Mathematics (K-6) in a Workshop Model: Making the Paradigm Shift
for Effective Instruction Theresa
Recommended Book of the Month: Math: Facing an American
Phobia By Marilyn Burns
"Even in the face of widespread failure in learning mathematics,
we seem to want to cling to educational methods with a nostalgia
for them that has long outlasted their usefulness and has perpetuated
failure." Marilyn Burns
For the first time, many teachers and students are using the Everyday
Mathematics Program in the New York City elementary schools. After
approximately four months, what have we learned about this program?
What type of thinking must we possess in order to effectively implement
the program? How does it fit into the workshop model? Answers to
these questions will be the focus of this article.
Part of my role as a professional developer is to support classroom
teachers as they implement new programs to improve student achievement.
Support may take the form of a study group, one-to-one conferencing,
demonstration lessons, and/or co-teaching. As the Mathematics Coach,
teachers at my site, and I collaborate to implement Everyday Mathematics,
we have made some discoveries together. I will share them with you.
Everyday Mathematics is not a traditional program. It encourages
divergent thinking and problem solving, hands-on experiences, small-group
activities, and a strong home-school connection. Professional development
is critical to understanding how to use each component appropriately.
One of the challenges in implementing the program is for teachers
to find the time to examine and becoming familiar with each component:
the teacher's lesson guide, math masters, teacher's reference manual,
assessment handbook, the mathematics planning book for their specific
grade, the home connection handbook, student math journals, student
reference book, student skills links, student study links, math
steps, minute math, and content by strand poster. Unlike most of
the mathematics programs I have used, Everyday Mathematics includes
a Teacher's Reference Manual, which provides a background of mathematical
concepts and management tips to facilitate the use of the program.
Therefore, it supports teachers who may not have a strong mathematical
Both time and ongoing professional development that allows teachers
to engage in a cycle of questioning, studying, discussing and teaching,
are essential if teachers are to become comfortable using the program
to teach students effectively. The philosophy of Everyday Mathematics
requires teachers to make a paradigm shift in their thinking, from
the traditional type of thinking which underlies traditional mathematics
programs. For example, if students don't master all mathematical
skills and concepts during their initial encounters, teachers are
expected to move on to the next topic.
This is a difficult concept for teachers to accept because we want
our students to master what we teach when it is initially presented.
Everyday Mathematics is a spiraling program that characterizes various
skills as beginning, developing, and secure. When a concept is labeled
as beginning (noted in the teacher's learning guide section entitled
"learning goals in perspective" and the teacher's assessment manual),
the teacher introduces it with the understanding that the student
may not master the concept at this time, but will revisit the concept
at another time until it becomes secure. With this in mind, the
teacher continues to move on to the next topic after a couple of
days. This is indeed a different way of thinking for many of us!
Another difficult concept for many of us is to wrap our minds around
is the role "games" play in Everyday Mathematics. Games are not
optional, but an integral component of the program that helps children
develop and maintain good fact power and other mathematical skills.
It is an alternative to the "drill and kill" of math facts. Additionally,
the games are for all students, especially for slower achieving
students, not just the accelerated students.
Because the Everyday Mathematics Program promotes cooperative learning
and group experiences, literature connections, mathematical communications
and discussions, and practice through games, the workshop model
works very well. Region 5 teachers use the workshop model to structure
their lessons. See Everyday Mathematics Prototype for Grade 4 below:
Getting Started routines are introduced (15 minutes):
Mental Math and Reflexes
Study Link follow-up
the lesson (Whole Class Instruction 20 minutes)
do, you watch.
do, you help.
Student math journal
Interactive Word Wall vocabulary development
Introduction to playing a game
Learning and Practice (25 minutes)
do, I help.
do, I watch.
for Differentiated Instruction
Lesson Summary (Whole Group 10 Minutes)
Link (5 minutes)
important to note that assessment is ongoing, informal and embedded
in teachers' practice while they observe students during their independent,
small group and / or partnership work. At this time, teachers may
conference with students.
I think it is important to reiterate that Everyday Mathematics is
a spiraling program which helps teachers scaffold student learning
through the whole-small-whole framework. It supports teachers in
their own learning by providing very explicit descriptions of each
component and its purpose. It addresses the needs of various types
of learners and encourages several ways to assess student progress.
With the proper support, I believe teachers can make the paradigm
shift necessary to implement the program successfully.
Traditional programs have outlived their usefulness, as stated by
Marilyn Burns. We are living in the twenty-first century, which
is technologically sophisticated and requires well-developed problem
solving skills in order for its citizens to excel. If we are to
prepare our students for the world of tomorrow, we must embrace
the type of thinking that supports divergent thinking, collaborative
partnerships, and keen problem solving ability. To that end, the
Everyday Mathematics program helps students develop sound mathematical
thinking and provides teachers with an interactive structure that
will energize their classrooms.
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