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Monday, October 31, 2016

Teaching Math With You Tube Videos: 2 Dimensional Shapes

In the past few years,  I have posted some of my favorite songs and videos about shapescountingmultiplicationcoinstimefractionsteen numbersarea and perimeter and addition facts.  I try to keep these posts up to date with the latest songs and videos I am using with my students.  They are a great way to get a little movement break while still working on important math concepts. 
One area that has changed and improved a lot is the number of videos and songs for teaching shapes that are now available.  Instead of updating my old post on You Tube videos for shapes, today I am going to share with you some of my current favorites for 2-D shapes and later this week I will share some of my favorites for 3-D shapes. 

Jack Hartmann's Shape Songs

Jack Hartmann's  You Tube channel is always coming out with new songs that are great for primary students.  He has some excellent songs for helping kids remember 2-D shapes and many of his videos include some exercise and make great movement breaks.

Secret Agent Shapes

This one is all about finding shapes around the classroom. 

Two Dimensional Shapes Song

This one is new to us this year.  It is short and sweet and to the tune of this old man.

Shapes Song for Kindergarten

A great song for primary kids, this one has a lot of real life examples. 

My students have been using these 2-D shape cards to play 8 different games!

Shape Name Game

This one is one I use in primary and as a review with older kids.  There are a lot of different shapes presented here! The end of the song has 3-D shapes as well. 

Polygon Song

This one is a little more detailed and I use it with grades 1-4.  It has great information about all kinds of polygons. 

Square and Trapezoid Shape Videos

Have Fun Teaching has a series of these videos about many 2-D Shapes.  They provide a good level of detail about the attributes of these shapes. 

One of our favorite games with our 2-D shape cards has been playing Pyramid.  It is a lot like the classic solitaire game Pyramid 13! 
Do you have any favorite 2-D shape videos? Share in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Teaching Math With You Tube Videos: Halloween Fun

In the past few years,  I have posted some of my favorite songs and videos about shapes, counting, multiplication, coins, time, fractions, teen numbersarea and perimeter and addition facts.  I try to keep these posts up to date with the latest songs and videos I am using with my students.  They are a great way to get a little movement break while still working on important math concepts. Today I want to share with you some fun Halloween themed You Tube Videos that are a great way to review math topics while having some holiday fun and movement.  


I have several kindergarten friends this year who are still struggling with one to one correspondence, counting to 20 and recognizing single digit numbers.  The following few videos are a good way to work on these important ideas.  I like to sing along with them and work with them to make up finger plays or dances to go with them.  

First Grade

I love the 10 in the bed rhyme for working on combinations of 10 and basic subtraction ideas.  This is a fun Halloween version of the classic song. 

Another great basic subtraction song/video!

Can you tell my first graders are working on subtraction?  This isn't a Halloween song per say but it is all about pirates (and subtraction!) so it fits in well with out theme!

We are also having a great time using our pumpkin 10 frames in both K & 1.  Next week we will read the story How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? We will follow up the story with cutting open some pumpkins ourselves and do a counting and estimating routine.

Do you have a favorite Halloween song/video for teaching kids about math?  Tell us about it in the comments below!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Back To School Math Tips: Organizing Online Resources

It's time!  Teachers all over the country are thinking about back to school.  Whether you are going back to school this week, next week or not until the end of the month, I am sure your mind is on back to school.  My math blogger friends and I have teamed up to bring you our best tips for back to school.  Check out my tips below for organizing your online resources, enter my giveaway and be sure to check out the other back to school tips.

Organizing Online Resources

I love starting the new school year with everything organized and ready to go.  It is the time of the year that I feel like I have everything in its place.  I am a math teacher who uses many games for practice and for differentiation so naturally I have a lot bins full of manipulatives, game pieces, card decks and dice.  As the years have progressed and online math games have developed, I have added them to my repertoire but have always struggled with how to keep these resources organized in a way that made them easy for my students to find.  For every good math resource available online, there are 3 bad ones and I really wanted a place to organize the good resources for each unit where my students could find them. 

At the beginning of last school year, I decided to get my online math resources organized in a way that made them easy for my students (and me!) to find and use at school and at home.  I decided to create a classroom blog that linked to all my favorite online resources.  I went with a blogger blog because it is easy to use and my school already uses google email and other products.  It is super easy (and free!) to set up a blogger blog.  

