math, Number Sense & Numeration, Number Strings

Back in the groove

On Wednesday of this past week I realized I had gotten back into the groove of teaching math. I had been in it but fell out at some point. I knew I was not enjoying math and that I was feeling every day like I had missed the mark – the lesson was too easy, or it was too hard, or there were some interruptions that derailed us too easily. At some point I realized that there were so many different math strategies being used in the class that it was hard to have a conversation about our math. I decided that this week we would talk about all the strategies but we’d focus on making sure everyone could use a number line. We finished the Fosnot “Measuring for the Art Show” unit in about 3 days (should take more than that, and has typically taken me 10 days.) I decided to spend some time doing number strings and reinforcing the use of the number line to do it.

Here you can see we are using a lot of different strategies. Someone even suggested the traditional algorithm and several students knew how to use it. I’m crediting “at home learning” for that because this hasn’t happened in many years for me!

After two days of this, I asked everyone to complete three problems that I put on the board. They each have a whiteboard they were using to do this. “Do these three problems, and then you I want to take a photo of you and your work. Then you can clean up for lunch.” I thought that was good! But several of them were annoyed at ONLY being given 3 problems. I had to add more to the board. So, to recap, they wanted to do more math instead of get lunch.

I finally said, “Look, if you want to do this all day you could make up problems for each both er.” Then they spent the rest of the day making up problems for each other. A few of my friends weren’t sure what to do. I cancelled reading groups for two days to do math groups instead. By the end of that they knew how to add double digit numbers with the Base-10 Blocks and with the number line. We’ll get to the mental math eventually, but I needed to give them a few strategies to hang on to until then.

This week we’ll move on to another Fosnot unit called “Ages and Timelines” which has us focused more on subtraction, or rather “finding the difference” between two numbers. I feel like it will be a good fit for us.

I’m not sure if completing all of my math interviews would have helped. I still have a few to go (lots to go!) but what I already know about the class is that we are coming to the math from a variety of places. One of my small groups clearly knew what they were doing even though they had struggled with the first lesson and had given themselves a 😦 when I asked everyone to self assess. I asked them to explain.

Them: Well, I didn’t know this is what you meant.

Me: You don’t know I wanted you to add the numbers?

Them: No.

So, to recap, after two days of me saying “Add these numbers up.” They didn’t know what I meant. Like I said, we’re coming at this from a lit of different places. But I think we’ll mostly be in the same place, together, by the end of next week.

Geometry, math, Mathematical Processes, Patterning & Algebra, Social Emotional Learning, Spatial Sense

Month 1: Done

It feels like school just started. And yet, September is nearly over. In fact, it ends this week. We are headed into our fourth week of school. At this point I would usually know if my class was going to be reorganized due to school enrolment, but it’s all still being organized. I’ve decided not to worry about it and carry on.

This year I am using a curriculum planning guide I created last year and updated over the summer to reflect the new curriculum. Of course, the Ministry has also released some suggested long-range plans of their own. (Found here.) I was really intentional about where I put things on my own calendar, and I liked the sequencing I was using last year. At the same time, I like how it was spiralled and we came back to every concept at least once over the course of the year. When school closed in March, I had already covered everything at least once – even probability! I am inclined to stick with my own plan. However, I am also going to consult with the Ministry suggested timeline just to see who that team has set it all up.

Last week my class spent some time on patterns. We made patterns with manipulatives, and we made patterns with numbers on the 120 chart. It was fun! I was initially worried about using manipulatives, but have decided the hassle is worth it. I spent time every afternoon washing manipulatives in hot water and soap so we could use them again the next day. I bought some colanders at the dollar store to help with the draining and drying. It’s working out okay.

I feel like there were one hundred different things going on, but the fast pace and changes from one thing to another seemed to be what we needed so I went with it. We have been doing some dancing for our Daily Physical Activity (DPA) and several of the dances we used were patterned repeating dances. In coding this is called a loop, so that is what I have been calling them. This is our favourite:

By the end of the week we had met all the goals on our success criteria:

*making repeating, growing and shrinking patterns with math tools, numbers and our bodies.

*explaining our patterns to others. (a math process skill)

*being creative in math. (another math process skill)

*persevering through the hard parts. (This is one of the social emotional learning goals in the new math curriculum.)

