## 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.

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.

## First 2 Weeks: Bulletin Board Borders

One of the things I love about the first 2 weeks of school and the last two weeks of school is the freedom I feel to do fun and interesting things without feeling pressure to stick to curriculum or assess and document what happens all the time. I can focus on relationship building and connecting with my students.

One of the activities I had planned for this week is something that many of the kindergarten classes in my school have done. It doesn’t represent a whole lot of creativity on my part, but I’m so glad we’ve done it!  We have been creating our own borders for the classroom bulletin boards!

A few more than half of my students are looping from grade 2 into grade 3 with me.  I love this!  Last year we completed a Context for Learning math unit called “Measuring for the Art Show.”  In that unit we use cash register tape to measure things and create number lines. For this activity, I gave each group a roll of the paper and asked them to use it to create their borders. I assigned each group one bulletin board to work with.  I asked them to measure properly, and decorate the paper with patterns.  Those are all of the instructions I gave.

Three of the four groups actually measured.  One group has decided to keep cutting pieces of paper, different lengths, and then piece them together like a puzzle.  I was happy today when a child in that group told me exactly where to put one piece of paper.  It fit exactly in a gap, and the child said she measured before she cut the paper to make sure it would fit.  So this is a bit of a “guess and check” strategy, but I feel like it’s evolving into measuring.  They still have a few big pieces to do, and I think they will use this strategy going forward to create bigger pieces.

Of the three groups that measured, two realized that they could measure the bottom, easy to reach edge and then cut two of that length.  They didn’t have to reach up to measure the top because the top and bottom are the same.  They also realized that the left and right are the same. The third group needed some prompting for this.  I think if they could have reached the top they would have simply measured 4 times.  Of the three groups that measured, only one used a tool (measuring tape) to measure instead of simply using the paper.

It has been very interesting to note that there has been very little actual patterning occurring.  Some of the groups have drawn on the paper.  We’ll have to work on that a bit. I want to make sure they understand the difference between patterns and designs.

There has been a lot of cooperative work happening.  There has been some arguing.  C’est la vie! That’s how a community of children often gets started in their work together.

I have already decided I will do this activity several more times throughout the year.  I want to see how it evolves.  I am going to keep the groups the same each time.  I can’t wait to see how their thinking and group-work skills grow.

## 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:

## They heard me. They really did!

Last week, I was ending the week feeling like I may have spent a few days talking to the walls. (You can read about it here.)   This weekend, I feel much better.

We spent the week working on building an understanding of number lines. After making a measuring strips, in groups of 5’s and 10’s, and measuring some things, we needed to start thinking about how a person could skip around on that number line and use it for adding.  When I taped a 100 strip to the board and started asking kids to tell me the number of a certain cube on that number line, it was like a miracle had occurred.  Because nobody could reach the number line to touch each square, and because we’d talked a lot in our math congresses about how we could use the 5 and 10 structure of the paper number line to skip count, they started actually using the number line tool and the skip counting strategy to find the answers I was seeking.  THEY ACTUALLY DID!

Oh, and no big deal, but they were finally counting on from a known number instead of starting back at zero every time.  Seriously.  I’m not even exaggerating to make myself look/feel better.

Here’s the lesson for me:

1. Trust Cathy Fosnot.
2. Sometimes moving forward helps some kids who appeared to not be ready to move on.  I thought I would do a quick number string, sort out who needed some more help with skip counting and counting on, and then make up some Math Workshop groups.  But, low and behold, some of the kids who haven’t been counting on started counting on!  And many who had been fully committed to counting by ones were using the 5s and 10s.

So there you have it:  Valentine’s Day, Winter Electives, and a field trip, all in the same week, and we still moved around on the Landscape of Learning!