Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Few New Math Ideas

A colleague and I facilitated math training for teachers in Texas in mid-February. Each training day included lesson pre-briefing and planning, a classroom math observation, and a debrief of the lesson afterward. Teachers made rich connections, gained new ideas for their instructional practice, and gained a deeper understanding of a Math Investigations unit of study. Though my main focus was on the learning of the teacher participants, I also couldn’t help but take away a few reflections of my own.
Archiving Student Work

The classrooms we visited do a stellar job of archiving students’ math work. Each student has a composition notebook with a Table of Contents in the front. The pages of the composition notebook are numbered and each day the teacher has students add the date, math title, and pages of the journal they've consumed. We could easily turn to the pages listed in the Table of Contents to see what work the student had done for that day. In the notebook, they may solve a problem, explain a solution, do an extension activity, or answer an essential question during their Closing Meeting. Providing a great way for students to reflect and a resource for studying for assessments, I loved the possibilities of this tool.

Extension Activities

At Chets Creek, we use standards to write yearly pacing guides, plan instruction, and assess students. In making our work transparent, students become familiar with the standards we expect them to master. Many times the way a teacher implements this best practice is by having an essential question, written in standards language, posted on the board. In their math lesson they go over the essential question which students revisit and answer in their Closing Meeting. At NISD, I noticed that not only did the teachers write the essential question for the day, but they also had an extension activity written next to the essential question. When some of the students finished early on their task, they didn’t say, “I’m done! What now?” instead they got to work on the extension question. What an easy way to extend student learning!

Visual Word Walls

There was one math word wall in particular that caught my eye. Instead of the word wall simply being a list of terms the students are expected to know, this word wall offered a great visual reference for remembering geometry vocabulary. This model math word wall sets the standard that we should all being striving toward.

Skip Counting on the Number Line

Number lines are a permanent artifact in our math classrooms, however this number line included colored dots that are used for the students use in skip counting. For example, if a student followed the red dots, they could easily skip count by twos, and if they read the yellow dots, they would be skip counting by fives, etc... I could easily see this as a great tool in elementary classrooms, especially in K-3rd grade. Afterall, skip counting/repeated addition is the foundational element in multiplication.

Walking into another teacher's classroom offers so much opportunity for gleaming new ideas. Whether you do it in your own building, like our Kindergarten teachers did two weeks ago, or in another school, you gain so little without consuming too much of your time or energy, and gathering just a few new ideas leaves you with a wealth of new knowledge over time. I can't wait to see if any of these new ideas are embraced at CCE. Stay tuned...