Wow, I haven’t posted since October. I’m sorry to all of you who were following my blog that I have neglected you. My blog has been a reflection on my learning and growth as a teacher for the last 2 years, while I have not been posting my reflections here lately my conversations about my learning have not stopped. I have been sharing my reflections with an awesome mentor through a district program, as well as some wonderful mentors in my new school! I find that our conversations about my learning and what I am trying in the classroom, to be my most powerful tool for growth, as more experienced teachers often have ways of seeing and doing things that I may not have thought of, or have the experience to understand yet. While I am gaining more experience, I do benefit from the expertise of my mentors. My new school, has many teachers who are willing to share their expertise not only on the students and the community we work with, but instructional strategies, differentiation and classroom management. I am very thankful for their care and willingness to share their strengths with me. I just hope that one day I will be able to do the same for others.
This year I have discovered a passion for teaching math. Math a subject that can cause fear reactions in many students and teachers, to the point that one of my post-secondary math teachers termed it “mathaphobia”. He characterized ” mathaphobia” as an intense fear of math leading to a decreased participation in math and lowered success. I have never found math scary, while at times I have had to work very hard at it. I have always enjoyed it as a puzzle to solve, knowing that if I gave it enough time and effort I would eventually come to an answer.
Over the last few weeks and months I have been attending more workshops on math and reading more about math. I have continued my guided math program with greater success in a new, continuing position in an elementary school. My new school should be my home for a while and it is starting to feel like home. I have also learned more math routines in recent weeks that I am slowly going to bring into my classroom.
Guided math is working much more smoothly this term after taking time to meet with my students and changing how I went about implementing the program. I spent more time teaching them the way to do each station. I had the student’s work on not just doing the station, but also how to get themselves organized for and clean up each station. I was able to work with my students, to prevent some of the issues of being off task and unfocused that I had with my older students. We spent 3 weeks learning the routines of guided math, and working on one or two stations at a time.When our time is shortened or we need to get caught up I have learnt that its best to focus on one or two stations that teach the most important concepts. I now run 7 stations for 5 groups, I know that 7 stations can sound over whelming but we took our time building up to doing all of them.
My stations are:
- Math with the teacher –> differentiated mini lesson
- Math Journals –> cementing and working on the concept and skill from the mini lesson
- Math with Technology –> practicing math facts
- Math by Myself –> practicing differentiated independent practice
- Math games –> practice with a partner or small group, working on both facts and concepts
- Math Challenges –> task cards with word problems and real world applications of the current concepts
- Math puzzles –> practice math games (Sudoku), tangrams, individual, pentominos, mystery number
I like doing my math in small groups with my students, so that I can meet with each student frequently (every other day) and spend time with them talking about their math and their math thinking. My small groups let me see what they know and what we need to spend more time on, I am also able to go at the pace of each group, and can adapt each group to their needs. Currently I have groups working on single digit addition and others working on 3-digit addition. My groups let me meet the needs of all of these learners in a way that fits them. I am also able to model the use of manipulatives better in small groups and make sure that my students can use them properly before using them on their own.
I have recently been part of a book study on ” High Yield Math Routines” and have tried them with my class with varying success. My students are finding success with ” Number of the Day”, where I pick a daily number currently between 10 and 100 and the students represent it in as many ways as possible. My students represent the daily number through words, equations, drawings and building it with manipulatives. The goal of number of the day is to get students thinking critically about numbers and decomposing them into their parts, in short building number sense. We have also tried a routine called ” Alike and Different” with less success, this task requires students to compare and contrast two numbers using a Venn diagram, this task requires a strong vocabulary specific to math, which my students are developing. We will try this task again when we have more language with which to describe and compare numbers. I also want to use two more of the routines in the book ” Function Machine” and Number Lines. Function Machine is a way of looking at patterns by analyzing the inputs and outputs with the number going into one side of a diagram and having a rule or function that is applied in the box, the number then comes out the other side as the out put. I will do Function Machine soon but I need to build my machine first, I want to have a concrete function machine for my students to use with manipulatives before I ask them to do it in a more abstract way. I want to have my students put the manipulative in to the machine on the in put side and give a student a rule , such as add two and have them put the correct number of objects in the output. Number line has students place a number on a blank number line with or with out teacher defined benchmarks.
The last 6 weeks have really cemented my belief in interactive math using belief for all students. By making the math approachable using concrete objects such as counters and 10 frames then gradually moving to slightly more abstract tools such as Cuisenaire rods and base 10 blocks which require more critical thinking from the students, I am able to increase students feeling of success. When my students feel successful in the task and activity their engagement increases and they are willing to take more risks with their learning. I find that by starting slow with concrete objects, I can build the confidence that my students need to be ready to stretch themselves into the learning zone.
In closing this has been a long reflection to say that I have found a passion for teaching math and learning more about math and how to make it more accessible to students. I want math to be fun and approachable for all of my students and am always interested in learning how others make it so for their students.
How do you make math approachable and interactive for your students?
Until next time,