Mar 29, 2013

Fabulous Find Friday: Number Slider

This handy dandy slider is is a great and easy idea.  I'm planning on adding a decimal point and using it for kids to compare decimals in partners, but I kinda feel like there could be endless ideas.  Give a number one place value at a time? (ie. Make a number with 7 thousands, 4 tens, 6 hundreds & 2 ones)  Have partners each make a number and then add their numbers together?  Make a number and write 10 more, 10 less, 100 more, 100 less, 1,000 more, 1,000 less?  Have one partner multiply their number by a 1-digit number, and their partner has to figure out their number by dividing?  Oh the choices...  
Thank you, Michelle Harper.

Mar 25, 2013

Rigor Part I - Mind the Gap

    Rigor.  What a beautifully complex word.  A word, a concept, that often eludes me in my curriculum planning.  Long work commutes have been spent manipulating math problems in my head...and then jotting them down at stop lights.  On scraps of paper.  Or on my hand.  By the glow of my car's dome light.  Something was telling me this wasn't working...maybe it was the guy in the car behind me, waiting for me to notice the light had turned green.
    But what to do instead??  Lately I've had Yeap Ban Har's words running through my mind.  Advice I heard at a Singapore Math conference two years ago (or 14 in teacher years, which are like dog years).  Let them struggle, he said.  Get the most out of our problem and use it for days.
    Now the practical side of me thought this Yeap guy must be truly disconnected from the classroom if he thought one math problem could last my kids a whole week, even with "math discussion".  The other side of me, the one that wants to have a life outside of school, hoped he was wise beyond my own understanding and it really was possible.
    So I flipped open my dog-eared copy of this book and began rereading my old highlights.  SO MUCH GOOD STUFF.
First of all, it discuss and compares the results of the TIMSS report, that beast of an international study that helped determine, through video and data, why Japan is a top performer in math and the U.S. is...well, not.  One of the most fascinating things to me was the comparison of lessons structure between the U.S., Germany and Japan.  They even showed it in an easy-to-read-quickly chart, which I much appreciated (I've become a bullet point kind of girl).  The break down is essentially this - in bullet point format: (one specific lesson that summarizes the general)

  • 15 min: having students work difficult problems on the board from the previous night's homework
  • 20 min: Teacher presents problem for day-theorem students have to prove-teacher leads through process
  • 10 min: Theorem reviewed by reading aloud from handout  

  • 5 min: review previous day's lesson & assign problem not finished
  • 5 min: Students present solution methods
  • 15 min: Teacher presents day's task for students to work on solving independently
  • 20 min: Students continue their work in small groups, discuss solution methods
  • 5 min: Teacher show good method for solving  

  • 8 min: Teacher asks short-answer review questions
  • 5 min: Homework checked by teacher calling on students for answers
  • 15 min: Worksheet given with similar problems; students work independently, teacher monitors, notices confusions & demonstrates solutions
  • 15 min: Teacher review of another worksheet & demonstration solving of challenging problems
  • 5 min: Quick oral review of problems similar to ones worked that day
  • 10 min: Students finish worksheets & assigns homework  

So fascinating, right??  What did you notice?  Time lengths, surprising.  Depth of content, shocking.  Difference between a U.S. math lesson structure and a Japanese one?  Not surprising at all.  This comparison is why I decided last year to take a risk, trust my students and completely change the structure of my math time.  More on that soon...

Mar 22, 2013

Fabulous Find Friday: Bubble Wrap Area Task

Okay, okay, I know already gushed about Dan Meyer and his math tasks only two days ago.  But I did the teacher version (aka "quick version") of his Bubble Wrap dilemma at a meeting this week and thought it was great.  There are so many areas of math in which you could delve deeply with this problem.  I think technically it's aligned with 6th grade, but it easily fit 4th grade's Area & Perimeter standards too.  Check it out, and have a good laugh at some of the faces he makes in the video!

