Friday, June 19, 2015

Little Kids Math - Scary!

Recently my job description has changed a bit. Because of the ongoing financial challenges that almost everyone in education is dealing with, my job description has changed a bit. Currently, I am work with middle and high school math teachers. Soon our primary math specialist will be leaving due to budget reasons, leaving me as the math specialist. Scary!

My personal experience in the classroom is limited to middle school and up. I am certainly not a math expert, but feel I have a pretty good handle on the content of middle and high school math as well as understand enough about the students to be helpful. The thought of being in a classroom of 20+ 6 year-olds, makes me want to run away screaming. The closest experience that I have to working with such a group of kiddos is playing with and being Dad to our 4 year old son. Not really what one would look for during the hiring process.

In order to ease my anxiety I have been studying the content of the elementary grades. I will tackle classroom management strategies later and will be relying on my wife's experience as a 2nd grade teacher, the expertise of some friends, and my PLN to get a handle on how to maintain control of an elementary classroom. 

So far I have spent 2 days learning about computational fluency with K-2, read most of "Introduction to Problem Solving by Susan O'Connell, written a detailed 1st grade lesson on adding and subtracting, and closely studied the 4th grade math standards. I have learned a bunch and really am amazed at how much I have enjoyed this learning experience. What I find most fascinating is the idea that the standards really do seem to be addressing some challenges that I have personally experienced with high school students. I often observe such gaps in students understanding of the structure of numbers that it interferes with completing more complex tasks. So many patterns and relationships exist within numbers that one could spend a lifetime discovering new patterns. Pretty cool and amazing stuff. I really do see how the AZCCRS emphasize helping students learn how numbers work together.

Another thing I have enjoyed is being able to read the standards and actually understand what they are asking for students to be able to know, do, and understand. Ever read the AZCCRS math standards for high school? It's kind of like watching Jeopardy for me. 90% of the time I have no idea what the question (or I guess answer) is looking for, but recognize something about 10%. The high school standards are super dense and difficult to read. It takes a very focused effort and some review to make sense of these standards. Perhaps it is because of my experience and knowledge, but the elementary standards seem pretty straight forward. It makes me smile!

I get really excited when I see what students are doing in the lower grades because it will be such a benefit to the students as they encounter more difficult and complex topics. Understanding what the equal sign means and how numbers can be decomposed, rearranged, and put back together is an invaluable skill that can not be emphasized enough.

Although I am nervous about my credibility with elementary teachers I am very excited for the chance to learn from them and expand my knowledge about teaching math to students of all ages. Can't wait to see what is next.