And while it is true math is used daily,
generations of youth have struggled with their studies.
What if there was a different approach that made math practical, and
even like they say of an antacid, relieves suffering?
For the last two-plus years, with the Regional Office of Education
(ROE) # 17, Math Instructional Coach Janet Moore, has been working
with teachers at Chester-East Lincoln to build an ‘inquiry-based
learning’ Math curriculum.
ROE #17 serves DeWitt, Livingston, Logan and McLean Counties. Moore
explains her role this way: “I provide professional development and
classroom support for teachers. Sometimes, this means providing
training on research-based practices that have proven to be
effective for mathematics learning.
The new math curriculum finds its seat in real world experiences.
Moore explains, “We give students scenarios and tasks that allow
them to explore and develop intuition about a mathematical concept
before we introduce the formal mathematics.
“When students are able to make sense of a mathematical concept by
grappling with it in a hands-on way, their knowledge about the
concept is more meaningful and longer-lasting.
“The class does not use pre-published standardized text books. Moore
noted that many of the text books that are commercially available do
not “truly align to the Illinois Learning Standards.”
Working with CEL teachers Moore developed new lesson plans that give
students the tools they need. She explained why this approach is
better for teachers and students, “Rather than drawing from just one
publisher, it is a compilation of high-quality teaching resources
that come from a variety of sources. It is also a ‘living’
collection that is continually being added to and updated.
“This curriculum is designed to support highly-responsive teaching.
Rather than trying to write a script for teachers to follow, we
challenge teachers to engage with their students, find out what the
students need to further their learning, and then choose tasks that
will support their student’s needs.
“This curriculum is also highly collaborative. Historically,
American classrooms are relatively isolated places where teachers
work and plan their lessons alone. The teachers who have been
contributing to and using these resources have developed a
professional development community where they regularly brainstorm,
ask questions, troubleshoot challenges, and plan lessons together.”
With this approach teachers weed out what is not useful and embrace
what they believe will be the best to teach students in their
individual classrooms and grade levels. Moore referred to the
curriculum as a ‘buffet’ of choices each teacher can use to
personalize the classroom experience.
“The ROE Math Curriculum is not a textbook,” said Moore. “Rather, it
is a collection of high-quality lessons, tasks, and resources that
are organized into units at each grade level.
“In each unit, the class engages in an “Opening
Exploratory” activity that serves as a kickoff for the major
concepts in that unit. As students work on the Opening Exploratory
task and engage with the mathematical concepts the teacher can pull
other resources from the ‘buffet’ in order to support and challenge
each student appropriately.”
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As part of the process, Moore has been making regular
visits to Chester-East Lincoln spending time in workshops as well as
in the classrooms with the teachers.
CEL Superintendent and Principal Laura Irwin said, “Our teachers
work with her (Moore) monthly on the curriculum and she comes to CEL
as well to observe, model, provide feedback, etc. She is a math
Moore noted that the time spent at CEL is a great opportunity to see
the work in process, using the time as research for what is working
and what isn’t, and utilizing the opinions of the teachers to fine
tune the curriculum.
“Figuring out how to teach math in a more meaningful way is a
learning process for the teachers just as much as it is for the
students. During my classroom visits, I try to support the teachers
as they continue in their own learning progression,” said Moore.
Moore says, “It is an absolute delight to work with the teachers at
CEL. They are a group of dedicated professionals who are excited to
learn and grow themselves as they explore the best ways to teach
their students. They have contributed so much to the program, not
only in the form of helping to compile and organize curriculum
resources, but also as they try these lessons and strategies in
their classrooms and get creative to build upon them.”
The new curriculum is being utilized in all grade levels at CEL
starting in kindergarten. It is the intention that the inquiry-based
learning method will serve all these young people well not only as
they enter high school and college, but also as they go into their
You do use math every day, whether understanding square footage,
volume, pounds per square inch, miles and distance rates, fuel use,
converting recipe measurements or even understanding why the joke
“pie are square” is funny, πr2.
For now, the ROE and CEL are off to a good start and Moore is happy
that she chose to start with the little school in Lincoln. She said,
“I absolutely adore working with everyone at CEL. The school truly
operates as a large family, and I sincerely appreciate the way that
everyone works together to foster a positive environment where
everyone knows they are valued and appreciated.”
Read all the articles in our
2021 Education Magazine
CLICK ON TITLES TO GO TO PAGES
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