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There are many commonly proposed solutions to the shortage of qualified teachers for secondary students who are struggling in math or have learning disabilities. These solutions are expensive, complex, and they will take considerable time to implement. Many of them have been with us for years and have yet to be seriously implemented. So, what can be done in the short term?
At the heart of today’s challenge is finding a sufficient number of new teachers who have three distinct qualifications: 1) a sufficient content knowledge of mathematics, 2) a reasonable level of teaching or “pedagogical” knowledge of the subject, and 3) a capacity to differentiate instruction for struggling students. Finding all of these qualifications in one individual is rare, and the data confirm this.
American educators have a well-honed way of thinking about curriculum. Typically, district committees compare and then adopt a curriculum to meet specific goals or guidelines. More recently, curriculum adoption in math has been driven by state or national standards.
Is there a more efficient way to begin PD or coaching, one where the teachers’ needs are more common than they are divergent? Can this be done in a way that is nonthreatening, at least in comparison to in-class coaching with feedback?
Where does a principal start today in a world awash with new teachers, many of whom struggle to teach to state or national standards? As co-authors of the K-8 mathematics professional development program, NUMBERS, Michele Douglass, Mary Stroh and I have done a lot of thinking about how principals can orchestrate successful change.
Traditional algebra word problems have a bad rap and for good reason. Students are hardly enamored with content of the typical word problem, and its relevance to the real world is questionable at best.