Because I teach multiple grades, I decided to create a page on my blog for each one.  On the home page, I added a little welcome message and directed students to click on the tab for their grade across the top of the page. I work with 7 grades but decided to start with 4 grades for the first year.  If you are a classroom teacher, you can create a page for each content area.  If you want to start small, just create one page for one subject and add more as you get comfortable. 

When kids clicked on their grade, they were taken to a page that had resources on it that went with their current unit of study.  They were a mixture of online games, you tube songs and math literature book read alouds.  It takes just a few minutes to learn how to add links and embed you tube videos in your blog posts.  

Here is an example of what was on the grade 2 page when we were working on telling time

Having my favorite online resources in one place where kids could access them from home or school was fantastic.  I probably spent less than 15 minutes a week keeping my pages up to date with what we were working on.  If you are new to blogging, it will definitely take you longer when you start out but it is certainly a skill worth learning.  Having your favorite online resources organized when the school year starts will certainly help to make this the best year ever!  If you have other tips for keeping online resources organized, be sure to share them in the comments below!

The TPT Back to school sale will take place Monday and Tuesday August 1st & 2nd!  All of my resources will be 28% off with the code BESTYEAR.

Want some extra money to spend during the back to school sale? Enter the giveaway below.  I will choose a winner early Tuesday morning and email the gift card to the winner so they will have it to spend during day 2 of the sale!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out some other great back to school math tips!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Memorizing Facts Versus Knowing Facts From Memory

I used to think one of the most important things I did with my fourth graders was to make sure they were fluent with their multiplication and division facts.  My definition of fluency was synonymous with fast.  To me fast = fluent.  To ensure my students all had "fluency" with their multiplication and division facts, we had daily timed tests which some kids loved and others dreaded.  We used a boxed program that was on my self when I started teaching.  

As much as I thought I was doing the right thing, there were a few things that bothered me about this process.  There were a few kids who were very proficient mathematicians who just were not doing well with these timed tests.  I also had some kids who were doing really well with the timed tests yet they were really struggling to multiply larger numbers.  

After more and more of these concerns popped up over several years, I started doing some more research into what exactly fluency meant.  I stumbled upon the work of Catherine Fosont and read her Young Mathematicians at Work series.  I learned about models for multiplication, using equal groups, arrays and the open area model.  I learned about helping kids develop strategies for multiplication facts.  Strategies based in understanding and the properties of multiplication. Strategies that will help kids develop number sense.  

I still focus on fluency with multiplication facts in fourth grade but fluency has a completely different meaning to me now.  The way I work on fluency now does not involve timed tests.  It does not involve kids being anxious or feeling unsuccessful at math.  Instead I focus on developing number sense which helps kids learn and remember strategies that make them fluent with their multiplication facts.  To the untrained eye, it often appears as if my fourth graders have memorized their facts when they actually know their facts from memory. 

This short video does a great job of explaining the difference I am talking about:

How do you think about or teach fact fluency? Please share your ideas in the comments below!

Looking for more?! A reader asked some great questions about this post and I answered her question and followed up with more thoughts on fact fluency in this post! 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Math Workshop:Sharing & Reflection

Welcome to the final week of our Minds on Mathematics book study.  If you missed them you can go back and read Understanding Takes Time,  Shallow Versus Deep MathStarting Class and Mini Lessons & Work Time.  

This week are going to take a deeper look at ending class with sharing and reflecting when using a math workshop model.  


Perhaps the most important part of a math workshop model is the time for students to share.  It is so important to stop work time before the end of your math class period and give kids a chance to share.  This is the part that helps to solidify their comprehension and gives them a chance to practice metacognition which is thinking about their own thinking.  They get a chance to synthesize their understanding, check on their progress and make goals for the next day.  Teachers can gather important formative assessment data about what strategies kids are using and where to go next.  By communicating their thinking and listening to a variety of peers' solutions and ideas, students make connections and deepen their own thinking.  

