6 Difficulties Faced by Math Teachers and How to Overcome Them
Kids are right. Math class is boring. Students are not actively engaged, they’re not retaining key information, they don’t receive targeted interventions specific to their individual needs, their social and emotional needs are not being addressed, and they don’t have a safe place to explore their thinking without being punished. The Focused Instructional Model (FIM) from The Institute for Excellence in Education provides teachers and students with a new way of thinking about instruction and learning during math class.
Over the next few months, this weekly blog series will address each of the difficulties listed above and showcase how the FIM can help foster innovation and creative thinking in our students. Ultimately, they will graduate and become the leaders of our future – discovering technological, medical, and scientific advances. These advances will create jobs and solidify the role of the United States as a global economic leader.
Problems of Practice
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, occupations in the STEM field are growing at a rate of 17%, outpacing other fields. Millions of STEM jobs are left unfilled every year. The United States must increase student achievement in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. In particular, mathematics is a sticking point for many students – they dread going to math classes and are anxious about learning new skills. Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) proves that students and teachers are stuck in a rut. Since 2005, scores in 4th and 8th grade math have plateaued and very few improvements have been made.
For some reason, “I’m just not good at math” has become an acceptable statement nationwide. Parents say this jokingly during student-teacher conferences. Nobody ever smiles and says, “I can’t really read,” but, strangely, it’s acceptable in society today to struggle with math. The Institute for Excellence in Education and its Focused Instructional Model look to change the thinking of an upcoming generation of students. We firmly believe, and see in our practice, that increased achievement in math classrooms produces innovative and creative thinkers that will lead the charge toward creating jobs which will lead to sustained economic growth in the United States.
Big Picture Solution
The development of the Focused Instructional Model (FIM) began with a small group of dedicated educators in mid-Michigan in the early 2000’s. These teachers were doing their best to cover every benchmark and provide high-quality learning experiences for their students. Their students were scoring well on end-of-unit assessments, but, when it came time to take the exam at the end of the year, they struggled and sometimes claimed they’d never even seen the topics before! This was after months spent on certain units of instruction. These educators created the FIM as a way to cyclically repeat key mathematical concepts so that information from their grade level was retained by students. After implementing the FIM, they quickly saw increases in student achievement.
While there are many important small details that make the Focused Instructional Model successful in schools, it can be broken down into three major components: the cyclical repetition of key concepts mentioned above, consistent (bi-weekly) formative assessment opportunities, and a unique remediation/enrichment system. These concepts will be broken down in further detail in the upcoming blog posts.
The Institute for Excellence in Education provided opportunities for the developers of the Focused Instructional Model to refine their system and share it with educators in Michigan and, in time, across the country. As academic coaches and providers of professional development, the developers shared the FIM with math teachers who then saw their own students grow academically. The components that comprise the Focused Instructional Model address many common difficulties faced by math teachers in the United States including a lack of student engagement, low retention of critical information, the importance of social-emotional awareness being overlooked, a lack of opportunities for students to take risks and explore their thinking, deficiencies in teacher training, and more.
Stay tuned! This blog series will explore these difficulties and offer solutions in the upcoming weeks.