math, Math Workshop, Number Sense & Numeration

Counting

I never used to worry too much about teaching students to count. I mean, the year I taught kindergarten we did a lot of counting, but in grade 2…or 3…or 4? Nope.

In the last few years I’ve become aware of how important counting is, and the layers of skills that are involved.

After interviewing my people, I discovered most can start at 30 and get to 100 without difficulty. Some had trouble not starting at 1 – and they also had trouble assembling a 100 chart. This is not, I think, a coincidence.

One of the classes figured out we need 12,000 laps around our track to equal Terry Fox’s journey across Canada.  We’re keeping track of our contributions with tally marks!

Some students were very organized with their counting…

And some students were not organized with their counting.

After we congressed these photos, I sent everyone off the do more counting. I asked them to count out 17, or 24, or 52, or 65 of the math tool they wanted to work with. Everyone tried an organization strategy of some sort! Even when they sorted into rows or groups of 5, many were counting by tens.

I loved this one because this child said, “10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17!” It was great to see her counting on!

I think when we look at these images and congress them today, I need to make sure I talk about how the organizing helped. One of the things I know I need to do better is point out these things that seem so obvious to me.  Some students will have already realized the advantage of using groups, but some will not have.  I need to help them with that.

I used to always start the year with addition. This made more sense I guess when I was teaching grade 3/4 classes. But starting with counting and making sure everyone has a strong foundation of number sense to build on has truly made my addition and subtraction units go more quickly. Everyone seems more prepared for the addition and subtraction work once I know they are solid with counting skills.

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.

 

Guided Math, math, Number Sense & Numeration

Math Interviews as Assessment

On Friday I was working on finishing math interviews with my students.  I am ¼ of the way through the class already! (growth mindset)

Me:  What is 4+3?

Grade 2 student, without hesitation: 7

Me:  How’d you do that so quickly?  

Student:  Because last year my teacher had us work on things like that on this app on the iPad. We had to do those kind of problems every day.  It was so annoying (insert eye roll) day after day! But now I’m really quick at it.

Me:  That’s great! What is 8 + 14?

Student (blank stare):  Um, yeah. We aren’t on that level yet.  I think that’s like level 17 and I was only level 16, so I don’t have that memorized yet.

Me:  Well, do you have any way of figuring it out?   (I’m trying not to look at the 20 “special stones” that were just counted out, or the Rekenrek sitting to the right, or the whiteboard and marker to the left.)

Student: Ummmmmm……no.

Me:  What if you were using some of these tools? Or your fingers?

Student:  Ummmmm…….no.

Apparently they valued memorizing the basics at his previous school.  You can draw your own conclusions about how I feel about that. But this isn’t about judging another’s teaching based on the word of one 7 year old.  The real question for me is this:  What am I going to do about it for this child?

The start of the year is always a tricky time for me.  No matter what “last year’s teacher” has shared with me about a child, I feel I never really know them until I complete a reading Running Record, a writing conference, and a math interview.  This conversation above is exactly why I think a math interview is important. Thanks to this and a few other questions, I now know that this child is subitizing numbers less than 6, can skip count, count on and count back when counting objects but not when presented with just the numbers, can draw a number line that shows where 7, 10, 20, 30 50 and 48 would be, but that these will not be drawn in iterated units, and can count from 30 to 100 but has a long pause when moving between decades (48, 49……….50!)  I also know that though this child has some basic facts memorized, there isn’t a whole bunch of understanding behind that fact, so little understanding in fact that the child had no idea what to do when the answer wasn’t already known.

Years ago, I had a math textbook to use that provided a “pretest” and a ”post test”.  They were of very little use. Sure they gave me a score I could use for a mark, but that was often all they gave me.  The interview, however, tells me so much more about where to start, where to go and how fast to try and get there. A follow up interview after a few months tells me if I am moving at the right pace, if someone needs to be pushed faster or slower, and if I need to circle back to a place I thought we’d already covered sufficiently.

The major questions that always comes up is this: What do the other 20 children do while I spend 10 or so minutes with a child one on one.  During a Running Record, they all read and look at books. During a writing conference, the others are all writing. But we can’t just have a bunch of 7 and 8 year olds “do math” independently in September.  Here is what I have them do:

  1. Dreambox.  If you do not have access to this, I am VERY sorry for your luck.  It’s great. It’s a bit expensive, but if your luck is good your board has purchased a license and your class can use it.  If not, try Prodigy.
  2. Dice Games
    1. Race to 100:  Here is one version I’m excited to try.  We actually play for counting chips.  Every child has one die.  Simultaneously they are rolling that die, then taking the same number of counting chips.  When one person gets to 100 (we were playing to 50 this week) the game ends. 
    2. Tenzies/Yahtzee
  3. Card Games
    1. War 
    2. Addition war
  4. Math Manipulatives
    1. They love to use pattern blocks and there is a lot of spatial reasoning work than can happen even if the class seems to be “playing” with these blocks.
    2. They like to “play” with 3D shape blocks for the same reason and it gives them the same learning experience.
  5. Finally, if you haven’t read “What to Look For” by Alex Lawson, you should.  At the end of this fabulous book, there are a collection of games that can be played to help move students along in their mathematical understanding.  You can look at specific skills your students need, then choose a game that helps them work  on that specific skill.

