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A few years ago, two of the school districts I work with adopted new mathematics curricula–they each chose the one the other was abandoning. Golly, they could have saved a lot of money by simply boxing up all the teacher and student editions and swapping!
When student performance falls short of expectations, most educators seem to go hunting for new tools such as the ideal curriculum, the ideal personalized intervention program, the ideal iPad app, and so on.
But take a look at my post from last week, The Right Kind of Lazy for Math. What depth of math knowledge do teachers need to guide students in the deep number sense required for this kind of mathematical agility?
From what I see in classrooms, while there are certainly curriculums that do little to promote student thinking as emphasized in the new Common Core State Standards, even the best ones make little difference without teacher knowledge.
And let’s not start blaming teachers for lack of this knowledge–few adults in the US have the kind of particular knowledge teachers require. Take a look at University of Michigan Professor Deborah Ball’s work in this area. Here’s her publicly-available presentation on the Deborah Ball NCSM 2010. I heard this presentation in room full of math instructional leaders–and ALL of us know we need more knowledge. It’s a lifelong pursuit!!
Let’s start emphasizing, “How can we help teachers gain this knowledge” instead of “What tools will fix math instruction?” It isn’t about knowing calculus; it’s about understanding how math knowledge is built and where misconceptions come from and how to fix those misconceptions and how to get students to think!