Mastery of Knowledge & Skills - Claim 2:
How We Get ALL Students Over the Bar
Contextualized Learning and Supportive Interventions
By Brian Endter (SPED Teacher) and Dante Biancucci (math teacher)
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." John Dewey.
At REALMS, the experiential learning model in which students explore math concepts in the context of real world situations and with hands on experiences, coupled with our targeted intervention classes (math workshop) provides our special education students with an explicit purpose to engage in learning and the differentiated instruction to master grade-level learning targets, even when math has been a challenge for them in the past.
As part of the Forests, Carbon, & Climate Change Expedition, all 8th grade mathematics students examine the guiding question, “How many trees are needed to offset the carbon emitted in our everyday choices?”
To answer this question, students apply the Pythagorean theorem to establish a 25-meter square sample forest plot. Students ensure the plot is square by using a 12-knotted rope to create right triangles at each of the corners (2 sides have lengths of 3 and 4 and the hypotenuse has a measure of 5). A special education student reflecting on their fieldwork said, “We do more hands-on learning. We are not just listening. We are doing the work.”
Math Workshop - Targeted Support
Math classes at REALMS are heterogeneously grouped classes where TAG students work alongside special education students. In addition to their regular math classes, special education students and others who need extra support get two "Math Workshop" classes per week taught by our Special Education teacher. This teacher spends time in the regular math classes and works closely with the regular math teacher to sequence pre- and re-teaching of concepts and to differentiate the tasks or the scaffolding so that all students reach the learning target.
Here, a student receives differentiated instruction to extend his understanding of the Pythagorean theorem to unfamiliar contexts as an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the learning target.
“We do more hands-on learning. We are not just listening. We are doing the work.”
8th Grade Special Education Student
Connecting Math to Other Disciplines - The Calder mobile Project
In this project, students have the opportunity to tackle complex math involving linear equations, but to do so using a real world context that allows students to see how mathematics operates in the real world. After studying the life of Alexander Clader, students spend time in art class designing mobiles inspired by his kinetic sculptures. The ornaments on each student's mobile are handmade and tell a story about his/her values and priorities.
At the same time, in math class, students work to "engineer" their mobiles using linear equations. Below you will see two samples of student work where students use the algebra they have learned to determine how their mobile will remain in balance based on the mass of the ornaments they have made and the length of the rods they have selected. In this math-art project, the Common Core State Standards come to life in real and powerful ways. This kind of inter-disciplinary learning allows students to make sense of and apply complex math concepts through enagaging, hands on projects that drive students to master rigorous content.
Scroll through the short slideshow below that highlights the artictic process of creating the mobiles, and then examine the math work below.