Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Doing Math the Routty Way: Engaging Activities from A to Z (Day 14)

Open-ended Math Talk Questions- "Questioning is a powerful instructional strategy." Creating a classroom where students are able to effectively use math talk during a classroom discussion can be challenging. Many of our students do not know how to discuss their mathematical ideas and strategies using key math vocabulary and concepts. As teachers, we play an important role as we help students identify their thinking processes and build new knowledge by connecting to ideas and concepts that they already understand. 

An article written by the Student Achievement Division of Ontario Schools offers eight strategies for asking effective questions: 

1. Anticipate Student Thinking
2. Link to Learning Goals
3. Pose Open Questions
4. Pose Questions that Actually Need to Be Answered
5. Incorporate Verbs that Elicit Higher Levels of Bloom's Taxonomy
6. Pose Questions that Open Up the Conversation to Include Others
7. Keep Questions Neutral
8. Provide Wait Time

You can read more about these strategies and download the article here

Article Reference: Asking Effective Questions. (2011, July 1). Retrieved September 29, 2014, from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/cbs_askingeffectivequestions.pdf

Go to the "File Cabinet" page of my blog and click "Engaging Math Activities" or click on the picture below for a download of my Open-ended Questions Poster Freebie. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Doing Math the Routty Way: Engaging Activities from A to Z (Day 13)

Number of the Day- This is an activity that I first read about in a book titled Guided Math (click the link to learn more). In this activity, students use their critical thinking skills to represent numbers. The activity also provides opportunities for students to practice composing and decomposing numbers, an essential skill for building students' math power. 

For this activity, prepare a sheet of chart paper, whiteboard space, or interactive whiteboard space. Based on the age and ability level of your students, write a number at the top of the space. For example, a Kindergarten teacher may write the number 10 in the space, whereas, a fourth or a fifth grade teacher may write the number 1000. As students arrive, or during another designated classroom time, students write various representations of the number in the space. See the pictures below for examples. As you can see, I encourage creativity!

After all students have had an opportunity to add input to the space, review the representations together. Allow students to ask questions about the representations and the contributing student to respond. Often times, students will question why a particular representation was included. This provides an excellent opportunity for the students to develop communication skills and explore different ways of thinking about numbers. 

Fourth/ Fifth Grade Example

Kindergarten/ First Grade Example

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Doing Math the Routty Way: Engaging Activities from A to Z (Day 12)

Menus- Menus are a great way to add some challenge and pizzazz to your everyday curriculum. Menus can be created for a variety of purposes and include a variety of activities. 

Last year, I had a group of fifth graders that I had the opportunity to teach in fourth grade. Since I'd had them for a full school year, I really wanted to crank up the learning expectations in the classroom. I had a lot of fast finishers. I decided to channel their energy by using math menus. 

The basic idea was that they would receive one menu for each nine-week grading period. They would have the entire nine weeks to complete the menu board, or choice board as I sometimes called them. When they completed the board, they received a homework pass. (I know some of you are saying that you would not want them to skip doing their homework, but the amount of work and thinking required to complete the menu far exceeded what was required to complete the weekly homework.) 

What was on the menus? I used a book as a guide for creating really great menus. It's called Differentiating Instruction with Menus (click the link to find out more about it). It has templates for a variety of menus and product ideas as well. I typically utilized the book for the menu templates and the product ideas to create activities for the skills the students would learn during each nine-week period. I tailored the menus to emphasize critical thinking skills and reinforce fifth grade content. 

Here are two examples of the menus that I used with my students. The second page of each menu gives product guidelines and requirements. You will notice references to puzzles and Marcy Cook Bags. I will discuss my Puzzle Box in a later post. The Marcy Cook bags involve the tiling tasks that I talked about last week.     

This is a choice board. To complete this board, students needed to complete all of the activities in a column, row, or diagonal. 

This is a game show menu. In order to complete this board, students needed to earn a total of 65 points with at least one activity from each category or earn a total of 100 points with at least one activity from each category. The number of points earned determined whether the student received a single-subject homework pass or an all-subject homework pass. 

Here are some samples of the products created by the students. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Doing Math the Routty Way: Engaging Activities from A to Z (Day 11)

Learning Multiplication Facts- As many of us know, one of the most frustrating aspects of grades 3 - 5 instruction is teaching math facts. I've had so many conversations with teachers who say, "When I was in school, I was just expected to have them memorized. But the kids today can't memorize anything." They echo my sentiments exactly; however, we have to work with what we are given. 

Learning multiplication facts can be frustrating. In order to get our students to learn the facts, we have to start finding ways to "teach" the facts with which they are struggling or rehearse them enough so that they begin to stick over time. 

Here's the plan: Focus on the ones for which a student is struggling, i.e. the tough ones, like 7 x 7, a particular factor's set of facts, like nines, or difficulty with a particular strategy, such as doubling for multiplying times two, four, or eight. With an increased emphasis on individual students' areas of difficulty, you will begin to see success over time. 

