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Rebecca Borlik MIAA 350 Reflection for 7-8 Interview and Analysis

Introduction: My essential question for this class is How will a further understanding of mathematics help me and my students achieve? As a teacher of mathematics for the entire 5th grade population, I often have a need to share and compare war stories with other math teachers at my school. One of the teachers I talk to a lot is Ed Gehrke. He was my former math coach, and I feel as if he has very valuable insight into the profession of teaching kids math. The following interview took place in March of 2014, and some of the Analysis includes other interactions I have had with Ed. Ed Gehrke, 7th and 8th grade (Algebra) 1. What are your favorite memories of learning math as a child? I specifically remember that in first grade, a third-grader asked me what 5 times 5 was. I was so happy because it was the only multiplication fact I knew. Without hesitating, I responded, "25." The third-grader stated, "Wow! You are good at math!" Other than that ego-builder, I honestly don't remember much else, except being placed in the "higher math class" in fourth grade.

2. What professional development (if any) has helped you grow as a math teacher? The professional development that has made the most profound difference in my math teaching is an IMP class I took in Monterey before my first year of being a math coach. It was five days long during the summer. For the first time, I could see how fun math was in real life application. My foundation of how to teach math through mnemonics and rules changed to conceptual teaching by student investigation. For the first time ever, I understood why multiplying polynomials worked! The other very important math training is Reading Apprentice. This program has allowed for the students to gain access to understanding word problems. "Talking to the text" helps the students unravel the mystery of the word problems. Students ask themselves questions and can learn specific strategies in dealing with math text. 3. On a scale of 1-5 , 1 being poor quality and 5 being high quality, how do you rank the adopted math curriculum for your grade level? Can you explain your ranking? If the ranking is a 1 or 2, what do you use to supplement your curriculum? This is my first year teaching the Holt Course #2 (7th grade) and Course #3 (Algebra) books. I would have to rate them a two. There are great problems and labs, but my ideal curriculum would be a lot more based on exploration, and the students learning the math through carefully guided questions and tasks. The math books are too drill-and-kill. They certainly aren't deep enough for the new Common Core Standards.

I supplement by what I've stolen in my days of math coaching, many math tasks from the internet, and other resources (books) from the current math coach, Lori Green. 4. What do you do when students do not grasp a basic concept that is a necessary foundational skill for your math curriculum (i.e. addition, multiplication)? If it's a fundamental skill, I focus on it. Even at an eighth grade level, some students didn't know how to multiply and divide whole numbers. I just taught them the conceptual way to do these basic skills and never really worried about doing lots of these problems or getting to the short-cut. I taught the material, so the kids could grasp it, and then I moved on. 5. What concept are you strongest at teaching in math? Why do you think this is your strength? I really think that teaching multiplication and division of whole numbers is a definite strength. I really feel like any child can learn how to do these two concepts in about two weeks time (apiece) with the proper teaching. I begin with hands-on activity and slowly add to their conceptual picture. Both of these concepts grew in effectiveness as I refined the process over the years. 6. What concept are you weakest at teaching in math? Have you had any opportunity to become stronger in this concept? If there was an opportunity to become stronger in this, but the opportunity only was available extra hours after school, would you? I feel like there are so many concepts I could work within more. I guess one concept that I don't feel like I've been nearly as effective with is exponents. During this school year, I had to teach negative exponents, and although I used a conceptual model at the beginning of the unit of study, I wasn't nearly successful enough in getting the students to understand the big idea. I used an excerpt from an IMP book called "Alice in Wonderland," but students still didn't sometimes understand that the answer wasn't negative when the exponent was negative. Yes, I would take advantage of an after school tutorial on this concept, but I like it best when I have someone come into my classroom to model it. Then, I can take notes and see the idea implemented correctly. Observations, Analysis, and Insight After spending time talking to Ed, an algebra teacher, I noticed a couple of interesting observations. Ed, an experienced math teacher with quality credentials (as a former math coach) claims that his impeccable math teaching developed only a couple of years ago. It is a statement that teachers with set methods and set ways can alter their teaching so that it becomes more effective. Because I know and work with Ed, I can also say that he is a special case. Ed always does what is best for students, and will do anything in his power to improve so that his students improve. This is not the case with every teacher. In my discussion with Ed, I also learned about what professional development he valued. This is important, because it gave me reason to value the same development. Eds fondness of Reading

Apprenticeship helped me see the value of the training. Initially I was very hesitant about the training, and not very positive, as I felt the program was fairly weak in math. After many discussions with Ed, I began to see value in it, and I began to implement a lot of the methods into my math teaching. Because of this, I have seen growth in understanding, especially of word problems. Professional Discussions with colleagues are very beneficial to the success of us as teachers directly, and thereby of the students indirectly.