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It may seem difficult at first because it is more rigorous than what the kids are used to, but if you stick with it, they will grow.
“In my class, there is a mix of every level you can imagine,” explains 4th-grade teacher Azuree Walker of Beecher Hills Elementary in Atlanta, Georgia. As an inclusion classroom teacher, the challenge of adequately addressing student needs on all academic levels in one classroom is ongoing. Almost all students at Beecher Hills are on a free/reduced lunch program. They learn Spanish as a second language and participate in a daily social and emotional learning curriculum called Second Step.
With support from Principal Crystal Jones and Academic Coach Neal Christian, Ms. Walker utilized Total Motivation Math as her classroom’s primary math resource during the 2016–2017 school year. Mr. Christian is an advocate for Total Motivation Math because of its close alignment to the standards and its rigor, along with the online component and emphasis on critical thinking.
The implementation of Total Motivation Math’s Student Edition (SE) closely follows the Atlanta Public School District’s “gradual release” of students from guided to independent practice, according to Mr. Christian. Ms. Walker begins each week the same way, choosing from a variety of Instructional Activities provided in the Teacher Edition (TE) to “beef up the standard,” she explains. She prefers using the online version of the TE (although print is also available) to demonstrate one or two problems during whole group instruction using the whiteboard feature, one of her favorite aspects of Total Motivation Math’s online format. Her students follow along in their print SE and work the problems, then she checks their work to see their progress.
When I find something that does what I need it to do, that's what sold me. I keep using it because it works.
By mid-week she has moved to the Partner Practice activity in the SE to challenge students to “figure out what to do here.” At this point, Ms. Walker becomes a fly on the wall, observing their logic and noticing how they talk to each other about the problems. “I know who has it and who doesn’t. . . . It gives me a better gauge for how the lesson is going,” she explains. Students then transition from print to online for Independent Practice—but only when “they have proven to me that they’ve got the concept,” Ms. Walker notes. The engaging content keeps students motivated to make progress.
By end of week, students complete the unit’s Assessment online, which allows them to check their understanding and mastery of the standard while practicing in the same format as the Georgia Milestones Assessment. Ms. Walker uses the Assessment to identify each student’s level of knowledge. “The Assessment lets me know if you are on track. . . . It informs me regarding what I need to teach or reteach and how to plan for next week. It’s how I know what lessons to assign and who needs them.” Students who cannot successfully complete the Independent Practice online will go back and practice in the print SE to check their work and identify errors.
After using Total Motivation Math three to four hours a week during the 2016–2017 school year, Ms. Walker’s class scores improved by 106 points from August to April, as measured on the STAR Math Level 4 Benchmark in Atlanta PSD. One month later, 100 percent of the general education students in Ms. Walker’s class passed the Georgia Milestones Assessment.
Using Total Motivation’s online reporting feature at the end of each week saves Ms. Walker time and provides immediate data she can use. It helps her see what students missed and what their explanation was. She adds that “it keeps them accountable because they know I’m online, too.” Ms. Walker uses Total Motivation’s automatic grading feature to track student progress, confirm mastery of each standard, and evaluate overall scoring. This feature also color codes students based on customized grouping options, revealing who needs assistance and who is ready for the next assignment. “I can tailor it to what they need,” she says, choosing assignments and questions specific to each student’s targeted areas of growth. This student-centered approach keeps students focused on the next steps in their learning process through practice and assessment. “They know I am going to push them forward,” she explains.
In the past, Ms. Walker’s students told her they don’t like math, but since using Total Motivation Math, students “are no longer resistant to math. “Just getting them to be excited about math is an ‘a-ha’ moment for me,” she says. Mr. Christian has noticed Ms. Walker’s growing confidence. “If teachers grow, we know students will grow,” he says. “I’ve watched her students growing. They’re really improving. The only thing that changed was her instructional practice . . . using Total Motivation Math every day.”
Total Motivation Math’s approach to critical thinking makes success achievable for a wider range of her students. Ms. Walker knows she’s creating lifelong learners and helping them to be better prepared for fifth grade. While her students come to fourth grade “very dependent,” with the help of Total Motivation Math, she’s seeing more of them become “more independent, critical thinkers because it pushes them” toward deeper levels of thinking.
Total Motivation Math is more rigorous than their previous curriculum. It helps Ms. Walker identify learning gaps and provides suggestions for how to close them using research-based instructional strategies. “I’ve been able to go back in and fix those gaps so that they can manage the rigor better,” Ms. Walker explains.
Because students are exposed to consistent rigor from lesson to lesson, they are better prepared for the state test. “That helps my kids see where they need to be from start to finish. It’s not that we’re teaching it easy and then testing it hard,” says Ms. Walker.
Ms. Walker implements Total Motivation Math according to the district’s “gradual release” model, progressing students from guided to more independent practice with each new concept. The multitude of instructional activities and flexibility of print and online formats make Total Motivation Math ideal for this approach.
Choose several instructional activities from TE to introduce new content. Demonstrate problems for whole class using the whiteboard feature and have students follow along in their own print SE.
Challenge students to tackle practice problems during Partner Practice (SE). Gauge how lesson is going by observing how they work together and talk about the math. Transition students to Independent Practice (SE) once they understand the concept.
Assign online unit assessment to evaluate standard mastery and help students practice online assessment format. Use reporting feature to plan next week’s lessons and identify intervention needs.
TE=Teacher Edition / SE=Student Edition
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