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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How does the brain learn math?

Understanding How the Brain Thinks

Former neurologist and teacher Judy Willis has begun to present a 5-part series on how young brains develop neurologically. It turns out that for young brains to retain information, they must apply it.

She also offers some research-based classroom strategies to teach critical thinking and other 21st century skills.

Part One: Understanding How the Brain Thinks

Part Two: The Brain-Based Benefits of Writing for Math and Science Learning

Part Three: Improving Executive Function: Teaching Challenges and Opportunities

Part Four: Three Brain-based Teaching Strategies to Build Executive Function in Students

Need math tasks for the Common Core?

At the beginning of November, the Illustrative Mathematics Project website went live!

Why is this important news?

There is now a set of tasks for one standard at each grade level K-8, and eventually, there will be a task for EVERY standard at each grade level.

Eventually the sets of tasks will include elaborated teaching tasks with detailed information about using them for instructional purposes, rubrics, and student work.

Right now, this is what you get:
  • A minimum of 4 tasks (although typically 5-6 or more depending on the standard).
  • Most will be more like assessment tasks or brief teaching tasks. At least one will be the kernel of an instructional task that can eventually be more fully developed and elaborated with the help of teachers using it in classrooms.
  • The tasks in the set will vary in difficulty. Some but not all will be scaffolded.
  • A balance in computational/algorithmic and conceptual tasks.
  • An appropriate number of contextual problems for the standard.
  • Most of the tasks will illuminate the “center of mass” of the standard, and a few will light up the periphery.
  • At least one task will bridge in some way to another standard, ideally across domains or grade levels.

Illustrative Mathematics also allows users to register. This is not necessary to see the tasks, but if you register you will be eligible for news bulletins and various opportunities for involvement in the project that will arise over the next few months.

Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011



ANN ARBOR, MICH. (November 1, 2011) — Michigan now consistently ranks in the bottom of states in both performance and improvement in student achievement, after a continued relative decline, according to data released today from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Michigan’s African American children now perform among the worse in the nation for black children.

Michigan’s continued descent – falling from a relative rank of 28th in 2003 to 35th today in the U.S. in fourth-grade reading – demonstrates the importance of educational leadership in the performance of our schools. Other states have continued to improve their levels of student learning on the national assessment. In comparison, Michigan’s performance on the NAEP – the best gauge of student learning across states -- has remained relatively stagnant.

“The results announced today show some states are doing far better than others,” said Amber Arellano, Executive Director of The Education Trust-Midwest, a non-partisan education research organization and watchdog that advocates for what’s best for Michigan students. “Indeed, our Great Lakes State is hardly great when it comes to educating our kids.”

Today’s NAEP results are particularly devastating for Michigan African American students, which now are at the very bottom for performance among all black students in the U.S.

“This is tragic – and it’s absolutely unacceptable,” Arellano added. “Other states are showing that Michigan can do dramatically better at educating all of our students, particularly our African American and low-income children.”

According to the data released today:

  • Michigan’s low performance goes far beyond one subject. It consistently ranks among the bottom states in both performance and improvement, overall and by subgroup, in both subjects and grades, according to the NAEP data.
  • Michigan’s rank on Grade 8 NAEP Math has declined from 34th in 2003 to 36th in 2011.
  • Michigan has nearly a 34 point gap and the 2nd largest achievement gap in nation between White and Black students on the Grade 4 NAEP Reading.
  • In 8th grade math on the NAEP, Michigan has nearly a 36 point gap between White students and African-American students. This is the 5th largest gap between White and Black students on Grade 8 NAEP Math in the country.

Unlike Michigan, some states are leading the way in 2011 in performance or improvement since 2003, or both:

  • While their achievement gaps remain large, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey consistently ranked among the top states in both performance and improvement, overall and by subgroup, in both subjects and grades.
  • In fourth-grade math, Hawaii, Kentucky and Rhode Island were among the top improvers by overall scale score as well as for black, Latino and low-income students.
  • Alabama made the greatest improvements in the nation in fourth-grade reading scores overall, for African-American students and for low-income students. In eighth-grade reading, Connecticut’s black students made strong gains since 2009, improving by 10 points.

“Michigan’s challenge is to learn from the places making the most progress so we can accelerate and replicate those improvements for all of our children,” Arellano said. “We all need to play a part in improving our public schools in Michigan, for our children’s sakes.”
For more information on Michigan's NAEP performance, click here:

The Education Trust-Midwest’s mission is to work for the high achievement of all students, particularly low-income, African American, Latino and American Indian students in Michigan. Ed Trust-Midwest is a non-partisan, independent watchdog dedicated to providing honest, reliable information to families and policymakers. It is Michigan’s only state-wide policy, research and advocacy organization focused on what is best for Michigan students. For more information, go to:

Monday, November 7, 2011

PD opportunity: Delta Math implementation support

This session is offered for current DELTA MATH users ONLY.

DELTA MATH Implementation Teams (administrators, team leaders, teachers, and instructors) will gather to plan for intervention instruction.

As an implementation team member, are you curious about:

  • Finding DELTA MATH progress monitoring resources and how they can be organized?
  • Using DELTA MATH progress monitoring resources to support the first day of intervention for each readiness standard?
  • Recommendations for interventions based on DELTA MATH data?
  • Planning for a 30-minute explicit intervention lesson?
  • Finding resources for explicit lessons and targeted practice and how they can be organized?
  • Scheduling systematic interventions based on DELTA MATH Data?

If so, make sure your team registers to attend.

After exploring each of the above questions, implementation teams will begin to plan for targeted intervention instruction using your own school’s data.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Must see: Apple app for Common Core

Check out the amazing new iPad/iPod Touch/iPhone app: Common Core Look-fors (CCL4s)!

What does this app provide?

This is an observation tool for the Standards for Mathematical Practice and Standards of Mathematical Content of the Common Core State Standards (CCSSO, 2010).

CCL4s is available on both iPhone and iPad as a single, $2.99 download.


The iPad version of the app provides an interface for entering observation data as well as access to all the Content Standards for Mathematics K-12. The collected observation data can be shared via email or with our unique built-in instant meeting. The graphs are very interactive and allow observers to merge different observations to compare and contrast different teachers or the same teacher over time.