Have I mentioned that I teach one section (4 hours per week) of CMSP, Comprehensive Math & Science Program? It’s really pushing me to differentiate, which is good, and to keep detailed data about student performance, also good. Keeping and using data is an important school goal this year, and given the push to do it and a model of how, I’m really getting into it. But more on that in another post.
CMSP is supposed to really focus on skills, algorithms, and so on, but it’s not just drills – though there is some of that. We started with lessons on adding multiple digit numbers and sequences of multiple digit numbers, and subtracting multiple digit numbers. Like, 345,329 + 87,630 + 56 + 785. We did a couple of lessons, then I gave a quiz. The goal is for every student to achieve 85% or higher on every skill – and we don’t move on until all but a few kids have achieved that. So after quiz 1, a few kids clearly had mastered the skills – 90% or higher – and most had not. What to do? One thing led to another and I ended up grouping them in a flexible fashion and creating separate activities for each group targeted to the kind of mistakes they made. All the students had to review their quizzes and do the problems they got wrong over, so they could begin to see the patterns in their mistakes themselves. After that, some students made basic facts flashcards, others practiced lining problems up correctly, others focused on borrowing, etc.
My mastery group, the ones who already achieved a high score, began an experiment in something called “curriculum compacting.” I surveyed them as to what they would like to do with time that they free up by mastering skills before others in the class. Most chose to prep for the specialized high schools exam – two years away. A few chose peer tutoring. Other choices included a math-related project or doing logic puzzles.
After two days of targeted instruction, I gave quiz 2. Four or five students moved into the mastery group and many improved. One girl raised her grade 30% on this skill in three days (because she reviewed her basic facts with flashcards, greatly improving her accuracy). By now, I could see four or five students who really were far behind. I designed more targeted instruction, divided the students up into slightly different groups, and tried to free up enough time to conference with those students about their errors. This proved difficult because the flexible groups working on separate assignments leads to a lot of neediness – everyone wants your help and attention all the time. I guess it will take time for this kind of class to become routine and classroom management to ease up a bit.
I gave quiz 3 today, and we’re moving on after this. There are a few too many students below the 85% mark, but it’s time to go on. I’ll design review work for the kids who are still behind – and for some, it’s just carelessness which they are aware of and need to work on for themselves – but as a class, we’re on to the next skill.