Every few years I end up teaming with another teacher for various reasons and take a break from teaching one subject or another. For the last two years I took a break from math and science. Now that I am back to teaching these again, I wanted to change it things up.
Last school year I attended a PD session with John Stevens (of Classroom Chef and Table Talk Math). There were so many ideas to use in the classroom. Some that I have incorporated this year already are Estimation 180 (which gets the kids thinking about not only estimating, but how numbers work in the real world), Would You Rather Math (trying to decide between the large chocolate bunny for the sale price or 3 smaller bunnies for a low price each is such a great critical thinking problem!), and Which One Doesn't Belong (Hint: they're all special in math and non-math ways!). The students look forward to our 10-15 minutes of these each day. There is no worry about working out a problem or even showing our work. Just talking about the math they used to pick their answer. They love it. AND they're increasing their ability to solve math problems. (We also tried a few Jo Boaler activities as well, but that's a whole other post by itself!)
One of the biggest ways I am changing is to run math rotations instead of whole class teaching. For each part, the students are focusing on a different skill. Center one is our technology focus. They work on a website that allows them to work on the current set of standards we are using at their level (whether that be intervention, on grade level or enrichment) and basic fact practices. Center two is our PBL (project based learning activity). This center is the only reason that my rotations are grade level specific. The current PBL is a combination of social studies and math. Since 4th grade is about California and 5th is the United States the groups are separated. This is not something I do for most of our subjects or activities. The third center is math games. Last week the students played three digit war. They had a blast and focused on place value without even thinking about it. This week they are going to play Factor Captor, focusing on factors, prime/composite numbers, and multiplication facts. The last center is run by me. Sometimes this will be skill based, sometimes it will focus on number sense math talk. (Yes, it takes a LOT of class management and a few extra adults to be able to successfully run all of this!)
Over the summer I had the chance to participate in the Build Math Minds online tech conference. A big theme of the conference was about math talk. One of my favorites was from Steve Wyborney. I immediately decided to put what I had learned in his session into practice during my teacher center. We play the Splat game (see his website linked above for more information!). What I love about the game is that I have already figured out where my students are in their ability to understand math sense and we have only done this three rounds. Some students (both 4th and 5th grade) are only comfortable using addition and subtraction, some have moved to multiplication and division. Some are great with visuals but struggle when you ask them to put the same idea into a number sentence. Some of the students are great with the math but can only see it in their head and struggle with both visual or number representations of how they got their answers. Having students share in a small group has shown them that everyone can have a different way of getting the same answer and that we all have value. All of that in a 20 minute rotation! WOW!
The best part of all of this so far has come from our back to school night last week though. Three separate sets of parents came up to me saying that their child came home saying that they love math and that is something that has never happened. While three doesn't sound like a lot, it's three students who have previously felt they weren't "math" people in the past. That's enough of a reason to continue what I'm doing. I can't wait to see how they progress as we continue with our math talk.
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching