I am now in my 20th year as an elementary teacher with Los Angeles Unified School District. For the last 13 years I've worked primarily as a math coach for numerous schools, both extremely high achieving, as well as schools facing many challenges that have worked hard and made significant improvements. In that capacity, I've written thousands of pages of instructional plans and worksheets. It's given me the opportunity to work closely with hundreds of teachers and find ways to help them improve their instruction, while respecting their individual teaching styles. It's also allowed me to watch students grow and progress through several years of math development. This helps me appreciate how the skills we work hard to build pay off in subsequent years and lay the foundation for improvement for years to come. I also work as a tutor, and I find that the lessons I learn working one-on-one with children and adults inform my work with whole classes. On top of this, for the last 12 years I've worked for Bobrow teaching test prep classes for the CBEST, the CSET, and the GRE.
I believe in taking small steps and making sure students are successful from the beginning. When students are successful they are enthusiastic and work harder. Hard work leads to more success. I think there are many different instructional styles that can be effective, but there are also lots of ways to fail. The most important thing is student engagement: if kids aren't paying attention and aren't working, they aren't learning. I almost never use any resources that can be found in the traditional textbook, which makes life harder but more interesting. I just never seem to be able to find the problems or lessons I want for any particular situation. So I make them myself.
Every school I've coached has made significant improvement in math. I try to keep things simple. We focus on: 1) Using the best models to teach each concept. The only way you can understand something new is to create a model to show how it works, or to relate it to something new by means of an analogy. If you follow that basic precept, you'll largely succeed. 2) Differentiation. No matter how effective the whole class lesson, some students will always need more support, while others will need greater challenge. 3) Focus. We need to make sure our students are well-prepared for the most important topics as assessed in the high-stakes tests; with the prerequisite skills for the next year; and for the rest of their life. 4) Basic fact mastery. Students who know their basic facts spend less time calculating and more time thinking. 5) Word problems. By the time students leave 5th grade they should be able to solve a broad array of single-step contextual problems with whole numbers, fractions, and decimals requiring the choice of one of the operations.
I had a double major at UC Santa Cruz in economics and foreign language.
I've now got three grandchildren, who keep me hopping. Enjoy woodworking, reading, and am finishing up a novel.