Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Making Math Accessible

The information for this post came from a presentation at NCTM Annual Meeting 2013 in Denver, CO entitled 
Powerful Practices to Make Mathematics More Accessible to Struggling Learners. 
The speakers were Amy Brodesky and Emily Fagan. 

Accommodations are used in classrooms so that all learners are able to access the curriculum. 

Some accessibility principles:
1. Collaboration: Making math more accessible for learners requires a partnership between math educators and special educators.
2. Be Diagnostic: Pre-assess students to determine areas of struggle and need.
3. Be Proactive: Use formative assessments to check for students' understandings and adjust curriculum.
4. Align Strategies: Be consistent in methods and presentation of material. 
5. Differentiate: Recognize the diverse needs of your learners and offer a variety of techniques to help them be successful.
6. Be Prepared: Identify needs ahead of time and develop lesson plans to specifically address possible pitfalls.
7. Be Flexible: Realize the best laid plans may not always work; adapt instruction when needed, even if it is in the middle of class.
8. Gather Evidence: Specifically consider the areas that students are struggling in and find ways to adapt to meet their learning needs.
9. Promote Student Independence: Provide just enough scaffolding to help students feel supported while giving them the independence to make their own connections as well.
10. Create a Supportive Classroom Culture: Equip students with the structure they need to achieve.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Effective Teaching in Algebra

In February 2013, the Broome-Tioga BOCES in New York presented a professional development training of effective teaching in Algebra. New York will be pursuing the PARCC assessments; however the information presented is valuable for all states.

In the middle of the presentation is a discussion of Tape Diagrams to solve ratio word problems. There are also notes in a number of the slides that provide information as to how to solve the problems. If you are new to Tape Diagrams, I highly recommend you download the PowerPoint; it’s worth the view.

Click here to download the PowerPoint:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Math for All: Differentiating Math Instruction

Though I do not typically support products, the presentation that LuAnn Weynard developed for Math Solutions deserves consideration. One strategy that she discusses at length is scaffolding. She recommends scaffolding in one of the following six areas: teaching strategies, questioning strategies, student collaboration, whole-group discussions, making connections explicit, and graphic organizers.

Another strategy she discusses is Casting a Wider Net. A variety of question examples are provided in which students are given open tasks, control of the difficulty of the question, and offering number stories with answers in which students create their own problem to solve.

Click here for the link to the entire presentation:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Using Math Cartoons to Support Critical Reading Skills

Incorporating literacy skills into math instruction is becoming a necessity with the increasing expectations for student achievement presented in the CCSS. Almost 10 years ago, a school district in Florida looked at how to use math cartoons to support critical reading skills. To download their handout, click here:

Their thoughts were to have students create questions based on Bloom’s Taxonomy about the cartoons. Students share their cartoons and questions with their peers. Students then explain the cartoons and their thoughts. 

Another possibility is to have students break into groups and then address the following questions:

1. What is the cartoonist’s purpose, i.e. inform, persuade entertain?
2. What is the main idea or message of the cartoon?

Here is a link to a collection of Math Cartoons:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Terry Kawas’ website,, is definitely the place to go if you’ve got some free time (yes I said it) and a passion for exploration. The site dates back to 2005 and is filled with activities which can bring an extra kick to your lessons and absolutely raise student achievement. Her site appears to be targeted more to the elementary classroom; however, there are ample activities linked to NCTM standards which could be easily transferred up to our older learners.

My recommendation is to create a bookmark folder in your browser, start at the A-Z list on her home page and do a brief scan of the resources. Any page that needs further attention, bookmark, and then move on. This strategy will be useful if you are like most educators and free time means 10 minutes of solitude. Going alphabetically will help to keep track of where you are so you won’t have to view resources you already saw. When lesson and unit planning time comes, you will be able to quickly review any resources you found without needing to go through pages of bookmarks or the site itself.