You CAN help keep All Kinds of Minds in NC’s Budget!

States across the country are facing tough decisions about education expenditures in the face of declining revenues and increasing budget shortfalls, North Carolina is no exception.

On Tuesday, N.C. Governor Bev Perdue announced that tax revenues collected on April 15 were $1 billion short of what is needed to get North Carolina through the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Shortfall projections for the coming fiscal year have not yet been announced, but will be at least $3.3 billion and could be much higher. The General Assembly is facing the need to make drastic cuts in next year’s budget, which puts the crucial funding that All Kinds of Minds receives from the state in jeopardy.

This funding enables All Kinds of Minds to bring the science of learning to educators and classrooms across North Carolina. By providing educators with research-based knowledge and tools that equip them to understand, identify and address how different students learn – particularly those who are struggling – we help schools increase student achievement and ensure that every child reaches his or her promise.

Please help us continue the work we do – North Carolina cannot afford to let struggling students slip through the cracks!  Contact these key decision makers and let them know the value of our work:

Rep. Rick Glazier
919-733-5601
Rep. Marian McLawhorn
919-733-5757
Rep. Ray Rapp
919-733-5731
Sen. A.B. Swindell
919-715-3030
Sen. Richard Stevens
919-733-5653

For more information contact Katie O’Neal at 919-933-8082 ext 2145 or koneal@allkindsofminds.org.

Thank you for your continued support of All Kinds of Minds!

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Math Word Problems: Take Away the Anxiety

A flower garden in the park has a total of 80 daisies. 30% of the daisies are red, ¼ are yellow, 2/5 are purple and 5% are pink. How many of each color flower are in the garden?

Do you find yourself immediately calculating 30% of 80? Did you start to draw a picture of daisies in a garden? Or did you just say “forget it?” Do problems like this make you anxious, or are you excited to solve the challenge?

Depending on our personal neurodevelopmental strengths and weaknesses, each of us may have a different reaction to math problems and may approach solving these kinds of problems differently.

So do our students! Some have profiles that lend themselves well to this kind of task. Other students read the problem and have no idea where to start.

Here are a few strategies that may help:

  • Teach students to read for meaning, rather than searching for key words, when trying to identify the operation to use for a math word problem. For example, a student who can read a problem and restate it in his own words to help him realize that he’s been asked to combine amounts or add, will have a deeper understanding than a student who looks only for a key word or phrase in the sentence (e.g., ‘total,’ ‘how many,’ etc.) to indicate what operation to use.
  • Teach students about strategies they can use for organizing a word problem before attempting calculations, for example, making a graphic chart that shows the important information, using a personalized checklist of steps, etc.
  • Set up a ‘math mentor’ for the student. This person may be a mathematics teacher, or a professional in the community who uses math in his/her work, e.g., a surveyor, an architect, a research scientist, an accountant, etc.
  • Build students’ knowledge of when to apply rules and how rules are relevant using real life situations. For example, to teach the rules for rounding numbers, use items from a restaurant menu, “for sale” notices from classified ads, mileage on a map, etc. Have students talk about when it would be appropriate to use rounded numbers, and when the exact figure would be needed.
  • Have students categorize related math problems together as variations of a larger rule (e.g., the steps for 4/5 = __%, and the steps for 80% = _/_ are different, but the steps fall within the larger rule for converting fractions to percentages).
  • Help students see how patterns and rules reflect mathematical concepts. For example, first explain that the rules for regrouping rise from the concept of place value, then show the role regrouping plays in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This allows students to focus on the reasoning behind the rules. Moreover, instead of memorizing eight different sets of rules, students memorize two processes (borrowing and carrying) with variations.
  • Have students use different representations to describe the same situation. For example, demonstrate how something can be shown using a table, a graph, written description, etc.

We also found some really cool websites that offer activities to help students practice math concepts and skills.

www.coolmath4kids.com
www.schooltimegames.com
www.mathplayground.com
www.funbrain.com

What sites have you found that are fun and engaging places to practice? Let’s talk more about strategies and web sites in the comments section below!

No Mind Left Behind: How Taft Middle School Is Transforming Its Approach for Struggling Learners

By Heather Sparks, 2009 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year

Note: A National Board Certified Teacher, Heather Sparks teaches math at Taft Middle School in inner-city Oklahoma City. The school serves some 850 students in grades 6 through 8, more than 90% of whom are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch programs.

