One day I was lamenting to my school’s academic coach that with NCBL and being in the dreaded “Program Improvement” category I had done nothing but teach to the test. I was starting to see that taking the 90 topics required in 7th math, and tactically reverse planning every lesson in the year to target a specific type of test question was making for lousy education. It was making me wonder where the line between drill and kill and downright malpractice was. She looked at my with all sympathy and said, “Oh, you want math to make SENSE? You must be a constructivist.”
You’d think after 24 years of middle school math, I’d be up on my ed-speak, but that was a new one. Yup, I’m pretty sure that making math make sense to a bunch of 12-year olds is the very reason I bounce out of bed every day and zip to work with a mix of mission, magic, and method brewing in my head. What discouraged me is that the math coach seemed to have put her finger on what she (very sweetly) saw as a failing on my part. Sense-making can lead to messy lessons that do not wrap up neatly in a 49 minute period. Students may even think about math that cannot be easily multiple-choice tested. They may even want calculators and a chance to debate with a peer before coming to a conclusion, which they can then write about.
Enter the Common Core: Ha! Now making sense is teaching to the test! I’m so excited to see the many web sites developing lessons for common core. (see my PearlTrees for more than you want on this) Even if my admin and some colleagues judge good teaching not on retention or understanding, but on test scores, the game has just changed to suit a constructivist like me perfectly. Common Core lessons are predicated on the idea that math needs to make sense, and that fewer topics taught thoroughly are better than a lot taught superficially.
For non-math teachers, wrapping you head around the CCSS can be a major task. Easier? Compare the old and new tests. You can see the differences immediately, and judge for yourself which set of tasks you want the future leaders of the country to be expected to tackle. If you like the new stuff, YOU may be a constructivist, tooJ
See a new CCSS style test at https://sbacpt.tds.airast.org/student/ and log in as a guest, even the lower grades will give you a chance to really think! (I do the 11th grade one for fun...I can’t help my self.)
In CA the oldtest is not very impressive, you can get it here, have lots of paper ready. http://www.wccusd.net/cms/lib03/CA01001466/Centricity/Domain/335/CST%20released%20test%20questions%202013%20Math%207th.pdf