- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Heinemann (February 24, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0325026564
- ISBN-13: 978-0325026565
- Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.3 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 29 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #395,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Accessible Mathematics: Ten Instructional Shifts That Raise Student Achievement
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About the Author
Steve Leinwand is the author of the bestselling Heinemann title Accessible Mathematics: Ten Instructional Shifts That Raise Student Achievement.He is Principal Research Analyst at the American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C., where he supports a range of mathematics education initiatives and research. Steve served as Mathematics Supervisor in the Connecticut Department of Education for twenty-two years and is a former president of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics.
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As a teacher, it is difficult not to become overwhelmed and cynical as districts invest millions in one mandated program after another that are supposed to solve all the problems if only we would implement it correctly, only to have each program successively thrown out for a new one within just one or two years of implementation. Yet, most of us try to remain optimistic and continually try to take the best of each new thing that comes down the pipe to be better teachers.
The title of this book is very appropriate in that it clearly stresses a focus on instruction. Far too often, the discussion of math education in America is limited to content/curriculum and teachers are left to their own art and instinct for delivery. In truth, instruction does have some science to it and teachers can learn how to be more effective in content delivery. Teachers like myself who have been teaching for many years have seen the pendulum swings in curriculum and pedagogy several times, but the ideas in this little book are relatively timeless.
This book has several things going for it.
1. It is short and to the point, with clear examples. People are busy, and yet it is not unreasonable to read this book in one or two afternoons without feeling like you wasted your time. In a few minutes of reading, you can find a clear idea of how to improve your instruction immediately. You won't be bombarded with too many ideas to absorb, nor will you have to trudge through pages of over-pontification to get the point.
2. The 10 skills are reasonable, research-based, powerful, and possible. All of these practices will improve any teacher's instruction and improve the learning of the students. A little more planning may be required for a lesson than the typical "Section 5-4, polygon area, examples 1 and 2 and problems 1-10." Instead, a teacher would need to think about systematic review, key questions to ask students, how to foster discussion on the topic, how to address misconceptions, how to assess learning, etc. So, more thought goes into the "how" and "why" of content presentation and what activities the students will be doing in class than sometimes happens in the real world American math classroom.
3. It is focused on math instruction and is applicable to all levels. Math teachers everywhere know the frustration of books and staff development that supposedly apply to all content areas but really do not easily transfer to a math classroom. This book is specifically about teaching math. Each of the 10 instructional skills are applicable across all grade levels, although many examples seem to come from upper elementary math standards, and fewer from higher or lower levels. As a high school teacher, however, I did not find it overly difficult to relate the examples to what I would do in high school. In fact, many of the examples, although technically at an upper elementary level, are ones I could directly use without modification in even an honors high school class, because the focus of the problems is generally on thinking/reasoning skills that apply at all levels and ages and that the majority of our students are sorely lacking. The selected examples show how "rich" problems can be accessed at a wide variety of depth and difficulty depending on the readiness of the students and intentions of the instructor.
I will be able to use the ideas presented here to immediate result in my classroom. Although the skills are logical and simple, there is still a factor of skill development in employing them that is understood by the author. Instruction is skill-based, just as is, say, playing basketball, and skills of questioning students, developing number sense, systematically reviewing, employing language-rich context, and so on, should improve over time as practiced.
The examples and suggestions are plentiful and yet they are also small enough tweaks to a teacher's instruction that one can choose what one thinks will work best in his/her class. They are also things that can be implemented next-day and one at a time. I cannot say I have successfully used all of the ideas yet, but since they are all separate, it is easy to pick one and try it without feeling overwhelmed. This book even includes a short explanation of how to write quality, manageable lesson plans.
The specificity, along with the fact that this book is short, sweet, and to the point, is what makes this book stand out. It bridges the gap between the classes I took in college, many of which were either overly generalized in an effort to handle ALL secondary subjects, or too focused on specific aspects of the math curriculum and how to best explain them to young learners. Not that those classes didn't serve a purpose, but like I say, they left a gap that this book fills.
Although I have already used many of the ideas, I feel that I didn't use them properly. I have gained so much insight from this book. The ideas on how to develop real-life problems through questioning are eye opening. I was also marveled by how the author's greatest focus was on connecting math with literacy and using relevant context to engage and maintain student interest.
However, don't be fooled! These strategies are not only for elementary teachers, but for ALL teachers of mathematics. I have read many books on the teaching of mathematics, and this book certainly ranks among my "top 5". If you lead math teachers or are a mathematics teacher yourself, this should definitely be on your reading list.