Approximately a week ago I was paging through my math curriculum. Through a pre-assessment I found that students were in need of a review on angle classification and measuring skills. The curriculum lessons offered a number of worksheets and angle measuring drills. Although these lessons seemed beneficial, I felt the need to create a more memorable learning experience for my math students. At this point, I decided to search for measurement projects. While following #mathchat, I came across this Edgalaxy site. The project seemed to match many of the objectives that needed strengthening in my class. I changed up the directions and modified some specifics in order to best meet the needs of my students.

So … a week has passed and almost all of the projects are complete. I listed the project steps below. Feel free to use any of the ideas below in your own classroom.

1. Had out the direction sheet. Here is a Word template (via Google Docs) for your use.

2. Review many of the different vocabulary words associated with the project: acute, obtuse, right, parallel, perpendicular, trapezoid, etc.

3. Show possible examples. I tend to show just a few examples as I don’t want to give them a mini golf course to copy.

4. Group the students into pairs. If you prefer, this project could be implemented as a collaborative group activity.

5. Students choose their construction paper color (11″ x 20″)

6. Students draft their course in pencil (on grid paper). The draft gets approved by the teacher and then is transfered to scale on construction paper.

7. Students present their final projects to the class.

Over the past few months I’ve been experimenting with guided math strategies in my classroom. One station in my classroom has been dubbed as the technology table. This table has been primarily used to differentiate instruction to improve students’ understanding of mathematical concepts. I’ve been using the tech table for the past few months with great success. There are five iPad apps that are used at this table. Unlike many math apps that offer only demo versions, I’ve found the below apps to be useful in the classroom.

This app is the newest addition to my iPads for intervention list. This app emphasizes order of operations for upper elementary and middle school students. The game encourages students to use multiple dice to find the “target” number. A whiteboard is built into the game for students to work out problem. Progress reports can be emailed to the teacher for formative assessment data.

This app is used to differentiate math instruction and assigned practice. What I like so much about this app is the variety of concepts that I’m able to individualize. For example, if a student needs additional work on the concept of time, then I can setup the app to only give questions related to time. Questions first appear simple, but then become more challenging as questions are answered correctly. If you prefer, Splash Math will send you a weekly update indicating the progress of each student.

This app is used to improve computation fluency. This interactive app has a quick tutorial to teach students how to move the main character through a variety of mazes. Students control a space vehicle that inevitably encounters an octopus type of creature. Students must answer computation (addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division) questions to defeat the boss.

Factor Samurai is an app geared towards emphasizing the concepts of prime and composite numbers. Basically, numbers fly into the air and the student is expected to slice the composite numbers with their fingers. If it’s a prime number, then the student leaves the number alone. Some composite numbers can be sliced multiple times.

ScootPad can be used to individualize practice in your classroom. I’m able to assign specific students certain Common Core objectives to practice. After a student completes an assigned section, they are allowed to see all of the correct answers. Scootpad will also send the teacher a statistical report of the progress made by individual students. I’d also like to note that Scootpad can also be used on a PC or MAC.

I recently participated in an afternoon professional development session led by Laney Sammons. The session focused on how to implement guided math. I’m still understanding the guided math process, as you can tell by the picture above. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in guided math, but I’m starting to use a few strategies that Laney discussed today.

A few takeaways from today …

Guided math can be similar to guided reading

Math games can be used in stations

Groups should consist of no more than six students

Groups can be used for informal assessments

There isn’t a “one size fits all” model for guided math

After the session I decided to explore guided math a bit further. The links below have been vetted and may help shed additional light on guided math in an elementary setting.

This year I’m continuing to find that student ownership plays a critical role in the learning process. Students often become more responsible for their own learning when they are given additional opportunities to show their learning. I’m finding that part of the key to increasing student responsibility depends on how it’s communicated by the teacher. Students can’t be expected to own their learning without any guidance. The gradual release of student responsibility can benefit the overal climate and achievement of a classroom. In the past, I’ve used student journaling, plus/delta, surveys, choice boards, self-selected research projects, and other strategies to promote student ownership. This past week I introduced another strategy that involves self-correction. Here are the steps:

1.) Students complete an assignment in collaborative groups or independently.

2.) Students finish the assignment and self-correct using the Teacher’s Manual. This can also be applied to digital progress monitoring tools.

3.) Students independently use markers to indicate wrong/right answers. If needed, students will write in correct answers.

4.) Students utilize their math journals to reflect on the assignment and their feelings about the topic and achievement.

5.) Student turn in their paper and journal to the teacher

6.) Optional: Students use multiple journal entries for individual goal setting

It might seem simple, but I’ve had terrific results from using this strategy. Overall, I feel as though the students benefit from practices like this. The self-correcting / journal process took modeling and practice at first, but the benefits are starting to become apparent.

