Bridge to College Part 1

We are now just over a week into the school year. Its my second year in the same building, third with the same school (A record for me and my crazy moving lifestyle) which is both exciting and scary.

It is also year two of a new pilot math class I took on last year which is intended to help students who struggle with math get ready for college by way of deeper understanding on math practice and content standards they have mostly already seen. I really like the focus on going deeper not wider and showing the students that they are all mathematicians. I had a great little group to pilot it last year and I was worried going into this one, but I’ve been blown away by their willingness to jump out of comfort zones and into the work. The class also comes with some PD to look at student work and discuss teacher practices which has been great.

My goal is to blog about this class more this year. I’m asking the students to really focus on communicating their thinking, so I’m trying to do so as well. I want to reflect on student thinking, the challenges my site presents, and importantly, my teaching and where I can grow.

We opened the first unit with two questions: When is estimation appropriate?  How can you take advantage of the structure of an expression/problem?  And the MPS focus was constructing viable arguments.

Task One: Bucky the Badger. We watched the clip and split into groups. I tried out two techniques I haven’t had a chance to use yet: Visual Random Grouping (kind of silly with a class of 6-10 students, but fun anyways) and Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (Amazing. Had some complaints about standing, but they wrote more, tried more strategist and had more all around participation.)


After the groups came up with an estimate, they were tasked with explaining why it was reasonable. We had a quick whole group chat about order of the points and then split up to find a smallest possible and highest possible push up value  before watching the reveal clip.

We then had a quick discussion about the class itself. They felt really proud that they were close and we looked at the ‘math’ involved in the problem. Mostly addition. The idea that even basic math can be a powerful tool is one I want them to take away from the class. Its not about how many advanced theorems you have memorized, but how you are able to apply what you do know and know when you need to learn a new math strategy to go further.

We ended with a quick Illustrative Math task around reasoning about place value. Again, an easy entry problem to set up larger discussions. Small pieces of knowledge add up when you look for structure and patterns. The class does get into more typical high school math type content soon, but the first unit is really about building up the idea of how the class is going to run in terms of expectations, group work, communication and writing required as well as reminding them that taking advantages of what you do know, you can solve problems you’ve never encountered before. This is not a learn the steps, do the practice class. I don’t teach like that anyways, but this class is specifically built up to avoid it.

Moving forward, I want to capture more student examples and conversations to share here. This is such a great class, full of students who have historically ‘failed’ at math who are being amazingly brave and owning their work. Its been a week and I’m excited to see where the year goes.




I am a math teacher at a public, alternative high school school. I’m the only math teacher at my site, so I get to teach it all. This is good. The bad? I have 7 different preps! Twitter: @altmath

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