We were back at school today. This year, like last year, the district decided to give us two professional development days before the students come back. I love this idea. It means that we have two days to get our brains back engaged in the business of teaching as well as a few extra hours to get our classrooms back in order before our students return. It also means that they come back to a short week which helps them to ease in after being out of school and out of their routines for the past two weeks.
Our focus this morning was on Math. We had our Math lead come to talk about using Math projects as part of our balanced math instruction. One thing that she emphasized was that they should be short, no more than one class for the students to create and no more than one day for them to present and that presenting shouldn’t necessarily be in front of the class with everyone watching. One of the things that has kept me from doing projects so far this year is this feeling that we are already behind in what I need to teach and that we don’t have time for projects. I don’t like that feeling because I see the benefit in doing things like projects in math and in other subjects as another way to assess what the students have learned.
When the students come back I’m going to be reviewing the unit we just finished on multiplication and division. I found that the students had trouble with a few of the concepts and I don’t feel right moving on without re-teaching a few of the concepts and re-testing them to make sure they understand. Multiplication and division are so important for understanding concepts we’ll be seeing later in the year so even though this means we won’t be exactly where we “should” be in the curriculum, I feel that true understanding is more important than skimming along and trying to hit all the outcomes.
After that, probably only a few days of review and then the re-test, we get to move on to measurement. The resource we use for math, “Math Makes Sense” has a great idea for a final project for measurement involving designing a zoo. Sounds interesting and I hope that my students will think so too. Another thing our math lead mentioned was looking at the ideas and interests of the students for project ideas, so while I have this zoo idea if nothing else crops up, I’ll be listening and watching for other ideas from my students as well.
Math has been, by far, my biggest challenge so far this year. I enjoy math and I have a fairly good head for numbers but it’s my first time teaching it so it’s not something I’m very comfortable with yet. I don’t know the curriculum as well as I do the Intensive French or the compacted curriculum. Challenges keep things interesting.
Have you ever used math projects in teaching or done them as a student?