Lately, I’ve been having conversations with colleagues regarding how to communicate number line concepts in the classroom. Specifically, I’ve been giving examples of how understanding number lines may lead to a more stable mathematical foundation. In the past, my class has created various products related to the number line. My original inspiration came from this number line below.

The project in this post emphasizes the idea that percents, fractions, mixed numbers, and decimals are all related This basic understanding helps develop number sense skills. Here are the generic steps for this project:

Students cut out percents, decimals, percents, and fractions out of the template

Students draw a number line on a piece of construction paper

Students glue/tape each number on the number line

Here are a few sample photos (click to enlarge):

The project seems simple, right? Well … it took about 20 minutes for the cutting, coloring, and gluing. I then facilitated a classroom discussion after the number lines were presented. The math curiosity (I really like that term) and discussion that followed the project seemed beneficial. It’s truly amazing to see what type of concepts can be discussed when observing the number line through a variety of lenses. Our conversations touched on the concepts of absolute value, positive/negative numbers, fractions and mixed number conversions, addition of negative numbers, and place value. In fact, the math conversation lasted 30+ minutes. Having these types of “math chats’ with third graders was a phenomenal learning experience. All of the concepts discussed will be introduced later in their academic career, and hopefully I gave my students a quick preview to what is to come.

Over the past few years, I’ve been working on ways to utilize technology to improve student learning. Understanding what objectives are being assessed helps me plan on what technology will be used and in what capacity it will be used. One of the second units in my class emphasizes the importance of estimation. The fifth grade Chicago Everyday Math curriculum asks the students to do the following:

Notice that the question says “location given by your teacher”. Instead of giving all the students a specific destination, I decided to have the students pick an establishment (Culvers, Kohls, local park, school, etc.) in the town that they reside. In the past, I’ve found that student choice can be a motivator for students. The destination had to be within 15 miles of the school. The students were grouped in triads and were given a computer to complete this task. Students were asked the following:

What is your destination?

About how many miles is it from your school to your destination?

About how many steps will it take to reach your destination? (they used the conversion in the journal above)

How long would it take you to reach your destination?

What breaks would you take during your walk to your destination?

If you left at 8:00 AM on Monday, when would you arrive at your destination?

The students were also given the Google Maps website to start their estimation challenge. Most students were able to navigate Google Maps and find the “get directions” tab and enter in the school address. The groups were able to find the establishment address fairly quickly, although some groups needed prompting. The student groups needed to find out what route to take to their destination. Some routes were quicker than others, but involved a lot of stopping at cross walks. Other routes were scenic, but took longer. Each group decided which route to take and found the Google Maps distance to the destination. Here is a sample of what the students were looking at:

Some of the groups extracted the “Google Maps time” to answer the questions. Other groups thought that it seemed odd that it would take a specific amount of time for everyone to reach the destination at the same time. One of my students remarked that not all people will take 2 hours and 56 minutes to reach the destination. I thought this was a prime opportunity to bring in the topic of ratios and proportions. One of the groups decided to time themselves walking 10 feet and then find out how long it would take to walk an entire mile at that pace. I was impressed with the groups that went beyond the artificial time given by Google Maps. Even more, the topic of ratios and proportions is typically introduced next school year.

Near the end of the project, the students presented their answers to the class. Each group chose a different location and I could tell that their answers were well thought out. Overall, the skills utilized in this project are applicable outside of the classroom and I feel that the students were fully engaged and met the objectives for the lesson. This is one of the projects that I’m planning on using next year. This is my second Google Maps activity, my first lesson can be found here.

The words above seem true. If you work in education, you most likely have heard about the math Common Core Standards. Many educators have been given instructions and maybe even have had the fortunate experience of attending a PD session on the Common Core. According to WAT, approximately 70% of teachers have received some type of Common Core training. Maybe your district now has a Common Core “aligned” curriculum or manipulatives that will be utilized in the classroom that emphasize the main points of the Core? Regardless of your situation, the content that you teach may be impacted by the Common Core Standards. Many educators/administrators are asking questions about the Common Core and seeking answers on their own. Common Core PD sessions have allowed teachers opportunities to ask questions and receive clarification on what is expected. Here are a few statistics:

If you are like many educators, then you’ve been trolling to find additional information about the Core and resources that will enhance your instructional practice. I’ve created a list below that may help us (as we are all in this together) unravel the Common Core and the changes that it will elicit over the next few years. The links below aren’t listed in any prioritized order, but they are categorized to help you (and me) find and use the information quickly. I have many of these sites already bookmarked, as I receive questions on the Common Core and it’s far reaching impact.