math, Patterning & Algebra

Money (or “Learn to get along with your classmates!”)

This week we learned more about money.  We started “Trades, Jumps and Stops”, a Context for Learning unit and the first thing students do in that unit is count some money.  On the first day, I did a Number Talk, which was definitely not a Number String! I had 50 cents in my pocket and I told the class about the 50 cents.  Then I asked, “Can you tell me which coins I have?” We wrote down 5 or 6 different combinations of coins that are equal to 50 cents.  Then I told them I had 4 coins and they immediately knew which of the options they’d given was correct.  But by “them” and “they” I mean it was only about 3 or 4 students.  Granted, we had a lot of students away due to illness but it was clear that we needed some practice with counting money and making amounts in different ways, so we took a pause from the unit and did that for a couple of days.  By Friday we were using the piggy bank cards, which we need later in the unit, to count out coins, adding up two different amounts to get a total, and comparing them to our partner. This is a detour from the original content of the unit, but I didn’t feel like we could go forward successfully without solidifying this skill. Or set of skills I guess.

I am happy to report that everyone was counting by 5s and 10s, and many were adding up quarters too!  This is because we have progressed as mathematicians!  It is also because I only gave each group 5 pennies so they didn’t have the option of counting out a very big amount by ones.

This week I am also reflecting on how well we are collaborating when we need to.  For the last several years I have done a lot of work with intentional learning partners.  I assign my students to a triad and those people are their partners for the entire month whenever they need partners. In the beginning, I assign them to a partner, or I use a random system for matching students.  As the months go by, I start to ask for their input and ask them to do some self-assessment of their ability to be a good partner.  By the 5th month of school I would not be doing random assignments anymore.

This year is different. On Thursday I pulled out our partner matching cards and I immediately thought, “Why am I still using these?  Why don’t I have partner assignments ready to go?”  Intentional learning partners are meant to match students who will be able to actually help each other out and collaborate together.  Peter Liljedahl does the opposite and has students work with different students every day.  But his work is mostly focused on older students.  I believe that in the primary grades the students need different social things than they do in the higher grades.  For example, practice putting up with each other’s oddities in order to learn some tolerance, practice noticing someone else’s preferred work style and then trying out some tips from that person, and of course they need to learn how to take turns.  They also need to be matched with someone who is close in ability.  Maybe not the exact same ability, but in a split grade class I can’t have my most accomplished grade 3 matched with a grade 2 who is really struggling.  Or worse, a struggling grade 3 matched with a grade 2 who is sailing along! I take all of this into consideration when making matches.

So, why not this year? Well, I think there are a few reasons.  First, we have an attendance problem.  I don’t want to say too much about that, but some kids are away a lot. Second, we have a few kids who are really struggling with being told what to do.  I’m quite concerned that I will assign them to a partner and they will make such a fuss that it will ruin the class period/day/week/month.  Or worse, they will want to be partnered up with someone I do not want them to be partnered up with and I will not partner them up with that person because I am the adult and IT WILL NOT END WELL!  It all seems like a better idea to say, “Sorry, not my fault.  Talk to Fate! She’s the one who picked your partner.” or, “The cards decided, not me.” (which is what I am most likely to say.) We’re a little behind in some of our executive functioning skills and random partnerships let us work on some of those areas while avoiding some of the more volatile ones.  And as I’m writing this I feel like maybe I’m taking the easy way out because I’m exhausted from all the emotional stuff that goes with teaching.

And now I’m going to spend the day thinking about maybe putting some more time into developing the executive skills that will allow everyone to manage frustration in a way that does not make Mrs. Corbett want to cry every day on the way home from school.

But we can all count money, so HOORAY!

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This is the “cheat sheet” for the partner matching cards I use.  I got them from Teachers Pay Teachers.  There are individual cards which are handed out randomly and the students have to find their partner. I use the big heart as our “pick your own partner” card for the days when we have an odd number of students in the class.
math, Number Talks, Patterning & Algebra, Spatial Sense

Math on the Move

This was our math class this week:

Last Spring at the OAME conference, I bought a book called “Math on the Move” by Malke Rosenfeld.  My friend, who was at the conference with me, attended a workshop about the book.  We talked about it a few times.  She tried it out with her grade 2 class last year, and I read it over the summer. Then in December we had a day when we could sit down and do some planning together.

