Thursday, July 31, 2014

There is never enough time...

One of the biggest problems I have encountered as a math teacher is time with my students and how there is never enough of it.  This is true not only during the school year, but it's something I noticed during the SHSAT prep class that I taught this Summer at my school.

During the school year, I officially have 24 Common Core math standards to teach my 7th graders across five domains (Ratios & Proportional Relationships, The Number System, Expressions & Equations, Geometry, and Statistics & Probability).  That doesn't sound too bad, right?  Within six of the standards, however, there are sub-standards.  When you account for them, the number of standards my 7th graders have to be proficient in by June almost doubles to 43.  That's 43 standards in 40 weeks of school, not including days I don't see my students for various reasons (field trips, half-days, days they are absent...).  That's assuming that they come to me in September already proficient in the K - 6th grade standards, so that I can kick off September with 7th grade material (PS that has yet to happen in seven years of teaching).

In the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, put out by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in 2000, it states that "All students should have the opportunity and the support necessary to learn significant mathematics with depth and understanding."  It's hard to go too deep into mathematics, when you have 43 things to teach in less than 40 weeks.

There has been progress (at least in my opinion) with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in New York over the past few years.  Prior the the CC, New York state had 64 math standards that 7th graders had to be proficient in.

Nothing is more frustrating when you are exploring a good math problem with your students, and they are going with it, and exploring it and asking questions, and making connections, and making sense of it for themselves, and the bell rings, and class is over, and the beautiful and sometimes messy mathematics that you were exploring together, is over and because you have eight more standards to teach in this unit, and only 4 days to do it in, or worse, we don't have time to continue this discussion because it's not something that will be covered on the state test.

Like I said, it's frustrating.

And sad.

With each year, I like to think that I've gotten better and planning out my units so that I can do the best I can with the precious time with my students that I have.  I also am proud to say, that I've become much more comfortable going with the flow of our class explorations and being OK (not great, but OK) with not covering every standard in place of good, rich mathematical discussions.  I have to keep in mind that it's not necessarily about mastering all 43 CC math standards, but getting my students to be OK with problem solving, and trying new things, being open to the idea of learning mathematics, even when it doesn't make sense.  If I can do that, then  yeah, it's worth it.

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