So what’s next? According to the Ministry long range plan, the one organized by guiding questions) I should be doing some data management about the class. We should be gathering info about our height, our siblings, etc. and graphing it. They also have movement words this month. I’m still not feeling 100% certain about reorganization, so I think I’ll put that off for a week.

On my plan, I have some work with 2D and 3D shapes. We need to be describing them by their attributes at this point (we’ll work on them more in depth later.) I am going to stick with this, and add the movement expectations (E 1.4 relative location, and E1.5 directions for movement). These fit with the work we have been doing already. I also have the robots on loan from the resource centre, so I am going to want to use those. I have a fun lesson plan from the math project I’m involved in and I need to try it out. This is why I borrowed the robots actually. So this week we’re going to work on movement and we are going to work on following patterns on the 120 chart with the help of our robots. And I am now going to spend some time today figuring out how to make a giant 120 chart since my hundred carpet is now banished to the attic until the pandemic is over. I’m tempted to start number line work simply because a long number line is going be easier to create on the floor than a hundred chart.

math, Problem Solving, Spatial Sense

Stay apart

I started my school year with three students. We had a staggered entry and my two grades straddled the split between who started Wednesday and who started Thursday.

I was thinking a lot about physical distancing. Kids don’t really know how long a metre is – they really truly don’t! A metre, a mile, a moose – these units of measure are things they are still trying to figure out. In addition, they are busy figuring out where they exist in space. They aren’t all really sure where they end and someone else begins.

I decided to start off by asking them how big a meter is. I wanted them to have a frame of reference and a benchmark for how far apart they should be from one another.

We watched a video about the importance of staying 1 metre apart from each other. I said to the three, “Do you know what a meter is?” They did not. Makes sense since they are in grade 2. I asked, “Can you find some things that are as long as this meter stick? Some things that are 1 meter long?”

We then spent an hour measuring stuff in the room and in the hall and then we had to go outside for another thirty minutes of measuring because my three friends were obsessed with holding the metre stick up to things and asking, “Does this count?” Sort of like when we were driving across Ontario in August and my own children were obsessed with asking, “How much longer?”

Some really cool things happened during this time. We found out that you can stand at certain spots beside our tables and be a metre apart, but if you stand at other parts you are not a metre apart. We discovered that three floor tiles are equal to 1 metre. This was true for the white tiles in our classroom, the white tiles in the hallway, and the blue and yellow tiles in the hallway. We discovered that 2 1/2 bricks on the hall wall are 1 meter long. And the ladder on the play structure is less than a meter. So is the storm drain.

I spent a lot of time asking them if they were a meter apart and they had to use these benchmarks to figure it out.

The rest of the class joined us the next day and I couldn’t take 20 kids out to measure stuff in the hall so we used the photos from the day before. They had to basically memorize the two benchmarks we focused on and they were sort of good at it. They were very good during the lesson! They were less good at doing this in the wild. They even had trouble with the “Superhero arms” measure of distance. They are kids after all.

So I’m plotting my next step now. In the new curriculum both grades need to do some work with centimetres and meters. (E2.2) For now I am going to be content with helping them develop a feel for how long a metre is. We have moved into doing some work with figuring out how to use manipulatives, especially now when sharing has become complicated.

Executive Skills, math, Patterning & Algebra, Problem Solving

Calendar

I’d normally have the first week all organized by now.  I’ve been going through my notes (mental and written down) as I try to plan out what my first week of school will be like.  There are quite a few of my old tricks that won’t work this year because of “you know, social distancing” as my son likes to say.  And, truth be told, I could still get a big assignment change so I am not putting too much effort into getting excited about exact plans. But there are certain things that can happen no matter what my assignment turns out to be and no matter who will be in my class.

Last year, I added a new calendar routine to my class and I really liked how it all unfolded.  I had the whole year on the board at once, and I loved how the students used it to count “how many days until” things would happen.  I’m not usually one for celebrating birthdays in class, so I wasn’t expecting them to do their favourite thing:  add their special day to the calendar.  We added the holidays together as the approached and talked about how some holidays are always on the same day (Feb 14 = Valentine’s Day) but others float around according to the cycles of the moon (Passover). This is a grade 2 social studies expectation and I liked how that became part of an ongoing conversation in our room.

