each card. All of my students…

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Oct 03 2011

Algebra tiles

To teach several different algebra concepts, my school uses manipulatives called algebra tiles. See: http://www.google.com/products/catalog?q=algebra+tiles&cid=9798463280773607865&sa=X&ei=6hOJTq6SBseXtwfjovku&ved=0CEYQ8wIwAQ Basically, there are 3 different shapes of tiles with side lengths set up so that the tiles each have areas of 1, x, or x^2. The back of each tile is colored red to indicate -1, -x, or -x^2.   This…

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I started with my new students last Monday. We went over classroom procedures the first day and then jumped into some new content the next day to keep on pace with the other math teachers. Now, instead of offering morning help sessions whenever anyone wanted, I am now specifically saying that help sessions are available…

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Sep 24 2011

Last Friday: craziest day ever

So, yesterday (Friday) was the day when all of the classroom switching was going to happen. We weren’t allowed to tell the kids what was happening (a bunch of teachers were switching rooms and the kids were getting new teachers) until the end of the day when the school would send a home a letter…

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Sep 24 2011

For you poli. sci. people…..

Here is a situation where two pieces of public policy that were both well-intentioned and well-thought-out create a toxic situation when combined. According to federal No Child Left Behind policy, when a school doesn’t make Adequate Yearly Progress for a couple of years in a row, students at that school are given the option of…

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Sep 19 2011

Entirely new students?

I found out at the end of the day on Friday that I will be moving to a new classroom down the hall and I will be teaching an entirely different set of students than the students I have been teaching for the last 6 weeks. My school overestimated enrollment for this year, so we…

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Sep 12 2011

5 weeks into the school year

More ups and downs last week.  A couple of OK days, and a few bad days. I’m still having some classroom management issues. I went to go visit a veteran math teacher’s class last week during my planning period to remind myself what effective classes are supposed to look like. There were lots of kids…

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Aug 28 2011

End of week 3

Well, teaching is quite the emotional roller coaster. Many times this week, I felt like a terrible teacher (and in a few cases, a terrible person). A few times this week, I had a good moment really connecting with a student or seeing a lightbulb come on in someone’s head (but those were few and…

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Aug 16 2011

Rough day.

Monday of week 2! Today was somewhat frustrating. I’m still struggling to learn all (105ish) of my students’ names. I think this is the root cause of most of the troubles I’m having. First, it makes it harder to narrate behavior. Also, I  have been randomly cold-calling students for answers to questions by randomly selecting…

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Aug 14 2011

Boring content?

I just read this article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/to-students-its-all-about-the-boring-content/2011/08/14/gIQAjvzAFJ_blog.html I would agree with the author that, when trying to improve schooling, it is necessary but not sufficient to focus on the “who,” the “where,” and the “how” and, indeed, that it is also important to consider the “what” (the actual content being taught).  I think sometimes schools forget…

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Aug 14 2011

First week of school

Well, it has been a long week! I’m teaching four sections of Math 7 (it is nice to have only one course to plan for each day!). I also have a homeroom class that I see in the morning and for half an hour in the afternoon for “team time.”  The classes that had the…

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About this Blog

Closing the achievement gap with middle school math

Region
Metro Atlanta
Grade
Middle School
Subject
Math

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