My favorite way to structure sharing time is by bringing the whole group back together.  As I have been circulating during work time, I choose a few pairs to share their thinking.  I pick pairs who have different strategies and ideas to share.  Then I have students present their work while classmates ask questions or make connections.  When multiple groups present different ideas, we take some time to synthesize the learning and talk about which strategies were most efficient.  To add some variety to our days, I sometimes will mix the pairs up and have them share with another person or another pair.  With clear expectations and a lot of practice, my students have become more efficient at this portion of math workshop and it is easier for me to fit it all in to one class period.  In the rare case where work time extends beyond where I intended, we will start the next days class with sharing time.  


I love how kids can learn from each other during sharing, but I also love how kids can learn from themselves during reflection.  This is usually a quick but important part of math workshop.  I don't get to this every single day but at least a few times per week.  On any given day, we might reflect on behavior, or our skills as mathematicians, or what we have learned, or the process of solving problems.  We never do all of these at once, we usually just choose one.

The reflection I enjoy the most is the time at the end of a unit or a semester or school year when we have time to look a little more in depth at progress.  This is often when we will do some writing or comparing work from the beginning and end of a unit.  This is the deep reflection that makes all of my students feel like they are really learning.  It really helps to make their learning personal.  It also really helps with setting goals in an authentic way.

I love the reflection prompts printed on pages 162 & 163 in the book.  I think these would be well worth posting in my classroom to help us bring our reflecting to the next level.  I don't often do quick written reflections but with the questions and sentence frames presented here, I think I could get some valuable information from my students without adding a lot of time or stress to our day.

Thanks for following along as I read this great book!  Please share your thoughts about sharing and reflecting in the comments below!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Math Workshop: Mini-Lessons and Worktime

Welcome to week 4 of our Minds on Mathematics book study.  If you missed them you can go back and read Understanding Takes Time and Shallow Versus Deep Math or Starting Class

This week are going to take a deeper look at the mini-lesson portion of math workshop and talk about what work time looks and sounds like. 


Mini-lessons during math workshop should be
- Short and focused (under 10 minutes)
- Whole group instruction
- Goal is fostering independence

"The more I explained the less my students seemed to understand.  The more sample problems I did for them, the sleepier they appeared." (Hoffer page 103)

This quote from the book perfectly sums up my past experience with teaching rather than listening. As I have shifted my practice from that of an expert giving out knowledge to that of a facilitator helping kids build their knowledge, this quote is no longer true.  Many of the ideas presented in this chapter were ones that I have been comfortable with for the past few years.  My mini-lessons look a lot like these.  As I read, I kept coming back to modeling thinking as something I really wanted to work on. 

My Own Experience with Modeling Thinking

 I immediately thought of my second graders and solving multi-step problems.  We are finishing the year up with more practice adding and subtracting 2 and 3 digit numbers and I wanted them to get the chance to practice these important skills while working on solving problems that involve more than one step.  I find that with second graders, story problems can be tricky because there are a lot of words on the page for those who are struggling readers.  I decided to use modeling thinking to help these kids out with multi-step problems.
In the spirit of keeping my mini-lesson mini, I presented one problem to students.  It was: Jonathan had 172 baseball cards.  He spilled his drink on part of his collection and had to throw away 58 of his cards.  For his birthday, his friends decided to surprise him with 75 new cards.  How many baseball cards does Jonathan have now?
I put the problem on the screen and had a student read the entire thing.  I then thought aloud about how overwhelmed I was with trying to figure out what happened to Jonathan and what I was supposed to do.  I decided aloud to tackle the problem one sentence at a time and to stop and think after reading each sentence.  I switched to a new slide on my screen that had one line come up at a time.  After reading each line, I stopped and thought aloud about what I knew.  I would then reveal the next line and repeat.  I did much of the thinking aloud but also had some students contribute to my think aloud.
When the problem was solved, kids shared what I did to make a challenging problem easier.  Then I sent them to work with a partner on 2 additional multi-step problems involving some combination of addition and subtraction.  They did an amazing job and really focused on what strategies made it easier. They finished by writing their own multi-step problems. Tomorrow I will start class with a think aloud on one of their problems and then they will pair up again and solve another few examples.  

Work Time

The postulate and question of the day at the beginning of this chapter really helped me think through the big ideas about work time.