I will admit that it gets a bit loud while we work on this. This might feel like a waste to some teachers.  I think it’s a great chance for us all to practice what we do while the teacher is busy with just one person. I also feel that the information I gather from each child saves me so much time down the road that it more than makes up for these first few days of playing at math. I am not guessing about a starting point – sometimes missing the mark by a mile and starting too far ahead or too far behind my students.  I can confidently set up my guided math instruction in a way that is truly differentiated for the class. Finally, who says math can’t or shouldn’t be fun?  

 

*I’ve had a few requests for a copy of my assessment.  I hesitate to share it, but I’m not sure why.  I can’t think of a real reason not to, so I guess I will.  It’s going to be most useful to you if you are familiar with the Landscape of Learning, created by Cathy Fosnot.  I don’t ask every child every question.  If they are having a lot of trouble with the first 1 or 2 addition or subtraction problems, I don’t ask the others.  If they are having trouble with the number line, I don’t ask all those questions.  But I don’t stop asking after the first mistake, because sometimes the child will go back and revise their number line, and that’s useful information for me too!

Here it is.

 

 

math, Measurement, Number Talks

Who is the tallest?

Every June I wish I had measured everyone’s height in September so we can see how much everyone has physically grown. Every September I forget. But not this year!

On the third day of school, we started talking about measuring things. Grade 2 is the first year students use standard units of measurement instead of investigating things like “how many markers tall are you?” I know the grade 1 teacher was working on this in May and June, so measurement seems like a good place for us to start. It’s a quick thing we can work on after spending some time each day setting up Number Talk routines.

It was really interesting to note that the grade 3 students in the class aren’t necessarily the tallest, and the tallest grade 2 is not the oldest grade 2.

After measuring our height, we brainstormed other things we can measure and compare – who has the longest feet, the biggest hands, longest hair, and biggest eyebrows? We don’t have answers to these questions yet, but we will by mid-week.

Changes in season make interesting times to measure temperature too. I’ve got my thermometer ready to go, and we’ll be tracking the temperature each day as we move from “It’s so hot we shouldn’t be keeping schools open” to “Sorry I was late. I had to scrape ice off my windshield.”

Grade 3 students study plants in science, and this is a great opportunity to integrate math into science, or science into math if you prefer. We’ll be planting some plants for our windowsill soon, and measuring their growth.

Most exciting of all is that when the final days of this year arrive, we’ll have both the skills and the data to determine exactly how many centimetres taller everyone has grown.

math

Summer: done

Where to start the math year is always a big question for me.  I want to start out on a positive note, with lots of accessible, confidence building activities.  I want to do a little bit of assessment – not necessarily of my new students’ math abilities but rather of their attitude toward math.  I want to set up a few routines that are going to carry us through at least the first few months of school.

This coming week will be spent mostly building Number Talk/Number Sting expectations. I want everyone to have a chance to show they have figured out the answer.  I want everyone to know that it’s all about the process, not just shouting out the answer first.  And they definitely need to know that they are not going to the washroom every day during the first 10 minutes of math class! (Nice try, you guys, but I’m on to you!)

I plan to spend the first week of school watching my new friends count.  There is so much to be learned about their math skills by watching them figure out how many they have of something. I have sorted most of my classroom library, but left the levelled readers in a few big piles so the class will have an accessible, authentic task to help me with. I do plan to tell them that I need to know if we have enough – the recommendation is for a Primary classroom to have 300-600 books in the classroom library that the majority of students can read independently by the end of the year.  I think I have that, but we’re going to find out for sure this week!

Finally, my overall goal for this week is for everyone to feel like they contributed to our math conversations, and will continue to be able to do that.  Confidence in one’s math ability is an over-all goal for me, mainly because I didn’t have any until I was out of University and low these many years later I still find myself questioning myself all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. (But a lot less than I used to.)

My dot number talks are ready to go in Smart Notebook.  My math

have all been disinfected.  My group learning area is all set up. My daughter is sorting through her shoes trying to decide which will be the indoor shoes (did I mention she is going to be in my class this year?)

I think I’m ready!  Just one more (sleepless) sleep to go.