Snapshot of a problem

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The following text is taken from email related to an unscheduled visit today by an outside consultant.

10:44 AM

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: (a likable outside consultant who turns up in my room every so often)

Date: Mon, May 4, 2015 at 9:15 AM
Subject: Walkthrough 2478
To: (Me)

Page 1

Walkthrough Name Template
Walkthrough 2478 ATLAS 2.0
Board Name School Name
(My district) (My school)
Observer Subject
(The likable outside consultant) (I am the subject, sigh.)
Start Date End Date
Mon May 04 2015 10:06 AM
Book Classroom Setting
Other ELL
Happy Monday Ms. (Me)!
Thank you for allowing me to visit today.

*Allowing students to retake their quizzes.
*Allowing students to show their work and having the students to explain how they were simplifying fractions.

*I imagine that this was review, however, did you consider presenting the problems in word problem format so that students can review problem solving as well?

See below for the SMPs I observed.

Mathematically Yours,
(The consultant’s first name)

CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice: The Students…
(CCSS stands for Common Core State Standards)
1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
Identify the problem ☐
Explain the meaning of the problem ☐
Analyze information ☐
Line up a plan ☒
Use multiple strategies/representations to solve ☐
Evaluate and reevaluate progress throughout problem solving situations ☐
Ask “Does this make sense?” ☐
Ask “Is this accurate?” ☐
Ask “Is this reasonable?” ☐
Justify reasoning with others ☐

2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
Connect plan created to mathematics performed ☒
Use context clues to solve using symbols (operation word wall) ☐
Determine reasonableness of solution within context of problem ☐
Justify math strategy used as most efficient method ☐

3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
Formulate arguments to provide evidence surrounding answers ☐
Exchange thoughts with others to defend answers ☐
Classify correct from flawed logic ☐

4. Model with mathematics.
Describe relationship of facts in a problem ☐
Represent real world situation mathematically ☐
Apply facts to find solution to a problem ☐
Reevaluate and redesign plan as needed when solving ☐

5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
Demonstrate ability to choose proper tool(s) ☐
Use tool(s) appropriately (ex. ruler) ☐
Identify limitations of tool(s) ☐
Estimate for reasonableness ☐
Use tool to guide their discovery of the concept ☐

6. Attend to precision.
Communicate reasoning with others ☐
Use correct mathematical language ☐
Apply calculations correctly ☐
Appropriately apply correct symbol use and labeling ☐

7. Look for and make use of structure.
Identify a pattern to develop strategies for problem solving ☐
Construct estimate based on patterns or structure ☐
Deconstruct problem into easier parts to solve ☐
Revisit problem identified to revise plan as needed ☐

8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
Reference prior knowledge in learning ☒
Identify similarities and patterns to simplify the problem ☐
Develop rule/formula based on similarities and patterns ☐
Apply similarities and patterns to deepen understanding ☐
Evaluate steps of problem solving strategy throughout process ☐

Methodologies: The Students use…
1. (The Consultant’s Company)
Cooperative Pairs ☐
Engaging Activities ☐
Essential Questions ☐
Fact Masters ☐
Graphic Organizers ☐
Guided Discovery ☐
Manipulatives ☐
Pictorial ☐
Review ☐
Scaffolding ☐
Solve One – Create One ☐
Word Wall ☐

1. Lesson: Other Resource

2. Coaching Role(s):
Modeling Lesson ☐
Co-Taught Lesson ☐
Planning ☐
Provided Feedback ☒
Assisted Students ☐
Other ☐

• 1 Attachment
• Walkthrough_2478

The Adobe formatting did not survive this transfer to a blog post perfectly, but I captured the content.

Eduhonesty: She’s a helpful woman, seemingly with the best of intentions. This is a great sample of one piece of the current educational climate that has been driving me nuts: I am never doing enough. She asks why I had not embedded the fractions reduction lesson into story problems so students could solve story problems. The main reason is that I wanted out of reducing fractions as quickly as possible. I am actually teaching probability, but I need my students to be clear that 2/6 is the same as 1/3 before we go further into this math. The lesson was structured so that students could do test retakes to improve their grades as soon as they proved to me that they knew how to reduce fractions. The added story problem would have introduced a level of complexity I neither wanted nor needed, and would have taken time I did not expect to have.

The Common Core boxes in the email also highlight the many Common Core strategies I failed to employ. All I can say about that is — it’s freaking fractions, guys! You find the greatest common factor and divide the numerator and denominator by that factor. How hard do we need to make the act of reducing a fraction? How much critical thinking does this require?

It’s not that I am against critical thinking. I am not against the many techniques this consultant uses to help teach math, although as soon as she walked in, I thought, “Damn! I probably need to be using red and yellow chips or fraction strips or something.” Most likely the consultant’s company and program have come up with a spiffy method using manipulatives that I am supposed to employ to reduce fractions. I was reminded of a reproach by the Assistant Superintendent for the district, who told me I needed to make more use of the materials provided to me. Ummm… that’s two separate texts, one with workbooks, not to mention the multiple software programs available and the a textbook’s worth of online materials from yet another outside consulting company that has given us a fair number of instructional guides and required tests for the year. I have been trying to use the barely-readable book lately. It’s a solidly good book and we need to work on vocabulary.

The materials dilemma resembles the Common Core dilemma. Where can anyone find the time to do all this? But you can certainly get in trouble for failing to do parts of the regime, especially if some administrator favors those parts. So many standards I had not done… So many strategies I had not employed… So many critical thinking questions I had not thought to ask…

In the end, though, I just wanted to make sure my kids could reduce fractions. Some knew how, some needed a refresher. Almost everybody is up and running now, with a couple of exceptions I have identified. But in this, as in so many other lessons, I seem to have done a suboptimal job, another version of the “I like this, but what about that?” that I hear every time a coach ambles unexpectedly into my room. I understand their motivation: They are trying to improve us all.

Just once, though, I’d like to get an email that said something like, “You did a good job. I liked how quickly they were figuring out how to reduce fractions.”

Period. Deed done. End of email.