We are coming up on another school year! A time of excitement and apprehension. This is a time to reflect on how to improve your math class and a chance to reinvent.
Here are some essential questions to guide your reflection:
How should I structure my math time?
This is what works for me – Students (and you) don’t like to be lectured for the whole math time. I start with a short engaging brain teaser that any student at an level can participate with like Which one Doesn’t Belong. Then I follow up with a number talk with a real life application problem. Next is a short mini lesson focusing on concepts. After that (about 30 minutes into our math time), the remaining time is for stations. There are usually 3-4 activities that students get to choose for the week. The students get to choose what station they get to go to (if there is space). They need to complete all the stations that week (some last two weeks). The stations usually have games, a real life group project, fluency activities, teacher time, and an activity that goes with the concepts we have been learning about.
Follow up questions: Can you make this time trained and become automatic? Can your students run math time without you? Do they know where the materials are? Do you need a “math assistant” to help answer questions when you are busy with a group?
How should I use my school’s curriculum? What is the curriculum calendar look like?
Often national math materials are designed for a one-size-fits-all situation. And we know that doesn’t work. Go through the materials and decide what would work for you. Maybe the activities and games are great! Can you use the problem sets? How about the quizzes and exit tickets? Remember, you don’t have to use it all, and often you can’t.
Look at the district/school’s calendar and get a sense of at least the first quarter’s scope and sequence. This should help you determine what projects and activities do you need. Are there ways you can integrate with the other subjects?
What manipulatives are essential?
All students like to use manipulatives, evenfinguers should be encouraged. There are so many option: blocks, counters, cubes, dice, ten frames, base ten blocks, shapes, rulers, calcu
lators, fraction kits. Look at the your quarter’s essential concepts and determine what manipulatives are necessary. Don’t forget that your students can even make some. It’s fun for them to make a ruler using centimeter blocks or inch blocks. Also plan where your manipulative should be. Ideally each student has a personal set, or their is a bin of them on the table. Next would be on open shelves in open bins. Please don’t story them neatly behind closet doors. Students should be freely able to use them whenever they would like. DOn’t forget to put in to place procedures for cleaning up. I have a “math material manager” who helped me set up the stations, manipulatives, and games, as well as made sure they got cleaned up properly.
Follow-up questions: What posters are essential? Multiplication charts and number charts are key, but be ready to display class created anchor charts.
What data do I need to collect?
I like to interview each student at the beginning of the year, either face to face, or with a quick form. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What do they like or dislike about math and math time? How do they learn the best? Use this time to identify goals together. And then this along with your district’s testing requirements, should help you determine what data you need to collect.
This year, since our students struggle with basic math facts, I am exploring Dr. Nicki Newton’s Running Records as a way to monitor progress and set goals.
How should students keep track of their learning, goals, and progress?
When students have buy-in to their learning, they are more engaged. I use portfolios (data binders) for students to keep their projects, assignments, quizzes, and data. We use these binders for conferences and reflections.
Students also have math dictionaries to add in terms, concepts, drawings, of important information learned throughout the year. We use these dictionaries for games, test reviews, and reflection. I prefer a dictionary, as it’s easier for students to find what they are looking for. Other teachers like math journals.
How am I going to differentiate?
We know that if learners are in the perfect zone, they will be engaged. And that is key to reducing behavior problems. If you collect data and your students know what they need to work on, and you provide the activities for their goals – WIN WIN! Don’t forget about your students who have already mastered concepts. Is there a special project they can work on? Is there an online resource they can do during your mini-lessons so they can also progress? Can they be a peer tutor sometimes?
How should I use technology?
We know that students are in front of screens a lot! Some technology time is fine, and can help with engagement. But be careful, it’s not a substitute for you and it’s not a substitute for their classmates. They need to spend as much time interacting with you and their classmates.
What group projects should I do?
Are there ways to make some key math concepts come to life through projects? Can students learn about area by designing a tile project for a client? Can they learn about angles making a mini-golf course? Can they learn about money, making menus and playing restaurants? Can they learn about making decision and working with a group, by planning a classroom party? Can they learn about elapsed time by managing a movie theater? So many possibilities. Don’t be afraid from deviating from the curriculum calendar to make math fun and real for your students.
How do I include parents in their student’s learning?
After your students set goals, can you share this with their parents and provide resources so the parents can help them at home, like web links, worksheets, homework, discussion questions?
How I am going to set the tone that math is fun?
Start math time, without saying it’s math time. Some students immediately react when you say “Time for math!” Get out games, puzzles, manipulatives and have students just play. If you want to slowly incorporate more structure – try some “About Me using Numbers” or “Get To Know my Classmates” games and graphs (another version – digital).
What materials do I need?
Now that you have a plan – time for some shopping for manipulatives, games, and activities. Make a list and you can have parents help out with Amazon wish lists, your PTA and local groups might have grants for you. But if you do spend your own money, keep your receipts for tax purposes.
Here are some related blog posts that might help you plan:
- How I run Math Workshop
- Start the math school year with some fun
- Managing Math Stations
- Student Created Dictionaries
Enjoy this fresh start!