Middle and high school math teachers who are part of the Mountaineer Mathematics Master Teachers – M3T – local improvement team gave a presentation at the April 12 Pocahontas County Board of Education meeting about their progress.
Led by M3T fellow and Pocahontas County High School math teacher Jennifer Nail-Cook, the team explained how they are learning new ways to deliver the math curriculum, as well as ways to help students not only learn math, but learn from the mistakes they make when solving problems.
“I’m in my second year of this fellowship and one of the big things they want to do with fellows is enable us to become leaders in our school district,” Nail-Cook said. “So our big step this year was to create a local improvement team which I did. This is my posse.”
Nail-Cook said she invited all interested math teachers at the middle and high school levels to join the team and now this group of five teachers meet regularly to create plans for the math curriculum.
“We looked at how we could improve locally and what we could do to make our middle and high school math classrooms better,” she said.
PCHS math teacher Casey Griffith said one of the first things the team focused on was to determine what “bugged” them about teaching math.
“One thing is, they’re not learning from their mistakes,” Griffith said of the students. “They see a mistake, they’re like, ‘oh, I got it wrong. That sucks. I hate it. I suck at math.’ Our goal is to get kids to look at something that’s wrong, ask questions, figure out why they did it wrong and learn from it so they don’t keep making the same mistakes. That was the thing that initially bugged us.”
On the middle school level, Marlinton Middle School eighth grade math teacher Charlie Hughes explained that she started doing a little project with her students called “Get the goof,” which is a math problem that has a mistake in it and the students have to try to find where the mistake was made and correct it.
“The kids are not only going to look at it and say, ‘Oh, I see the goof and I know how to solve it,’” she said. “They’re actually going to think here’s this form we made and within this form – what was the goof? Here’s my new solution. What advice would I give to myself in the future to avoid making this mistake.”
MMS math teacher Rachel McComb added that there are several cycles to the M3T plan and they have learned when it comes to challenging the students with goofs or finding mistakes in their problems, it is easier to do so with fewer math problems. Students are more focused on the task at hand if they have just one worksheet at a time.
Nail-Cook said the program started later in the year – during the spring semester – but they have managed to get a lot done with the students. She plans to kick things off at the beginning of the next school year to continue improving the ways math is taught and ways the students learn.
“It has been so exciting to be able to get back together to work together and talk about math and learn together again,” she said. “This project is something that came out of how we do math here, and now teachers across the state are doing it – which is very cool.”
The board thanked the team for the update and the work they have done with the students.
Nail-Cook said her fellowship is a five-year contract which is paid for by a National Science Foundation grant. This was her second year with M3T.