How can we facilitate thoughtful and productive work time for math learners?" 
Facilitating thoughtful and productive work time for math learners is something I have worked hard at developing over the past five years.  I think this is a strength in my classroom and in my school.  My challenge for next school year will be to make this thoughtful and productive work time work in a multi-age setting.  With our declining enrollment over the past few years, we have had multi-age classrooms but have been separating kids by grade for math class.  Next school year it is my goal to work with teachers to build capacity for truly multi-aging.  I think it will be a fun challenge to see how we can structure thoughtful and productive work time for such a diverse group of math learners.  
"Students learn most when they spend math work time thinking, talking, and making meaning of mathematics for themselves."
This quote sums up my teaching philosophy in one neat sentence.  To me, this is where the fun and the learning of mathematics takes place.  I know in my own education the math classes where I did the most talking were also the ones I did the most thinking and the ones where I finally had a chance to construct the meaning of mathematics for myself.  This nicely summarizes the constructivist ideas around learning and is what I strive to do each and every day in my classroom.  
"pages of mindless computation do not foster the construction of new knowledge. Learners need the opportunity to collect, generate, and frame their own problems and inquiries. The learner must be in the drivers seat." (Hoffer, p. 116)
This used to be so challenging for me.  I was very afraid that giving up the drivers seat meant giving up control of the situation and of my class.  It took years of seeing how other teachers managed their classrooms and employing the best management strategies before I was able to step back and really let my students be in charge of their own learning.  It is my goal to give the illusion of the classroom running itself.  I have high expectations for behavior and being on task and I am not afraid to spend the extra time making sure the backbone of classroom management is there.  Without excellent management skills, you can never be an excellent math teacher.  

Join us next week for the final installment of the Minds on Mathematics Book Study! 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Math Workshop: Starting Class

Welcome to week 3 of our Minds on Mathematics book study.  If you missed them you can go back and read Understanding Takes Time and Shallow Versus Deep Math.  

This week are going to look at how to start a day of math workshop.

The Opening

The first part of math workshop is the opening.  This is a time to invite learners to make connections and establish purpose.  The book outlines 4 parts to a successful math workshop opening.

Welcome Learners

If you are teaching a self contained classroom, this is your chance to make a transition to math class.   You might play a math song, check out a math you tube video, have kids share a favorite memory of math class or have some way to get kids pumped up that math is about to start.  If your students switch rooms for math and this is the first time you are seeing those students that day, this is your chance to greet kids at the door and work on making those connections with students.  It is your chance to work on developing community.  

 Activate Prior Knowledge with an Opening Exercise

What do your students already know that can help them with the day's problems?  How can you ask questions in such a way that students are engaged and feeling capable?  You are trying to convey that students already know some thing that can help them and that they are capable of being successful mathematicians.  "Offer students problems that invite challenge by choice; Let the first question be something everyone will likely know, followed by questions of increasing complexity that may feed into one one another, reminding learners of the concepts behind the mathematics."  I love how the book presents these tiered openings and it is definitely one of my goals to be more intentional with choosing questions like these for my openings. 

The other way to activate student knowledge is by having them consider a concept.  They might write everything they know about division or provide examples of vocabulary words that are likely to come up during the day's problem.  

My struggle with the opening of math class is always making sure it doesn't take more time than I allotted or take over the class entirely.  This is something I am still working on.  

Learners Setting Purpose for this Lesson

This is more than just writing your learning target on the board and having students read it.  It is about having students set goals for themselves.  What are they good at? What do they need to work on?  It might involve the topic for the day such as fraction division or it might involved one of the math practices such as attending to precision

Managing Homework

I have stuck to my resolution this year and not given any homework.  This is a decision I am quite happy with and have no plans to return to giving homework.  If you do give homework and want to work it into your opening, the author offers several suggestions.  

Your turn!  How do you open your math class each day?  What are the essential components for you?  How do you make sure your opening doesn't take over the entire class?  Please respond in the comments below.

Join us next week as we look at the mini lesson and work time in our Minds on Mathematics book study.  

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Shallow Versus Deep Math

Welcome to our second week of looking closely at math workshop.  Get more details about my math workshop book study here.  

Deep Versus Shallow Math

In this week's reading, I was struck by the difference between deep and shallow math.  Here are some characteristics of each type of math.

