Math Instruction in Times of Crisis

Published: Friday, May 8, 2020

Nowadays, teachers have had to make major changes in our instruction. My colleague Larisa Bukalov and I just wrote an article that summarizes several of the strategies that we've found to be successful (and some that are not!), including four core principles of math instruction (such as students need to feel safe before they can learn and all students deserve access to rigorous math), suggestions for assessment and grading, and ideas for caring for ourselves and for others.

The articles are now available on Larry Ferlazzo's Classrom Q&A blog, published on the Education Week website at https://bit.ly/math-teaching-covid19 and https://bit.ly/math-teaching-covid19-2 

We elaborate on many of these ideas in our new book The Math Teacher's Toolbox, which was just released by Jossey-Bass. You can see excerpts from the book on both the Amazon (https://bit.ly/math-teachers-toolbox) and the Wiley Publishing (https://bit.ly/wiley-math-teachers-toolbox) websites.

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Interview on "Talk Out of Schools" Radio Show

Published: Thursday, April 23, 2020

Today, I was one of three New York City public school teachers interviewed by Leonie Haimson, executive director of the organization Class Size Matters, for the WBAI-FM radio show "Talk Out of Schools." We spoke about the challenges they face with remote learning, what grading policies should be in place this year, and how schools should be reconfigured next year to improve students' academic and social-emotional outcomes.

I spoke about the need to reduce class sizes and provide more support for teachers and students so that we can build meaningful working relationships with students. In a remote learning environment, teachers can't adequately read students' work well, so modifying instruction to meet their needs is extremely difficult.

The episode is available as a podcast at https://bit.ly/talk-out-of-schools .

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The Math Teacher's Toolbox Published

Published: Saturday, April 18, 2020

After two years of seemingly endless writing, revising, and proofreading, The Math Teacher's Toolbox – the book that my colleague Larisa Bukalov and I wrote – was finally published by Jossey-Bass (a subdivision of Wiley). This book incorporates many of the ideas that Larisa and I have talked about for years. Many times, we'd jokingly say to each other, "we should put that into a book." Well, we finally did!

Writing The Math Teacher's Toolbox taught us a lot about motivating students, culturally responsive teaching, social-emotional learning, and differentiating instruction. Not that we didn't know about these ideas beforehand, but we realized while writing this book that we had so much to learn.

We also hope that we can inspire other teachers to write more frequently. Even a blog post or some tweets make a difference. At a time when many of us are scrambling to adjust our teaching, we need to have our voices heard. In fact, we wrote an article for Larry Ferlazzo's Classroom Q&A blog on the Education Week website about this: "Writing Has Improved Our Teaching."

The Math Teacher's Toolbox is available on Amazon here: https://bit.ly/math-teachers-toolbox . Excerpts and other resources from the book are available on the Wiley website: https://bit.ly/wiley-math-teachers-toolbox

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On a Different Method for Solving Quadratic Equations

Published: Sunday, January 5, 2020

Solving quadratic equations (equations that can be written in the form ax2 + bx + c = 0, where a ≠ 0) is a major topic in high school Algebra. Typically, students in the U.S. learn several methods to solve them (factoring, graphing, completing the square, or using the quadratic formula). In my experience, many students not only struggle to learn four very different methods but then have to contend with determining which method works best for a given quadratic equation.

A few months ago, mathematician Po-Shen Loh published an article and video online (both can be viewed at http://www.poshenloh.com/quadratic/) that described a different way to solve quadratic equations. Although he devised it independently, other mathematicians, including the ancient Babylonians and Greeks as well as John Savage in a 1989 Mathematics Teacher article, developed similar techniques (Loh describes them in more detail at http://www.poshenloh.com/quadraticrelated/).

This year, I teach an Algebra I class of high school freshmen and sophomores, many of whom are repeating the course. I decided to teach the method outlined by Loh to my students. Along the way, I made several modifications to accommodate my students’ needs, the most notable of which was to add a visual element to the method to help students remember and understand the steps. This article describes the lessons that I would use to teach the method and how students reacted to it. (These descriptions reflect modifications that I made after initially teaching these concepts.)

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The Math Teacher's Toolbox, Coming in 2020

Published: Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Math Teacher's Toolbox, a book that I am co-authoring with my colleague Larisa Bukalov, will be released by Jossey-Bass in the spring of 2020.

The Teacher’s Toolbox series is an innovative, research-based resource providing teachers with instructional strategies for students of all levels and abilities. Each book in the collection focuses on a specific content area. Clear, concise guidance enables teachers to quickly integrate low-prep, high-value lessons and strategies in their middle school and high school classrooms. Every strategy follows a practical, how-to format established by the series editors.

The Math Teacher's Toolbox contains hundreds of student-friendly classroom lessons and teaching strategies. Clear and concise chapters, fully aligned to Common Core math standards, cover the underlying research, required technology, practical classroom use, and modification of each high-value lesson and strategy.

The book can be pre-ordered on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Math-Teachers-Toolbox-Hundreds-Practical/dp/1119573297/

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