October 17, 2007 Edition

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Math is relevant in global society

Angelia Carlton
Guest Writer

Math! When am I ever going to use this?

As mathematics specialist I serve as the head of the Mathematics Department at the Northeast Arkansas Educational Cooperative. We have many ongoing teacher training programs that are changing the way we teach mathematics. The main goal of each program is to make changes in mathematics instruction so that all students will become mathematically proficient citizens in today's global society.

One of the programs is Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI). CGI is a professional development program based on research by university professors and elementary school teachers from across the country. The primary goal of CGI professional development is to increase teachers' knowledge of how children think about mathematics.

One of the ways to do this is to always give a problem in a story setting so that children will see a reason to work the problem. For many years we have just given problems with numbers. We are hoping to change our teaching so that children will see a need to learn to solve problems. Area teachers and administrators of grades K-2 have attended six days of professional development and will complete the program in the spring.

Another program for teachers of grades 3-8 is MathLINKS (Learning, Instruction, Knowledge and Standards). MathLINKS is a two-year professional development program that was written by Arkansas mathematics specialists. It is designed to assist classroom teachers in implementing a comprehensive research-based approach to mathematics instruction that is "linked" to the Arkansas Mathematics Framework.

During this two-year program, teachers are given a variety of activities and ways to teach mathematics. For instance in the 3rd and 4th grade, teachers are given an example of how students can learn the mathematics vocabulary by playing a game of Twister rather than writing the definitions as we have done in the past.

MathLINKS was launched in the summer of 2005 for teachers of grades 5 and 6. In the summer of 2006 LINKS was expanded to include teachers of grades 3 and 4 and 7 and 8. One group of 5th and 6th grade teachers have completed the two-year program and several area teachers of grade 3-8 are presently enrolled in this two-year commitment.

A third important professional development program that is currently in the second year is Mathematics Coaching. The instructor is Dr. Linda Griffith. Dr. Griffith is a native of Arkansas and is on the cutting edge of mathematics education.

Math Coaching is designed to instruct lead teachers to help define their local mathematics curriculum. Each month during the school year, teachers enrolled in this professional development are instructed in activities that develop mathematical thinking for grades K-12.

Along with these three major programs of professional development there are other programs that are helping us change our teaching. Some of them include integrating mathematics with career and technical education, formative assessment and integrating technology in the classroom.

Integrating mathematics with career and technical education is making sure that mathematics teachers and teachers of family and consumer science, business classes and agriculture classes work together teaching mathematics. Many times the career and technical classes are the practical application of what is taught in the mathematics classroom.

Formative assessment, which is commonly known as target testing, is used to help teachers identify weak areas before the Benchmark Tests in the spring. This, in turn, will allow more children to score proficient on the ACTAAP.

Integrating technology in the classroom involves getting teachers to use computers, calculators and other equipment that students will use when they go out into the real world.

As a mathematics classroom teacher for 25 years, I have seen many changes in education. One thing has been the same, mathematics has been enjoyed by only a few. I am hoping that as we change our ways of teaching, we will reach all students and our every day teaching will answer the age old question of "When am I ever going to use this?"

(Note: This series of columns is written by different employees of the NEA Educational Cooperative to inform the public about services provided by the co-op. Angelia Carlton is the mathematics specialist at the co-op.)

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