Here's a list I compiled of internet resources that you may want to try. 

1. Greg Tang Math-  I love this resource. A colleague shared it with me last year and it's a great online learning tool. If you've ever read the book, The Best of Times, this book is an online version. The students read the fact strategy and then practice their facts for that factor right there on the screen. It's a great way for students to learn strategies to master the facts with which they are still struggling. This activity is also one that could be done as a class with a projector. 

2. Multiplication.com- This site has a variety of games for multiplication fact practice. The games are pretty basic but will allow your students to practice in the classroom and at home. 

3. Watch Schoolhouse Rock videos- Most of us can remember watching these videos when we were students. Remember the states video? I bet some people can still sing this song! Click the link above or go to you tube and search for Schoolhouse Rock. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Reflections

Greetings! Thank you for visiting my blog page. My engaging math series will resume next week. In the meantime, I am starting a new Friday series called Friday Reflections. The first part of this series will be titled "Failing at Math." This series was inspired by a presentation in my doctoral class about the importance of math in elementary and middle school. 

The Failing at Math series will include a variety of interesting media describing situations where adults struggled with basic math concepts-- many of the concepts which originate in elementary school. As you view them, please consider how we as educators can support our students so that they do not continue to have these same misunderstandings. 

It is not my intention to poke fun at anyone but just to pause and take a moment to remember the importance of math in the early grades and the effects of missed opportunities to help all of our students become successful mathematicians. Feel free to post a comment and share your thoughts on The Routty Math Teacher Facebook Page. Enjoy!

The following excerpt is from a "New York Times" magazine article that appeared on July 23, 2014. I choose this excerpt because it illustrates the difficulties that so many students face with fractions. Read the excerpt and respond to the reflection question below on my Facebook page. 

You can view the full article at: Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

"One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests, customers preferred A&W’s burger. And it was less expensive. A lavish A&W television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. Yet instead of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it.
Only when the company held customer focus groups did it become clear why.The Third Pounder presented the American public with a test in fractions. And we failed. Misunderstanding the value of one-third, customers believed they were being overcharged. Why, they asked the researchers, should they pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s. The “4” in “¼,” larger than the “3” in “⅓,” led them astray."
Copied from: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/07/great-third-pound-burger-ripoff 
Question for Reflection: How can K-5 math teachers support students with understanding the difference between whole number comparisons and fraction comparisons? 

Post your response at The Routty Math Teacher Facebook Page.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Doing Math the Routty Way- Engaging Activities from A to Z (Day 10)

Kicked Up Critical Thinking- With the challenges of today’s math curriculum, we do not always have time for a consistent focus on critical thinking. Using tiling tasks in the classroom is one strategy that can offer you an opportunity to increase the critical thinking skills of your students. These tasks involve using number tiles, a set of numbered tiles 0-9, to complete a set of problems. Each tile belongs to one space and only one space. Students use their reasoning skills to complete the task cards. Tiling task cards also make great menu activities or fast finisher challenges. 

Marcy Cook's Tiling Task Cards are some of my favorite resources. She has a whole collection of these cards for a variety of skills. However, you can create them yourself as well. 

You can see an example of a tiling task card that I created below. You can also find a tiling task freebie and a set of numbered tiles for use in your classroom here or by clicking on the "Freebies" link on my blog page.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Doing Math the Routty Way: Engaging Activities from A to Z (Day 9)

Journals- Math journals are a great assessment tool for evaluating your students’ understanding of a specific skill or concept. They also strengthen your students’ writing and communication skills within the context of a mathematical situation or problem. In addition, regular use of math journals will allow you to evaluate your students’ progress over time and provide you with an excellent portfolio of student work for ARD meetings or parent conferences.

The picture below is a sample journal entry and response. 
After assigning a journal entry, I use the math journal rubric (see picture below) to help me assign a grade for each journal entry. You can find a copy of the rubric here or by clicking on the "Engaging Math Activities" link of the "File Cabinet" on my blog. 
In addition, I have created a Math Journal Rubric & Scoring Guide where I provide details about how to set-up math journals, general guidelines for implementing journals, and work samples to help you use math journals in your classroom. It is available here or at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Doing Math the Routty Way: Engaging Activities from A to Z (Day 8)

I Have, Who Has?- If you are not familiar with this activity, it is a class activity where one student starts the process and, in turn, each student answers a question and then asks a new question until the person who asked the first question answers the last one. It’s one big loop!

My favorite set is a set I found at a math conference that had four problems on one card. That gave me four chances to use the same set of cards. The operations on the cards were basic, but that gave me the opportunity to use it several times throughout the year. I even used it as a transition to another activity or as a brain break between subjects. The students absolutely loved the activity and would ask for it often. When I challenged them to see how fast they could complete the loop, it became even more popular!

