For all students to receive high-quality math instruction, teachers must have adequate support and ongoing access to professional development. Math Trailblazers 4th Edition strongly supports both student and teacher needs. A major goal of MTB4 was to attend to teachers as learners and to help transform teaching practices. However, shifting to a learning environment with new expectations can be challenging for even the most skilled instructors.
The old instructional model in which the teacher demonstrates procedures while students listen, observe, and then imitate has proven less than effective. Research shows that a more effective mathematics classroom is one in which the teacher presents a problem and facilitates student learning by actively listening, carefully questioning, and coordinating collaboration and class discussions. The teacher encourages students to explore, develop, build upon their prior experiences, and make meaning of mathematical situations as they solve rich problems. Teachers must provide time for students to grapple with a problem. They must learn how to promote positive collaboration. Teachers need to learn how to ask questions that can gauge students’ understanding. They also need to learn to listen carefully to their students, assess their learning, and then adjust their instruction based on the feedback they receive. These may be new skills for many teachers, even those with many years of experience.
This shift requires that teachers continue to learn about teaching and about mathematics. MTB4 has added support to help with some of the challenges (e.g., improved assessment structure, added discussion prompts and sample dialogs, added multiple strategies to help teachers think about multiple ways to solve problems, and discussions surrounding the strategies). In addition to this built-in support, long-term professional development is important for a successful implementation of Math Trailblazers.
Ideally, professional development should begin prior to the implementation of Math Trailblazers and continue through the first three years of its use. Addressing teachers as learners of mathematics, modeling good teaching, helping teachers adjust to their new roles with mentoring and coaching, discussing teachers’ concerns about change, collaborating to assess student work samples and to plan, identifying leadership, and learning more about the philosophy behind Math Trailblazers® are all components of an effective professional development plan.
Implementing any curriculum will progress more smoothly if it is accompanied by a solid support system for staff. Ideally, this includes a professional development program that includes workshops on content and pedagogy, leadership development, in-school support, and the means to address a variety of concerns as they arise. To discuss opportunities to strengthen your mathematics program and for more information about Math Trailblazers, please contact: