Today, Nerdy Book Club bloggers everywhere are listing their Top 10 Picture Books for classroom use. I use lots of these books in classrooms with students--but frequently, adult workshops benefit from picture books for the same reasons that students do:…
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?
What if students approached math problem sets as if they were fascinating puzzles rather than boring worksheets? And did great work while being lazy? Sound crazy? It’s not–and there’s a neuroscience connection!
Quick–multiply 19 x 24. Are you reaching for paper and pencil? Or a calculator? That’s what students (and adults) trained in algorithms do. My colleague, Dr. Dario Nardi, has gathered EEG images of dozens of college students solving such problems. Those trained in algorithms use just a couple areas in their brains for calculations. The good news is that they solve these problems quickly and accurately. The bad news? They don’t access the part of the brain used for skillful working of unusual problems.
Instead of reaching for paper or calculator, did you say to yourself, Well, I can make this easier and do it in my head…20 x 24 – 24. If so, you used more parts of your brain, connected with understanding the steps in a process, rotating images, and viewing things holistically. And, if you learned to use strategies such as “friendly numbers” in collaborative groups, you also activated the speaking and listening areas of your brain. You did less work and fired more areas of the brain, creating new synapses for later, even more complex mathematical thinking!
This is the right kind of “lazy” for math.
We all know about the “summer slide,” the fact that many children’s reading and math skills slip back over the months they are not in school. But what about the adults in your school community? What about you? Was your school year so draining that you are thinking a 10-week break from any thought of lessons or students or whiteboards might be your best plan for the summer? Are you feeling duty-bound to read certain recommended books or articles on pedagogy? Is summer when you pursue your own content-related passions? Or, are you still wincing from falling short of the goals you set for last summer?
Rather than have summer resemble the guilt of failed New Year’s Resolutions, consider how you might use the research on motivation to recharge your batteries and be ready to reboot your classroom in the fall with new enthusiasm. In Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink lays out three important factors.
- An accountability test for science is given to students with disabilities via computer voice. The computer mispronounces words such as “wind” and “lead” so that question meanings are changed. And students can’t adjust volume once it is set, even though portions are so loud that they pull off their headphones
- Late in the year, teachers are asked to add a specific read-aloud to their curriculum to prepare for a school-wide event. Not only will it keep some teachers from finishing key curriculum units, but as they preview it, several do not believe it is age-appropriate
- District-wide cuts in school office staff hours are made without consulting office staff workers. Turns out, several key personnel will not be in the office during the traditionally busiest weeks of the year.
All three of these situations are the result of two common leadership imbalances:
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS)…once again educators, politicians, parents, and business leaders are taking sides on an issue. But is declaring “for” or “against” really going to help education? I mean, with which of these arguments for the CCSS can one truly disagree? Don’t we need
- A common set of learning targets–what Marzano calls a “guaranteed and viable curriculum.” Enough standards that we know students are learning what needs to be learned, but limited to the quantity that can actually be taught in the time available.
- A bit of efficiency–without the CCSS we’ve got 50 teams in 50 states creating and revising standards. That’s a lot of time and effort.
- A way to know whether students are learning–great measures of student learning. Creating good assessment items is really difficult. In fact, I know of at least one instance where a state’s publicly available sample items were rejected test questions; they couldn’t waste good questions.
Did you say, “Well, yes, but…” to any of the above statements? For example,
When did you last play? How about your employees or your students? As Linda Stone pointed out in her blog A More Resilient Species, self-directed play (experiential, voluntary and guided by one’s curiosity) is essential for developing resilience, independence and resourcefulness, let alone creativity. She quotes scholar Brian Sutton-Smith, “The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression.”
This kind of play can’t be guided by adults—adult-directed soccer or chess club or playground games have their place, but they don’t build the same skills as exploring your own interests, or negotiating with other children as you form your own club or develop your own game or turn a tree house into a castle.
And this kind of play does not happen at the expense of time spent on academics. In fact, researchers are finding that creative play is essential to the kinds of learners we are aiming to create: scientists, innovators, inventors, creative problem-solvers, great writers, and more.
Last month’s edition of Educational Leadership was all about creativity. The article that struck me the most described how Einstein cited his secondary school training in using his senses during observations, practicing visualization, and exploring the construction of devices as a patent examiner fueled his abilities as a scientist. He also directly attributed his breakthrough on the theory of relativity to his ability to think musically, nurtured by his study of violin since the age of six.
What’s the so what? These are all skills. Einstein is talking about physical and mental skills and habits of mind. He didn’t cite memorizing theorems or formulas, but skills he mastered through purposeful practice. Take a look at the schools around you. Are students getting a chance to develop in nonbook-learning ways that scientists and other problem-solvers need? Ask yourself
Last fall, I did a tremendous amount of reading on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the uniform standards being adopted by nearly all 50 states in the US, in preparation for my newest book, Leveraging Differences, coming out from…
A blog this week asked us to guess the grade level for which this math problem was written:
Kristen has four flowers. She gives some to a friend. Now Kristen has two flowers. How many did Kristen give her friend? Draw pictures to help you solve the problem.
It’s listed as a kindergarten homework problem.
If you teach math, you know this problem includes some of the biggest arithmetic concepts there are and you’re not deceived by the use of small numbers.
- Students need to understand hierarchical inclusion–that 4 includes 2
- They need to understand conservation–that the number of objects remains the same, no matter how they are arranged
- And, they need to understand cardinality, that the name of a number relates to a specific quantity–including the huge idea that “two” isn’t the second object, but a set of two objects. This is a major leap in knowledge, often hindered by memorizing names of numbers. Too often, students learn to count to 30 or 100 but don’t understand the concepts involved.