Saturday, September 7, 2019

My Favorite New Counting Videos

About 5 years ago, I started a very popular series on my blog called Teaching Math with You Tube Videos.I have posts about







Teen numbers

Area and perimeter

Addition facts

Subtraction Facts

 They are a great way to get a little movement break while still working on important math concepts. These little movement breaks have been super important as we have transitioned from summer vacation back to school 5 days a week. 

I try to keep these posts up to date and have deleted and added videos to each of them a few times a year.  They still get lots of visits each month and are a great way to have all the content from one topic in one area.  The creators of these videos have done an awesome job creating new content and I just wanted to share with you some of my new favorites.  Some of these are brand new videos that were released this summer and a few are new to me favorites.

Counting With Grandma and Grandpa

This is a new series of counting videos and my students love them!  The first one counts by 1's to 100

This one is a counting by 5 video with Grandma and Grandpa at the beach

Counting by 2's with Grandma and Grandpa on the farm

Counting Songs for Bigger Kids

My students have been loving using You Tube math songs for brain breaks since Kindergarten.  By the time they get to grade 2, they have seen most of them plenty of times and are ready for some harder counting series.  These videos are becoming much easier to find!

Do you have any favorite new counting videos? Please share in the comments below!

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Hailstone Series Numbers

We are on day #5 of back to school and I wanted to share a fun lesson with you all today.  We start each year with the Week of Inspirational Math published by You Cubed.  We have been starting the year this way ever since I read Mathematical Mindsets and it has been a great way to jump into a new year and set classrooms up for success.

If you have used Week of Inspirational math in the past, you might know that each year they release a new week.  The week consists of math tasks most of which are low floor high ceiling and videos about having a positive math mindset.  This year, instead of releasing a new week, they re-did the website and it now allows you to pick and choose tasks, videos and other inspirational math options.  I have been working with classroom teachers to take turns picking and choosing old favorites and trying out some new tasks.  Yesterday when I was doing a quick browse on the Week of Inspirational math page, I found a task about the Hailstone series.  This is a series of numbers that I have explored with students in the past but one that I haven't revisited in quite a number of years.  I decided to try it out in my third and fourth grade math class.  

If you are not familiar with the Hailstone series, let me give you a quick summary.  You can start with any positive integer (counting number).  If the number is even, you cut it in half (n/2).  If the number is odd, you triple it and add one (3n+1). Mathematicians have found that you can start with any number and follow these steps, you will always end up with 1.  They have not found a number that this doesn't work for yet, but they also haven't proven that it works for every single number.  This means it is kind of an unsolved mathematical mystery which is an angle that my students always seem to find very intriguing.  The reason it is nicknamed the hailstone series is that the numbers go up and down similar to the way hail is formed in a thunder cloud. 

I started the class by asking kids what they knew about hail.  The kids were quite surprised by this question and quickly engaged with their classmates on a discussion about what they thought they knew about hail.  After sharing as a group, we watched this quick video clip about how hail is formed.  Because they had already had a chance to activate prior knowledge about hail, they were very interested. 

I then spent a few minutes engaging kids in a review of odd and even numbers and did a quick number talk about strategies for cutting numbers in half.  I then explained how the hailstone series worked and we tried it out for a couple of single digit numbers.  Once kids understood how it worked, I had them try a number in pairs.  We had kids coming to the board and adding their ideas to the ones that were already up there.  We came back together after a bit and kids got to share what they noticed.  They were very excited to take what they noticed and try it out on a few more numbers so we made some time for that before wrapping up class for the day.  This is the type of problem that was a great review of important math vocabulary and worked on computational fluency all in the context of exploring a larger mathematical mystery.  It was engaging and motivating for my students, I knew I wanted to repeat it later that day for grades 5 and 6. 

In fifth and sixth grades, we had even more fun and excitement because we had to spend less time reviewing things like halving, odd and even and were able to jump into the actual series faster.  They are also much more fluent with computation and were able to generate numbers faster.  They noticed SO MANY mathematical patterns and were making and testing conjectures left and right.  After exploring the numbers to 11 as a group and in pairs, some kids were excited to continue going in order while others wanted to jump around.  I gave them the option of either and they had so much fun playing around with math.  They worked so hard and were so engaged and excited.  At the end of class, I heard one boy say to another, "I am going to work on this all night.  Why don't I facetime you and we can do it together!".  Music to my ears.

