We all have those problems of practice in our classrooms that we aim to tackle each year. Last year I took aim at: getting students to practice more. This year I am looking at a more thoughtful problem: making math more meaningful for my Algebra 1 students.

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What is meaningful math? I have students asking me all the time: “Why are we learning this?” “When am I ever going to use this in real life?” These students are not seeing why they are learning Algebra. It does not have any meaning for them. It will be these questions I will be trying answer, by making more real-life connections and problem-solving part of my math instruction. There are lots of ways to make these connections, as I soon found while researching my problem: using more inquiry-based math, emphasizing mean-making over procedures, bringing in speakers who use math in their jobs, using familiar scenarios and exploring the math behind it. There are many tracks I can take to begin making Algebra more connected to my students’ world, so where do I start?

I decided to bring this problem to my PLN (Personal Learning Network). I put together a survey using Qualtrics and sent it out to my fellow teachers. I work with a lot of great, experienced teachers, who likely have confronted this problem for themselves. Why not tap into their expertise to help me decide where to begin my changes? It took me some time to put the survey together, but fortunately my experience as a Probability and Statistics teacher came in handy. Bias was not an issue, I just had to consider what information would be most useful for making my decisions, and build my questions around that.

Now I just need to review the results.

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