math

## I’ve done it again…

…I planned to blog every week about math in my class, and I have not followed through.

In my defence, I have been really, really tired. Exhausted, in fact. And after spending time planning and organizing my day I didn’t have it in me to properly reflect on how things have been going. December is ROUGH.

Alas, a two week break has been really good for me. I have a few days until our return to school, and have started to think about what that will look like. January is the end of term, so I need to do some math assessments for everyone. I have blogged before about doing math interviews. I do love them, but have decided to create my own set of questions for this mid-year assessment. I know what we did, I know where the curriculum says we need to be in June, and I want to figure out exactly where we go next. I can do that best if I create my own assessment.

Up until yesterday I was pretty sure we would be doing some online school in January, so when I was thinking about the problems I wanted to pose I made them into slides. I’ll still use these when we are working in person.

More than any other year, my students have such a wide range of skills. They are definitely not divided into “grade 2” and “grade 3”. We’ve had to spend quite a bit of time on counting, especially skip counting. I decided to use Toy Theater to make some images. I anticipate that some of my people will still count by ones. But I think most people will at least count by 5s and 10s, and at least one will count by 20s. (These are just 3 of the 8 images I am including.)

I’m also asking some problems that ask them to work with single digit numbers and double digit numbers, and I have a multiplication question. That is where I know we need to go soon, so I want to see what happens. I predict a few will count by ones, a few will skip count by 4s and three will say, “4×4=16.”

We’ve done some geometry and money as well, so I will have coins and shapes in front of us that everyone can manipulate.

Two summers ago I updated my spiralled math map to reflect the new curriculum. I am pretty much on track with that, although we are a bit off track. By the end of first term in previous years my grade 3s would have been working with three-digit numbers and we haven’t done that yet. All my 2s would be working with double digit numbers, and we aren’t quite there yet. But we will have half the year to go so I am not worried about it.

I am also really interested to see where everyone is in their communication skills. That was definitely a “need to work on” area for lots of and I think we’ve done a pretty good job so far.

Finally, I want to know how they all feel about math.

The interviews will take a while. I predict I’ll be spending at least 10 minutes with each child, and I have 20 in my class. But the information I gather will help guide us in the right direction for the next few months so I know it will be time well spent. I have a total of 18 slides. Some students won’t need all of them at the end, and some can start in the middle. I’ll try them out on my son before school starts. They’ll be too easy for him, but it will help me work out any trouble spots.

## This week we did…something

It was a weird week for math. I spent some counting routine time counting backwards. They’re pretty good at it. I thought they could be independent as a small group while I worked with some people on something else. I was mistaken. We’ve still got some social collaboration and problem solving things to sort out. That’s the thing I’m reflecting on most as I move forward into next week. I know where I’m going lesson wise, but am still sorting through some of the mathematical process teaching I need to do.

Because of the work I’m doing to spiral in math this year I am feeling like I don’t have a lot of things to use for comments on progress reports. I’ve decided to focus my commenting on some of the mathematical process skills.

This week I’m realizing that so far I’m doing a lot of the selecting when it comes to the tools we use. I put a lot of work into making sure everyone knows how to use the tools properly. Now it’s time for me to talk about how the tools have specific purposes for which they are best suited. We can’t always choose the colour tiles because we like how they stack! It’s time to move along and choose based on what each tool helps us understand. I’m doing some guided math rotations this week, and want to come up with some opportunities for kids to articulate why they chose a certain tool.

That is going to lead us to some communication work. We’re doing okay with this when I am poking and prodding. Now it’s time for the students to think about being really clear with their communication. I’m going to jump in and set up a FlipGrid they can use to explain something they’ve done. They’ll have to think about how to make me understand their thinking when I watch the video at home (cause you know I’ll never find time or a quiet spot where I can view these at school!)

Finally…actually, I’m going to stop there. Don’t need to set too many goals at once, right? I’m also diving into “The T-shirt Factory” Context for Learning unit with my grade 3s and we’ll need to be focused on that math at the same time. Not totally sure what my grade 2s will do next week, but I’m sure I’ll get it sorted out.

It’s important to have a focus on teaching and doing math. But the seven processes are an important part of that we can’t neglect. In a problem solving based classroom students need to be able to do more than accurately find answers.

## Update: Assessment

I’m interviewing everyone in my class to make sure my report cards are up to date and accurate. It’s been very telling!

I often get one-on-one time with students, but they are usually at different places in their work. During the interview, I’m asking the same 6-8 questions, and talking about the strategies the kids use from beginning to answer. One question in particular is standing out because so far my friends fall into 3 categories.

The question is: I have 7 crackers, you have 9 crackers. How many do we have altogether?

One child said, without pause, “16.” This child was confident, and didn’t falter at all when I asked how he’d gotten the answer so quickly. “I just know things like that.” When I asked other questions he was equally confident and had very efficient strategies.

Another child, same question: “…mumble…mumble…it’s…16?!” I asked for an explanation. “Well, I know 9 is almost 10, so make it 10, then 10+6…yeah…16.” Earlier in the year this child told me he solved problems by reading my mind until he found the answer. I’d say he’s made excellent progress in his meta cognitive and communication skills!