This type of problem isn't done after one class period so we put some of our work up on a bulletin board in the hallway where kids can keep exploring this series and adding to our work over the next few weeks during math menu time or even at home!  We listed the series of for the first 15 or so numbers on chart paper, leaving room for kids who were going in order to add to it later.  We also decided to add index cards for those numbers kids did out of sequence.  I can't wait to gather them around this board in a week or two and see what new understandings emerge!  They have some big questions they are still working on answering and for now I am quite content to leave them unanswered and to let them keep exploring!
A big thank you to You Cubed for putting the Week of Inspirational Math out there and working so hard to promote positive mindsets.  Jo Boaler, the creator of You Cubed just release her newest research on mindsets, Limitless Mind!  I think this would make a great book study!  My copy is due to arrive this evening and I am sure it will inspire me to do more with my students.  

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Countdown to SUMMER!

Hello friends!  First blog post in 10 months!  The time has just gone by so quickly this school year!  After the hardest year of my teaching career last school year, I am just wrapping up the best school year I have ever had.  Life lesson: The principal you work with can make a BIG difference in your happiness, productivity and general well being.  

My kids are getting older and I always imagined I would have more time to devote to my blog and online lesson plans.  The reverse has actually happened.  Instead of being home all the time with early bedtimes, we are on the road so much for school and sport activities.  Summer break is only a week away and there is so much I want to write about so look for a much more regular posting schedule this summer!  

Our last day of preschool thank you gifts!  We went with a handwritten thank you note from my daughter, an assortment of beautiful purple flowers and our favorite spring/summer hand soap, Mrs. Meyer's clean day in Lilac! I ordered extra in my last shipment from Grove Collaborative and will be using these in many thank you gifts this spring!  Small, inexpensive, smells great and consumable! Want to add a little something extra? Slip a gift card to Teachers Pay Teachers or Amazon in there! 
My youngest just wrapped up her last day of preschool today which was fun and exciting and emotional.  All my kids will be in full time school for the first time this fall and that makes me super excited and nostalgic all at the same time. 

Despite a super successful school year, I have been feeling like the daily grind of life has really been wearing down my gears this year.  I have been working hard at being more intentional about how I spend my time and making sure I am finding time for the things that re-charge me (like blogging!).  I have been using some of my Audible credits to listen to some books on productivity and personal growth.  I have recently finished Deep Work, Girl, Wash Your Face, Girl, Stop Apologizing, and Getting Things Done.  Next up on my list are The Power of Habit and Stumbling on Happiness.   It's amazing how much more reading I am getting done with Audible!

I do plan on some summer teaching/math reading as well but still working on exactly what I want to read next!  I am super excited for Jo Boaler's new book, Limitless Mind but that is not out until September 3rd.  Look for a book study on that in the fall!  In the meantime, if you have any summer teacher reading recommendations, leave them in the comments below! 

Another summer project I want to tackle is building a new math website!  For years, I have taken pictures of arrays I see in real life and used them with my students.  I have tried several times to create a product where I can share these with you but have not yet been satisfied enough with the end result to publish it.  Recently, I decided that what I really want to do is build a website to share these images with math teachers all over the world.  The site will be free and I am hoping to build it into a great resource for teachers, students and families.  

One of the many, many images that I use to spark conversations with my students about counting, addition and multiplication strategies. These are the type of #EveryDayArrays I am building a website around to share with math teachers and learners around the world.  

I also want to share with you a fantastic STEM resource my friend Bethany over at Math Geek Mama has created. 

This summer, I encourage you to get outside and explore math in the world around you. Our world is full of interesting and unique math patterns and shapes to explore and discover.

These are not normally things kids will see in their math textbook. But it might be just the thing to pique your kids’ interest and get them excited!

So whether your kids love math and are always looking for new things to learn or your kids struggle and question why understanding math is even necessary, they will have fun exploring the topics included in this new math enrichment curriculum: Math in Nature from Bethany at Math Geek Mama!

In this curriculum, your kids will explore:

  • Math in Space
  • Fibonacci sequence
  • Hexagons
  • Fractals
  • Concentric circles

Best of all, they will learn important math concepts (like using decimals and integers or composing shapes and patterns) in the context of real life exploration.

