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Focus on problem solving

So, our school has decided to focus on problem solving in mathematics this year. I’ve already administered the diagnostic assessment – two questions, one open and one closed. We moderate on Wednesday and decide where to go from there. Personally, I think many kids struggle with the vocabulary so one of my focuses/foci? Will be explicitly teaching the vocabulary as well as insisting on kids reading, rereading and reading again. I am going to use Laura Candler’s math puzzlers as one of the tools to help kids.

It was an eye opener as we discussed a problem (grade 4) and I asked the kids to explain to me what was meant by sum. They mostly knew what it sort of was but absolutely could not explain. I foresee LOTS of Frayer model activities in their future.

I wonder if there’s an app for that:)

Math resources

While at math camp we got some links to awesome resources. The edugains site is terrific and the section on math is as well
math edugains

Each year there is also a wiki posted. Here is the link. Great power points and resources from previous years as well
math camp

September Looms

The month of August is upon us and September is in our sights. I spent a week at Math Camppp which was amazing! Who knew there was so much to know about fractions! It certainly gives me a lot to think about for September. I will definitely be using fewer cricle representations of fractions. The learning experience was intense – 5 days and nothing but fractions. This is the 5th year they’ve done a camp for teachers, with a different focus each year. You can check out some of the amazing stuff at the Edugains.ca website. Super resources as well as upcoming initiatives.

Learned some about how to question students about their fraction thinking and discovered that it is soooo complicated. Questioning is essential if you are to discover what they are thinking – depending on how they perceive the fraction they could be right even though they have given the “wrong” answer. I’m so glad there is a Wiki so I can keep referring back to all the material and activities we did.

There were teachers, administrators, supply teachers and spec ed people from across Ontario there. So many people expressed interest they had to hold 2 sessions – next one is later this month. So glad I took pictures as well so I have a visual reference of OUR learning.

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My New IPad

So I just got my new IPad and have been checking out all sorts of apps to use in my classroom this fall. My intent is to borrow 5 IPads from our Classroom support centre and use them as one of my stations in math (as well as language). What apps can you recommend?

I was just at a 3 day workshop on using IPads in the classroom and am quite excited. Before spending lots of money of apps I am interested in checking out the free ones.

I think of this as one more way to engage learners – working with their different learning styles, and am hopeful that I can find some apps that will not only engage but allow me to monitor progress. Ideas, anyone?

Summer Chores

So I’ve decided to try a guided math/math workshop structure in my math class this coming year. I’ve got Laura Candler’s ebook on Math Centres so I will be preparing some of those activities for the coming year. I would love to hear any suggestions you might have on setting this up. I have a split 4/5 class this coming year and I know I have a lot of struggling math students. What have you tried that has worked?

I’m also looking at incorporating journals into my class. I believe I will have to perhaps start one or two small things and gradually add things in as I go.

I’ve also seen some amazing resources from the website ReallyGoodStuff.com – things for organizing as well as resources. Ahhh, if only I had an unlimited budget. I purchased some of Dinah Zikes foldables books too, so I will spend some time, making some of the foldables to see how hard it will be for 9 & 10 year olds to do and if I will have to do some pre-work of folding and cutting for them.

Gallery Walks

One thing I do in my classroom periodically is a Gallery Walk. Students post their solutions to a problem and then everyone walks around the class with sticky notes and makes comments and suggestions. Yes, it can be a little chaotic, but once they understand the process it is such a great way to involve the students in peer assessment.

I start early in the year by discussing and demonstrating what makes a good solution. And you’re right, the first thing a student generally says is the answer! They are quite surprised when I tell them that is the last thing I look at. As we go through the process, we create anchor charts, we discuss and make a list of helpful comments,  and we talk about why thinking and explaining is so important. The first few run-throughs I write the problem with errors I have seen students make or I may have saved work from previous classes.

It does take time but so worth the effort. Such a treat when you overhear children actually discussing a mathematical problem – “So, I like the way you……but how about…….?”

If you are interested in trying a Gallery Walk in your classroom, There are many fine resources online and through curriculum.org. The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat publishes a series of monographs on all aspects of mathematical learning, understanding and teaching.

Formative Assessment

One of the things I like to do in my classroom for formative assessment, is to give the students essentially the same task or question I gave them at the beginning of the unit. Doesn’t work for all expectations but does for others. I might change the scenario or I might change the numbers, but what is asked is the similar. Right now I’m working on volume of rectangular prisms. One of the things I’m looking for is students starting to move from using the linking cubes and counting one by one – to perhaps counting layers of cubes and then either multiplying or doing repeated addition. It’s a bonus if they recognize that the area (or number of cubes in each layer) and the number of layers, multiplied works. I find it interesting that in the Ontario Curriculum they want the children to determine the formula of Area of the base X height. I can remember when I was learning this it was simply L X W X H – simply add one more dimension. Personally, I find that way easier.

As my lessons on volume progress, I look at weaning them away from the cubes (because all they want to do is build). I may give them one or two cubes to help them visualize. I have use an activity in Van de Walle’s book  (Student Centered Mathematics)- you give the children 2 different sized boxes, built from card stock and built using standard 1 cm or 2 cm measures. Students need to determine which box has a greater volume or if they have the same volume. They have as tools, 1 cube, a ruler and their boxes. Excellent activity and it highlights the progression from very concrete to the more abstract.

Challenging Students.

No, not students who are challenging, but students who need to be challenge. What do you do with that one student who is so far ahead of the others? And, how do you assess? If he or she is so far ahead of the others that he exceeds expectations for the grade level – what then? We have no gifted class or program.
What makes it so challenging is many of the other students require a lot of teacher assistance and guidance – where/how does one find the time to present students like this with challenges that aren’t busy work? Just a thought – his teacher for next year would also like to know.

Observation Form

So I’m working on developing a checklist/form I can use when I work with students in my class or as I wander the room observing and questioning. I’m seriously thinking of doing either guided math next year or a math workshop format. That being said, I thought a form in the vein of a guided reading form might work. I’m using the categories of knowledge and understanding, thinking, communicating and application. So I would have four boxes on a page for each student. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you have a form to share?

I have in the past taped index cards to a clipboard. It may just be me but I find it awkward and the cards always fall off.

This is the checklist/form I’ve created.

observation notes