This is a story of hope. Three years ago, our principal told our faculty that she wanted us to find and implement a school-wide reform project that would help us make a difference for our low-performing students. The first program we tried just didn’t take root; we just didn’t see a real connection with the learning issues we were seeing in our kids, many of whom come from very challenging situations.

I had gone through the Schools Attuned course in 2001 and knew what a powerful professional growth experience it is. I had also helped bring the program to two other schools I worked in before coming to Taft. So I was thrilled when my colleagues decided we should give it a try as part of our long-term strategy to better serve our students. Over the past two years, almost our entire staff of 72 has participated in Schools Attuned (the last few are taking the course this summer), and even those who were initially skeptical are now enthusiastic about this approach for our school.

With the All Kinds of Minds focus on understanding the learning process, our faculty members have really been able to see how it is going to help us entirely change the way we work with the kids who are struggling. My colleagues have individually talked about how they are doing things differently in their own classrooms – not leaping to conclusions about students, helping identify strengths, looking for clues about what underlies a particular student’s challenges.

As a faculty, the Schools Attuned training has given us a common language to use so we can talk about individual students and what we’re observing; it has also given us tools we can use to collaboratively intervene with those students, both across subject areas and as students move from grade to grade. My math team has begun looking at how we can integrate what we have learned about learning into approaching our curriculum. At the school level we’re looking at using Title I dollars to fund faculty to take on profile advisor roles at each grade level to provide additional support.

What did we do for struggling students before we took this on as our school-wide approach? We’d say, “OK, let’s meet with his parents,” or “let’s refer her for summer school.” Or we’d start the referral process for special ed. But these aren’t real strategies for addressing student learning issues, which is why the concepts and tools from All Kinds of Minds have really drawn us in.

Although we’re still early in the process of implementing this school-wide, I am excited about the way it is transforming our school. The ideas and knowledge we have gained through the All Kinds of Minds professional development are not things you learn in college, and I believe teachers can’t leave it unchanged. It’s a gift we now have to enable us to make a difference for all the kids we as teachers struggle to reach.

Share your stories, school implementation strategies or inquiries with Heather  in the comments below!

A Number Two Pencil and a Three-Point Shot

Mary-Dean Barringer, CEO, All Kinds of Minds

March has come to be associated with “madness,” particularly for NCAA basketball fans. We cheer for our favorite college team during the tournament, but we are enthralled by the unexpected Cinderella story. We love the team – previously overlooked or counted out – that surprises us all with stunning performances. In recent years, Davidson, George Mason, Gonzaga have each worn the Cinderella label. We wonder… where did they come from? Who knew they could play like that? But we shouldn’t be surprised. These Cinderella teams have something in common: well-prepared coaches and otherwise-overlooked stars who found the right environment in which to perform.

Schools face their own version of March Madness in the form of state and district-wide testing. Principals know that their school will be ranked and judged by this performance, fearing that test performance may obscure an otherwise successful season. They will get data needed to assist segments of students, but they worry about inadvertently defining groups by what they do and do not know. Most importantly, principals and teachers know that this kind of data won’t help them discover the students who could be part of their Cinderella story. But there is help on the way.

March 2009 brings a new twist to the madness and possibly a huge opportunity. It’s not NCAA, but ARRA, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. By now you probably know that a mini-tsunami of money is coming to schools by April 1. The challenge of ARRA is to spend it “quickly and wisely,” in the words of the press release, while addressing the four education reform targets of the Obama administration.

I’ve included a little background and links so that you can access the latest guidelines for using these so-called stimulus funds. The bottom line is that the U.S. Department of Education is in the process of sending Title I and IDEA money to your state right now. The U.S. DOE is urging education leaders to “focus these funds on short term investments with the potential for long term benefits.” Principals and school leaders who want to fund professional development to expand the capacity of their staff have a window of opportunity. Let your state department know you want to fund programs that enable teachers to become learning experts and better assess and manage students’ unique learning profiles through descriptive data and targeted research-based strategies. [You can track the distribution of funds on the official government recovery website: www.recovery.gov]

At All Kinds of Minds, understanding HOW students learn is our specialty. Giving educators this knowledge to ensure that students learn is our mission. We stand ready to collaborate with you to understand how to bring the science of learning to the art of teaching. Together, we’ll discover the promise within your most puzzling learners and help all students maintain a thirst and eagerness to learn.

Join the discussion about how students learn and share your own “student Cinderella story” by commenting below.