Along with this post is a new math activity on our Teachers Pay Teachers site – Take a look here.
As you probably know, teaching is one of those things you do which is ever changing. Even if you are doing the exact same lesson in the exact same unit with the exact same grade at the same school… something WILL be different! That’s because our students are always different. And it is one of the things I like most about teaching because I find it new and exciting all the time. So with that in mind, this is how I’ve been teaching math as of right now, the moment I’m writing this… Ask me tomorrow and it might have changed – ha!
One of my goals this year was to really work on how I teach math effectively. My learning (or Pro D I guess) started with the opportunity to test out the Educating Now website and continued through the For the Love of Math conference. Along with both of those resources have been MANY long conversations with colleagues, friends, family… Really anyone who would listen and answer my questions! About a month ago I realized that I was starting to teach math in a way that really worked for me.
Note: Most of these ideas are from other people that I have adapted to suit my needs. I apologize if I have not been able to give proper credit to sources but I had so many conversations that I can’t necessarily remember who said what. Please know that I am beyond grateful to everyone and anyone who has helped me on my (math) teaching journey.
Interactive Math Notebooks
I started this in January and I absolutely love how well they are working in our class! Most of my information I have on them is from Runde’s Room (she has an AMAZING resource on her Teachers Pay Teachers site that is worth every penny!) and then I have adapted my own activities from there. Basically every time we start a new section for math we have some sort of interactive notes that will become an entry in the notebook. Some helpful tips:
- Keep a table of contents current on your board somewhere so kids can check that they are up to date.
- Make your own notebook as a demonstration that can also be given to students who were absent to catch up
- Have each student glue an envelope in the front cover of their notebook to keep spare pieces
- Make sure you have lots of scissors and glue!
I started doing some small group lessons in the fall but hadn’t found an effective way to incorporate them into my practice. This is the one area that will definitely change as I continue to teach math because it really depends on class dynamics. Right now I am using a practice one of my administrators told me about: after each whole class lesson I assign some practice questions and then I ask students who are not quite understanding to meet me at the back table. There are a few students who by myself or their parents, have been told to come each time, there are quite a few who make the choice to come each time and then there are a few who come to the back as necessary. Together we work through a couple questions and using the small whiteboards I can quickly check to see who is understanding or not. This has been a great support for some of my students and I have noticed a big difference in their understanding.
This is another time I use small group teaching too. On Fridays we have a double block of math in which we usually do math stations. Although with Pro D Days and early dismissal we haven’t done this quite as often as I would like! For the math stations I have 5 or 6 stations set up that we rotate through in the double block. Usually the stations look like this:
1. Basic Facts Practice (a routine we have set up in our classroom)
2. Problem Solving (whiteboard markers and window space make this a fun one!)
3. Small group teaching (I go over a new lesson or extra practice similar to the above small groups)
4. Unit Specific Game (This is where I love TPT resources – Especially the free ones)
5. Basic Facts Game (The dice game Pig is a favourite)
6. BuzzMath (Sometimes we do this one on the iPads)
This is one of my favourite new practices I have learned from a colleague! For our assessments we are now using a 4 question assessment for each Prescribed Learning Outcome (PLO) from the curriculum. Basically, my teaching team and I have sat down and created these assessments that have four leveled questions relating to the topic. The first question will show a basic understanding of the topic, usually something covered in a previous grade. The second question will be a very basic, practical application of the concept. The third question will show the application of the concept in context and the fourth shows higher level thinking either through problem solving or combining multiple concepts. This is such an easy way to get a snapshot of a students understanding and it takes away the pressure of the big math test.
Unit Plan and Assignments
When I go to plan a unit I usually look back at the curriculum from grade 6 to remind myself the basics that they should have. We always start our units with a good review of previous topics (I love using Math Aids for this, although not super interactive it is a lifesaver when it comes to prep time!) One of my biggest obstacles this year was trying to figure out what to mark myself, what to record, and how to help kids take responsibility for their own learning. What I have been doing for any assignments/homework that I give from the textbook is that the expectation is now that a completed assignment is finished, marked, AND corrected. The day the assignment is due I walk around with a clipboard and check students off for their assignments. Yes having students mark their own work is a bit of a risk, however you can usually tell who is doing the work properly and it really has put the learning back on them! It has also helped my student to make sure they let me know if they have had trouble or questions about their assignments.
Where Am I Going From Here?
I am going to continue with most of these practices for the rest of the year. My main efforts are going to be trying more project-based learning in math for our last few units. I am not quite sure how this will go but I will keep you posted! As far as plans for future teaching? The only thing I would like to change is to really increase my use of small group teaching. I’ve struggled a bit with the classroom management aspect of this with my current class but I think in the future I will have a better idea of how to lay out expectations and practice appropriate behaviour as we begin meaningful math practices.
I would love to hear your feedback!
What do you do in your math class?