Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Maths and Diversity

Every time I teach a new course I go through the same process. It doesn't happen very often so I can never remember what the process is. Perhaps I don't need to remember; perhaps i will always go through the same process whether I remember it or not.  I first look at all the materials the person who used to teach the course used. I then panic for several days thinking i cannot possibly assimilate all this material and then I realize that I always develop my own set of materials base don the course description, the goals of the course and the skills, knowledge and dispositions it is designed to address in the big scheme of things. Last time it was an intro to teaching and education undergraduate course; this time it's a graduate level math course; Math and Diversity.

I developed the course with several colleagues from the fields of mathematics ed., special education and TESOL about five years ago but I have never taught the course by myself. The course is designed to help graduate students and practicing teachers  teach math to students who are English learners, have special needs, have a math disability or are from poverty. 

I have always believed that the essence of being a good math teaher is understanding the intricacies of the math we teach. It's important of course to understand child development and pedagogical theory but even the most exemplary of these are less effective if the teacher does not understand the math. Imagine teaching french without understanding the structure of the language or knowing vocabulary? So, I've decided to make math numeracy the focus of the course and then illustrate the application of this through differentiated instruction in the four areas described above. For each element of diversity the math is the same; it just needs to be presented or thought about in a different way for each one. I'm going to use Bob Wright's book Developing Number Knowledge  because it does such a great job of breaking the ideas associated with number down into it their component parts so that when we assess children's mathematical knowledge and understanding we know where to go in the instructional process. The book is one of a series of 4 in the very effective Math Recovery program.

By the way, it's time we eliminated the r word from our language unless you are referring to the timing on an engine.

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