The premise of the book is that there is a lot of math students can learn while moving around.  This past week we learned about patterns in math while dancing. The squares on the floor, made with painter’s tape, give everyone a designated space to work in.  They also give everyone signals for where the feet should be at a given time.  I added the blue tape line because our previous work with directional words and spatial sense activities let me know that left and right are still tricky for quite a few of my people and I thought “blue side” would be less tricky. I still used the words left and right, and gradually stopped saying “blue line” over time. We worked with 4-count repetitive patterns all week. We got over some self-conscious feelings about dancing where others can see us.  We resisted the urge to pick the painter’s tape off the floor even though it was getting pretty scuffed up by Friday.  I like the way this activity integrates spatial sense, patterning, dancing, and self-regulation!  It was super hard for some children to follow dance steps instead of dancing free-style.  It was a lot of fun, and this can be quite dysregulating for some children. I had specifically planned to do this during the week we returned from Winter Break because I knew they would need to ease back into the routine of school.  I think this helped many of them.  I’m confident, based on the rest of our days, that sitting down and focusing on some table activities would have proven to be a challenge!

We have been using “Banana, Banana, Meatball” on Go Noodle for a few months during our DPA.  I used this to launch us into a study of patterns and dance in music.  The class, mostly, can do the moves.  It’s just hard to keep to the right pace.  However, everyone could follow the patterns, talk about the patterns, and create their own patterns.  We also watched some other music videos and danced to the music.  Turns out all dancers follow the same moves we were using.  There are patterns everywhere!

We didn’t get as far as I wanted in one week. I had hoped to have everyone using some boxes to record their moves so others could follow the pictures (this is all explained in the book.)  We will get there eventually, but it didn’t happen when I thought it would.  I’m not in a rush though.

To support our pattern learning, we were also using some “Eyes on Math” images for Number Talks this week.  Marian Small wrote this book several years ago.  I use it every year and I love the way the images get students thinking about noticing the math in the world around them.  This week we looked at a picture of a parking lot.  Cars were leaving a person was counting how many cars were left.  We had to figuring out how many cars were left as each left (shrinking pattern.)  On another day we  wondered how many eggs would be left if mom takes them away 2 at a time.  We talked about several different ways to figure out how many bicycle wheels were in a picture (growing patterns.)  We worked on a few money problems too!

While we were doing the Number Talks, we also talked about how to solve a problem.  In other words, the problem is up there on the board, or on the paper, and you need to read it and figure out what to do in order to find a solution.  How do you do that?  This is one of the times when I did some direct, explicit instruction.  I know how to solve a problem. I know how to break it down into steps.  They don’t.  I told them. I made a chart, we practiced, now some of them know what to do and more of them are going to know what to do after we do some explicit practice next week.  When I start the next Context for Learning unit they should be better equipped to work independent of me.

Next week our math focus will turn to telling time.  The turn of the year is a good time for that.  But we will come back to our dancing a few times.  We’ll talk about more Eyes on Math images and practice solving steps. And we are going to do an art project that uses patterns.  I’m excited to see what happens when we get started on this.

math, Number Sense & Numeration, Number Talks, Patterning & Algebra

Counting

Years ago I bought this treasure at a yard sale for $1:

There are well over 100 beaded necklaces in that bin!  I use them exclusively for math, though I definitely have had some children in the past 10 years who would have loved to wear them, or just run their hands through them over and over.  (It does feel nice!)

I bought them to use for a specific counting game.  I didn’t know about this game until I came to Canada.  Seemed every Core French teacher I ever worked with loved this game, though now that I am in an Immersion/English dual track school it isn’t as popular.  In French, this game is called “Dix” or Ten. The class sits in a circle and counts to 10, each saying one number.  Whoever says ten gets to sit down, and the game is played until there is just one person left.  I bought these necklaces when I was teaching kindergarten.  I didn’t want anyone to get out because the “out” people aren’t getting any practice.  I feel like I may have read about this in the Effective Guide to Instruction in Mathematics, but I can’t be sure.

