While so many Math lessons have become stagnant and boring, during these sessions, students are really expected to be the best and try the hardest. In this way, we are able to introduce and teach a number of deeper concepts. We describe it to them in this manner:
We're taking you into deeper water. It's time to get our of the kiddie pool and take off the floaties. It's time that you learn how to swim!
We have been able to cover several Math concepts in a very short time using questions we have downloaded from the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) website. Says their site, "...NAEP...is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas." There are 208 Math problems that are typically similar to the types of questions asked on state tests across the nation.
It goes without saying that we are preparing students to take the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test at the end of the school year. The fourth grade Math portion of the MAP test has been deemed the hardest state fourth grade Math test in the nation. Yes, we do want our students to do well on the test, but it is virtually impossible to "teach to the test". The MAP test is designed to drive the curriculum in our state, and it progresses each year to reflect this. The test is also designed to confirm that we are teaching the skills and information needed by the fourth grade. Assessment is a necessary part of what we do in Missouri public schools.
That being said, we will say goodbye to the current MAP test in the next couple of years, as the national standards (Common Core) are coming into effect (to a school near you!). These rigorous standards are going to really push students in areas typically not expected at our level of instruction. We are already aiming in these directions in our classroom, so the jump should not be a great one.
Again, however, some students are not equipped with the fact fluency they need to attack some of the tasks at hand. They simply must know their basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts before arriving in the fourth grade. If not, the entire year can be spent catching them up, all along while pushing harder and harder to get to the deeper waters of geometry, problem solving, algebra, fractions, and strenuous combinations of all of these.
Swimming in the deep water can be fun for those who are confident and possess the skills to swim without going under. Deep water provides the challenge to keep us from growing stagnant from sitting in one place for too long. It keeps things interesting - like rafting into the white water among the rocks. Plus, and this is no secret, even if the kiddie pool is warm and comfortable, I've noticed the water is a bit yellow.
Dateline: Cecil Floyd Elementary, Joplin, Missouri
The folks at the National Assessment of Educational Progress have graced the fourth grade at Cecil Floyd with the opportunity to show the world what we have to offer. On February 6, our students will take a surprise test (SURPRISE!). This is the test that is used to help them rank Missouri among the other states in our Union. Missouri sits just above the national average for fourth grade Math. Naturally, we are just as competitive as the next state, but we really do want to achieve greatness. It is quite a responsibility for us to carry. I hope we represent Missouri well.