Sep 29, 2014

"One More" Math Fact Strategy

This year I started things off with a unit on math facts and I loved it!  Our strategies include: one (group) more, one (group) less, benchmark numbers, doubles, doubles plus one, and break apart (like breaking a 7 into a 5 and 2 to multiply).  A lot of the strategies fit with other concepts like multi-digit addition, subtraction, multiplication and even division.  We worked on strategies for solving math facts in place of memorization.  Only one third of kids can memorize easily, yet teachers often keep pounding on the same learning style hoping something will change with the child.  So below is one of the things I did differently this year. (Check out my Math Fact unit on tPt). Here's a part of a lesson showing the strategy of "one group more" or "one group less" using graph paper and arrays.

The Process:
(mathematical thinking questions included in the photos)

This activity also uses graph paper, but it shows the "doubling and halving" strategy for solving math facts.  For example, if the student knows the math fact 3x8 they can double it to find the product of 6x8, a much harder math fact to solve.

On graph paper, have your child draw and shade a 2x2 array (color two squares across and two squares down).  Ask them what shape was made (a square) and what the area is inside (4 squares); this is a tie-in to area and measurement.  
On top of the 2x2 array, have your child draw and shade a 4x4 array.  Part of the larger array should overlap the smaller array.  If you want to, you can ask the questions shown in the picture.

 On top of the 4x4 array, have your child draw and shade an 8x8 array.  Part of the larger array should overlap both the medium-sized and small arrays.  If you want to, ask the questions show in the picture.
Notice how well the student is able to communicate their mathematical thinking and how clearly they can relate their ideas.  Do they understand that doubling both numbers in the equation doubles both the length and the width of the shape, which actually quadruples the product?  Can they figure out a math fact equation that would be double 4x7?  Are they able to apply this strategy to other math facts?

Sep 20, 2014

The Endless Math Facts Battle

You know how in teaching you have to pick your battles?  Well this past summer, math facts became one of the battles I picked.  Aaannd, this is why...  Ever had this conversation?
"I practiced math facts with my kids all. year. long.  We worked hard and they knew them by the end of the year.  I don't know why they don't know it for you."
Year after year I felt like I keep drilling the math facts.  Playing the games.  Using technology to practice.  Getting parent volunteers to do flashcards.  Sending home math facts activities.  And still it seemed like a relentless pursuit of learning that doesn't even last.
But then I came across this article from "Teaching Children Mathematics", published by NCTM in the April 2014 issue.

Oh. my. gosh.  I love it!  It made me see the ridiculousness in what I was doing.  In no other area of teaching do I give the kids a timed test, then pull out flashcards and rote memorization tools, and then give them another timed test on the same concept a week or two later.  No wonder that wasn't working.  Because we know that what works in teaching is developing the concept, building strategies and understanding, reteaching and explaining in different ways.  Most of the time, I teach other math concepts in a concrete-pictorial-abstract model, giving support along the way.  I decided to do the same with math facts and after doing some math education research, I created this Math Fact: Beyond Memorization unit.  Of course, this is only a small sample, but you can get all 90 pages of it at my tPt store.

Sep 6, 2014

No More Nametags!

The day I got rid of nametags on the desk was the day I regained a piece of my sanity!  No more peeling tape.  No more distracted kids playing with the corners.  And no more scrubbing of that hard-to-get-off sticky residue that can send any teacher to a nice padded room with a leather reclining couch.  So the solution is...wet erase markers!  On the first day, my students are able to choose their own desk. (see post here)  When they do, they write their name decoratively with wet erase marker at the top of their desk.  This gives me time to organize classroom supplies, collect school forms, talk to students and do all the other things that pop up within the first 10 min. of the first day of school.
This form of nametagging makes it easy to change, the kids love it and I don't have any more battles with tape residue (wait, did I mention that already?).  No more paper nametags-and I'll never go back.