Over the years, this game has evolved. I now use it for skip counting by all sorts of numbers: count by 10s and whoever says 100 gets a necklace, count by 5s and whoever says 50 gets a necklace, and so on.  I am getting ready to start some multiplication with my class after the March Break, so last week I pulled out the necklaces and we started using them every day for a few minutes before the mini-lesson.

On Friday, I asked everyone to count by 10s, and whoever said 30 got a necklace.  After we’d made it around the circle once, I asked them to talk about the pattern they could see.  Several realized there was a pattern.  It was identified as a “no, no, yes” pattern an “ABBABB” pattern, and a “skip, skip, yes” pattern.  Finally someone said, “It goes, 1, 2, 3! 1, 2, 3!” (emphasis on the 3!) I asked what would happen if we counted by ones.  Sure enough, every time someone said 3 s/he was wearing a necklace.  Then we counted past 3 to see if the pattern would continue.  I scribed on the board for them so everyone could see the numbers while we counted, and then I circled the numbers that corresponded with a person wearing a necklace.

Sure enough!  The pattern continued.

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We talked about how we could use what we had learned to count by threes, just like when we count by 5s or 10s or 2s.  Everyone was amazed, and several were happy to share their strategy: say the numbers you are skipping quietly to yourself then say the third number loud and proud.

I’ve been reading the book “Number Routines” by Jessica Shumway, and this activity shows up in that book too.  She recommends that the class start with one of her many number routines, then Number Talk, and then the mini lesson.  I’ve been giving that a try this week and I like the way the counting routine lead into the lesson, which is going to lead into our next unit of study.

Well, not exactly “next”.  We’re going to spend a bit of time on time and temperature.  But then it’s off to multiplication we go!

Data Management, Geometry, Measurement, Number Sense & Numeration, Patterning & Algebra

Another One About Reporting

As the end of Winter Break approaches, it’s time for me to sit down and do some planning for the coming weeks.  Reports cards are due at the end of the month and I need to get all of my assessments up to date and my comments organized.  The report card should reflect what the child is capable of at that time, not what they were doing 2 or 3 months ago. I last formally reported on everyone in November. I know there has been growth for everyone, some big and some small.

For math assessment, I am going to re-do the interview I used in September.  I know that for some children I can start in a different place because they have shown mastery in areas I previously assessed.  I will have to go beyond where I left off with them because they have shown growth toward the end of year goals. I also need to add in some geometry and data management questions so I can report accurately on that as well.  I have a lot of anecdotal notes to draw from, but I want to be really sure of what they can do now.

As I have been reflecting on this, I am struck once again with how hard it is to divide math into 5 strands.  I suppose it is easy in the Primary grades to do that with Geometry, Data Managment/Probability and Measurement.  But even at this point they are all starting to blend together. Everything we learn in Number Sense is related to everything we learn in Patterning and Algebra.  I can hardly decide how to mark everyone sometimes because I’m not always sure if the things they need to build understanding about exist in one strand of the curriculum document or another.  I have to consult it every time because in my mind it’s all mashed together into “math”. Everything we do in Number Sense is related to what we do in Measurement too, but it’s a little easier to seperate out the skills that will be reported on.  Same for Geometry and Data Management/Probablity.

Here is one example of this from the Grade 2 curriculum document (2005):

  • identify and describe, through investigation, growing patterns and shrinking patterns generated by the repeated addition or subtraction of 1’s, 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, and 25’s on a number line and on a hundreds chart (e.g., the numbers 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 are
  • count forward by 1’s, 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, and 25’s to 200, using number lines and hundreds charts, starting from multiples of 1, 2, 5, and 10 (e.g., count by 5’s from 15; count by 25’s from 125);
  • count backwards by 1’s from 50 and any number less than 50, and count backwards by 10’s from 100 and any number less than 100, using number lines and hundreds charts (Sample problem: Count backwards from 87 on a hundreds carpet, and describe any patterns you see.);

Two of those are from the Number Sense strand and one is from P/A.  But I teach them simultaneously. And if a child is having trouble with skip counting is it because s/he isn’t understanding the patterns associated with the skip counting, or is having trouble memorizing the order, and if they seem to not be having any trouble is there some rote counting, or is the child processing the numbers and thinking about the patterns?  It’s tricky to assess sometimes. And sometimes it isn’t. For instance, if a child can say, “2, 4, 6, 8, 10” but then stops and can’t figure out what comes next, I know the first 5 terms are acutally just counted by rote. Or if a child can count by 2’s even further, but then isn’t able to do this when there are actual things to be counted, I know there has been some memorizing. And if a child gets to ten, then pauses to work it out in his head, comes up with 12, then slowly with 14, and so on, I know there is some understanding.  It’s tricky to boil all of that down to a letter grade.

