Math struggles... should we just change the plan for math this year?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by Backroads, Oct 3, 2017.

  1. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I observed that many, over half of my students, were really struggling with the beginning-of-year typical math. Okay. The other teachers saw similar problems. Our math specialist had some very specific assessments, so started assessing the kiddos. I received mine back... 12 out of a class of 27 are, to be blunt, absolutely clueless with math concepts. Some are new to the school, but others were here for first grade. We're talking missing kindergarten skills. Others are somewhat behind... I can honestly count on one hand the kiddos who are comfortably at grade level.

    So, how to approach this? Do I maybe pull a switcheroo with my TA and have her stay on grade-level with the few while I go back to basics with a huge chunk of the class and basically ignore the standards for the next couple of months? It just seems too many students to do the normal interventions. Should I split my math time between touching on our year's standards and interventions/reteaching? Any other ideas?

    I'm kind of at a loss here with this number of kids. It may seem silly, but I hate the idea of spending the year catching them up only to have them still be a year behind for 3rd grade.
     
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  3. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Oct 3, 2017

    Playing catch-up is always a pain. Since your numbers are so high that need remediation, I think your plan to go back to basics with those most in need, while letting the TA spend the most time with those on level would be most useful. You will be able to assess improvement better than you TA, allowing you to move them up as improvement occurs. I would certainly look for any way possible to touch on the current years standards, to interweave the higher order skills with the more basic, so that the building process may be somewhat more efficient. Also, sometimes it helps to see where one skill is a stepping stone to something else, building confidence. I guess it doesn't pay to wonder how they fell through the cracks before they got to you. The best you can do is try to make sure that as much ground is made up as possible.

    Best of luck.
     
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  4. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I suppose it doesn't and I don't even feel anger toward the 1st grade. Those teachers are basically school royalty and we've never had this math problem before.
     
  5. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    You know, sometimes you get Grade A produce, sometimes it has suffered in transit. There is never anyone to blame - it's just how things happen. Maybe some new students from different districts? That may remain a mystery. I suspect you will be able to make up a lot of ground with intensive help. That has to be steps in the right direction. ;)
     
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  6. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    This would be harder to implement, but you could also aim to engage the students more in low-entry, high-ceiling problems relating to each of the topics. This would allow you differentiate easily to each of their different levels of learning, while having them engaged in inquiry and discovery that is needed more in math as it is!

    Youcubed / Jo Boaler has a ton of resources around it.

    The downside certainly is that it'd require a lot of shift already into the year, and so you probably don't want to use it every day, but might sprinkle it in as much as you can.
     
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  7. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Oct 7, 2017

    Do your math specialist or administrators have any advice? It seems that it would be within the realm of their responsibilities to help you determine whether ignoring the standards to do remediation or plowing ahead is more appropriate.
     
  8. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Admin is fine either way, and we have no official math specialist. The closest we have is following my lead.
     
  9. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Oh, ok. I misunderstood when you mentioned a math specialist in the original post. We have someone in the role at my school, so I'd follow her lead. I can see that it'd be tougher without having someone who oversees the math program.
     
  10. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Yeah, she's a TA on paper who is really good at math, but there is no program.
     
  11. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Backroads, since they are following your lead, do your best, be reflective about what is, or may not, be working, and adapt as necessary. This is most likely one of those aberrant years. Sometimes these upsets allow us to grow as educators, so it can be a win for everyone.
     
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  12. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I must confess, while part of me is in panic mode, another part of me is kind of excited to tackle this. I was feeling some burn-out last year. Maybe it's the new school year, but this kind of academic whole-class challenge is in many ways invigorating.

    Right now... it's a bit of a blend. Our TAs have as part of their duties some very specific intervention programs they do. The load was so heavy this year and because of some scheduling changes, creating their schedules was impossible. So... I switched my math and reading blocks.

    This saved the intervention scheduling, but also cost me a TA for math time. But, we have about half and hour in the morning where she and I will both be taking some intensive math interventions with the kids in our class (it's an awkward time so I decided kids can do Daily 5 and whatnot while we tackle problems). Then, for now, I'm going to split the math block between reviewing some basic skills and trying some differentiation on the core.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2017
  13. Rabbitt

    Rabbitt Connoisseur

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    Oct 7, 2017

    I would do both. Teach the current curriculum and fill in the gaps.
    I run whole group math 3 days a week practicing new concepts and center based math 3 days a week (math twice a day on Thursdays as we don't have specials). During center based days, have small groups to fill the gaps. It was hard but I found helpers...mainly seniors in the community to help run those small groups. I few high school students who needed service hours.
     
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  14. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Ooh, a day or two of centers isn't a bad idea.
     
  15. Rabbitt

    Rabbitt Connoisseur

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    Oct 21, 2017

    I hope you found a way to try.
    Math bags or technology is a way to have some independent centers started quickly.
     
  16. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I think we are on an upwards trajectory.
     
  17. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    What have you found that is working? I have 2 kids out of a class of 32 fifth graders who are working comfortably at grade level in math, and maybe another 5 or 6 who can get there with a little effort. Most of the rest are extremely behind. We are just really struggling through math this year, slogging along at a snail's pace. We'll never be done with what we need to cover in time for state testing. They are missing so many foundational skills, and for some of them it's like they've never even seen 4th grade concepts before. One of the 4th grade teachers who isn't there anymore barely even taught math, and another teacher told me they actually skipped fractions, which is a huge component of 5th grade curriculum. I am scared for us all this year.

    Not trying to hijack your thread, just commiserating, I guess. I have no aide help - I'm intermediate, after all - but my mom, a retired 4th grade teacher, will be able to come in and help 2-3 days a week.
     
  18. Been There

    Been There Habitué

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    Oct 21, 2017

    Here in California, the common core math curriculum is so impossible to teach that many students and their teachers are unable to keep up with the pacing guides. Many teachers struggle to understand the math questions that are purposely written to be confusing. Unfortunately, there's no short-cut for learning mathematical algorithms and concepts - students' comprehension of new material is invariably dependent on their mastery of previously learned units of study. Without such mastery in any given year, subsequent instruction often becomes seriously compromised and frequently slows to a snail's pace or comes to a complete stop! With so many of your students being so far below grade level in math, I assume this is a school-wide (or even district-wide) problem that is largely due to poor school leadership. I would venture to guess that your school/district could benefit from the services of a consultant who specializes in school restructuring.
     
  19. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    Oct 22, 2017

    Well I could drive myself crazy contemplating the reasons, but whatever they are, it's still something I have to deal with this year. I'll get them to improve as much as possible, but I'm not expecting perfection.

    It's not a district-wide problem. I'm in a very large district. My school is 80% low SES. The high SES schools do just fine on CAASPP. My site admin is in year two at the school, so this long term problem is also not her fault. I'm new at the school, but I know there was quite a bit of turnover for awhile, mostly due to people transferring to higher income schools as the job market opened up in this area due to retirements. I think it would be a good area for PD focus to get all grade levels on the same page, but I'm not sure what you mean by restructuring.

    I'm also not in school leadership and do not want to be, so I'm just doing what I can with my sphere of influence in the classroom.
     

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