## Thursday, May 21, 2015

### Fraction Book Studies

It has been a busy couple of weeks around here and I am really looking forward to the slower days of summer.  My collection of professional reading has been mounting and I have good intentions of doing a lot of reading this summer.  I am currently reading About Teaching Mathematics which is the newest version of a wonderful book by Marilyn Burns.  I can tell it will be my go to reference book for years to come.  Look for a review in the next few weeks right here on my blog.

This summer, I really want to dig deeper into fractions and do some overhauling of my teaching and intervention materials for fractions.  I have two books about fractions that I really want to read and dig deeper into this summer.   These books also come with DVDs which I think is a great way of seeing the writing in action.  They also make a great addition to professional development that I lead as part of my role as a math coach.

I would love for you to join me reading one or both of these books.  They are both a very reasonable length and I will be breaking each book into a 4 week book study.   Once a week, I will post my thoughts and ideas from a few chapters in the book.  You can respond in the comments with your own thoughts and ideas or if you have a blog you can write a post about it and link it in the comments.

A little bit about each book:

#### Beyond Pizzas and Pies

From Math Solutions...

The focus of Beyond Pizzas & Pies, Second Edition, is on foundational understandings. The authors help teachers and students understand fractions as numbers, including the use of equivalency and thinking about benchmark numbers, so that when students start to compute with fractions (see the companion volume, Beyond Invert & Multiply), they have a solid foundation. You’ll find:
• Classroom Scenarios that address common challenges students (and teachers!) encounter as they acquire an understanding of fractions;
• What’s the Math? sections intended to clarify the mathematics;
• What’s the Research? insights that show why “that’s the way we’ve always done things” might not be the most successful approach;
• Classroom Activities with friendly, step-by-step instructions and video clips demonstrating how to teach the concepts;
• Study Questions at the end of each chapter that encourage readers to set concrete goals for implementing what they’ve read; and
• Connections to the Common Core for those states implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.
(The accompanying DVD features 30 video clips filmed in actual classrooms. Clips range from 1 minute to 6 minutes in length with a total viewing time of approximately 70 minutes.)

You can get this book at Math Solutions.  If you buy it through math solutions and use the code MAY201530, you will save 30% off the list price until June 1st.  You can also get it on Amazon and it ships free with Prime.

The posting schedule for Beyond Pizzas & Pies (all Wednesdays)
June 10th Chapters 1&2
June 17th Chapters 3&4
June 24th Chapters 5&6
July 1st Chapters 7&8

#### Beyond Invert & Multiply

From Math Solutions:
Beyond Invert & Multiply builds on the foundational understandings that are described inBeyond Pizzas & Pies: 10 Essential Strategies for Supporting Fraction Sense, Second Edition, and applies them to situations involving fraction computation. You’ll find:
• Classroom Scenarios that address common challenges students (and teachers!) encounter as they learn to operate with fractions;
• What’s the Math? sections intended to clarify the mathematics;
• What’s the Research? insights that show why “that’s the way we’ve always done things” might not be the most successful approach;
• Classroom Activities with friendly, step-by-step instructions and video clips demonstrating how to teach the concepts;
• Study Questions at the end of each chapter that encourage readers to set concrete goals for implementing what they’ve read; and
• Connections to the Common Core for those states implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.

You can get this book at Math Solutions.  If you buy it through math solutions and use the code MAY201530, you will save 30% off the list price until June 1st.  You can also get it on Amazon and it ships free with Prime.

This book study will start the week after the other one ends.  Here is the posting schedule.

July 8th Part 1: What is a Fraction?
July 15th Part 2: Addition and Subtraction with Fractions
July 22nd Part 3: Multiplication and Division with Fractions
July 29th Part 4: Discourse with Fractions

## Tuesday, May 19, 2015

### What to Expect When You are Applying: Math Coach

Recently, I have had several folks ask me about my role as a math specialist and what exactly it is that I do at work.  I have also had several folks contact me through my Facebook page with questions about roles and responsibilities as a math leader.  This week I will be sharing some of the different roles I play as an elementary math specialist.  Because I work in a small school, I have several roles to play.  In larger schools it is often the case that one of these roles is a full job.  Yesterday I gave some details about what to expect as/from a math interventionist.  Today I want to share with you another of my roles.