Mar 20, 2013

Dan Meyer Math Love

      I remember well the month that math and I got into what has become a life-long fight and a huge parting of ways.  It was third grade, and the instigator was...multiplication facts.  We struggled to find peace with each other for months upon months, with the list of casualties including my ego, my mom, my teacher Mrs. Eubanks, even my poor high school math teacher who couldn't wrap his head around the fact that I had to do some serious quick calculations to figure out 8 x 7.  Yeah, it was that bad.  And ever since then, math and I haven't really been on speaking terms.
    Which is why I did great teaching 1st grade.  Or Kindergarten.  Or even 2nd grade.  Nope, no multiplication facts there.  I could easily explain the decomposition of numbers or why you borrow when subtracting 3 digit numbers.  Easy peasy.  Until I moved to 4th grade math and realized I couldn't even understand two of the Common Core math standards (4.NF.4a & b, in case you're wondering.  "Understand a fraction a/b as a multiple of 1/b and...understand a multiple of a/b as a multiple of 1/b"...I mean, really, you smarties that wrote the Common Core couldn't figure out a way to say that in simpler terms?  Or in English??)  And so began my quest to make peace with math...or kick some math butt, depending on my mood.  
    One person helping me out this week - Dan Meyer.  He's only been in my life 2 days, but I would like to officially refer to him as my math love.  Could I be married to him and put up with his math mind 24/7?  No.  But do I want to show every single one of his math videos and problems to my kids?  Like, starting tomorrow?  Most definitely.  He's a high school math teacher, so most of his stuff is end of 4th/5th/6th grade, which is a bummer.  But I'm finding I'm able to adapt some of his stuff.  And watching some of his videos has gotten my own math mind going, and I've been able to write some really good math tasks the past two days. One of them was even a math task to teach 4.NF.4a.  Take that, math.  Kirsten, 1. Math...well, we don't really need to keep score.  Let's just say I finally won one.

Want more Dan Meyer tasks?  Here's a shortcut to a list of his 3 Act Tasks, which are incredible!

Mar 4, 2013

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Any lovers of The Wizard of Oz?  With the new spinoff, Oz The Great and Powerful, coming out this month we had some fun making some yellow brick road inferences.  
We've talked about the fact that an inference is {the text} + {your schema/background knowledge} = {an inference}.  The kids are actually pretty good at naturally inferring, but struggle to support their inference with details from the book, or know what knowledge they used to get there.  This activity let them start with the inference and work their way backwards if they wanted.
After reading a chapter in our shared reading book and discussing, the kids cut a piece of yellow construction paper into fourths.  On one section they wrote the detail from the text that was their "brain clue", on two others they wrote pieces of background information from their schema that helped them, and on the last they wrote their inference.  Then out to the hall we went where everyone laid down their inferences in a long "yellow brick road".  While the Wizard of Oz soundtrack played (thank you Spotify) in the background, the kids walked down their piece of road, explaining their inference process to a partner.  Lots of light bulbs went on for my struggling students.  Sometimes all you need is a few good examples to see what something should look like...or to be able to say, "So that's what the teacher was talking about." 

I had the kids leave their inferences laid out in the hall so I could quickly assess them while the kids were out at recess.  The one drawback?  "Follow the yellow brick road..." was playing on repeat in my head the entire day.  Anyone ever realize that song has very little lyrics??

Mar 1, 2013

Fabulous Finds Friday: Best Part of Me

'the best part of me' writing prompt

In another week we'll be having Parent Teacher Conferences.  Already.  Is it seriously almost Spring?  And do I really only have a few more months to teach...well, everything that's left??  In some moments that thought brings fear to my poor heart.  Then I see projects like this and remember what my main focus needs to be.  So next week I think the kids will be doing this writing about the best part of them (although with 4th graders, we'll concentrating more on abstract character traits).  I also thought it would be a good project to have hanging in the hall as parents are waiting for their conference.
Deep breath, big sigh, diving into term three...