November 10, 2011

Expert Corner: Gizmos and the Common Core

Featuring David Shuster, Ph.D.,
ExploreLearning Founder and Publisher.

Teachers and instructional leaders all over the U.S. are busy evolving their practice to reflect the rigor and focus of the new Common Core State Standards.  We at ExploreLearning are doing the same thing.

As with practically all modern math products, Gizmos are already correlated to these new standards. More important is to move beyond correlation to provide direct support for the key goals of the Common Core. With Gizmos, we had a wonderful starting point. Gizmos already provide myriad opportunities to develop deep conceptual understanding and strong support for the Common Core's Standards of Mathematical Practice.

But what does Common Core Standards mean by “mathematical understanding?” Here’s a key quote from the text of the standards:

"One hallmark of mathematical understanding is the ability to justify, in a way appropriate to the student's mathematical maturity, why a particular mathematical statement is true or where a mathematical rule comes from."

 Distance-Time Graphs Gizmo demonstrates the relationship between distance and time with a graph, and introduces slope and y intercept in context of this real world scenario. It supports Standards of Mathematical Practice 2, 4 and 5.

Over the years, Gizmos have been widely recognized as an excellent means to help students understand challenging mathematical topics and the “hows” and “whys” behind them. With Gizmos, students don’t just read or listen and watch, they learn by manipulating key variables and working with multiple visual representations. Compared to more traditional approaches, Gizmos help students to attain new levels of understanding.

In addition to content standards that define what specific concepts and skills students should master, the Common Core also defines Standards of Mathematical Practice. These standards define expertise that mathematics educators at all levels should seek to develop in their students. In particular, they state that mathematically proficient students should be able to:

1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.

3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

4. Model with mathematics.

5. Use appropriate tools strategically.

6. Attend to precision.

7. Look for and make use of structure.

8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

We have already heard from many of you that Gizmos help students to develop many of these competencies. But we want to do even better. So as part of our ongoing Gizmo Lesson Materials update, we are putting a special emphasis on the Common Core to ensure that both the content standards and the Standards of Mathematical Practice are supported as fully as possible.

If you have suggestions for how we can further improve, we would appreciate it if you would take a moment to send us your thoughts. Additionally, I hope you will consider sharing your favorite Common Core teaching ideas in the form of contributed lesson materials and recommendations for the Gizmos you feel really make a difference for you. With your input, we can make Gizmos an even better program for you and your students.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 04:23 PM in Edu/Tech, Using Gizmos | Permalink

Missy Graham-Allison: ExploreLearning Educator of the Month

Missy Graham-Allison teaches Biology at Durant High School in Florida's Hillsborough County Public Schools and is one of the sponsors of the school's Science Honor and Competition Club. She has degrees in Biology and Educational Leadership and has been teaching for twelve years.

Mrs. Allison has been using Gizmos for two years to create new opportunities for her students to interact with scientific concepts. She turns to such diverse Gizmos as Cell Division, Human Evolution - Skull Analysis, and Rabbit Population by Season to bring concepts to life. She gives an example:

"The Rabbit Population Gizmo helped students to see how populations can be affected by different factors. Terms like density-dependent and density-independent limiting factors, carry capacity, and population density tend to be hard concepts for them. I use this particular Gizmo to 'show' them what the terms mean. My students feel that it gives them a 'visual' on what is going on instead of just getting the information from the text or lecture notes."

She reports that many students demonstrate a comfortable comprehension of these complex scientific concepts after working with this Gizmo.

Mrs. Allison also makes good use of Gizmos Assessment Questions. She uses them for formative assessment, but also to drive parental involvement. Parents are made aware when students do poorly on the assessment questions, and this helps motivate them to get involved in their child's learning. Working on a Gizmo can be a fun and engaging way for parents to learn with their children.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 04:18 PM in Case Studies | Permalink