This year I have decided to do it a bit differently.  Instead of printing a complete calendar, I found some blank calendar pages here.   I am going to fill out September (maybe only the first 2 weeks?) and then get kids to help fill out the rest.  I made a poster to post beside the calendar:

Screen Shot 2020-08-30 at 7.10.34 PM
You can have a copy

I want the students to fill in the dates on their own because there are so many patterns to the counting on calendars.  If they are filling out the dates themselves I think it will help them see the patterns. During the first week, maybe in the second week, we are going to work on this together.  I still haven’t sorted out all the details though because, “you know, social distancing!” is going to effect this for sure. Maybe the students can have their own mini version to work on at their desks.  (I keep reminding myself that some kids are going to really love working alone at their desks!)

I’m going to keep this at the front of the room because we referred to it so often!  I want it up close.  I know things will be different now because we can’t have any carpet time, but we didn’t really use it for that anyway. It was just an ongoing topic of conversation all year. Kids like to know when things will happen. This helped with that. I’ve been reading a bit of executive function skills and some of these are the ability to organize, to be able to plan things, and of course manage time. I know that I personally need a calendar or day book for this, and I really do much better if I have written it down.  My phone calendar is great for reminders, but I still need to physically use a pen and paper to write it down before a scheduled activity is in my brain. I need to know when something is due and then I need to write out a plan for how to do that slowly over the course of a week or more.  I need specific small deadlines (because one of my executive functioning strengths is that I am goal oriented) to keep my on track. The wall calendar seemed to provide support in all of these areas for the kids in my class last year, and I suspect it will help this year as well. 

So…20 minutes of each day of the first week…sorted!

math

Math Project

So i’m working on this math project which I don’t really want to write about just yet…but I will at some point!

At a meeting last week and another today there was some information shared about how the new Ontario math curriculum came to be. It was fascinating to me to learn about the research that went into figuring out what to put in, what to move here and there, what to eliminate.  I know a lot of people have lamented the fact that “teachers have not been consulted!”  But I’m learning just how many teachers were consulted and how many educators were deeply involved in this process.  I think some people are under the impression that the actual Minister of Education has whipped up a few documents in his basement one night and, um, well…he didn’t.  Here is a video about the process.

The research that was done before the curriculum was written involved looking at curriculum documents from around the world, analyzing their content, their organization and research about the implementation of that curriculum.  The research around how children learn math and what and when they should learn it was also considered.

I know a lot of teachers are feeling a lot of trepidation about this new curriculum.  I think the timing of it’s release and implementation is the main complaint.  I agree – it’s a weird time for us all to figure out how to do something new that could wait.  We’ll be consumed by figuring out how to do new things, like keeping our students physically distant and/or teaching online, that can’t wait. It will be tricky and stressful to also figure out a new curriculum, which does have some significant changes from the old one. It’s overwhelming to think about it all!  But I get excited about math things so I’m not feeling that, which is probably why I comfortably signed up to be part of a huge math project on top of my Master’s courses and full time teaching and full time parenting.

math, Number Sense & Numeration, Problem Solving

Baking

Are you still baking bread? At the beginning of the world-wide shutdown, everyone was baking bread and cookies and their own pizza. We are still doing this – we were doing this before. We’ve slowed down a bit because it’s been too hot to turn the oven on. But yesterday I made some bread and today my daughter is baking cookies.

She wants to do this all by herself. I have a recipe that’s meant to be easy for children to follow, and she has a lot of kitchen experience for a 9-year-old. She’s only needed help so far with the “1 slash 2 cup” of butter. We’ve talked about 1/2 dozens of times but it still eludes her. I showed her how to use the markings on the butter to figure out 1/2 of a cup. She then needed help with 1/2 cup of honey. Partway through pouring she realized she had the “1 slash 4” cup and thought it was going to be too much because she only needs “1 slash 2”. We’ve talked about this a bunch too, but in the moment she was confused again.  I coach her through it.  “1/4 is 1/2 of a 1/2.  So if you have 1/4, you have 1/2 of what you need.  So what do we need to do?”  She figures it out, I pour her another 1/4 cup of honey, and she’s back to working on her own.

