Maps (not directions)

Our (amazing) administration has given us some time and (a little) funding to write maps for all of our courses in the math department. The network we are a part of is supposed to have these, but they are two years old, were written by two people with very little experience (who are no longer employed by the network) and honestly make no sense at all.

We teach the high school standard courses, but our students are tracked (we call is streamed. Whatever.) so we actually have four levels of everything. That means we teach 12 courses. Many of the schools in our network are turnarounds, so in general the students are fairly low level. We have our share of low students, but we also have some very high achievers. Unfortunately, the maps manage to meet no one’s needs.

The AP asked me to manage the process and coordinate the meetings and I thought I would share a little about it in case its helpful to someone else.

First, our goal was yearly maps. We are also required to write quarterly calendars, but my concern was more about making sure that two sections of the same course at the same level taught by different teachers were still comparable. Informative without being directive. That means I wanted one page, divided into quarters, with topics listed (fairly generally) and an approximate number of days. My rationale was that then a new teacher did have something to go off of* and a more experienced teacher still has the flexibility to tweak things.

To start off, I split us into groups of 4. Each group was given four different colored sheets of paper and a pen. No other supplies needed. Each color corresponded to a course (Algebra, Geometry, AAT, Senior Year). I gave the groups about 6 minutes to list the topics that should be covered in each course in their small group. I told them not to worry about overlap, duplication, order or amount of time. Just list.

Then we came back together and I put out the textbooks–we don’t even have seniors yet, but I wanted to make sure we were clear about where things are included. Some topics everyone assumes are covered at another level so they get skipped and others kids see over and over again. We took only a few minutes with this as well, and then split into three groups by course (no levels yet–we started with our on-level students).

Each course had a big poster page of paper and took each groups data so far to list out what was included in each course. Then we took a break and looked over the maps, writing questions on post-its on each chart. Some great comments, questions and missed topics came out of that, so I’m glad we did it. We talked about topics that were duplicated and what that looked like. Duplicating topics is fine (Systems of Equations is a big topic in both Algebra 1 and Algebra 2) but we need to make sure that the content isn’t duplicated as well. Review solving a system in two variables to get ready to introduce the new topic of systems in three variables in AAT.

Next up, everyone got five stickers per map and put them next to the five topics they felt were most important on that map.

That was basically two hours worth of work, but a really good start to writing the maps. One person from each group took the list home with them and started the work of splitting it into quarters and making some guesses on numbers of days.

For our next meeting, we plan on finalizing the on-level maps for each course, and then starting on the two iterations of below level students. Honors will be last.

Have you written a curriculum map? Any good advice for us?

*My first year teaching Algebra 1 I asked what I was supposed to teach:

“Whatever you want”

“We’re very flexible.”

“Its really up to you.”

….I want to teach whatever I’m supposed to. I don’t have an opinion here, I don’t know what I’m doing. I wanted someone to say “teach this, then this. You might want to try this.” No one did. (Now of course, I want to do my own thing, since I think I know better than everyone else. Or something.)