There is nothing more frustrating for a math teacher than teaching a lesson that involves skills that you assume your students have mastered prior to coming to your class. As an 8th grade math teacher, I used to assume that my students knew how to multiply, divide, add, and subtract whole numbers, decimals and fractions. I am sure you know what I am going to say next, but everyone knows when you assume something you make an _ _ _ out of you and me! Oh and boy did I ever when I first started teaching.
Each year there is a period of time at the beginning of the year that I must revisit basic skills that students were supposed to master prior to coming to my class. Hopefully with the implementation of the Common Core I will not have to reteach a lot of topics in the future. Until we start to see the results of the Common Core though, myself and other teachers will be faced with the issue of students coming to our classes unprepared with basic skills.
This issue is the reason why I wanted to collaborate with Amy Paskov to design an online review course for incoming high school freshman. Since I am an 8th grade math teacher and Amy is a 9th grade math teacher, we determined that we could use our expertise at both of our levels to determine the areas of concern for incoming high school freshman. In addition to our own opinion, we asked other math teachers their thoughts on topics that the students needed to master prior to entering high school.
The goal of the unit is to ensure students have the background knowledge that incoming freshman need to have in order to complete the basic level high school math courses. Of course this list could be very long, so in order to address the most vital areas of concern, we are going to focus our initial first two modules on fraction and decimals.
The student learning objectives for fractions and decimals align with the math Common Core standard: 7.NS.A.3 Solve real-world and mathematical problems involving the four operations with rational numbers.
The essential questions that we need to ask are:
- What topics do our students need more review on prior to coming to high school?
- How do we teach or reteach these topics to our students differently this time around so that they master the content?
- How will we assess if the students master the material prior to entering high school?
- Will this be the most effective way to better prepare our students for high school math?
- How can we deliver this instruction to our students?
Up to this date, Amy and I have decided that the two most vital areas of focus are fractions and decimals. Once we determined this we began researching and trying to find as many resources as possible to assist with our modules. We want to make sure we are addressing different learning styles of our students and providing multiple opportunities for them to practice the skills to determine if they understand the content. In addition, we want to involve deeper learning opportunities for our students.
We have begun creating a site that will house the modules and be available for students to access during the summer break prior to their freshman year. In order to assess their understanding and gain data on their progress, we will be creating assessments for the end of each module in a Google form. Students will complete the assessment and data will be gathered to determine if they answered the questions correctly and what areas need to still be addressed in high school.
Although this process is tedious, we feel that we have a good handle on what we want to do and where we want to go with our unit. We need to finalize the list of resources for the module, determine the order in which we want the students to complete the items, and create the Google forms for each module. After we have done this, we plan to test the site out with a few volunteers from my math classes. (Extra credit will be awarded to these students!)
As I read through this week's reading on blended learning, I was actually pleased with our process that we have used when planning this unit. When looking at figures 1 and 2 in the Towards a Design Theory of Blended Learning Curriculum, I felt as if we were sort of using this process when determining how we would approach creating our unit even though this was the first week we saw this article. Of course there were areas that we never thought of such as mixing the module with teaching and task items, such as figure 2, but it helped us to see how we should set up the modules to benefit as many learners as possible.
I cannot wait to see the final product. Hopefully we can create a resource that many districts and students can use prior to entering high school. I can see it now... not only will students have to complete a summer reading list, they will be required to complete our online high school math transition course!