Shallow Math

- Memorizing algorithms
- Applying an algorithm (usually a word problem found on the bottom of a page full of practice for that algorithm.
- Hunt & copy exercises
- Plug and chug numbers
- Not considering what the numbers mean
- About covering the content
- Teacher gives out knowledge

Deep Math

- Engaging, exciting, exhausting & inspiring
- Pushes learners out of their comfort zone
- Mental models
- An understanding of a concept that can be built upon later
- Discourse
- Challenging tasks
- Students wrestling to make sense
- Content understanding
- Teacher as a facilitator of learning

When I was in elementary and middle school 99% of the math I did would be classified as shallow math.  I was the queen of the plug and chug.  I thrived on algorithms and hated "word problems".  When I was in high school, it was more of the same until I got to Algebra 2 and was faced with new and challenging problems that no one had "taught" me how to solve.  This took my enthusiasm for and understanding of math to an entirely new level.  Math class became exciting and invigorating and for the first time I got to invent my own strategies for solving problems and compare them to my classmates.  It was such a dramatic and marked change for me that it really is what sparked my interest in becoming a teacher.

Now when I teach math, I try my best to keep most of what I do with my students at the deep level.  Math workshop provides me with a vehicle for giving kids support solving challenging tasks.  

Your turn!  Can you think of anything that is missing from these lists of shallow and deep math?  Where did most of your own learning take place? Please respond in the comments below!

Come back next week for part 3 of our Minds on Mathematics book study! 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Understanding Takes Time

I know math workshop is for me!  Why?  Because I share these beliefs:
1) Students Are Capable of Brilliance
2) Understanding Takes Time
3) There is More Than One Way

Welcome to part 1 of our Minds-On Math Workshop bookstudy.  Here are some of my thoughts from this week! 

Students Are Capable of Brilliance

     My best teaching friend and Kindergarten teacher extraordinaire has this as her mantra.  Her students constantly outperform other Kindergarten students in the district and she is always being asked to share her secret.  Her #1 reason her kids do so well is because she holds them to very high standards.  She truly believes that all kids can learn and in many ways their teacher's attitude about their learning becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Her students learn because she believes they can.  ALL OF THEM. 
     Every time I feel like giving up on a kid and just "Teaching him how to do it" (aka arithmetic without understanding) I remember my friend and how beliefs become her students.  All students can learn and we need to keep expectations high for our students.

Understanding Takes Time

     You can "teach" your students the standard algorithm for subtraction in ten minutes and have them practice it for an hour.  It will look like your students understand subtraction.  Next week or next month you will give them three subtraction problems and they will tell  you that they forgot how to subtract.   Worse yet, they might not tell you that.  They might keep missing a step in the procedure or do a step wrong repeatedly.  Now they are in a position where they think they know how to subtract and they have no idea all their answers are wrong. They don't know how to tell if an answer is reasonable because you didn't "teach" them how.
     Alternatively, you can spend an hour per day for three weeks guiding your students to develop flexible and efficient strategies and giving them opportunities to share these ideas with their classmates.  They will also have a chance to hear their classmates ideas and compare how they are similar or different from their own.  In the process of doing this, they will strengthen their understanding of addition, place value, estimation and inverse relationships.  Next week or next month, you will give them three subtraction problems.  They will solve them all mentally applying a strategy that is efficient for the numbers in each problem.  They may or may not use the same strategy for all three problems.
     The example above illustrates the difference between telling and guiding.  With telling, you are doing most of the talking and learning.  Sure it is faster but your students will lack understanding.  Guiding students to develop and refine strategies takes much more time upfront.  The students do most of the talking, and you get through fewer problems during a class period.   You might in fact spend 20 minutes talking about one problem.  It takes time but it also develops understanding.  Understanding is what will be there for your students next week and next month.  For me, it is worth the investment of time to produce understanding.

There is More Than One Way

     This is one I learned from my students.  There is one student in particular who I will always remember helping me see a new way to look at subtraction.  I was taught that there was one way to solve each math problem and it has taken me years of teaching and learning to undo that thought.  "With faith that each child, given time, has an innate ability to reason out a solution to a problem, even if their initial approach and strategy may differ from how we believe things "ought" to be done, we can begin to turn over the responsibility for learning mathematics to our students." This quote from the book really resonated this change for me and helped me see how my thinking has changed since I started my teaching career.  I know embrace multiple strategies and love that my second graders can currently solve a problem like 17-9 using six different strategies.  Most of them are very efficient and none of them involve counting! 