Since my students loved the activity so much, I started including it on their math menus. Student-created card sets are usually challenging and can be designed for many different skills. It also makes for a great fast finisher activity.

Want to get started now? Check out my “I Have, Who Has: Monster Operations” card set at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. It includes four multi-step problems on each card. See the preview below. 

I also included a picture of a set of student-created cards as an example for you. See the photo below. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Doing Math the Routty Way: Engaging Activities from A to Z (Day 7)

Help Posters- I’ve been using the 5-E model to teach my math lessons for many years. I’ve been very successful with this format, but I always felt that the “Explain” portion of the lesson model was my cue to steal the show. Last year, I read an article about the 5-E Model and found out that I wasn’t the one who was supposed to do the explaining, the students were! As hard as it was, I decided to give it a try. And, VIOLA! It became one of the best changes I could have made. 

These days, instead of me creating the notes for the students' math notebooks and asking them to copy them, the students create their own learning posters. Using this method, the students' notes are in their kid-friendly language and they are more likely to understand them when they refer back to them for help later. I generally include them in the students’ math notebooks, but you could try replacing your anchor chart with a student-created poster every once in a while. The students love getting to design something with markers and colored pencils and you can really get a sense of whether the students understand the skill or concept that you taught by their explanation. 

I usually have the students work in groups to create what they want the poster to say and I monitor them during this time, but they can create and decorate the poster individually. While the students are working, I try to support them by asking if certain things should be included, such as "When we are adding and subtracting decimals, should we remember to fill-in the empty spaces in our problem with zeros? Do we need to include that on our poster?" This ensures the most important things are included, but the students still take ownership in the creation of the poster. See the example below. 

Connect Four and Connect Five Available Now

I just realized I forgot to upload the files. They are available now! Click HERE or go to my "Freebies" page to download them. Happy gaming!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Doing Math the Routty Way: Engaging Activities from A to Z (Day 6)

Games Galore- Games are a great way to increase the engagement level of your classroom. We often integrate games into station work or to reinforce a skill that has just been taught, but have you considered using games as a brain break or as a transition? Having a ready-made set of games can really boost your students’ level of engagement and/ or refocus their attention if you reach that thick-of-the-lesson lull. I try to keep some classroom sets of games in Ziploc bags that are ready for me to grab at any time. Some of my students’ favorite games are simple card and dice games that can be played and cleaned up in less than 10 minutes.

Admittedly, the hardest part of integrating games into the classroom is organization. In order to get the games out quickly, the materials must be organized and ready to go. I use school boxes to organize game materials (see the photo on the top below) and little colorful containers that I found at Staples to organize the markers for the students (see the photo on the bottom below). The game boxes are prepared for a group of four or two groups of two to share. They include 4 pawns, 2 decks of playing cards, 4 six-sided dice, and two pennies. This allows the students to quickly grab a game box to use during a variety of game play. The markers include centimeter cubes and colored chips. Organizing them with the little containers allows students to quickly grab two kinds of markers for games like the Connect Four and Connect Five shown below. (Note: If I have a three-player group, I use pre-separated containers of beans.)               

Try inserting a quick game at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of your next lesson and watch the student engagement level soar. My favorite games are Connect Four and Connect Five. They are both multiplication games where kids roll multiple-sided dice to obtain a product. They cover the product on the board with a marker and try to get four or five in a diagonal, column, or row. I usually leave a laminated stack of game cards and containers of markers in a designated pick-up spot in the classroom. Once the students find a partner, they quickly head to the material pick-up table, get what they need, and begin playing. At the end of game play, they return the materials to the same spot.

Find a free copy of these games HERE or by clicking on the “Freebies” link. Enjoy!


Monday, September 1, 2014

Doing Math the Routty Way: Engaging Activities from A to Z (Day 5)

Four Corners- Who’s Correct?- Four Corners is a great informal assessment tool. Choose a problem centered around the skill on which you are currently working. Show four different solutions to the problem, each labeled with a fictitious student’s name. Ask students to complete the problem themselves. Once all students have completed the problem, have them go to the corner of the room for the student whose response they believe to be correct. After all of the students are in place, in turn, ask them to justify why their person is correct. As students listen to the justifications, they should be able to determine the correct response, if not, have the groups discuss why they believe the other responses are incorrect. 

Three students are working on this problem after school at the YMCA: 
6 + 3[(4 + 5) 1] + (12 ÷ 6)

Each student recorded a different answer for the first step. Who is correct?
   Marco:           9[(4 + 5) 1] + (12 ÷ 6) 
Dominique:  6 + 3[(4 + 5) 1] + (2)
 Alex:               6 + 3[9 1] + (12 ÷ 6) 
       Sharon:         6 + [(12+ 5) 1] + (12 ÷ 6)