PHILOSOPHY
Hi Everyone, I am Mr. Rusnak and I teach 7th Grade Math. This is my 21st year teaching and also my 21st year at Madison Middle School. I have developed many tried and true theories and procedures over those previous 20 years. I will try to express a few of those to you here.
1) "Stir the soup"...Soup and Brains need to be stirred....so any topic introduced in class will automatically show up the rest of the year at various times. Some people call it review, I call it stirring the soup.
2) "Teaching math is MY job"... if students are constantly bombarded with homework, some off them will shut down in class and then cry to Mom or Dad at home and then Mom or Dad being good parents will teach them best they can. The sooner the student relies on me and or classmates for help, the better off EVERYONE will be. Therefore, plenty of time is alotted in class for practice and questions.
3) "...but you can't hide"...Math isn't everyone's idea of a good time, so many go through the motions in hopes of fooling those in charge. When you're at the board or taking a test you then become exposed. So expect those two things to be major factors in a student's evaluation.
4) "Math tries to act smarter than it is"...Math, much like the latin Bible, wasn't originally intended to be studied or understood by the masses. It was invented by men who took more pride in the fact that they knew it and you didn't. Because of this math is filled with stuck up words, crazy looking symbols and ENDLESS abbreviations. The concepts when broken down are not nearly as difficult as they are presented in math textbooks. (For example, did you know that ALL area can be done with the formula base x height? EVEN CIRCLES! Even in Calculus the areas under curves (Integration) are found by adding the areas of rectangles together. Math can only do base x height for area...nothing else.) The tough part is getting students to believe this: Learning the concepts is easier than thinking math is just a series of tricks and short cuts that get the problem right but are never understood or retained.
CLASSROOM PROCEDURES
My classroom procedures were developed during my first 10 years of teaching and have been refined and tweaked for the last 9. They usually run in 2 day cycles depending on the rigor of the material at hand.
1) Model (without the runway and flash photography): this simply means I demonstrate or 'model' what I want the students to do.
2) Discuss: I and the students interact as a large group...discussing what was just modeled.
3) Guided Practice: Students do very small amounts of what was modeled and discussed. Usually 2-5 minutes worth...then work is checked and discussed. (common mistakes, things to watch out for, etc.)
4) Independent Practice: Students do 15-25 minutes of what has been modeled, discussed and briefly practiced. They are allowed and ENCOURAGED to ask questions during this time.
5) Evaluation: Usually involves going to the board and demonstrating the independent practice. Always involves an inevitable quiz or test. But the the test won't come until there has been plenty of opportunityfor practice.
6) Enriched math will move faster and deeper. Extra time will be devoted to pre-algebra.
Math and Literacy
Math can be a demanding subject. Literacy is more than implied in its study and execution. What do I mean by this? Let me give you an example...
"Billy's test scores for the semester were 88, 88, 97, 42, 84, 91, and 94. Which measure of central tendency would most accurately describe Billy's ability in this class and why?"
Now...would some glossary time with central tendency, mean (average), median and mode come in handy? Of course. If I could use each one in a sentence, would that help? Yes. Are there many more and sophisticated literacy strategies than this? Absolutely. Just be patient...
Still considering the problem above: Do I need to know all the definitions, be able to DEMONSTRATE how each one works in DIFFERENT CONTEXTS with any nuances or special cases to do this problem successfully? YES! ...And that is the very definition of literacy.
THE PROBLEM IS...
Many times math concepts need to be looked at in their entirety. There were so many parts to the problem above that if you broke them all down at once, all but the most brightest would lose the forest for the trees. Therefore you present big concepts at once, see what sticks, then go back and fill in the cracks. If you are always losing sight of the big picture in math you are doomed to failure. Literacy for me in math is implied, IT IS ESSENTIAL, but we must stay focused on the big concepts until math literacy is reached.