Last week many of my students took a pre-assessment on an adaptive app. This particular app gave students questions in a certain math strand area and sent out a grade level equivalency score (GRE). Once students finished the pre-assessment they were given question at the GRE. If a student answered a question incorrectly they were sent to a help screen. The students were asked to watch a video about the concept. Some of the students watched the video while others made more attempts at finding a solution. Even after watching the video students still answered the question incorrectly. Every incorrect question asked student to watch a video and try the question again. Some of the students became frustrated and quit.
Most of the student were finding that the video wasn’t a helpful for math practice. This type of math exposure/practice wasn’t meaningful to the students. After observing this I started to analyze my school’s math practices. I started to question how many math exposures we truly give to students and how many of those opportunities are truly meaningful to students.
I find that students at my school are exposed to math in a variety of settings. Students are introduced to the idea of a particular math concept through a parent, teacher, nature, workbook, video, and many others. This experience is usually followed up with additional practice at some point. Students need to be given time to practice and apply what they’re learning. This often leads teachers to give students multiple exposures to specific math concepts. These exposures or practice opportunities give students time to experience math in different ways and through this I feel like students are able to comprehend/apply the math at a higher level.
Providing those multiple exposures is important. The form that the practice takes is just as important. While I’m in and out of different classrooms I find that the additional exposures sometimes take the forms below.
Although it may benefit some it’s not the only solution and I wouldn’t categorize this type of practice as extremely meaningful. Primarily, I find student math journals or worksheets used for math practice. I believe both of these have a role in practice but changing the exposure model has benefits and often those two mediums are used for homework. In my district student will at some point have to show an understanding of numbers on a worksheet. Generally these types of worksheets are found on unit assessments. I should also mention that digital worksheets fall into this category as well.
These are some of the more memorable experiences in class. Giving students a problem with multiple solutions can be refreshing and give insight to what students are thinking as they create a solution. This can also take the form of having students create projects with their peers.
Taking out the pattern blocks can lead to some great learning opportunities. Fractions, base-ten blocks, algebra tiles, 3d Shapes, and many other manipulatives play a vital role in the classroom. Eventually these manipulatives take an abstract form on a worksheet/screen.
Games are exciting. Blending math concepts, games and a bit of competition can lead to learning opportunities. I find this especially evident when the teacher or student helps explain their mathematical thinking in the process.
Watching a brief video about a particular concept can be a great opportunity for students. Pausing and offering commentary or asking questions can help students delve deeper into a particular concept.
Having a classroom discussion about a particular math concept can be powerful. Often these types of conversations can expand understanding of math concepts. Hearing other students’ experiences or strategies many benefit the class. It may also be helpful to document the class ideas and refer to the learning at a later time.
Giving students opportunities to reflect on their learning can pay dividends throughout the school year. I find this to be especially beneficial as students look back at their progress to observe their own mathematical growth. The reflection can take place after any of the strategies shown above.
Math practice takes on many different forms. How do educators make it a meaningful experience for students?