Someday when I open my own school and can make my own rules, I am not going to assign letter grades to Primary kids ever. The report cards at my school will be all about the comments.  And I will definitely not divide math up to strands!  But for now, I’ll sit down and go through my assessment and the curriculum documents, then I’ll sit down with everyone in the next 2 weeks or so and ask them the questions I’m wondering about.  And then I’ll sit down and give them all a grade that reflects what they can do.  Easy, right?

 

Data Management, math, Number Sense & Numeration, Patterning & Algebra

Which Way Do I Go?

The beginning of the year is hard for me in math. There are so many things that need to be done!  This is especially true for those of us who are teaching split grade classes.  Some things are the same: number sense, for example.  I can figure out where everyone is and take them to where they need to be.  But my grade 2s are supposed to learn about some things that the grade 3s are supposed to already know (which sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t) and the grade 3s are supposed to do things that the grade 2s are not (which sometimes they are ready for and sometimes they are not!)  And I know I can still do the things, and it won’t hurt anyone to learn about something a year early, but it all takes time. And even though it’s only the 29th of October, I feel like time is slipping away and I need to GET ON IT!

So this week, I was feeling like it was time to move on from adding the tens and the ones.  I gathered the balances so we could talk about balancing equations.  I started planning in my mind where we’d go next.  But by Friday, I realized that I might be moving on a bit to fast.

Remember when I wrote about how we were having trouble communicating our math thinking? Well, that hasn’t gone away yet.  Now that we are adding, and even subtracting those double-digit numbers, I thought, wouldn’t it make sense to stop there and do some problem solving?  Wouldn’t it make sense, I asked myself, to take this thing we are pretty good at doing and use it to practice the communication piece?

So this is what we are doing.

  1. Trip over the balances that are shoved out of sight behind my desk. It was a pain to get them into the room so I’m just going to live with them for a while.
  2. Monday’s problem:  (Two versions because I am differentiating!)There are 14 red apples, 15 green apples, and 8 yellow apples.  Can each child in the class have one apple? 

     There are 4 red apples, 5 green apples, and 8 yellow apples.  Can each child in the class have one apple?

     

  3. Tuesday’s Problem: I bought some Halloween candy this weekend!  I have 15 suckers, 23 Smarties, and 30 Kit Kat.  Do I have enough for every child in our class to have 3 pieces of candy?   

    I bought some Halloween candy this weekend!  I have 10 suckers, 12 Smarties, and 4 Kit Kat.  Do I have enough for every child in our class to have 1 piece of candy? (The Smarties are stressing me right now because I mean 23 of those little boxes of Smarties, but there are 10 actual Smarties in each.  There’s a unitizing thing in there.  I think I’ll just have to verbally clarify with the class before moving on.  I’d just take out the Smarties all together, but I’m sort of feeling committed to them now because it’s going to give us something good to talk about.)

  4. Wednesday: Give in to the evil of Hallowe’en and graph some candy.  (I try to do random survey’s and graphing instead of a data management unit.  I’m going call it spiralling, like all the cool #iteachmath teachers.)  Then they’ll work on these alone, not with their Learning Partners:Make a list of 10 ways you can add two numbers and get the answer 37 every time. 

    Make a list of 5 ways you can add two numbers and get 10 every time. 

  5.  Thursday and Friday: Depends on how the other days are going.  I really want to make sure that I am not rushing through.  I want to take the time to congress the solutions properly, and to talk about what makes a good visual representation of the groups thinking.  We are starting up with November Learning Partners (a few days early because we were all just DONE with the October groupings!) I have a fun nrichmaths activity that we will do if things are going well.  And I have some 100 chart puzzles we can do, which will help reinforce the work we’ve been doing about noticing patterns in the 10’s and ones that help us take leaps of 10 and 1.  We are on to Measuring for the Art show next, and this is an important understanding for that unit.
  6. Then it’s Monday again, and we can balance some equations.  Probably.  Most likely. “It is highly likely that the class will work on balancing equations next week.” to put it in data management and probability  language.  And then we should move on to some geometry because that is something I have a hard time integrating on it’s own at this particular grade level.

