The Math Lab (v2.I Lost Count)

This year’s iteration of the math lab includes: personal practice, math journaling, and problem solving.

Students know they are working on “je peux” statements and are responsible to themselves and to me. I usually ask for a parent volunteer to help during this time.


1. Personal practice

Personal practice pages include work that students are able to self correct.  Interactive math journal pages that we have completed and that they can practice again or self-correcting flash cards. I see this as the place where students are building fluency with numbers. Sometimes even self-correcting drill-and-practice math apps make an appearance here. Is it the most rich math activity I can find? No. But there is value in becoming fluent with math facts and I see that as the purpose of personal practice in the math lab. Strategies for calculating are taught through the week and then reinforced through practice during math lab time.

2. Math journaling

Math journals are a work in progress…

I have always had a “math board” where I stuck up the unit’s vocabulary… but the problem was that this was teacher generated and teacher owned. My work this year has been making space for student agency where the math board is student-generated.

Each week we add to a math PWIM board on a moveable trifold. The board includes a math-based image and vocabulary, phrases and problems students are able to shake out of the image. This board is moved to the library where students work with parent support. I have decided this year to use parent volunteers in support of math more than literacy as I typically have in the past. I say this is a work in progress because I find that I almost need to provide parents with a mini-lesson to support students here. Ideally, I’d like to include a QR or AR code that parents and students can use to trigger a video related to the concept.

Students journal about the week’s work, including math language to explain the problem or number talk image on the PWIM board.

3. Open-ended problem solving 

So about those word problems… In the past I have used leveled problems where students could choose their level of challenge. Lately, though, I am working on using more open-ended or open-middle math problems that have an entry point for every student. When students are allowed to make their own sense of a problem they can choose how they express their understanding. This is the centre where I like to work for the duration of math lab so that I can provide feedback to students while they work. Because this is new students will often turn to me and ask, “is this right?” For the time being, I am turning the question back to them, “why do you think your answer is right?” I hope they will get out of the habit of seeking one right answer with time.

I’ve been thinking about the role of vocabulary in math; Immersion teachers are always saying that students are capable of doing the math but that problem solving is a problem because students can’t read in math and make sense of word problems. So we taught them to read for numbers and question words.

But that’s not enough.

We need to provide students with the opportunity to engage in meaningful mathematical discourse and for immersion students that means we need to give students time to talk about ideas using subject specific vocabulary before we let them loose on problems (more on word problems later).

I am interested in where math meets story and how we can get our language learners talking in the math classroom. I’d love to hear how other teachers are supporting our second-language students in math.


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