Algebra for Middle Grades Teachers
University of Georgia
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 1:25 – 2:15 pm, room 322 Boyd Graduate Studies Building.
Dr. Sybilla Beckmann, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor of Mathematics
501 Boyd Graduate Studies Building
Please contact me as soon as possible (by email or phone) if an illness or emergency prevents you from attending class.
Office hours: By appointment in room 501 Boyd Graduate Studies. Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me or call me with questions or to make an appointment to meet.
Writing Intensive Program (WIP) Teaching Assitant:
434E Boyd Graduate Studies Building
Office hours: Nick will be pleased to meet with you by appointment. Please email him to schedule an appointment.
Mathematics Education Teaching Assistant:
Eun Kyung Kang
This course is part of your preparation to teach math in grades 4 through 8. Teachers are so important! We know that teacher quality is a major factor in student achievement. We want to guide you along a path toward becoming a good math teacher. As a good math teacher you will select mathematically worthwhile tasks and problems, you will ask questions, listen to your students’ mathematical ideas, orchestrate discussions, and expect students to reason about and make sense of math. To do so, you must develop a strong and flexible understanding of the concepts you will teach. Therefore we will go deeply into the ideas about algebra and number theory that students learn in grades 4 – 8.
The course content is closely linked to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, which Georgia has adopted for its K-12 curriculum (replacing the Georgia Performance Standards). These standards consist of Standards for Mathematical Content and Standards for Mathematical Practice. When you teach, you will be responsible for helping your students develop habits of mind of mathematical thinkers through engaging in the mathematical practices.
As a teacher, your own attitudes about math and about learning are important. Therefore, in this course we aim to foster the following dispositions, practices, and understandings:
A “growth mindset” – Intelligence is not fixed but is something that can be improved by working at it. “[A] proven intervention is to tell junior-high-school students that I.Q. is expandable, and that their intelligence is something they can help shape. Students exposed to that idea work harder and get better grades. That’s particularly true of girls and math, apparently because some girls assume that they are genetically disadvantaged at numbers; deprived of an excuse for failure, they excel.” (From the NY Times 4/16/2009 article How to Raise our I.Q. by Nicholas Kristof. ) And: “People who believe in the power of talent tend not to fulfill their potential because they’re so concerned with looking smart and not making mistakes. But people who believe that talent can be developed are the ones who really push, stretch, confront their own mistakes and learn from them.” (Dr. Carol Dweck, as quoted in the NY Times 7/6/2008, If You’re Open to Growth You Tend to Grow)
Engagement – People learn through active engagement with ideas and by building the ideas in their own minds. In class, you will often be asked to solve and discuss problems and to think about mathematical ideas in new or different ways. Make productive and active use of that time. This includes allowing yourself time to think and grapple, even when you are stuck or struggling. Throughout the course, try to think critically about ideas and work towards expressing ideas with greater precision. Look for interesting connections to other ideas and look for things that are surprising or neat.
Perseverance – Keep trying to understand an idea or solve a problem even when you don’t “get it” right away. Persistence and commitment to continued learning are vital to success in the long run, much more so than being talented or “quick.”
Responsibility – Take responsibility for your learning. Monitor your understanding and look for ways to extend and improve it. Seek help when you need it. Look for your own optimal level of challenge.
Learning community – Learn with and from your classmates. Listen carefully to their ideas, explanations, and problem-solving approaches. Think critically about what you hear. Listening to others can be difficult and confusing at times, but it’s an especially important skill for teachers. As a teacher you will need to listen closely to your students to determine how they are thinking about mathematical ideas so that you can build on what your students know. Recognize that in class we are working together to make sense of ideas, which will involve some false starts and errors. Incorrect answers are valuable opportunities to determine where the flaws lie. Be comfortable agreeing or disagreeing (you may feel more comfortable saying you “respectfully disagree”). Support each other’s learning. Nudge each other towards greater participation and engagement.
Mathematical ideas – Understand that lines of reasoning, explanations, and making sense of concepts and ideas are just as important in math as skills and procedures. At its core, math is about ideas.