# Math Units or Spiraling

#### kristen_teach

##### Senior Member
Okay, I thought I would like the Spiraling idea for math but I hate it! You might be learning about converting metric units and then the next section would be about statistical averages or geometry. It is designed so you only spend about 1-3 days on each section!

My main gripes are that it sometimes seems we are just going on to another topic without going in depth into anything. Some kids have trouble achieving mastery in just a couple of days. Plus, I always hear, but I thought we were learning about _____________? I have enough kids who are confused what we are learning in every subject- I don't want to confuse those who understand what's going on in class!

We are halfway through the book and I am thinking about completely changing what I'm doing. What are the advantages/disadvantages to starting working on "units"? For example, we could work on integers and then apply several concepts related to integers- what are negative numbers, adding and subtracting integers, ordering integers, coordinate graphing of integers? I know there is concern that the kids will forget it when they go on to the next unit but it seems they aren't really getting anything at this point!

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#### kirsten

##### Senior Member
Is this similar to Saxon math?

I'm not a math teacher, so maybe I'm way off base, but this sounds like what I hear teachers and students saying about the Saxon program. The theory sounds great, but the reality doesn't seem to work as expected. We have Saxon in 6th and 7th and the kids really struggle and HATE math. Then in 8th the teacher teaches "units" and their grades soar and they love math again. As far as what works, I have no clue, but their math abilities seem very weak to me. When they get 7 out of 8 correct on a paper, they are constantly asking me to tell them what the percentage would be and I always have to say, use your calculator to figure it out, but they have no clue how. So I'll explain to punch in 7 divided by 8 and that's their grade - but I could explain it all day long and the next day have to do it all over again??? Or if I say they are worth 6 points each and they missed 5, many of them have to use their calculators to figure that out - don't have their facts memorized at all. Good thing I don't teach math, right?

#### vateacher

##### Senior Member
We do math units but considered spiraling. I don't like spiraling because it does change from day to day, makes planning and a pacing guide impossible to follow and it also hurts students whol are constantly moving in and out of school systems (such as the military families). We have such a transient population in our area that spiraling curriculum isn't practical and difficult to assess. Perhaps in an area where most children weren't moving around so much it might work because they would be exposed to it from K through 12th. I prefer units. It's clear whether a concept has been mastered or not.

G

#### Gail

##### Guest
Everyday Math

Spiraling is a new "technique" that will probably fail within 5 years. Curriculum writers are taking into consideration the few students that will miss because of illness and so on, and "helping" them to really not have missed anything. At least that's some of the justification. They aren't supposed to necessarily master anything for pretty much the first 2/3 of the year. ????!!!!! I say, let us *teach* a regular unit, helping students where they are and then review as needed. Guess I'm old style, but wait--that's pretty much what will come back in 5 years, disguised as a new teaching method! ;-)

#### lis3569

##### Full Member
Well after being out of the classroom setting for awhile I thought it was just me! I too, feel that spiraling doesnt give them enough time to develop mastery. Sure you re-visit the concept down the road, but if a child (or 2 or 3 or 4) didnt get it the first time around are they really going to get it this time when the concept is re-introduced but at the next level? That drives me insane! Kids in our school love math and have great attitudes towards it; however when they get to 4-5th grade they struggle as the approach is totally different. Their self esteem goes right down the drain as they struggle. Saxon Math which we use doesnt offer enough "out of the box" activities. I have seen my own students do just fine on a Saxon assessment and then bomb an activity I plan using the same knowledge. I would love to teach units! Introduce a concept, work with it, explore it, discover it, apply it and master it! Then move on, stopping to revisit previous learned knowledge along the way. I say if you can switch your approach- go for it! We are not allowed to deviate from Saxon.