I think this would be perfect to use at home with kids over the summer or even in a summer camp or summer school situation!  Math Geek Mama is great at answering any questions and always provides outstanding customer service!  If it is something you would be interested in, you can check it out here!

It's great to be back on the blog, look for a new post this weekend!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

When Teaching Gets Really Challenging

Today is August 1st, the day teachers all over the US transition to back to school.  I myself am only about two thirds of the way through summer but there is something about the calendar changing to August that makes me feel a bit anxious and a bit excited at the same time.  The familiar flutter in my teacher heart that happens at back to school time is definitely there this week.  The new year means a fresh start, new students, new colleagues and new adventures.  I am savoring the last bit of my summer and the extra time I get to spend adventuring with my family but am also looking forward to being back in the routine of school.  I am looking forward to continuing my work on personalized learning and designing math blocks that work in multi-age settings.  I am very happy that I am feeling this way because just a few short weeks ago, my teacher heart felt very broken as I struggled with a challenging end to the school year.

It has been 4 months since I last sat down to write on my blog and in that time, my school year went from okay to overwhelmingly challenging.  There were multiple things that contributed to things going downhill so quickly but much of it had to do with an administrator who changed the climate of my school in a way that made it very hard to go to work each day.  I am not ready to write about the details of the situation but I do want to share that for the first time in my career, I didn't want to go to work anymore.  The climate changed so quickly, that it felt like a completely different place and I was not sure I would ever look forward to teaching again.  I guess I got a strong dose of what teacher burnout feels like and it was more challenging than I ever expected it to be.  I was on the edge of making the decision to leave teaching for good and it is not a place I ever want to go back to again.

I am feeling much better about things now and I am even looking forward to getting back in the swing of things.  The administrator who caused the situation to unravel is not returning and I am hopeful the climate of our school can recover and we can go back to the way things were.  There are a few projects I am really looking forward to tackling, I finally started back on my professional reading and I am even back on my blog writing about this journey we call teaching.  I have grand plans to write more about how I managed to survive the end of the year and what I have done to help me move past it that I hope to share with you in the coming weeks.  I will also be writing about re-establishing a positive school climate and teaching math of course.  I am ready to get back to my series on personalizing learning which has been my focus in my classroom over the past few years and that I have long neglected to share about on my blog.  

If you are thinking back to school and are looking for new lessons, games or activities for this fall, the Teacher's Pay Teachers back to school event is today (August 1st) and tomorrow (August 2nd). Everything in my store is 20% off and if you use the code BTSFRESH you will save an additional 5%

If you have any advice to share with a teacher who has been on the edge of burnout or has suffered from a bad school climate, please share in the comments below or go to contact at the top of this page and send me an email.  

Monday, April 2, 2018

Autism Awareness Month

April is National Autism Awareness Month and today (April 2nd) is World Autism Awareness Day.  Many students and families are effected by Autism and there are many things happening all month long that you can get involved in.  For much more information about Autism Awareness Month, to read stories or share your own, check out Autism Speaks.

Graphic by Audi Devon 

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Personalizing Learning With Math Centers

Earlier this week, I shared how I have been working on personalizing learning in my math classes.  This change came about because I was challenged to teach math in a multi-age setting but has led to some great discoveries that have helped me improve math instruction for all of my learners whether they are in a single grade or a multi-age setting.  

Today I want to talk about math centers.  Math centers, also known as math stations, guided math, workplaces or math menu really can help with differentiation and personalizing learning.  Despite the fact that there are many names, strategies and ways to do math centers, their central purpose is to provide students with differentiated practice so that learners are engaged and occupied, freeing the teacher up to meet with small groups and provide further targeted instruction or enrichment to those who need it. It also solves the age old question of what to do with early finishers.

Math centers have long been popular in the primary grades in many schools and have been mostly absent in upper elementary and middle school.  At my school, we have been doing some version of math centers in K-2 for as long as I can remember.  In grades 3&4 there has been some sporadic math center activity and at the 5th and 6th grade level, we have had very little math center time.  All of that has changed over the past 2 years and now all of our learners K-6 participate in math centers in one form or another.  Our younger students participate in something closer to guided math and our older students' model looks more like math menu

I have found math centers are most successful when kids can be offered choices.  There are many things you can either require or give choices for depending on the age of your students and the behaviors in the group.