Do you share these beliefs?  How has your own experience in the classroom enhanced or changed your beliefs? Other thoughts about this weeks reading?  Leave your thoughts below in the comments! 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Why Don't We Get Math?

     We are less than a week away from the launch of our new book study of Minds on Mathematics.  I had a few minutes today to dig into the book and wanted to share some of my thoughts about the introduction.  

Why Don't We Get Math?

-Cultural: It's Okay Not to Get It
   This is the one I see the most in my school and in my life.  I see over and over again an acceptance among adults that math is hard and it is okay not to get it.  I know of several well educated adults who almost brag that their fifth grader does math they don't understand.  I have never heard a well educated adult bragging that they couldn't read at a fifth grade level.  As the author states, "this social acceptance of mathematical illiteracy is a huge barrier to our children's progress and preparation for life beyond our classrooms." 

- Pedagogical: Math is Memorizing
    When I was in elementary school math was all about memorizing.  The parents of my students are very much in the same place.  For some of us, memorizing worked.  For others it didn't even come close.  No matter where parents fall on this spectrum, most parents believe that math is memorizing.  They want to help when their student is struggling but their idea of helping is to remind kids of the steps to a procedure.  

- Individual: Math Ability is Innate
    This is true even in my own family.  I remember being good at math from an early age and my Mom always being surprised and wondering where my math ability came from.  More than any other subject in school, people seem to have this idea that math skills are inherited or passed down genetically.  This is where the excellent research on growth versus fixed mindset can really help understand how ability is the product of effort.  

Minds-On Math Workshops

Minds on math workshop aims to challenge these beliefs and provide students with a "learning experience in which students are challenged to grapple with their thinking and understanding about math in light of new information and challenges, to make meaning for themselves." Minds on math workshop is about leaving behind decontextualized arithmetic and giving the kids a change to construct meaning for themselves.

After reading the introduction, I can see this book aligns well with what I am already doing and the things I have experienced as a math teacher over the past 10 years.  I am excited to read more and further refine my teaching practice!  Want to join me? Check out the posting schedule below!  Need more information, get it here

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Fluency with Comparing Fractions

   I spend a lot of time in grades 3-5 working on developing strategies for comparing fractions.  I have written before about the 5 strategies my students use to compare fractions.  I also shared my favorite free computer game for kids who are working on fluency with comparing simple fractions.  Today I was working with an intervention group of fifth graders and had a few minutes at the end of our session.  I knew that I needed something quick and fun so I grabbed my regular old deck of playing cards.  
   We split the deck and each flipped two cards and made a fraction.  The first card flipped became the numerator and the second card the denominator.  This allowed us to make all kinds of fractions.   The person with the largest fraction won all of the cards.  Some of our fractions were less than one, some were equal to one and some were more than 1.  It was a great way for students to practice comparing fractions.  Out of the 5 strategies for comparing fractions, I saw students use comparing to a benchmark most frequently during this game.  It was a great way to reinforce the idea of one half, one whole and improper fractions.  I also saw students using common numerators to compare fractions and quite a bit of unit fraction reasoning.  My favorite use of unit fraction reasoning was when a student used the idea of unit fractions and the distance from one to compare 10/11 and 11/12.  "They are both missing one piece.  11/12 is missing 1/12 and 10/11 is missing 1/11.  Since 11/12 is missing a smaller piece, it is greater."         

     After a bit, we changed up the game and had each person flip 2 cards, use their smallest card as the numerator and their largest card as the denominator.  This made all our fractions less than or equal to one.  It made it so that the fractions were a bit closer together and required more critical thinking.  After a few minutes playing that way, we reversed it and had folks put their higher card as the numerator and the lower one as the denominator.  This was a great way to really reinforce the improper fraction, mixed number connection.  

This entire game took under 10 minutes and was a great way to reinforce some big fraction ideas!  I love how it requires no prep and is easy to differentiate!  By pulling out some of the cards in the deck, I could make this game based on friendlier fractions which would be great for third and fourth graders.

Book Study Launch

Looking for some motivation as the school year comes to a close?  Want to try a new structure for math class this spring and/or next school year?  Join us for a 5 part book study on Minds on Mathematics: Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep Understanding.  You can read all about it here!   

