Pitsco prides itself on developing curriculum for teachers by teachers. Being a curriculum specialist, I use experiences from my 20 years in the classroom to develop materials that help students learn concepts through engaging, hands-on experiences. But creating the content isn't where our process ends. I also visit classrooms to see how teachers are using the material and students are receiving it. One of the curriculum products I had the privilege of helping develop was Math Expeditions.
Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting a Pittsburg High School mathematics class where students were using our Math Expeditions.
What Makes Math Expeditions Unique?
Math Expeditions have a story element that ties the math to a real-world scenario, connecting content to a career in which the lessons might be used and applied. Through inquiry, questioning, hands-on activities, and Standards for Mathematical Practice, students are able to demonstrate their depth of understanding in novel ways.
What Is the Goal?
Math Expeditions were developed as a way for students to see how math can be used in the real world and why they might need to know concepts they were learning. Each title is built around Common Core State Mathematics Standards for high school algebra as their focus.
Pittsburg High School is a pilot site for Math Expeditions. They've been using the curriculum since the beginning of the 2016-17 school year.
I was able to visit them on a day the students were learning how exponential relationships were used with musical scales and instruments in Tuned in to Exponents. It was exciting to see how the students were participating in the activities and asking good questions related to the content. During the session, students were focused while using their tuners to measure the wave frequencies for the Thumb Strums. The teacher was able to move throughout the class and have meaningful discussions as well as help students who were struggling with a concept.
Before I left, I was able to speak to the teacher about his experience using the Math Expeditions. The feedback was very positive, and he loved how the Standards for Mathematical Practice worked seamlessly while the students were learning the focus standards.
He had run into very few problems such as an online tuner that wasn't working. (He found another tuner that would work and kept the experience on track for the students before I arrived.) It was obvious this teacher was making the most out of this teaching tool and was creating a unique experience for his students.
Throughout my visit, I was reminded of why I enjoyed teaching so much and the promise these students hold for the future. I'm already looking forward to the next chance I get to visit one of our Expedition sites!
Apply It to Your Classroom
Make the curriculum work for you! I've always viewed curriculum materials as tools for teachers to use in the way they could be most effective. When a teacher takes a tool and learns how to use it to its full potential, it will yield great results. Anyone who has watched a novice or master sculptor work with a chisel knows that the quality of the resulting product depends on the ability to maximize the capability of the tool. When I hear people say that teaching is an art, I think of those great teachers I've encountered throughout my life who knew how to make the most of the tools they had available to them.
Perhaps Math Expeditions can be the next tool you add to your algebra class.