Posted Date: 10/14/2019
With eyes riveted on their teacher at the Smartboard, the seventh graders in Cassie Bourne’s math class take notes about the process of factoring an equation. The notes will serve as a reference when they return to their small groups to work out that day’s equations.
Both the teacher and her students are learning in this classroom situation. After attending a conference for math teachers last summer, Bourne is trying to step back and not tell her students how to solve a problem, but let them figure it out.
Rather than competing against one another to get the answer first, the students are working together, discussing a solution or showing one another how they think the problem should be worked.
Bourne was one of 32 teachers accepted to attend a New Teacher Academy in Seattle, WA, last summer, where the focus was on improving math instruction for teachers of grades 6-12. She said she was familiar with CPM, a curriculum company that sponsored the conference.
“I knew that the way they were teaching us was really going to help me,” she said. “The way they taught math with collaborative groups was super appealing.”
Bourne knows that she’s not a born extrovert with a strong voice. She’s in her comfort zone when she’s standing at the board and giving instruction. She decided to fight that tendency and shift towards giving more collaborative work that will lead students to discover solutions through the completion of tasks.
In some cases, they might have to combine their knowledge of numbers and temperatures and money to reach a solution.
“With these tasks, I’ve had to get away from the normal classroom of getting up and showing them how to do it,” she said. This is “a lot more student-centered and puts a lot more responsibility on them.”