Monday, March 21, 2016

Minds on Mathematics: Math Workshop Book Study

How is your professional reading coming?  Mine has taken a big hit over the past few months.  I find I am most inspired when I am reading a really good teaching book and have been putting it on the back burner for way to long.  I have been keeping up with my monthly issues of Teaching Children Mathematics and a few of my favorite teaching blogs but haven't had my nose in a really good math book in almost 3 months!  Last year, I read 14 professional books that I can remember and this year I am at 0.  With that in mind, I am putting my professional reading on the top of my priority list.  I think the end part of the school year is a great time to read a new book and try new things.  It is the time of year I sometime struggle with finding the joy in teaching and it is easy to get bogged down in testing and administrative tasks.  Reading a good book keeps me motivated!  Chatting with all of you about what I am reading really keeps me motivated and pushes me to try what I am reading in the classroom.
I am happy to announce that I will be hosting a new book study starting in 2 weeks!  I am going to be taking a look at Minds on Mathematics: Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep Understanding in Grades 4-8.  

You can read more about the big ideas in this book here or read the introduction and chapter 1 here.  

I will be posting on Saturday mornings.  
Here is the posting schedule:

Hope you can join me on my journey to learn more about math workshop!  

Jelly Bean Math

The countdown to Easter (and the spring testing season) has begun!  Today, I planned a quick little project with a group of 10 second graders that was super engaging and a great way to practice estimating, counting, comparing numbers and early division concepts.
It all started with little Dixie Cups of jelly beans (I used these ones).  I put the kids in 3 groups.  I gave each group a little cup of jelly beans and posted these directions on the SMART board.

Want to try this with your students? Grab these directions from Google Drive.

Two of my groups had 3 kids in them and one group had 4 kids.  I gave the groups with 3 kids 45 jelly beans and the group with 4 kids 60 jelly beans.  

I have really been working on independence with these kids and tried my best to step back and observe and not take over!  

I saw so many things that made my math heart happy!

Kids organizing and recording estimates
One group organized all their beans by color and then decided it would be much more efficient to put them in groups of 10.  The other groups went for groups of 10 from the get go. 
When each group had figured out how much they had, it was quite easy for them to figure out how much they were off by.  These kids are so flexible and fluent with double digit subtraction

Dividing the jelly beans equally between each group member was fun to watch.  Each group started by giving everyone 10.  Two of the groups were convinced that there would be a leftover bean that would have to be cut up.  The rationale was that because 15 is odd, there will be a leftover.  They were surprised to find that there was none left!  The main strategy for sharing out the beans was to give each person 10 and then share them out 1 by 1 until they were gone.

This part took a total of 14 minutes (including a few minutes of eating the beans!)

Then I pulled the group together and had each group share out how many beans their group got and how many each person ended up with.  There was some outcry over one group getting 60, but it provoked an interesting discussion about how each kid ended up with 15.

I then presented them with this problem."There are 10 second graders in this room and I gave you each 15 jelly beans.  How many jelly beans did I give out?"  I gave kids a minute to think at the circle then sent them off to grab a white board and show me what they knew.  I chose this problem because last winter when I was reading Children's Mathematics I became very intentional about making sure kids have the chance to solve Base 10 Story Problems.  Since 10 kids were in this group, I thought it would be interesting to see who used base 10 knowledge to solve this problem.  I gave out 10 groups of 15 but some kids used the idea of that being the same as 15 groups of 10.  
This student used base 10 knowledge to solve the problem (and the distributive property!)
Another student who used base 10 knowledge
This student added 45+45+60.  They used the number of jelly beans each group had.

Total time for this was 25 minutes.  We had a lot of fun, the kids got some good practice and I got to learn some new things about what strategies my students have.  How are you working on estimating and counting in your classroom?  Want to try this out?  Grab the directions from Google Drive

Monday, February 8, 2016

100th Day Fun!

Today was our 100th day of school!  It was a busy day and I am exhausted!  Here are few of the things we did:

100th Day Bulletin Board

I saw this idea in my son's school and instantly loved it!  Our 100th day is always around Valentines day so having kids think of 100 reasons we love our school was perfect.  I cut 100 hearts out of pink paper and glued them to a piece of chart paper.  We passed it around the school and had kids and adults write reasons they love our school.  I will definitely be doing this again next year but I will be using heart shaped post-it notes because I won't have to cut anything out and they will be a bit bigger.  The hearts were a bit on the smaller size for something I wanted to make a bulletin board out of and kids could really only fit one word.   Here were a few of my favorites math, feeling of community, caring teachers, amazing students, respect, safety, creativity and honesty.

