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, 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!

img_9704
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 Sense & Numeration, Number Strings, Number Talks

Number Strings/Number Talks

Math was fine this week. We started doing more place value work while working on “The T-Shirt Factory” Context for Learning unit by Cathy Fosnot. It’s always an interesting one, but I actually didn’t do it with my class last year.  We weren’t ready for it until much later than this and when we were ready for it…I forget what we did instead.

This week was Halloween. That means an interrupted day on Thursday because of the Halloween Parade.  I anticipated a day of difficulty on Friday as well, and while we’re at it, let’s just admit that Wednesday wasn’t going to be easy either.  See how hard it is to stay on schedule?  That’s why we didn’t exactly stay on schedule with the unit.  However, I didn’t skip math any of those days – even the snow day on Friday!

I did a fun mapping activity with a Halloween theme one day when I was pulled out for a meeting, and we did a lot of work with the base ten blocks.  But every single day I made sure that we were doing a Number Talk.

During a Fosnot unit, there will be a lot of Number Strings.  But when I am not teaching a specific skill and want to review things that I hope everyone already knows or that I know they need to practice, I go back to Number Talks.  This week we used some from the Grade 2 section of the book “Number Talks” by Sherry Parish.  We started with single digit numbers and I found out on day one that most everyone understands commutative property.  I repeated a talk that would reinforce this with double digit numbers on the second day.  On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we talked about the “doubles plus 1/doubles minus 1” strategy.  These strategies are now displayed on our math wall so we can refer to them often.

This week, I am doing Number Strings to support the learning in the unit.  Because I can barely remember what day it is on most days I have to write my numbers on a Post-it note.  These will sit on my lap top all week or I will lose them.  I find it also has me thinking many times during the day about what we are doing in math, which is good for my brain.

Some of these are from the unit and some are from my head.  I know my learners well enough at this point that I’m sure we will need to do practice the skills that are in these strings multiple times.  They’ll be practicing them while doing the work in the unit as well.

I’m going to finish off my planning today by making my anecdotal record sheet for this unit.  (Just double checked and I already made one a few years ago! WOOHOO!

math, Mathematical Processes, Number Sense & Numeration

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.

math, Number Sense & Numeration, Number Talks

Estimating and Number Lines

This week we were focused on two things:  estimating stuff and counting to see if our estimate was close.  I’m feeling really good about it!

There were some fun activities we did that I think really helped.

First, I had some small jars full of stuff.  We started the week by reading a book about estimation.  Then I held up one jar at a time and asked everyone to estimate how many were in the jar.  After the second one, I sent them to their tables to practice.  They had a great time estimating how many paper clips, beads, erasers or rocks were in each jar.  We did this on Tuesday and on Wednesday.  (We didn’t have school on Monday.)

We also played a game that I first learned this summer during a free week of online PD offered by Christine Tondevold.  There were new webinars every day, and one of them featured Graham Fletcher.  He dropped counters into a container but students couldn’t see what he was doing.  They had to rely on their hearing to count along and then identify how many were in the container.  We did this each day last week as a counting routine at the end of the lesson.  On Thursday, I started with this activity.  We had estimated enough times this week that I was ready to take it to the next level.  I pulled out one handful of counters. I asked the class to estimate how many I had.  They turned to a partner and discussed, then I constructed a number line as we went along to show where everyone’s estimate fit on the number line.  They were all convinced that I had no more than 12, so that was the last number on my line.  Then, I dropped them while they counted.  I had 17, so we had to stretch out the number line.  Next, I took 2 handfuls and asked them to estimate.  They did a quick turn and talk.  The first child I called on said, “Well how much is 17 and 17?  Cause if you can fit 17 in one hand then you probably have double that amount.” I was excited about this response!  The child is in grade 3, and I thought this was prefect reasoning. I annotated his explanation as he explained how he added 17+17 (sorry…had to erase that before I got a picture.)  We all agreed that it was pretty likely that I had 34 in my hand.  We started to count.  I had 37, which we all agreed is pretty close to 34, so 34 was a good estimate.

After we had counted them, one of my friends suggested that maybe I had 47.  Win some, lose some, right?  But I put that on the number line and we discussed our answer of 37 again and I think that friend understood that I had 37 and how far away from our estimate 47 is.

An interesting thing happened while we were counting.  Thirty-seven is a high number for some kids to hold in their head so they were using fingers and counting out loud to aide their working memory. I wanted to talk about this strategy so that those who hadn’t done it would know it’s a strategy they could use.  One friend said that he had actually only been able to count to 10 on his fingers at first so each time I got to ” a group of 10″ (“Like 10, 20, 30…like that!”) counters he held up 1 finger. He knew he had 3 fingers and that is 30 counters, then he just had the 7 to go with the 30.  I tried to draw that thinking too.  This strategy actually lead really nicely into our lesson.  We are working on the “Collecting and Organizing” Context for Learning unit next, and counting stuff is the beginning of that unit.  He introduced to us the idea that things can be put into groups of 10 to help with organizing and counting.

We did a bit more counting on Friday.  Everyone tried to make groups of ten, but many aren’t yet convinced that this will help.  We’ll dive deep into this unit whenever we go back to school (hopefully Monday!) and I feel confident they will have it by the end.

We finished on Friday with the “Flying Cars” Esti-Mystery from Steve Wyborney’s new Esti-Mystery set.  It was a huge success and the students were so excited that their estimate was so close to the real answer.  I was so excited that their ability to both reason and explain their reasoning had come so far in just one week.

Up next on the spiralling document I have been following is more counting (forward to 100 for grade 2 and 200 for grade 3).  This week we did some hundred chart puzzles.  I had some made with 101-200 charts for the grade 3s to work on.  They all did pretty well.  They can now become a centre when I need everyone to do independent activities while I run Guided Math groups.  This will become really important in about 2 weeks (depending on if/how long schools are closed for the strike) when I want my grade 3s and grade 2s working on some different units. We also need to be able to count backward (from 50 for grade 2 & 3, and from 500 by 100s for grade 3s) so that will be the focus of our counting routines next week.

And look….nobody went to the washroom during our Number Talk that day!  Interpret that as you will.