Tuesday, March 31, 2015

RME Conference Morning Breakout Summaries

Our RME Conference was held at the end of February. Below are summaries of the morning breakout sessions.

Morning Breakout 1 – Solving Word Problems Using Schemas

Presented by Dr. Sarah Powell and facilitated by Cassandra Hatfield

In this session, Dr. Sarah Powell, presented problem solving strategies teachers can use to help
elementary students organize their thinking when approaching word problems. Dr. Powell emphasized the importance of teaching students to recognize schemas, specifically additive and multiplicative problem types. The example word problems used in Dr. Powell’s presentation highlight the importance of teachers moving beyond problem solving strategies that place emphasis on the identification of “key words”, and suggested students should instead focus on understanding the context and meaning of the language used in word problems. Dr. Powell also suggested students should have a strategic plan for solving word problems that is used regardless of the problem type. In order to ensure all students are familiar with the same problem solving processes, Dr. Powell suggests educators adopt a problem solving strategy for their entire school.
  • Students need an “attack strategy” anytime they solve a word problem. Regardless of the problem type, students should know what process they will use to solve a given word problem. Many attack strategies involve reading the word problem, paraphrasing the question, developing a hypothesis, using a diagram or equation to represent a process, estimating or computing an answer, and checking your work. These strategies could be considered an algorithm for solving a word problem. Examples include R.I.D.G.E.S., S.T.A.R., D.R.A.W., S.I.G.N.S., and S.O.L.V.E.
  • Students should not be encouraged to identify “key words” as a strategy for solving word problems. Students should understand the context and meaning of all language within a word problem.
  • When using strategies, it is important to help students identify the three problem types for addition/subtraction (additive schemas) and four problem types for multiplication/division (multiplicative schemas). Additive schemas include part-part whole, difference, and change (join/separate). Multiplicative schemas include

Morning Breakout 2 – Mathematical Problem Solving in Real World Situations

Presented by Dr. Candace Walkington and facilitated by Megan Hancock

At the 2015 RME conference, Dr. Walkington spoke about personalization matters! Specifically in mathematics, it is important that students feel personally connected to what they are studying. This is central to helping some students feel more comfortable and be more successful. Personalization means that instruction is tailored to the specific interests of different learners and problems are introduced using different topics that can be implemented efficiently through technology systems. Students have rich engagement with their interest areas. It is important that instructors incorporate students’ passions into what they are learning.

Personalization interventions should seek to include depth, grain size, ownership, and richness. Depth means to make deep meaningful connections to the ways students’ use quantitative reasoning. Grain size refers to knowing the interests of individual learners. Ownership allows students to control the connections made to their interests. Lastly, richness means to balance rich problem solving with explicit connections to abstractions afterwards. If instructors can implement these important personalization interventions in their mathematics teaching, students will feel more connected to their learning and likely be more successful as well.
  • The TEKS Process Standards should be interpreted through real-world situations. Students should be introduced to a topic they can relate to, then, the specific mathematics topics should be brought in after they have a firm understanding of the context.
  • Studies show that students learn best from concrete thinking to abstract thinking. The teacher teaches the content using concrete scenarios and then moves to abstract thinking after the students understand the math content.
  • When mathematics is connected to students’ interests, they can gain a better understanding of the content being taught. Students with little exposure to algebra can reason about and write a linear function in the context of their interests without realizing they are using algebra. This peaks their interest, then the teacher can follow up with the concrete mathematics topics.

Morning Breakout 3 – Fostering Small-Group, Student-to-Student Discourse: Discoveries from a Practitioner Action Research Project

Presented by Dr. Sarah Quebec Fuentes and facilitated by Becky Brown

This session focused on the use of small group peer discussions to increase student understanding with an emphasis on communication. Three of the math process standards include communication, quality communication with reasoning, explaining, and justifying. By asking the students to communicate, you are effectively changing the way they approach mathematics. When you put kids into a group they will communicate but the communication is not always of quality. The teacher’s role is to facilitate the discussion, not to set a rubric or tell them exactly what to do. Students gain process help through their peer interaction, which aids their problem solving abilities by increasing their adaptive qualities. This type of meaningful communication is achieved
through the Action Research Cycle: planning, acting, observing, and reflecting.
  • You can improve student communication in your own classrooms in three phases. Stage 1 is to evaluate student communication and just get them to communication. Stage 2 is to evaluate group communication. Which point on the action cycle is this group? Stage 3 is to evaluate your communication. Are you effectively facilitating meaningful discussion? Lastly Stage 4 is to try a customized intervention.
  • There is no blanket intervention strategy because each team interacts differently and operates in different phases of the action cycle.
  • This practice can be scaled to an entire math department as long as it is scaled down and adjusted for the time needs of the professional.

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