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First 20 Days Illumination

Delilah Zeigler

For students, a successful experience with Math begins with the basics: how to think like a mathematician, how to speak mathematically, and how to record and share one’s thinking. Students must learn to use these basic skills in a positive classroom environment where they can “do” mathematics - grapple and persevere with rigorous tasks and communicate what they know verbally and in writing. The TEKS Mathematical Process Standards explain the processes that characterize “doing” mathematics - problem solving, communication, reasoning and proof, representation, and connections.

The purpose of the First 20 Days (F20D) is to immerse students in the “habits of mind” that build these exact skills and establish the expectations necessary for teaching and learning these five fundamental processes! The lessons within the F20D are designed to build community within a Mathematics classroom and to develop a culture of Mathematics and best practices. The habits, skills, and lessons learned during the F20D must be repeated and referred to again and again as community building will continue to develop throughout the school year. Without a solid foundation in the beginning of the year, the Mathematics classroom community will not blossom.

This is also an excellent time to formatively assess your students and identify what skills and knowledge they may have already secured. By utilizing more structured experiences during the F20D, you have the perfect opportunity to get to know your learners: what they already know, what some of their strengths are, how they go about solving problems, the kind of processor they are, the kind of communicators they are...all essential information you will need to design the most intentional learning experiences possible.

If taught with fidelity, the F20D will help you to build a Mathematics classroom community that fosters students’ abilities to clearly communicate their learning, applying their knowledge flexibly in many different situations, and identify and solve problems, both on their own and with their peers.

Goals for the F20D:

- Help students think of themselves as mathematicians who enjoy and actively participate in math;

- Establish consistent classroom routines and procedures that support teaching and learning;

- Increase rigor by having students explore, express, and better understand mathematical content through process skills (communication, connections, reasoning, and proof, representations, and problem solving);

- Differentiate instruction based on student’s learning needs on a flexible basis