Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Look Inside a Grade 4 Math Workshop

One look inside Room 217 and you can certainly tell that young mathematicians are at work. Lead by co-teach duo, Angela Phillips & Rick Pinchot, the young mathematicians are attentively listening to Opening Session as the teachers explain the directions to the game they will play during Work Period, Close to 1000.

Students will be paired with a partner, each partner will be dealt eight Numeral Cards, and the students will be able to use any six cards to make two three- digit numbers. The object is to try and make numbers that, when added, will give you a total close to 1000. The students will then write the numbers with their total on a Close to 1000 Score Sheet. The score is the difference between the total and 1000. They will put their used cards in a discard pile and draw six new cards for the next round. After five rounds, students will total their scores, and the lowest score wins!

The objective of the game, from the Grade 4 Landmarks in the Thousands Math Investigation book, is to have students develop addition and subtraction strategies. Though the directions do not call for it, as the teachers model from the document camera, they suggest to students that as they play, they write down the digits from each of the eight cards they draw, and indicate which cards they do not use. The teachers are interested in the numbers that go unused, the placement of the digits that the students do use, and the total score per round, because this will give them a glimpse into the student's mathematical understanding. Toward the end of this 15 minute Opening Session, the teachers strategically pair students and set them off to work. The pairing, done by design, is possible because these two teachers have analyzed and sorted student diagnostic data on number sense to create their differentiated pairs.

The students of Room 217 are well prepared to play Close to 1000, however if additional scaffolding had been needed, the teachers could have differentiated even further by having some students play Close to 100 instead. In addition, as they revisit this game, the students who have mastered the strategies may be enriched by playing the negative and positive integer variation. Scoring using this variation changes game strategy significantly. Differentiating for remediation and enrichment is a natural part of Angela and Rick's classroom instruction.

As the pairs set off for Work Period, the teachers strategically, based on their data, begin to confer with groups of students. The teachers are observing to see which students are developing efficient strategies to add and subtract numbers in the hundreds, to see who is using mental math, to see who is strategically playing the game, and to see who is struggling with misconceptions. They facilitate by offer suggestions, pointing out more efficient strategies, or talking with students on the most strategic way to use their wild cards. In their dialogue with students, they always expect students to explain their thinking articulately. Each teacher, clip board in hand, takes notes on observations and student mastery. As the teachers facilitate they are also looking for student's work that will be most appropriate to share in Closing Session to move student thinking forward. After 30 minutes, the class comes back together as a whole group to summarize and extend their learning.

In the focused and purposeful 15 minute Closing Session, Angela and Rick discuss what they saw as they facilitated instruction in the Work Period. They share three student's score cards and have the students discuss their thinking. They help lead the discussion on the placement of the digits and whether a student's score could have come closer to 1000 if the digits would have been placed differently. Students, as they revisit this game, will become more strategic in their placement of digits and will continue to use mental math strategies--all while having fun! In Room 217, young mathematicians are at work!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


As with any game, it is extremely important that students get more than one opportunity to play the game. After one closing meeting, it is amazing to see the progression in each student's thinking.