Monday 26 November 2012

Math-o-lantern and Learning (Math 8)

So often in Math education we compartmenalize the student's learning.  We do our Integer unit separate from our Fraction unit, which is separate from our Algebra unit, and so on for the year.  The more reading I am doing on Math education, the more I am starting to question this organizational strategy for Math.  When my husband and I put in new underground irrigation we used all our Math skills inter connected, and I wonder if we set up students for "real-life" math problems when we just focus on one or two skills at a time, instead of using all our number and reasoning skills at once.

So with this in mind, I thought that I would try something new.  With Halloween coming up, I thought that I would use pumpkins as a Math unit.  And really I was not too sure what I was going to do with them, but I wanted to do a thematic approach to math and measurement skills.  The more I researched, the more I saw other teacher units using pumpkings and bring in measurement, grouping, graphing, correlation and so forth.  This seemed like a fun hands-on activity that might bring some zest into our Math classroom.

On our first day of our pumpkin unit, I asked the students what we could use a pumpkin for in Math.  I wanted to see what they come up with as far as skills we could look at and study.  Most of them went right away to the idea of measurement,  so that is where we started. I asked them to collect 8 pieces of data on their pumpkin and to make sure that they were doing a proper mathematical diagram to symbolize what the number represented.  As this went, I realized that the idea of drawing a 3D shape and then putting on the proper dimensions with arrows and lines to show what you are truely measuring was a great place to start.  So then we spent the next day talking about how to set up diagrams, show 3D measurement on a 2D sheet of paper, etc.  Then we went on to look at the internal measurement potential.  Day 3 was counting seeds, grouping seeds, and looking at fraction diagrams.  Day 4 was using fraction equations to season and roast the pumpkin seeds (yumm!), and then day 5 was carving a Math Symbol pumpkin face!  

The feedback that I got back from the students was very positive.  

A couple of learning moments for next time.  In order to have the carving done on Halloween I ended up rushing through the graphing portion.  I think that I would maybe try to double block Math during this unit, so that I could spend more time on the graphing day.  That is still an area that students really struggle with.  We also ran into the issue of rotting pumpkins (with a weekend in there the pumpkins were gutted and inside for one week...too long)  But on the plus side, we had some beautiful mold to look at under the microscopes.  So and math in one lesson!  What fun!

This post is courtesy of Shona Becker

For another example of a thematic unit in math see the following 2 posts:

Christmas Toy Project Part I (Math 9)

Thursday 15 November 2012

Happy Math (Grade 4/5)

Today I tried something new in Math!

I have been doing warm up practise with my students using small chalkboards in class and they have been enjoying that, but today I tried something new.

I took the class outside and gave them sidewalk chalk (given to our school through the Different Lens project)
I held up a small white board with a problem on it (and I verbally repeated the problem) while students copied it down on the ground using chalk and then solved the problems.
We did our math questions all over the school ground using different size and colours of chalk and they LOVED it! (See attached pictures :)

Most students stayed on task but I could easily see those who were not. Also, I could quickly tell who was understanding the concept (subtracting 3 and 4 digits) and who was not.

It was a great day for happy math in my class!

Post courtesy of Kendall Kulak

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Edible Rational Numbers (Math 9)

I had thought about doing a foods lab before, but it never came to fruition until this year.  We decided to make Rice Krispies squares because it is a simple recipe and the cost of the ingredients were not too expensive.  The icing was made before class (two different colours to represent positive and negative rational numbers) the butter was pre-cut into tablespoon blocks. 

The concepts that were explored in the lab:
Positive and negative rational numbers
Adding and subtracting rational numbers
Doubling a rational number
Dividing a rational number in half
Placing rational numbers on one large number line

Students were placed in groups of 4 in order to participate in the lab.  Each group was responsible for representing one positive and one negative rational number.  Teams were given one square 9”x9” pan and one similar sized circular pan to use to represent each of the groups’ assigned rational numbers. 

Students place numbers on the giant number line 
Basically there are 5 components to this lab:  1. Paper Assignment   2.  Making the Rice Krispies and dividing the product evenly into one square pan and one circular pan 3. Dividing each pan into the appropriate parts to represent the two different rational numbers.  4.  Each group then placed the two rational number representations on the large class number line in the appropriate location.  5.  The exercise concluded with a class discussion and review of the final number line.

I asked the students to reflect on, and provide feedback about the lab during the following math class.  Here are some of their thoughts/feedback they provided:

“I liked it because it showed how it (rational numbers) relates to real life”.

“I liked the foods lab because it was a learning hands-on activity.  It was cool to see the big number line and where all the Rice Krispies squares fit on it.  It was a nice break from the textbook, and it was helpful to visualize”.

“It was yummy and fun! It was a good way to work with other students”.

“It is fun to learn in different ways instead of from a textbook.  It’s a really nice break and I wish we did them more often.  I actually did learn from placing them on the number line.  It was a really good idea!”

“I think having a foods lab is a wonderful idea for us to get a delicious hands-on math lesson!  Two thumbs up!”

My conclusions: The food lab was a worthwhile departure from a regular lesson because it engaged students in learning about rational numbers in a dynamic and meaningful way. The exercise fostered communication within groups and between groups resulting in as deeper understanding of the concepts. Since most (if not all) of the students enjoyed the lesson I would definitely try the food lab again.

Post courtesy of M. Berrisford

Sunday 4 November 2012

Richer, Stronger, More Active Classrooms-Oct. 19th Pro-D

On Oct. 19 we had 55 teachers meeting for the day at Maggie and Skaha Lake.    The focus of the day was on active, hands-on and meaningful tasks to engage all our learners.  The sessions included tableaus, project based learning, how to use novelty and variety in the classroom to change things up, mask making, white boards and technology - (including digital cameras, comic life and movie making).  Teachers who were not part of the project began to understand what we are trying to do in the project, and those in the project learned new skills and ways to engage students.  The response overall was great, and the day flew by. 

What was interesting to me as I moved from session to session was the active engagement of the teachers and the laughter in a number of sessions.  Everyone seemed to be having fun or listening intently.  Teachers were working together to create tableaus, working independently to make a comic and sharing and laughing with others, or asking questions and being curious.  By the end of the day we saw samples of movies about their staffs, magazine covers made with digital cameras, masks and comics.  We heard conversations about how to use these activities/strategies from kindergarten to grade 12 - in electives and content areas, and we had comments like "come here and look at this", "this is so much fun!" ... it sounded a lot like kids!

It was great to see people taking risks and trying things they might not normally expose themselves to.  Why?  Because they know that some of their students would love to be involved and learning in these ways.  For many of our students these kinds of activities help them to connect with school - they become engaged and interested; they want to participate; they enjoy themselves.  Eric Jensen in his book "Teaching with Poverty in Mind" shares research that shows that when kids are engaged in learning - the negative behaviour in the class decreases.  He talks about engaging instruction as "any strategy that gets students to participate emotionally, cognitively, or behaviourally.  Engagement happens when you as an instructional leader stimulate, motivate, and activate.  Engagement can result from fun games, intellectual challenges, social interactions and your own enthusiasm" (p 134).  One of the premises of his book is that kids in poverty come to school with many disadvantages behaviourally and academically, but we can change and influence this in many ways.  One, of a number of strategies,  is through providing engaging classroom practice which "includes them and their interests in the process" (p. 134).

by Judith King