Teaching middle school is not for the faint of heart. But if you're called to do it, you know there's nothing else quite like it. Join us in discussing what works - and what doesn't.

If you could wave a magic wand...

Sybrina Former Classroom Mathematics Teacher and Math Coach

Hi, all,

This is my first post. So, please allow me to take just a second to provide a little background. I was a classroom mathematics teacher for 24 years and then mentored teachers in a math coach capacity. Recently, I have begun work with a team of educators who create instructional materials and provide support services to middle school math classrooms across the country.

This brings me to this post's subject line. If you could wave a magic wand and be granted one wish for your classroom/school/district that would help you teach even more effectively and, consequently, help your students learn even better, for what would you ask?

Would it be some type of resource, access to a new technology, a curriculum change, a type of professional development, or perhaps a logistic/organizational change of some sort?

Or is there a trend that sounds quite promising -- something you would like to implement in your classroom/school/district?

While mathematics education is my passion, I'd love to hear from middle school teachers in all disciplines/capacities.

Here's looking forward to a lively and enlightening conversation.

Thanks!

Comments (24)

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Middle School Math (including Alg I, Geo, and Alg II) from Tampa, FL

Re:

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I like your idea of working with the calcs at home. We own the calcs and we only recommend the students buy them, so I wouldn't be able to do that. I might be able to do something computer related, though.

I didn't really get involved in T3 until the late 90s, so I probably just gained the benefit of your wisdom instead of crossing you path. I loved presenting for them at regionals (programming, of course) and I still use many of the ideas I picked up from the workshops that I attended.

I use CBRs, but I haven't been able to invest in the CBL, yet. Soon, though. Especially if I can tie it into my Log unit. I've used them to tune Coke bottles and that kind of stuff. Never even thought about pH.

Oh, and I think you and definitely fell out of the same tree. :) I've said that exact same "badge of honor" quote (almost verbatim) about 1000 times. If I ever find the guy who invented the term "math gene", I am pretty sure I'm going to have to beat the genes out of him.

By the way, I've performed at the Palace Theatre in Columbus many, many times. I love your city. I especially love the Germantown area.

Take care.

Tom

Middle School teacher by day, Tweenteacher by night

Lovin' this.

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As an ELA teacher, I have no idea what you guys are discussing, but I'm learning just by reading the exchange. It's like being a fly on the wall of a meeting of great minds. Keep it up!
-Heather WG

Former Classroom Mathematics Teacher and Math Coach

T3, Getting CBLs, my fair city

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Tom,

First of all, I am in awe of the things that you are having your middle schoolers do. Kudos -- serious kudos!

I am so sorry that our paths did not cross during my T3 days. Are you still involved? My most commonly given presentation was an intro to parametric graphing -- entitled "ParaWHATrics?"

Speaking of your interest in programming, have you met Doug Smeltz? He was the colleague who created all of those cool fact practice programs for our Algebra 1 classes. He was one of the original T3 Instructors and is still very active with TI/T3.

One thought for getting a couple of CBLs might be contacting TI and see if you can't work out some sort of loan to test them out. Okay, this is our cyber-secret, but I was able to arrange a gift of a classroom set of TI-73 calculators for a struggling middle school when I was a coach there. One of the problem with CBLs is that almost every experiment requires a different set of probes. I can't help but believe that someone at TI wouldn't be able to help you out if you made just the right contact.

As for the student teaching parent calculator activity, maybe that would be possible on a back-to-school night early in the year. There were unfortunately situations in which we were using school sets of calculators and couldn't do that specific assignment. So, I always made it a point to model a cool (parametric) calculator-based activity on parent night.

So, you've visited Columbus?! It's interesting that I've lived here my entire life and am just beginning to truly appreciate it. My first dose of appreciation came at the 2001 T3 Conference during a gorgeous mid-March weekend and I was given the gift of seeing the city through our visitors' eyes. The second dose has come on a number of occasions when my husband and I have been vacationing down south. I have encountered many transplanted Ohioians who would give anything to move back to the state.

Think that's about it for now.

Take care,

Sybrina

Middle School Math (including Alg I, Geo, and Alg II) from Tampa, FL

TI

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I was able to have a class set of Navigators for an entire year because of TIs willingness to allow "test drives". I asked them about them and the rep allowed me to try them for a month. A month turned into two, and so on. Finally, in June, he called me and said, "Hey, I figured you were using them, so why should I let them sit in the trunk of my car?" I guess I'll have to try that with the CBLs.

We've used the study card program for back to school night. I created a ten question stack and had the calcs on the desk when the parents came in. They were set to repeat missed questions only and all of the questions pertained to the math team and the math program. So, we gave them about 5 minutes with the calculators, took questions, and sent them on their way. It was one of the best received BTS presentations ever.

