Saturday, September 12, 2015

First Week of Teacher Assisting

Well I have officially made it through my first week of my Teacher Assisting placement at Grandville Middle School! This semester I will be working alongside Mrs. Jamie Stuart and her 8th grade math students. I am at the school Monday-Friday from 7:20 am-12:30 pm. I start my day off with two sections of Math 8, which is a pre-algebra class. Also, the first section of Math 8 has one paraprofessional in the classroom, and the second section of Math 8 has two paraprofessionals. Then I have a planning hour before two sections of algebra. I think I am really going to benefit from the set-up of my schedule because it allows for some great reflection time in between classes. In other words, Mrs. Stuart and I will be able to discuss what we can do to improve our lessons from one hour to the next.

The classroom setup is made for a lot of group work and peer collaboration. The students are arranged in groups of four, and there are eight groups in the classroom. One thing I really love about the arrangement of the classroom are the small round tables on both sides of the room. Both of these tables have two stools at them, and they are a great place to be able to pull students aside for some one-on-one work. I imagine myself working with students individually at those tables and helping them with any content they might by struggling with. Here is a picture I created of the classroom layout!

This first week of school we have been mainly going over rules and procedures and building the classroom community, so we have not covered any content yet (except for a pre-test the students completed on Thursday). So while I am not 100% sure what the daily schedule will be like in the classroom, I think I have a general idea. The students will come into class and begin working on a warm-up problem while I go around and check their homework. Their homework is graded on effort and completion rather than for correctness. Once the students are done working we will go over the warm-up and any questions they might have had on their homework. After this is completed the students will begin working on their notes and vocabulary for the day. Mrs. Stuart has the students create interactive notebooks as their main resource for their content. (If you are interesting in learning more about these notebooks you can check out them out here!) Once the students are done with their notebooks, they will most likely begin a small group activity. This can range from anything like a card sorting activity to maybe some challenging practice problems. Mrs. Stuart has told me that a lot of the students time in class will be focusing on peer collaboration work.

Mrs. Stuart's classroom is based on inquiry-based learning. This quote is taken from her beginning of the year parent packet:

"My style of teaching is very hands-on and inquiry based.  I believe that students learn best when they can take ownership of what they are learning.  My job as a classroom educator is to facilitate the learning for the students.  This is done by giving a group of students a task to explore, providing them with any tools they need, and monitoring a student lead conversation about what they discovered.  At the end of this process the students should have a deeper, more conceptual understanding of what is being taught.  Along with this I also try to incorporate real-world examples though the use of technology and real-world tasks. "    

I am very excited to see how much I learn this semester! I think I am very lucky with the placement and the mentor teacher I have received. Mrs. Stuart seems very warm and excited about learning, which makes me excited to learn from her. I know that this semester will be a huge learning process for me, but I am ready for the challenge! I hope that I can have a growth mindset as I go through the semester and I can learn from some of the mistakes I am bound to make. Here's to a semester of new opportunities and lots of learning!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wait...What is Math?

Have you ever tried to explain what math is to someone? If you have, chances are that you probably approached the task with confidence but quickly realized that it was not as easy as you had thought. Maybe you gave a definition, something like "math is the science of numbers" or maybe you focused on a specific area of math such as geometry or algebra. However, if you really think about it, math is so much more complex than that. 

Just to humor myself I looked up the defintion of math on, this is what is says:

Mathematics [math-uh-mat-iks]: the systematic treatment of magnitude, relationships between figures and forms, and realtions between quantities expressed symbolically. 

Woah. That is mouthful, and I don't think it gets me any closer to an explantion of math. So here goes my own interpration of math.

I believe that math is our human desire to give order and regularity to the world. Humans love to have an answer and reason for why things happen and I think that math is a logical way to do that. For explain, how did people discover that we can model tidal changes using trigonometry? Honestly, I don't have the answer, but my guess is that someone wanted a way to predict the height of the tide and to do that they had to find a pattern. Once they found that pattern or "rule" they could then apply that to predict tides in different places. So I guess what I am trying to get at is that I think math is about trying to find universal patterns that we can apply to infinite situations or problems. 

So in honor of the complexity of math-uh-mat-iks here are five of my favorite math milestones:

1. Euler's Identity (I swear this is the closest thing the real world has to magic.)
2. Euclid's Elements 
3. Pythagorean Theorem 
4. Blaise Pascal's invention of the mechanical calculator 
5. The Seven Bridges of Konigsberg problem