Wednesday, July 2, 2014

SBG, Common Core and Online Class Summary

Okay, so it's been FOREVER since I posted anything.  The end of the year just got nuts.  Along with implementing a new Common Core Algebra curriculum, I am the leader of a new STEM Academy at my high school.  This spring, we worked very hard to get it launched and 45 students signed up.  This is awesome, it's been taking a lot of my time and it will be a major focus during the 2014/2015 year.

This year, I tried 3 main new things in Alg 1.  We are starting Common Core with our Alg 1 class, 2013/2014 was the first year of it's implementation.  Since we were launching a new curriculum, it was a good time to try breaking the content down into standards and using standards based grading.  Our school is looking at proficiency based graduation requirements, SBG seems to me like a natural launching point for that.  I also wanted to make my curriculum available online to facilitate self-study towards mastery of the standards.  I wrote a book using ck-12 and created a webpage with access to classroom materials and practice options.

First, I'd like to talk about the Common Core curriculum.  There is a major emphasis on the 8 mathematical practices and I was imagining a classroom with a greater focus on problem solving and creativity, but in practice, there are still a lot of skills to cover and it's hard to find time for both.  Our department compared our traditional curriculum to the Common Core standards and came up with a list of topics we needed to cover in order to make sure students would have all the skills they would need on the SBAC test.  I converted that into a list of 38 standards to use for SBG.  I also compared those standards to the CCSS.  Here's the document I ended up with.

Algebra 1 Standards List

I like how this course ran, I think it's a nice sequence, I liked the focus on functions, modeling and statistics.  I think it does give students some idea of what math can be used for in the real world and it all hung together pretty well in my mind.  It is difficult to find time for problem solving, though.  What I ended up doing was grading students for trying to think outside the box and I didn't like the feel of it.  I will be revamping how I develop mathematical creativity next year.

I liked SBG combined with the online curriculum elements I developed, but I will be beefing it up for next year.  What I did was give one quiz a week with the recent standards on it.  Each standard appeared on a quiz for three weeks and the students could retake them outside of class up to 3 times.  I think my quiz questions were a little too easy and I made it too easy to retake and master the standard.  I don't think this did my students any favors when it came time to take the department final.  I don't have all the details worked out yet, but my testing will become a little more rigorous somehow.  Watch for this is a future post.

A key part of the SBG system (at least in my mind) is giving the students access to the material outside of class.  Here is the webpage I developed over the course of the year.

Essex High School Algebra 1, Mrs. Smith

The resources page is important here, it has a link to the book I used this past year (being revised for 2014/2015) and the Practice by Standards page.  I used Flexmath and BrainGenie (ck-12 products) to create self practice materials.  This summer, I am using the iPad app "Explain Everything" to make videos that I am posting to my YouTube channel (utubemath) and putting in each standard.  I am always available for help at school, but I am trying to create a way for students to use the internet in a way that teaches them how to help themselves.


  1. Thank you for posting your SBG concepts, and your class website is great! I love how you posted a link for each day with the class notes. I can definitely do something like this, posting a pdf of my SMART board notes!

  2. Thanks! I like making the class materials available online, I think it's an important part of SBG and student focused learning in general. I'm making more videos for each standard, I'm also working on the book to line it up better with what I teach. Check back at the beginning of the school year for more resources.