I have many fond memories of Columbus. I sing in barbershop choruses and quartets and the Central Ohio Chapter (The Singing Buckeyes) used to sponsor an invitational competition every August. My quartet won the contest in 2000 and then, in 2001, we were treated like royalty. Picked up at the airport, whisked away to the Hyatt, chauffeured to the different performances as outgoing champs. It was a great time. I absolutely love the Palace Theatre. Small, but just a fun hall to sing in.

I'm also an avid disc golfer, so having good courses around the perimeter of the city was an added bonus.

Tom

Former Classroom Mathematics Teacher and Math Coach

Doug

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Tom,

You must know Doug. Yes, he is the one with Algebra 1 programs. And, I can hear him talking about the importance of subroutines and archiving.

Did you know he is also an avid member of the Central Ohio Singing Buckeyes?

I will try to locate his e-mail and tell him I've found a fellow programming guru.

Have a great weekend. I'm planning on watching some basketball. Go Bucks!

Sybrina

Special Ed English teacher, Anchorage, Alaska

magic wand

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I find myself wishing every day for the following:
* students who are curious and inventive
* parents who are supportive and involved with their kids
* students who are prepared mentally, emotionally, behaviorally, and academically for the rigors of high school.

I can help kids so much more if they are curious and involved, ready to try the assignments/projects, and have time and space at home to work.

Former Classroom Mathematics Teacher and Math Coach

Hi, Ann, Good to hear from

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Hi, Ann,

Good to hear from you. Thanks for your comment.

You've put together an interesting list. I can't imagine that there are very many teachers who haven't wished for at least one of these at some point during their careers.

So, are you a high school teacher? If yes, what is your specialization?
I am a former high school mathematics teacher myself.

Sybrina

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The Singapore educational math schedule is more evolved than Florida`s.It`s a matter of add url thing..

7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts

Many Wands to Wave

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but one is a POOF and go away forever....that is AR!
How do any of you feel about Accelerated Reader? I am afraid to ask. I love to teach Literature. I want my students to hold and hug and take their books all over with them. To their dental appointments, on vacation, everywhere and as they jump into bed with their nite lite on. READING IS A GIFT and A BOOK IS HEAVEN!!

I teach critical thinking and discussing and chewing up the gut of the book. Let's talk and discuss and compare and contrast together,let's laugh and cry, let's talk about the wonderful survival of the protagonist and how dare the antagonist. Let's question the values and the time period and mostly I want to put myself in the other person's shoes for just an hour and ask my students to do the same. Pleas take notes and make notes in the books (if you own them) and you must be able to keep the notes in front of you writing the report.

I have books I NEVER want to EVER give away or share. They are my DEAR friends. I give books as a gift. Book Stores are dangerous for me, I have to leave my credit card at home. I warn my students that some stories you need coffee to stay up all night to finish the book!

A computerized reading/book "report" test is gastly!! We are not allowing our children to get off the computer and write a wonderful thoughtful, book report. Instead, we are creating less creativity and more robotics in school. No matter what, they are reading and pushing a button, reading and pushing a button, reading and pushing a button. That wonderful book they read is gone, turned in, the student probably forgot the color of the cover, and most likely the biography of the author. Ah, not important!

For the AR test, the questions are there. They do not have to think. They do not have to go out of the box. They do not get the chance to think creatively. They do not get a chance to offer their own opinions and insights. We are creating more robots in society. And, more time on a computer and less time face to face with human beings, their peers, their teachers in a group, or their friends to discuss the book.

When my students hand in a written book report I read them and comment on their positive opinions. They have learned how to write a book report and how to pull apart stories. This is an on going class process connected to the California Standards. They rarely complain!

School districts buy this because who thought about this? Someone who sat on a computer and went to a school where the arts were not important and never understood individuality and creative thinking? I see educators struggle to get students to take AR tests. The issue should not be the TEST. The issue should be READING. We are in an era where the computer is more important than anything, including reading a book.

The technology is great, but it is an addiction. We need our students writing book reports, not punching in answers. The message we need to send is that we expect them to read and think seriously about what they read and to write seriously about what they read.

Easy, not always. Ever lasting as a lifetiime skill and part of being well educated. I think so.

Charlie Chaplin got it in 1930 in his marvelous silent film MODERN TIMES. Only an artist could see, in silence, the sorrow that was about to befall society. The irony of the arts in education. And, a beautiful book is a work of art.

Former Classroom Mathematics Teacher and Math Coach

Hi, Carol, It is good to hear

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Hi, Carol,

It is good to hear from you. You certainly pose some interesting points.

As a math teacher, I must say that I am not familiar with Accelerated Reader. Nevertheless, I hear the frustration in your voice. There have certainly been math programs or movements over the years that have elicited similar responses in me.

All I can say is hang in there and continue to fight the good fight.

Thanks for responding!

Sybrina

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