In the Spring of 2013 I was fortunate enough to be a member of the 21st Century Teaching Leads to 21st Century Learning Grant Project. This was a project between UVA’s School of Continuing & Professional Outreach and Virginia DOE Mathematics & Science Partnership with the goal of working with Virginia high school math teachers to learn the 5E lesson planning model and PBL unit planning process.
I was familiar with what a lot of the course covered, and used pieces of it in my instruction of Algebra & Pre-Algebra, but having this instruction and experience was invaluable. Much of what was covered I recalled from my classes in college: the 5E lesson planning model from my methods course in science and Inquiry Based Learning from my math methods courses in college.
Having 5E, Inquiry Based, and PBL combined, reinforced, and applied to higher levels of math inspired me. It also made me feel like I had been teaching at such a lower level than I was capable of. I was in my 2nd year of teaching and thought I was doing a pretty good job teaching and was proud of what I had accomplished, but this was a wake up call to me- there was so much more I could be doing with my students to challenge them. I spent most of the sessions listening intensely and taking notes of what I wanted to adjust from my curriculum. My brain was flooded with ideas and inspiration. I would catch myself feeling like I was the worst teacher, not pushing my kids, not doing this, not doing that, until realizing that all of the other teachers at the conference were in the same position I was in. We were there because we wanted to learn, we wanted to do more, and we already were doing a great job. A lot of what we learned and talked about reinforced what I was already doing or trying to do.
If you want to check out the work that was done, check out the Mathematics Capstone Course. There are task based lessons, project based learning, and problem based learning examples- most are targeted at high school math, but could be adapted for lower level maths with some work.
Simultaneously I was taking a course, Returning Creativity to the Classroom, through Walden University (online) and working on a grant project for my school, developing a new learning space. All 3 of these projects were working the same goals for students which made me feel so educated and prepared, but it also overwhelmed my brain. I felt like all I thought about, all day and night, was students, challenging students, getting my students to be more creative, pushing my students to apply what they are learning. Needless to say, the summer could not have come soon enough.