I’ve been thinking a lot about baking and the learning that goes along with it. Little of it actually shows up in our curriculum. There’s problem solving, some collaboration (her brother doesn’t like chocolate so this is always part of our conversation when making cookies), communication, following instructions and, of course, measurement and fractions. At home this type of learning is very important to me. I want my children to head off to university with the ability to cook more than Kraft dinner, grilled cheese and scrambled eggs. The curriculum connections are a bonus. At school I cook or bake with my class maybe twice in a school year (less if there are students with allergies or special dietary needs in the class.)  I learned to cook at my grandma’s house, at my parent’s house, in Home Economics classes, and in neighbourhood 4H clubs.

If I was in charge of the curriculum, I’m not sure what I would eliminate in order to make space for cooking in the elementary grades.  I’m not sure there is anything we should exchange for cooking time. Secondary students still have the option of doing catering courses so they can learn to cook. Mostly I feel like learning to cook is part of how we pass our family and cultural traditions and values down to our own children.  I know some parents don’t teach their children to cook, but maybe that needs to be up to them.  Maybe this is one thing the schools have let go of for good reason. If I cook with my class it’s because we have a connection to something we’ve read about, or it’s a snow day and we need to fill the time with a worthwhile but fun activity.  I don’t feel compelled to teach them life skills like cooking or sewing.

 

 

math, Math Workshop, Mathematical Processes, Problem Solving

NOMA Summer “Book” Club #1

Today we at the Northern Ontario Math Association (NOMA) had our first summer book club meeting.  Instead of reading a book together, we are finding resources on the Internet we can read for free – things we can get without having to wait for delivery!

Today we discussed a webinar found on TheLearningExchange called “Teaching Math Through a Social Justice Lens”.  I highly recommend this learning series. It is basically a problem-based math teaching approach. Students are using real-world numbers to think about real-world problems with a social justice focus.  In this exact case, the students were mostly focused on an inquiry that had them wondering about their shoes – where in the world do they come from, who makes them, how much are those people paid to make them, etc.

Preparing for this has had me thinking about some social justice issues I could cover in my primary class.  We study water in science, so it would be interesting to do something with water bottles – collect data on the number of bottles used in our school, how much we save by using refillable bottles, what is the environmental impact on not only using them but having them delivered to your local store, what is the financial impact on buying disposable water bottles…etc.   I definitely need to think more about possible topics, but I also want to make sure I am paying attention to what my students are interested in.

The great thing about a book club is that other people think of things that I don’t. In our conversation there were a few important things that were brought up.  Some of the issues might be upsetting to families who feel the teacher is trying to push their own political agenda.  Some issues might be upsetting to students (we talked about all the amazing data related to Covid-19, for example, which our students might not be ready to analyze in the next year…or more!) And we have to make sure we are still teaching math and not just doing these projects that use the math. We want them to have a certain sense of exploration and problem solving, but we also need to make sure they know how to do all the necessary calculations for their particular developmental needs and grade level.

One of the big hurdles for me in my own thinking and teaching has been how to come up with projects that have my students doing math, literacy, science, social studies across the day instead of each happening in their own separate, compartmentalized time block. I have this figured out with literacy, but math…I’m still working on it. As I watched this webinar I feel like I have a new understanding of how to create inquiry problems that students could work on all day and still hit all the topics.  Now, I do think I wouldn’t jump right into this in September (though maybe with the right problem I could…) and I definitely think I will need to still have a time set aside on most days when we are focused on learning to do calculations.  But I’m thinking of some social justice and global citizenship issues that could really take over the class (in a good way!) for a solid week.

I’m also still trying to wrap my head around having students part-time in school and part-time at home but still working and I think this integrated approach would be a good way to have them working at home on things besides worksheets.

I’m still thinking through all of this!  But the book club was a good way for me to consolidate some of my thinking…and it gave me more to think about!