### Math Coach

#### Building Relationships

If you are going to be getting into teacher's classrooms and really making a difference for them and their students than it is vitally important that they find you helpful and they trust you.  Building strong relationships with the teachers you are going to be working with is the foundation that the rest of this role is built on.  Present yourself to teachers as someone who is helpful and ready to work together.  Be a good listener and try to understand where other folks are coming from!  Being the neutral party that everyone gets along with can really pay off for a math coach!

So many teachers are used to closing their classroom door and doing the best they can with the knowledge and experiences they have.  They might not be ready to make a change or might be terrified of any number of things associated with your presence in their classroom.  There will also be teachers who are eager for your help and guidance.  These are the teachers you should start with.  If you work with the folks eager for change, you create a positive climate and shared experience.  As other teachers in the building see changes in instruction and climate, they might be more open to changes.  I have found that some of the teachers who were most reluctant to give my ideas about constructivist teaching and letting kids figure out their own strategies are now some of the ones who embrace the ideas the most.  You might have a small group of teachers that you feel like you really haven't influenced even after many years but you can't let that overshadow the work you do with others.  Focus on the positive.

#### Communication

Find the best way to communicate with the teachers you are working with.  Follow up conversations with emails and reminders.  If I meet with a teacher to co-plan a series of lessons, I take notes on my computer or tablet while we are meeting.  Then I email this to any teachers who were part of the discussion.  This reminds folks what we talked about and makes sure we are all on the same page.  If planning time happens more than a few days in advance, I send out reminder emails.  Take the time to follow up with extra communication and things will run much smoother for you.

#### Resource Manager

As the math coach in the building, you will be expected to know a lot about various resources.  This might mean physical resources such as manipulatives and books and it also means virtual resources and ideas.  A teacher might come to you with questions about teaching fractions.  A parent might ask how they can best help with homework.  You are expected to be the expert on all things math related and having knowledge of resources that are available in  your school and online can really help answer these questions.

A great way to stay up on what resources are available is to do a lot of professional reading.  This can be a lot of different things but might include reading several math teaching books (I try to read 1 per month!).  You get the knowledge from these books and you put them on your shelf at school.  If someone asks a question, you can point them in the direction of one of these books.  This also could mean reading math blogs and other online resources.  I love how the format of blog posts allows me to share information in small pieces.  When I find a blog post I think a teacher would benefit from or find interesting, I send them a link in a quick email.  I find teachers are much more likely to read a short blog post than an entire book!  Sometimes a few short blog posts around one particular subject qets their interest piqued enough to ask for a book recommendation.

#### Embedded Professional Development

As part of my math coaching role, I do a lot of embedded professional development.  This can vary greatly but is good math practice broken into little chunks.  I might model a number talk or explain the research behind a particular method for teaching fractions.  I follow up my words with links to blog posts, books or other resources.  I also am often asked to lead lesson studies or professional learning communities around particular topics.

#### In-service Days

When my district has an in-service or teacher training day, I am often asked to provide professional development to the teachers, administrators and/or paraprofessionals around various math topics.  This used to be one of the most challenging aspects of my job because getting up in front of adults and teaching them something used to be terrifying to me.   With practice, this has gotten much easier and now I really look forward to getting to do in depth professional development with the adults in my district.

As the math expert in your building you will need to spend some time communicating with administrators about your schools' math program and what you and the teachers you work with need in terms of professional development, time and materials.  You will probably be asked to attend several additional meetings each year around these issues.

#### Create a Math Community

Creating a school culture around math may be part of your responsibility.  Organizing family math nights and communicating with parents about how math is taught in your school might be part of your job.  You also might have to showcase assessments, construct bulletin boards or attend school board meetings.  Getting your math message out to the community can be a great way to build long term support for your position.

For more ideas and some specific suggestions, head over to math solutions to check out this article!