#### Tounces

##### Senior Member
spiraling

I didn't like spiraling at first, now I do. After teaching the required curriculum for 6 years using spiraling, I noticed that my students understood concepts far better than when taught using units. I now have to teach using the units again. I hate it. My students have do study one thing for about 3 weeks. It really gets boring. The worst part though, is that by the time we study one thing, they have forgotten what was studied 2 months ago. It is too focused on isolated skills too. They have difficulty seeing the relationships between different units. To assist with this type of curriculum's shortcomings, I bring up other Math concepts throughtout my lessons now -things are I learned from my spiraling experiences. I believe by the end of the year, their scores and understanding will improve because of the spiraling I include. They, of course, were behind from last year when I got them. If you get a choice, choose a spiraling curriculum and you'll see more gains.

G

#### Gail

##### Guest
Spiraling

I thought I was alone in the world. For 3 years I was pretty careful about saying anything to do with curriculum. I'd ask other teachers at my school and got "I love it!" or an "I'm having fun with it." Our school's only text besides trade books for reading has been one math consumable workbook. With that our principal wants absolutely no timed testing or worksheets, and wants to do away with learning some basic facts because "There will always be a calculator around..." AGAIN: ?????!!!!! Hence the spiraling math program. I think it's a crock. Let me TEACH!

Kirsten: Don't get me started on curriculum writers who have never taught in the classroom--great in theory, but not feasably applicable at all.

#### NJ Teacher

##### Senior Member
Units

Our book teaches distinct units, but there is an additional workbook of blackline masters called Spiral Review and Test Prep. What I like about it is that it goes back and hits topics we covered in that past, as well as topics that might have been covered in a previous year and not "officially" taught yet. They use what background they have to answer the problems, and it gives the chance to do "mini lessons" if needed. I think a problem others have found with spiraling is it can be difficult to catch up children who have moved in on what you have covered.

#### kristen_teach

##### Senior Member
Thanks for all the support. I am going to bring up the idea to my grade level team and see what they think (emphasizing that they don't have to change, just looking for opinions). I'm a first year teacher, so whether it is actually allowed. . . well, I'm not sure. But I figure if we are allowed to move parts around to get students ready for state assessments, we should be allowed to move parts around to allow students to understand the material.

I think the difference is between spiraling and reviewing. I intend to do a lot of reviewing and emphasizing other math concepts, but just focus on one topic at a time.

NJ teacher, what is your math book?

#### AmyK

##### Junior Member
Spiral Math

I have been teaching Everyday Math, a spiral type program, for about 10 years. I am a bit in the minority here - *ducking from thrown items* but I really like it! I absolutely hated it at first - and all my teammates did too.......it took me about 3 years to get comfortable, and to see the "benefit" of the spiral...There are certainly negatives to all math programs, including this one, but I generally feel that the benefits far outweigh the negatives. But it is hard to see at first. Many of these spiral programs are designed to be taught in a 90 min. lesson - who has time for that? So yes, I have to pick and choose. But I always do the Math Box page, which contains a variety of review items....For example, we covered decimals earlier in the year - Octoberish - and there were several reviews in the last week with this, and kids did really well! Now the low kids tend to get lost in this kind of program........but it is great for average to high, IMO. It also solves the "my kid is bored" dilemma we face in our upper middle class school where everyone thinks their kid is gifted! (*wink*) They don't emphasize facts, true - and I supplement. We do 3 min. fact tests each Friday......Oh-how could I forget? Our test scores jumped up really nicely - and continue to show growth. And our results weren't too shabby to begin with, so administration is happy.....and aren't test results what it is all about?! *wink* Anyway, I'd be happy to chat with anyone about this further....keeps me away from my correcting.......haha

AmyK

#### Kiki

##### Senior Member
spiraling

We teach a spiraling program and although I am not a huge fan of it, our test scores in the past five years have gone WAY up! Our program is a little different in that it is well supported by the company that "sells" it and they constantly assess our data, visit our school, schedule our curriculum and work very closely with our district. I do not like that no skills ever seem to be mastered and we have been done with our textbook since winter break. Our task now is to review ALL skills. (So, what was my hurry in the first place?)