This curriculum unit is designed for approximately a five week duration. It is arranged in five oneweek cycles; a structured plan was chosen as a reinforcement of the structure and orderliness which is the foundation of mathematics. A unit like this could be best used at the beginning of a semester as a mental “shifting of grain” to mathematical thinking as well as a review of basic skills, concepts, and functions. Presented as an intensive review and preparation, it could be very helpful in insuring success further on in the semester’s work, much like the facilitation principle of warming up one’s muscles before an athletic event. The interior structure of each cycle is designed to permit occasional elimination of single parts of each day’s lesson. Basically, the plan for each day of the one week cycle will have three parts.
Each day will begin with some exercise in drilling basic facts which should be memorized, such as the multiplication tables, percent to fraction conversions, decimal and fraction equivalents, English and metric equivalents, and measurement, volume, area etc. conversions. It is extremely difficult to get students to participate in repetitive review such as drills and memorization exercises over a long period of time. This is the advantage in setting aside one or two five week periods per school year where drilling is done intensively; telling the student that this special type of learning will occur for a finite period of time helps a great deal. These skills, well learned, will give the student an enormous edge in approaching the specific mathematical material to be covered in the rest of the semester. Drilling, especially multiplication and measurement tables, introduces a certain speed, dexterity, and rhythm to thinking which is useful in a pattern oriented science like mathematics. Confidence ~ gained by really knowing the basics, and a lot more attention can be focused on new concepts without having to stop to correct lowlevel errors. The main obstacle to overcome is our students’ views of drill as boring and infantile. Stressing its limited duration, varying the way the drills are done, and feeling excited and proud of their accomplishing the task are the three ways a teacher can make this practice successful.
Part of each day should be spent reading aloud, with the exception of Wednesday. This special day should be saved for ongoing work on a special project and drill only. More about this arrangement later.
Reading aloud, individually or in a group, is really an invaluable way for you to get to know your students’ facility with printed words and their potential difficulties with comprehension. Reading teaches them the aggressive approach to solving a problem, enabling a teacher to take time out to introduce new concepts and give practice in seeing mathematical language in context. Reading should be accompanied by notebooks; writing notes about what is encountered in the reading is important for putting the material learned into your own words as well as learning neatness, good writing style and good work habits. Notebooks should have a safe repository in the classroom and should be checked periodically. A lot of the student’s grade should be dependent on his keeping neat, accurate notes (and not losing his notebook). While there is no intellectual value in keeping a neat notebook there is a great need for following format instructions and achieving a measure of neatness. Illegible notes cannot be read or studied later.
This part of the daily plan includes small recreational projects like puzzles or number games. Part I should occur every day for five weeks. Part II should happen every day except Wednesdays, which are special subject days. Part II items can be used at the end of the lesson or not, depending on the progress of the reading and note taking and confusion around the beginning of the school year schedule. These final little exercises are fine for being dropped out or sent home, or as assignments during this time of heavy review building skills. The best things for this category are 1015 minutes in duration, varied, and sufficiently challenging. Materials like these are also great substitute work for the sudden appearance of new students. Plans which stress order and present a fairly steady stream of work are two facets of mathematics class which students should learn to expect.