Are you a math coach?  I would love it if you shared your tips and experiences in the comments section below!  Got a question about being a math coach?  I would love to try to answer it!  Leave it below!

## Monday, May 18, 2015

### What to Expect When You are Applying: Math Interventionist

It seems to me that math support positions have been becoming more common in schools across the country.  In the last few weeks, I have received several emails and Facebook messages from folks who have applied or are thinking about applying for various elementary math positions.  Many people are looking for advice and ideas and others are really asking what to expect.  I know expectations for these types of jobs vary widely but I want to share what I have learned over the last 10 years.  Over the next few days, I will be describing some of the roles that I have played as a "math specialist" and my best advice for doing a great job in each role.

### Math Interventionist

This is the backbone of what your role will be as a math interventionist.  The majority of your time will be spent working with small groups of students who require additional instruction to meet standards.  There are many math intervention programs available commercially which your school may or may not use.  My school does not have a commercial program and I create what I use with my students.  I tend to keep much of my interventions game based, especially with primary students and get a lot of mileage out of my place value card decks.  With my older students I do a lot of hands on practice with manipulatives and concrete models and linking those to the representational and abstract simultaneously.  When I first began this job my interventions looked very different and I sometimes struggled to figure out what I needed to do and what tools I needed.  If you are new to being a math interventionist and do not have a commercially available program, see if you can spend some time talking with another math interventionist about what they use with their students and how they know it is successful.  It can be a lot of work to start from scratch.  I do like being in charge of making my own intervention materials now that I have had a lot of experience, I find that I can really customize my interventions to individual students in a way that would not be possible with a commercially available program.

Students are referred to me based on assessments, both observational and formal.  Some of it is formative assessment and others are local assessments that we use as screening tools or provide intervention for follow up.  Students who are currently on my case load get assessed several times a year.  They usually get an assessment when school starts, in January and in May.  They might also get one before a parent conference or report card if I am looking for more information.  For K-2 kids, I use a local assessment that is an individual interview.  It is great to get this level of detail on my intervention students.  For older students, I have recently started using the Math Reasoning Inventory which is part written and part interview.  Marilyn Burns was one of the authors so like all of her stuff, it is awesome !  You can check it out here.

#### Tracking Data

You have all those assessments, now how are you going to track and share data?  If you use the Math Reasoning Inventory, much of this is done for you.  If you use local assessments or a combination of things you might have to invent your own data tracking system.  I use Excel to track data in a variety of ways.  If you do not know how to use Excel I highly recommend you learn!  I learned how to use it to my full advantage 6 years ago while I was taking a statistics class.  Understanding how data can work for you and what tools are available to you can really help.  Knowing the basics of statistics and how to use a spreadsheet program can be really helpful for a math interventionist.

#### Communicating with Parents

So now you have identified students in need of intervention.  The next step is to let parents know and introduce yourself to families.  I work in a very small school and after 10 years I know most of the families.  I find a quick phone call to let a parent know when I am doing intervention with their kid to work well for me.  This mostly is due to the fact that I already know the family.  If I need to do intervention with a kid whose family I do not know, I often have the classroom teacher get in touch with the family and let them know I will be working with their child.  Then I make contact by phone or in person and start developing that relationship with the family.  For students whose families already know me or for students who are on my case load the most frequently, I find that email is a great way to communicate updates and quick shares about what we have been working on.  I try to be in email contact with parents at least twice per month with a quick update.  This takes a lot less time than it may seem and really helps parents feel connected.  I also meet with families at parent conference time.  I mostly set it up so the parents can see myself and the classroom teacher in the same conference.  This makes for less meeting for the parent and keeps everyone on the same page.

Each job is going to be different but these are some of the things I have experienced as a math interventionist.  I will be detailing other roles that I have taken on as a math specialist this week so check back or make sure you are following me on Facebook!

If you have any tips or experiences
about being a math interventionist to share please let us know in the comments!  Any questions I can answer for you would be great as well!

Want to know what being a math coach is like?  Head over to part 2 of this series!