Project Based Learning
Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge. (pblworks.com)
The real emphasis for Project Based Learning in the mathematics classroom must be “Learn While Doing” not “Learn Then Do”. Teachers must be very specific about the standard being emphasized and then allow students to learn these standards while completing a question, problem, or challenge.
It is important in the mathematics classroom that there be an opportunity for “on time” direct instruction of the mathematical concepts and specific skills. Students discover the need and application of the skills and concepts, but there must be opportunity for direct instruction as needed.
The Buck Institute model has a great foundation for PBL, BUT not all mathematical standards are easily addressed through Project Based Learning.
Problem Based Learning
Problem Based Learning is both a teaching method and an approach to the curriculum. It consists of carefully designed problems that challenge students to use problem solving techniques, self-directed learning strategies, team participation skills, and disciplinary knowledge. (crlt.umich.edu)
Like Project Based Learning, the emphasis in the mathematics classroom must be to “Learn While Doing” rather than “Learn Then Do.” Teachers must be very specific about the standards being taught and assessed through the problem.
The two primary differences between Problem Based Learning and Project Based Learning are 1) Problem Based Learning focuses on the solution of a problem, not necessarily the creation of a product and 2) Often the time frame for the Problem Based Learning activity is shorter.
Rich Mathematical Tasks
Rich mathematical tasks engage students in sense-making through deeper learning that requires high levels of thinking, reasoning, and problem solving. Rich mathematical tasks provide students with the opportunity to investigate and analyze the mathematics in the task and apply their learning to new situations.
There are many great resources for Rich Mathematical Tasks listed in the resource section.
Kagan Strategies to encourage mathematical discourse.
Academic Discourse is critically important in the mathematics classroom as students build their neurological pathways concerning mathematical ideas and structures. One great resource for strategies that encourage academic discourse are the Kagan Cooperative Structures.
These structures are instructional strategies designed to promote cooperation and communication in the classroom, boost students’ confidence and retain interest in classroom interaction. (kaganonline.com) These structures can be adapted to multiple grade levels and subject areas. See below for resource link.
Partnering with local professionals to add relevance and expertise to the mathematics that students are learning
A powerful strategy that is often overlooked is right in your community. Partnering with local professional and business people adds a real world component that most educators cannot supply because of our limited experiences in the world of business and industry. Many communities are very interested in retaining the youth of the community in the community and are very willing to assist the schools in building relevance for students’ learning. Be willing to reach out to the community for help.