Things that were going well:
- spiraling in the review, so things didn't get "old"
- consistent structure
- quick, approachable homework for my students
Things that weren't going so well:
- there was so very clear evidence of copying
- many low students were not completing it regularly
And then, recently at a training by my local Area Education Agency (@ghaea) they shared this document with us: Teaching Strategies For Improving Algebra Knowledge in Middle and High School Students [large PDF]. This is a compilation of research surrounding teaching secondary mathematics by the Institute of Education Sciences. My understanding is that they summarize and compile all the research out there to make conclusions in one place. Making it more accessible to educators who do not have time or resources to find all the research that is out there. Pretty great resource for us to be taking advantage of. Unfortunately, there is not a whole ton of secondary mathematics education research out there, so even the recommendations they make based on the research have only minimal to moderate evidence to support them. Sad day.
Their first recommendation is the one that caused me to change my Math Maintenance. It is: "Use solved problems to engage students in analyzing algebraic reasoning and strategies." This can be done in many ways, one of which is to juxtapose a correctly solved problem with a similar problem for them to complete. This forces students to look at a solved problem, think through the reasoning, and then apply it to a new (but similar) problem.
At our training we were asked to think through ways that we could apply this in our classroom, and math maintenance seemed like a good place to start. Hopefully it will make it more accessible to all learners, while simultaneously making it more rigourous. Here is an example of what it looks like now.
Students who have successfully completed Math Maintenance in the past have been telling me that it is now harder, and I think that is a big win. They went from having to repeat the same thing over and over to having to actually think through what was happening in that type of problem. Students who had problems completing Math Maintenance like to have one that is already completed to look off of. I think that means this is a double win :)
Could you see yourself doing something like this in your classroom?
Update 8/19/2015: Now by popular demand, here is a folder where I uploaded all of my Math Maintenance assignments from the past year. They are all dated based on last year. I will not use these exact documents this year, but create it to cater to our current learning. Also I didn't start the new structure until the spring, so most are according to the old structure. And finally, these are the electronic versions, sometimes I write on documents before copying out for my students.