Even though I am feeling compelled to get moving, what I really want to do is make sure everyone understands what we are doing now.  These adding and subtracting and patterning and data management skills are so important and there’s no sense in moving on until everyone is ready, not just me.

 

math, Patterning & Algebra

Patterning

So – Patterning.  I’m thinking a lot about this skill and how to make it meaningful for my mathematicians. I’m thinking a lot about its connection to algebra and how to set my grade 2’s & 3’s up for success and start them on the road to algebraic thinking.

I put them to work on Monday.  I put baskets of math manipulatives out and told them to go make patterns.  As predicted, they made a bunch of repeating patterns.  They were quite proud of them in fact.  On Tuesday, we talked about growing patterns.  They weren’t really showing an understanding of reading the pattern left to right, so we had a bit of a chat about that on Wednesday when we talked about shrinking patterns and about how the direction matters. As seems to happen often this year, they were amazed by this knowledge.  I think it will stick!  Here is one of the examples I built to show them that direction matters:

Today, Thursday, I asked everyone to actually put their pattern on a number line.  We have done a lot of work with number lines this year, and with the 100 chart.  I feel like it is really paying off!  I started with some guided inquiry.  What, I asked, would my pattern look like on a number line?

Together we constructed a few:

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Really glad I put this on top of the gross old tape line that children have been slowly picking off for 2 years!

Then I sent them to make some patterns of their own, and map them on number lines.  I didn’t hand them the paper until they had their patterns made and could talk to me about how the pattern was growing and shrinking (by ones, by 3’s, etc.  Actually, no “etcetera” because everyone either did ones or threes, like our example.  I’m not worried though because tomorrow I can tell them they are too good to stick with ones and threes and they need to choose something else!)

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This one led to a conversation about how they actually have 2 different patterns: add 3 tiles to each term, OR add one column to each term. They hadn’t noticed the second and were trying to figure out why I was so excited about it! I feel like there is a double number line opportunity here, but we aren’t ready for that!

I know it might not be right to have favourites, but this is my favourite conversation:

First, there was this:

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The child who made this pattern was insistent that it was a growing and shrinking pattern.  His partners were not convinced.  In fact, they were downright mad because he was so sure and they couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see it either, to be honest.  I wanted so badly to tell him that this was not going to work!  But Cathy Fosnot’s voice echoed in my head, “Productive struggle…productive struggle…”  so I handed him the strip of paper and a marker, and walked away.  A few minutes later, I returned to this:

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He’d figured out on his own that to make a number line his “special stones” needed to be laid out in a straight line.  He was also able to finally show us that the green stones aren’t actually part of the pattern.  They just mark the end/beginning of each set of clear stones.  As soon as it was straight, he could help his partners see his thinking – he could explain it so much more easily.  He’d made it through the struggle and came out successful on the other side.  (He did write in the numbers and finish the number line – I didn’t get a picture though.)

Two others made this pattern. (I’ll add the picture later!)

When we chatted about it, they told me that they knew 22 should come next, but didn’t have enough special stones. This was a huge piece of info for me! I thought they’d just been rote counting, but are perhaps ready to make a line without having to build the concrete pattern first.

I am, however, left with one question:  How does one put a repeating pattern on a number line?  ABABABA patterns, or ABCABCABC patterns – can they be put on a number line?

*update* Today I challenged everyone to try something besides 1 & 3.

They tried 2, 4, 5 & 10.

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…backwards…. We still have work to do!
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This one went on and on, but there are kids in the picture near the end.
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They made a “counting by 1” pattern and had to be convinced to add the second row and then to understand the second row. I had to start the number line for them, but it felt like an appropriate scaffold.
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I can’t show the “100” at the end. But I can say there was a great conversation about why 10 and 50 were so close, but 50 and 100 were so far away! They decided they needed a “refresh” and drew a new underline with perfectly iterated lengths between the numbers. Also, they realized they didn’t need to build every term in the pattern to draw the number line.