Who To Work With

Students work in pairs at a table playing one version of Movin' it Math
Many of your math centers will involve games or activities that lend themselves well to kids having chances to socially construct their knowledge.  Who a student works with can be something you choose for them or that you let them choose for themselves.  This is one of the areas where I am least likely to offer kids the chance to choose.  I almost always choose groups or pairs for my students.  As they get a bit older, I might offer them some limited choices about who they work with.  I find a lot more work gets done during math centers when I make intentional decisions about who is working together.

I do want kids to work with a variety of other students.  I want them to have a chance to work with kids of similar academic ability sometimes but other times, I want them to work with someone who may have stronger or weaker skills in math.  I find that when I try only to group for academics, behaviors deteriorate quickly.  I also believe that kids learn so much from each other and do my best to facilitate this learning among kids of all ability levels.

What Level To Work On

Each of my math centers contains the same activity at multiple levels (I will be writing a full blog post about this soon!). I almost always allow students to choose the level of the activity they are working on.  I do quite a bit of intentional teaching around choosing a level and find kids do very well choosing the just right activity for them.  

Which Activity to Work On

If you are offering several different math center options, you can decide which ones everyone has to do and which are optional.  You can let kids choose the activities and the order or you can pick who does which activity when.  In this area, my classes are kind of all over the map.  In general, the older students are the more choice I offer them in terms of which activity they want to do and the order they want to do them in.  With my upper elementary students, I often have a short list of "have-to's" and then a longer list of "get-to's".  

The younger the students are and the wilder the class' behavior, the more I assign them a task and/or set a timer for when it is time to go onto the next class.  With my most challenging behavior classes, or when math centers are new to a group, I make more of the choices for them.  As the year progresses, I transfer responsibility of the choice more and more to the students.

Where to Work

On a beautiful day we may even take math centers outside!  
My classroom has several large tables in the center, some desks along the perimeter and plenty of wide open space on the carpet.  While I often set math centers up on the tables, my students will often make a choice to work on the floor nearby or at one of the desks on the perimeter, particularly if they are working independently.  This is another area that I feel like kids in general make good choices.  I almost always let kids choose where to work and only very rarely will I have to ask someone to move to a different spot.  The variety of sitting a table, standing at a table and working on the floor seems to help keep my students engaged. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Personalizing Learning in Math Class

Over the last few years, the enrollment at my school has continued to decline.  This led us to create several multi-age classrooms.  I had not experienced a multi-age classroom since I was an elementary student myself so I did what any professional reading junkie would do and looked up books on Amazon.  I was surprised to find that almost all the books written about multi-age classrooms were published in the early 90's.   This must have been the last time there was a big push to make classrooms multi-age.  After doing some research, I ended up purchasing Multiage Portraits which gave me some good information to start with.  I also visited a classroom at another local school who had been doing multi-age classrooms for years and learned a great deal there.

As we began doing multi-age classrooms, classroom teachers found a way for most subjects to work in a multi-age way.  The subject they were struggling the most with was math.  We ended up in a model where we were pulling kids into grade level groups for math.  This meant I was doing primary instruction for several grades and eliminated a great deal of the time I used to have for co-teaching, intervention, coaching and the myriad of other tasks being a math specialist in a small school entails.  

These factors along with the fact that there are already huge spreads in ability in a single grade, led me to believe that we could teach math in a multi-age setting.  I recruited one of my most enthusiastic colleagues and last school year we co-taught a Kindergarten/first grade combination math class.  There were a few bumps in the road along the way, but in the end it turned out better than we could have ever imagined and we learned a great deal about personalizing learning along the way.  The lessons we learned from doing this combined math class together have helped me create a 2/3 and a 5/6 combination math this school year.  In addition, it has helped both of us better meet students' needs in single grade classrooms as well.  We might have needed the push of attempting multi-age to get us there, but personalizing math class benefits all learners.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing detailed posts about what I learned last year and how I have been using that to personalize learning for students from K-6 this year.  Here are some of the basics of what we did, each of them will be posted on in greater detail soon! 

-Leveling Games
-Curating Online Resources
-Color Coding
-Math Boxes
-Teaching Mindset
-Independent Practice
-Number Talks
-Flexible Groupings
-Formative Assessment
-Math Journals
-Low Floor, High Ceiling Tasks