Get out much? of the math textbook, I mean. I know that until recently, I didn’t! Even after leaving the classroom for a few years to do a stint as a program resource consultant, and preaching the message of problem-based learning and three-part lesson planning while I was teaching preservice at the university, when I got back into a classroom, it didn’t take long for me to revert to the textbook as my primary and almost exclusive source for math programming.
It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in a constructivist approach to teaching and learning math. But with all the pizza money to collect, report cards to write, monthly newsletters and curriculum updates to send home, guided reading groups to plan, baseline data to enter into the board-mandated school success computer program, and … Well, you get the idea. The textbook was just so tempting. It offered a lesson-by- lesson approach that was relatively simple to follow, especially for a busy generalist teacher with a touch of math phobia! I quickly gave in to temptation.
It wasn’t until last year, when my colleague Dale Trinder and I applied for and were granted a ministry-funded Teacher Leadership and Learning Program (TLLP) project that I once again attempted – this time with considerably more success – to venture beyond the textbook in my mathematical programming.
Our project revolved around endeavouring to use an Interactive White Board (IWB) to teach math, through the use of bansho.“Bansho” is a technical term developed by Japanese teachers, and means “board writing.” It is an artifact that visually documents a problem-based math lesson. It consumes a large amount of board space, so that students can visually refer back to various parts of the lesson as it progresses. (As an aside, we documented our learning, and posted numerous lessons at SmartBansho.weebly.com)
Because we were receiving upwards of $20,000 in funding, and were expected to submit a final report at the end of our year-long exploration, the pressure was on to get to work. This stress was further intensified by the self-imposed removal of the class set of math textbooks from our classroom, and the arrival and installation of two big, shiny Smart Boards only days before the start of the school year!
Thankfully, the vast majority of our funding had been allocated to teacher release time, and my colleague and I had approximately one day every 10 to visit other schools, to read and research, to get a little informal training on the Smart Board, and to develop non-textbook math lessons.
Once forced to examine the actual curriculum and develop math lessons that addressed specific curriculum expectations and catered to the unique needs of our specific group of students,