Thursday, October 18, 2012

What's Cool About JUMP Math

Last year, I read about the JUMP - Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies---math program in the NY Times.  Immediately, I wished that I had had the program for my classroom the year before.  Since I was tutoring 5th - 8th grade students, I began using the JUMP materials.  At first, the worksheets seemed deceptively simple.   But as I delved into lessons more deeply, my excitement grew. Concepts are approached and developed in multiple ways. The clear logic of each lesson builds upon the following lesson in such a simple, yet profound and ultimately, engaging manner, that students experience success each step of the way.

Next, I participated in an introductory webinar, as part of adding a Middle Level Mathematics endorsement to my teaching certification.  Then in August, I attended an all-day teacher training in Seattle with public school teachers who embark this fall using the JUMP curriculum through a pilot program funded by a Seattle philanthropist. This month, I began teaching two sessions of after school JUMP math enrichment for students 4th - 8th grades, and I will be adding more sessions next month.

The philosophy of  John Mighton, founder of JUMP, matches my experience teaching.  For fifteen years, I have facilitated learning with students who experience all sorts of learning challenges, perceptual difficulties, and academic delays.  I know that intelligence can be developed, trained, increased---!  Humans have an amazing, and often untapped, ability to learn.  John Mighton sets forth his experiences and his belief that all of us can learn math in The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child--

"After seeing how children flourish with even a modest amount of attention, I have come to believe that when a child fails a test it should be regarded as a failure of our system of education. And when millions of children, year after year, fail tests they could easily pass, it should be regarded as the failure of an entire society to care for its young."

The JUMP curriculum expects children to enter a grade performing at multiple grade levels.  The lessons at the beginning of the year are designed so that every student is challenged while those one or two years behind, catch up, but not at the expense of students who already enjoy math.  JUMP  gives teachers a curriculum they can use t effectively teach a class full of students who all begin at different levels of mastery and who all learn differently.  And, as a result of finding they are successful, students become enthusiastic and exceed grade level testing!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Education Every Which Way

Growing up in Port Angeles, I had excellent teachers at Jefferson Elementary School who enriched, expanded, and taught everything from reading, writing, social studies, science, and mathematics, to music, art, and square dancing!  I continued to be the lucky participant of a solid and most probably, better than average, public school education through high school.  Like many of us, my views of public education grew from my experience.

Fast forward fifteen years. I  again found myself in public education, this time not as a student, but as a classified employee, working as an para educator in a high school with students receiving special education services. Now, with many students, I began experiencing continued failure and underachievement. School became the constant race to catch-up from behind, the bewilderment of not knowing why everyone else seemed to be better at this, the repeatedly reinforced feeling of being stupid. 

So, I became an Educational Therapist, and learned to turn this picture around for all ages of students, who experienced all sorts of learning challenges, from dyslexia, language delays, motor delays, difficulties with perception and focus, and more.  In my private practice, I could facilitate remediation and learning, often times,  in one or two or months of twice weekly one-on-one sessions.  I taught workshops for parents and teachers, eager to share the successful tools I had found.  I thought perhaps public education needed some competition from charter schools, especially school specializing in serving different types of learners.

Fast forward another fifteen years.  I became a classroom teacher.  I taught as a substitute, in many classrooms, and as a teacher for several years. I experienced education from yet another perspective. Teacher certification now requires paying for and passing many standardized tests.  Students must pass standardized tests. Teachers have less resources, more students. 

What do I know? I know everyone can learn, and achieve, most times, beyond what we expect. If we expect less, we set up learning for less - less support for students, less support for teachers, less support for schools. To really change our schools and our educational system requires us to change how our society creates and reinforces inequalities of  healthcare, mental health services, nutritious foods---especially for our children. Education will not be improved by standardized tests, by breaking teacher unions, or by blaming parents. Education will be improved when we truly value each child as our own, and change our priorities to match our values.

Meanwhile, read tomorrow's post about JUMP math!