It’s easy to fall into a routine of approaching math content the way you learned it as a student yourself. The 21st century learner, however, is expected to tackle mathematical concepts using strategies and methods that may be very different from those that you were taught. Therefore, it is essential that math course writers engage in professional development opportunities that examine math concepts from new perspectives. Here are four professional development activities you can do from the comfort of your own home to develop new and improve current math content:
1) De-scaffold a Lesson
As math content writers, it is easy to over-scaffold instruction of a concept, taking away from the cognitive demand expected from the learner. Before you dive into developing step-by-step instructions for your next lesson or task, consider how you can encourage students to think of their own strategies for attacking a problem before presenting algorithms or formulas. In what ways can you present new material while cultivating mathematical curiosity or promoting critical thinking? Creating engaging content is easier to accomplish when you stop asking students to memorize math and start asking students to make connections on their own.
2) Familiarize Yourself With Other Content Areas
Incorporating authentic application problems into math content is so much easier if you have a repertoire of knowledge to pull from—and what better way to expand your own content knowledge than by being a student yourself! Find a massive open online course (MOOC) through Class Central, attend a webinar, or even watch a TED talk that explores a topic outside your current subject matter expertise. Analyzing these subjects through a mathematical lens can sharpen your own understanding of math content while increasing opportunities for you to make cross-curricular connections in your instruction.
3) Dig Deep Into Cognition
Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) are not just abstract theories from an educational pedagogy class—they are tools for increasing the rigor of your course. Practice applying these frameworks to any math standard by writing an objective or problem that evaluates the standard at each level of thinking. Rewrite an existing DOK level 1 problem by revising the question so that it evaluates the same content at DOK level 2 or 3. But keep in mind that just because a task takes more time to complete doesn’t mean it’s more rigorous.
4) Take a PARCC or Smarter Balanced Practice Exam
Even if you live in a state that does not use these exams for standardized testing, math assessments are no longer a string of multiple choice items in which students are expected to identify the one correct solution. Both PARCC and Smarter Balanced have practice tests ranging from grade 3 through high school that you can take online to experience. Taking the tests firsthand also provides an opportunity to explore new ways of authoring technology-enhanced items using drag-and-drop and equation editor features. Being familiar with the rigor and presentation of assessment items that your learners might encounter better informs your own course and assessment writing.
Participating in activities that progress and challenge current approaches to math instruction is something that every knowledgeable math course writer should consider.