Activities for the 2008-2009 School Year at The University of Arizona
- determined when using groups would support deepened mathematical understandings
- learned how to establish and maintain a positive learning environment in which all students see themselves and their peers as resources
- recognized and treated classroom issues of status–the underlying peer dynamic that prevents equitable interaction and limits learning
- used strategies and interventions that foster student responsibility for productive small group interaction
- learned to provide students with the skills needed to achieve high-quality group discourse
- recognized groupworthy tasks in current math
curriculum materials and/or revised tasks to assure groupworthiness
Math for Parents WorkshopsBringing together all interested parties (i.e. parents, school personnel, and students) is fundamental to CEMELA's holistic vision. CEMELA's work with parents and families builds on our previous projects (Funds of Knowledge for Teaching, Bridge, and MAPPS [Math and Parent Partnerships in the Southwest]). Since 2005 four schools from two school districts have participated in the Math for Parents workshops. During 2008-2009, the CEMELA Math for Parents workshops consisted of two learning models: the Middle School model serving grades 6-8, and the Elementary/Middle School model serving grades Pre K-8.
The Middle School ModelThis model consisted of modules containing seven or more sessions each during Fall 2008 and Spring 2009. CEMELA, with support from the middle school personnel, facilitated the Tertulias matemáticas where parents gathered once a week at the school facilities for about one and a half hours to participate in hands-on mathematics activities, to share their experiences as parents of school-aged children, and to build a community of supportive adult learners. The content of the math activities varied over time to adapt to the school reform-based curriculum, and to respond to parents’ interests in their understanding of and familiarity with school mathematics strands for grade Pre K-8, including: graphs of linear functions; data representation; fractions and proportional reasoning, and geometry. Although initially we began meeting only with parents in the mornings, after the parents dropped off their children at school, we currently meet in the evenings in order to accommodate the fathers’ participation. Additionally, per the parents’ request, beginning with the spring semester 08, the children (grades 6-9) joined their parents in the Tertulias. This allowed us to continue looking at parents-children interactions in the learning of mathematics that we had started to study a year earlier at one of the elementary schools. We usually had about 7 parents in attendance and 6 children.
The Elementary/Middle School ModelThis model is similar to the middle school’s model, and consisted of modules containing seven sessions or more that met once a week each semester. Quite often parents are called upon, or are expected to help their school-aged children with their mathematics homework. However, given that the parents are often far removed from the current reform-based mathematics curricula and the corresponding instructional practices, they need to familiarize themselves anew with the fundamentals of the mathematics being taught. To assist them bridge this chasm, the CEMELA Mathematics for Parents learning modules were designed to parallel the mathematics topics that children were actually learning in the classroom. The concept of numbers, fractions, and proportional reasoning is probably the first topic that needs considerable attention in the early years of children’s mathematics education. For this reason, the learning modules emphasized the conceptual understanding of operations on whole numbers and rational numbers (e.g., addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of fractions) and geometry. The learning modules developed a conceptual understanding of fractions using geometric shapes such as Tangram fractional pieces and Pattern Block manipulatives. Furthermore, the modules used contextualized problem-solving activities in everyday applications of mathematics.
The last component of the CEMELA Math for Parents model consisted of a classroom observation by the parents. One of the objectives for the classroom observation is for the parents to witness for themselves what goes on inside the classroom, particularly in terms of the reform-based curriculum being taught, and how it is being taught. There were typically two parents’ classroom observations in a seven-session module. The classroom observations were usually complemented with debriefing sessions.
After School ProgramThe after-school math club (ASMC) at a local Tucson elementary school was a program run by CEMELA to provide access to high-level mathematics that students otherwise may not have the opportunity to study. The project for the Fall of 2008 posed logically and linguistically challenging tasks to the students following a theme in measurement. During the activities, the facilitator fostered a safe environment for dialogue, and the tasks were designed to encourage student interaction by virtue of their complexity. Approximately 25 students participated in eight one and one half hour sessions each semester facilitated by teacher leader Olga Torres.
Teacher Study GroupDuring the academic year 2008-2009, seven teachers from an elementary and middle school (Sunnyside Unified School District) participated in six 2-hour sessions and one full day session each semester. The goal of the study group was to provide a supportive environment for teachers to engage in reflection on their own practice through the lens of Complex Instruction led by Dr. Marcy Wood, Teacher and Teacher Education, UA. The connection between culture, language and mathematics was an ever-present theme throughout the sessions. The teachers had a central role in deciding the mathematical topics to be explored. The Fall semester’s academic focus was on developing students’ number sense.
Teachers in the study group: