Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Curriculum Mapping


At my school, we are currently in our second year of creating individual curriculum maps. At present, these maps are for “internal” eyes only. Presumably down the road, we will be asked to create departmental maps that will be publicly accessible.

In order for this exercise to prove worthwhile, teachers need to be given time from their busy schedules to devote to their maps, and time to review and discuss the maps of their colleagues. If this can happen, teachers will get a clear picture of content, sequence, assessment practices and resources that are used in the grades before those they are teaching, and see what the teachers in the grades above are “expecting”. This can be an invaluable tool in any school that does not or cannot devote a great deal of time to departmental meetings or formal discussion of math curriculum between teachers of adjacent grade levels.

In any case, one of the inherent dangers of mapping is that in the urgency of completing the mapping tasks, teachers take the first four pages of the assigned textbook and transfer the chapter headings wholesale into the “Contents” section of their maps. This ensures that the curriculum is broadly defined by the selected text(s), rather than having the text(s) support a curriculum devised by the teacher(s) specifically for their own students. The fact is that despite the efforts of teachers and curriculum reformers over the past six decades to find a single “right way” to improve the math performance of their students, there is no definitive approach or style to the teaching of mathematics. The teaching of any particular mathematical concept will be influenced by the nature of the concept itself and by the abilities, attitudes and experiences of the students. In general, teaching should be informed by a thorough understanding of how mathematical learning occurs and of the nature of mathematical activity. This involves a constant search for new texts, materials and approaches which will enhance the mathematical skills and understanding of your students, while hopefully giving them a sense that math is not solely a “school subject,” but something that they will carry with them and use on a daily basis throughout their lives. Agonizing over whether the one text series is “better” than another is relatively unproductive. The regrettable fact is that most mass-market texts are deplorable – as the prices rise annually, the intellectual content is “dumbed-down”, and the size of the volumes increase to mind-boggling proportions. Educators need to keep in mind that, unfortunately, it is the function of textbook publishers to sell textbooks, not to teach mathematics.


Recently, I've taken an educational leadership approach to the curriculum. For example, I often let the students plan for me. I have a rough idea of what they should do mapped out ahead of time, but I walk in on the first day and ask the students to make a list of what they expect to get out of the class and what they hope to ultimately achieve.

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