 

Relevant article:

Caswell, B., Stewart Rose, L., & Doura, D. (2011). Teaching Mathematics With a Social Justice Focus. Inquiry into Practice: Reaching Every Student Through Inclusive Curriculum, 81–88. https://wordpress.oise.utoronto.ca/robertson/files/2017/03/Teaching-Mathematics-with-a-Social-Justice-Focus.pdf

 

math

At home math: #2

I was busy in a webinar on a Friday so the computer was teaching my children for me. My son came to get my phone, the returned a minute later asking me what the clock in the picture said. “HURRY! I’m going to lose the battle!” I was focused on my webinar so it took me a few seconds to figure out what was going on.

My class uses the iPads to play “Dreambox” a couple of times each week. That feels like enough screen time to me. I haven’t bothered to use other tech-based games and activities even though I know there are some really good ones out there. Fast forward to March 2020 and everyone was prepared to carry on with their online math games. I can make assignments and track their progress. I can even see where a group of them, or individuals, are struggling and provide videos walking them through what to do. It’s great!

Fast forward to April 2020 and I could see that my own children were no longer subject to the same screen time restrictions normally in place. Thinking that perhaps this was true for my students and that all of us could enjoy some other math activities, I signed up for Prodigy and added my son to my class (my daughter’s class is already signed up on their own.)

Here is what I like about Prodigy:

Kids can find their friends in the game. It’s fun even though they can’t actually chat or anything.

I can give assignments. This week everyone is working on telling time. The questions will still be a mixed bag, but there will be a focus on time.

There are virtual manipulatives available for students to use to help solve problems.

I usually don’t use Prodigy because it’s more game than math, but that’s exactly what appeals to me now. My son will happily play for the duration of my meetings or webinars.

When we return to school I’m not sure Prodigy will be in rotation in room 16. I think I’m going to be even more conscientious about overdoing the screen time, and I really am committed to Dreambox.

math, Problem Solving

Math at Home: Week 1

Every day we do math at our house. That’s not new. But this week we are going to be more serious about addressing some gaps. I get to be a one-on-one teacher for my children, which they need.  Well, really every kid needs it!

We started working on printing numbers correctly last week. One of my babies has some bad habits and the numbers are backward all. the. time.  Last summer we painted a chalkboard wall in the basement and it’s come in very handy many times.  It is now part of our makeshift classroom.

My son, who is in grade 2, is working on number lines.  He is very good at mental math, but doesn’t have a way to visually represent his thinking. I thought long and hard, but try as I might I can’t remember all the lessons from the Context for Learning units.  However, I do know that Antonio is 2 years younger than his sister and there are a lot of interesting math conversations that can come from this.  The sister is 10, and Antonio is 8, and Dad is 40 and Mom is 38 and I can’t remember right now how old the grandparents are.

Today we talked about how far apart Antonio and his sister are on a number line.  Then we talked about how that would look at different times in their lives.  How old was she when he was born?  How old was he when she was 6?  How old will she be when he is 10?

See the trouble making the jumps on the number line?  That’s a handwriting issue, but it’s effecting his math so we’re working on it!   Tomorrow we’ll continue working on this before we move onto finding the difference between the children and their parents.

We also did some counting.  Spencer needs practice skip counting so I have him counting his cereal and candy.  He doesn’t mind.  We do it only once per day, not over and over. When we worked on 3s today I modelled it for him first then he repeated what I had done.  We’ll see how it goes later.

My grade 3 daughter is ready to practice the 7 times tables.  We started by going over everything from 1×1 up.  We played Multiplication War last week.  This week we are going to do that some more.

Both kids are working on Dreambox for a few minutes every day.

math

The good and the bad

Some weeks I feel like the windshield, and some weeks I feel like the bug. This was a bug week so I’ve decided to find some wins to focus on. We worked hard last week, and mostly it showed. Today, Monday, I was so glad I spent the weekend reflecting on what had gone right last week instead of staying stuck in a negative reflection cycle.

Each of the above pictures shows a moment I captured on my camera because something was going well. I had a lot I left on the camera roll too. I started taking photos during math because it can be difficult to document student work in the moment. My phots help me go back and document later. I often take videos too so I can spend some time reflecting on conversations later. It helps me think about my students. It helps me refine my questioning and conferring practice, too.

Not every day at school feels like a win. Lots of them feel really hard. But there’s good to be found if I look hard enough.