Another child, same question: “….2?” I repeat the question. “7!!!!” I repeat the question. “9!” I take a handful of counters out of the nearby basket & make a pile of 7, and a pile of 9. Then I say, “These are mine. I have 7. These are yours. You have 9. How many altogether?” Response: “If I take away 2, then we’re even!” And “Is it almost time to eat?”

So I put the counters away and write on a piece of paper “7+9” and the child says 16. Rote memorization for the win!

There are three things going on here, and if I made each of these three the team captain I’d have no trouble finding people in the class with similar thinking to fill their teams. Each of the other questions I’m asking further shows the thinking behind the answers I’m getting from the class, including showing me the preferred strategies each child has. It’s so much more interesting than just getting a worksheet filled with answers.

## Addition of double digit numbers

There were about 50 of these on our whiteboard at different times over the last few weeks. We’ve gotten pretty good at adding the tens using mental math strategies. 20+20 -> 2+2=4, so 20+20=40…no problem! But it’s was time to move on!

I really wanted everyone to learn how to effectively use a number line. We’ve been working our way through a Context for Learning kit called “Measuring for the Art Show”. I demonstrated it about 1 billion times. First we used cubes to make a line, then we annotated this on some cash register tape, and then we moved to the whiteboard. Finally, I gave everyone some problems (from the kit) and some paper they could use for drawing the number lines.

As I walked around I could see lots of kids with lots of right answers but no number lines. “How are they doing this??” I wondered. So I asked. And I was amazed! So many of them were using the mental math strategy of splitting. They thought about how many ones there were in each number, and how many tens were in each number, then they found a total.

But the number line isn’t the go-to strategy yet. So I’m annotating the problems two ways now. The way lots of them are doing it, and the way some of them are doing it. Both are ways I hope all of them can do these problems eventually.

Our next step…my next step…is to organize into small groups (I know…back to some guided math. It keeps coming up!) I need to help the kids who are splitting learn the number line, and help the number line kids do some splitting and help the “I have no idea what to do kids” get some ideas.

I’m ALWAYS happy to reach Winter Break, but it always comes about a week before I’m ready. I don’t want to interrupt our math learning. But I’m confident the stuff we’re doing now will stick. I won’t have to start from scratch on January 7.

Here is more work from today:

math

## More on Assessment

I’m nearly finished with my math interviews (minus the two who were absent today, of course!) One interview really sticks out because It wasn’t a good interview and I finished it off thinking, “WOW!  There are basically no skills here.”  Now, this isn’t the first time that has happened to me, and I know what to do about it. It’s just that this child had come to me with comments from last year’s teacher that lead me to expect some skills.  So…I went to her for some clarification.  She had saved the interview they did together last year in June.

So instead of a score from a test, or a report card mark and comment, I got to see exactly how he had answered the questions she had asked.  In our board, there is a set of interview questions that most people use, and she had used those.  I use different ones, but have been choosing 3 or 4 of my students as “marker” students, and I do this longer interview with them so I can have the same data as my colleagues for some discussions in the building.  I was so grateful that my colleague still had the exact interview sheet lying around, and wondered why I hadn’t thought to keep more of them.  Likely because I have decided not to be a hoarder in my classroom, which is an important goal, but at times like this I question my reliability as a goal setter.

This weekend, one of my school jobs is to go through my interviews and sort the data.  The board math people (I can’t ever remember all the job titles) have provided us with a tracking sheet.  I haven’t spent any time really looking at it, but I’ll probably give it a go so I can use it to participate in math conversations in our building. I also need to plot everyone on the Landscape of Learning.  Even though I feel pretty confident about my decision to start with the “Collecting and Organizing” Context for Learning unit, I have this niggling suspicion that I will maybe have to run two units at once because a few of my friends are in a very different place than the rest of us. That’s the beauty of the Landscape!  I will know who needs to start here, and who needs to start there. It’s a counting unit though, so I think it will be the only one for now.

I know that people love Teachers Pay Teachers units.  They are super easy to print and photocopy. And I know it’s much easier to mark 10-20 questions on a math test or quiz than it is to conduct individual interviews and then plot each individual on the Landscape.  But when I am considering taking some assessment shortcuts, I can’t stop thinking about a girl I taught a few years ago.

In grade 4, I gave everyone a quick multiplication sheet so they could do some practicing.  She got every single question right! But along with the quiz, she had also been working on a separate sheet of paper.  I knew she was drawing pictures to solve some problems.  But when I sat down to look at everyone’s work, I realized she had drawn a picture for every single question.  For 8×7 she drew a picture, which is fine because 8×7 can be tricky.  But for 2×2 she  also drew a picture. And for 1x 6 and for 3×3, and on and on. Her score said “Level 4”, her drawings said “Level 2…maybe actually 1”.   And back to my friend from this morning – I would have had to consider that child a “beginning” mathematician at best, but thanks to information that came out in interviews with his previous teacher, I know him to be much more.

In conclusion, I’m busy too, but I make time for this even though “all the other kids” get a bit loud playing their games, and they spent more time on Dreambox this week than they’ll spend in a single week for the rest of the year. It’s time well spent.