 100th Day Swag

The primary teachers in my building are great about making 100th day hats and glasses and such with their students but I find kids of all ages love 100th day swag.  I made these fun 100th day ties and bracelets with my older students.  I myself supported a 100th day tie, several bracelets, my 100th day pin a 100th day crown and a pair of 100th day glasses that my son made with his class and let me borrow.  There is nothing like a bit of swag to make it feel like a holiday. 

100 Equations

Over the years with my grade 3-6 students we have celebrated the 100th day by writing 100 equations in whatever area we have been working on.  This year I made it more official and dressed it up with some cute clip art.  My grade 4 kids just learned the traditional algorithm for subtraction so they rolled dice to create 100 three and four digit subtraction problems.  The fifth graders just finished a unit on adding and subtracting fractions so they did some dice rolling to generate and solve 100 fraction addition and subtraction problems.  We took all 100 problems and organized them on chart paper to make a display to share in the gym. I love this idea because you can do it with any grade and with any topic.  A great way to celelbrate the 100th day and still work on your current unit.  You can grab my printables from Google drive here

100th Day of School Workout

I found this little routine on You Tube when I was looking for a 100th day book.  We have been working on adding more movement breaks into our day and it was fun to have a special one for the 100th day.  If you want to jump right into the workout, skip to the 2:10 mark.  We watched the whole thing through once and then did it a few more times throughout the day starting from 2:10.


I pulled out a lot of my favorite 100th day books to read to various grades today.  Here are a few of the books that were being read around our building today.

What a fun day!  What is your favorite way to celebrate the 100th day?  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Hands on Fraction Fun

Coming into this school year, I knew that the thing my fourth graders struggled with most last year was fractions.  I remember chatting with the teacher they had for third grade math about their strengths and needs and fractions came up over and over again.  After reading Beyond Pizzas & Pies and Beyond Invert and Multiply this past summer I had plenty of new ideas and lessons to try out but I still hadn't quite figured how I wanted to kick off this unit.  This class in particular has a huge span of ability levels and experiences and I wanted everyone to be able to access this first lesson without it being to easy for half the class.  I also wanted to provide them with a hands on experience using fractions in their world.

I decided to have them in mixed ability groups exploring some fraction manipulatives.  I put a manipulative at each table along with a large piece of chart paper and a variety of markers.  Their task was to explore the materials and write down anything they noticed.  I had 4 stations each with different manipulatives.  We used fraction bars, fraction circles, cuisinare rods and measuring cups and spoons.  

I borrowed the sand table from Kindergarten and threw in a variety of measuring cups and spoons. Most of these I found this past summer at the Dollar Tree.  The dark orange cups are a set of ancient Tupperware cups which I LOVE because they have a 2/3 and a 3/4 cup.  These were so great for kids to use to explore non-unit fractions.  Kids spent lots of time filling and ordering cups.  They also liked filling and organizing the spoons.  Because the sets included 1/2 cup, 1/2 tsp and 1/2 Tbsp kids were also able to explore the idea that the size of 1/2 can change based on the whole changing.  


As students made discoveries, I had them jot them down on chart paper.  This was a great way to record what they had discovered to share with the other students at the end of class.  We also went back to this chart paper part way through the unit to review some ideas.   

Each group had about 12 minutes at each station.  We spent the last 15 minutes of class having each student share something they learned.  We posted all the chart papers and refereed back to them as our unit progressed.  I was able to keep the sand table for the first 2 weeks of the unit and several times I had kids (especially those in my intervention group) go back to the sand table to explore something specific around the ideas we were learning.  

If you have the chance, I highly recommend starting off your fraction unit with this kind of hands on exploration.  Even if you don't have access to a sand table, putting some measuring cups and spoons in a bucket of rice or a bowl of water would also give kids a similar experience.

Looking for more ideas for teaching fractions? Check out the Fly on the Math Teacher's Wall Blog Hop to get lots of great tips!

I posted a new Valentine product today!  It is a great way to give your kiddos extra practice with double digit subtraction.