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.

 

Kandinsky: Artist Study

  
Sometimes you run across a book that could easily be extended a million ways but there just isn’t enough time to take it as far as you’d like. This post is a fairly quick share because this lesson is already getting cold in our memories of Grade Three.

  
We used this template to observe Kandinsky’s work and then students were each asked to create their own work of art that represented a feeling and included math.

We read The Noisy Paintbox on the recommendation of a friend and colleague @fiteach. The students really enjoyed the juicy vocabulary and were drawn in to the specific vocabulary used to describe sound. The book includes a short biography of Wassily Kandinsky and they were delighted to learn that he had synesthesia, where senses cross and Kandinsky heard colours.

We extended it to include colour poetry. The book Green by Laura Vaucon Seeger was good inspiration for using specific vocabulary to describe colour. Students are working hard to include all their senses in writing to evoke an emotion in their reader. 

I’d like to note how proud I am that my students know the difference between fiction and non-fiction and they readily discussed how Kandinky’s Noisy Paintbox, historical fiction, married elements of both.

Drama as math provocation

This week my students are putting the finishing touches on scripts they’ll be using to create short films to present a math problem to visiting schools. The plan is for the viewer to watch the film, determine a problem, and solve it using math.

This, my friends, is no small undertaking. I’m nervous but that’s usually a sign that my students are on to something big!

Looking forward to sharing more soon!

Literature in the Math Classroom: Robert Munsch

This post was inspired by Darling Son’s bedtime stories, as my classroom lessons often are. This is our chance to catch up at the end of the day, but the teacher in me often uses what we read together in my classroom. Tonight, The Boy in the Drawer rang a bell for me as I’m working on measurement with my students through our classroom redesign project.

As suggested by Geri Lorway during last school-year’s math in residency, I’m starting the year with measurement as it integrates so many of the skills students will be using through the year. This post is just an odd collection of stories that I have used in the Grade Three classroom to support our math work. I developed a project-based unit, which I have been using to start the year, with a colleague, Isabelle Bujold, who I attended a PBL workshop lead by Charity Allen with in the spring of 2015.

More on that in another post.


Math and literature are made for each other; after all, story is everywhere and looking for math in literature is a good way to get students in the habit of looking for math in the everyday stories around them. When we are looking for rich, open-middle or open-ended math tasks, what better place than to begin with story.

What follows are just a few ideas and I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Usually as we read, I ask students what kind of math questions we might be asking, which they record using a mind map in their math journals (an unlined notebook. I like the unlined notebooks because it lends itself to students representing math thinking using the strategy that works best for them. Otherwise, I usually like to have students record math on graph paper as it helps keep things organized.)

Moira’s Birthday Party

Moira wants to invite the entire school to get birthday party! What math questions might we ask as we read? How did you estimate the total number of guests at the party? How many more cakes will come in the second delivery? What will be the total cost of the cakes? What information will we still need to gather to answer this question? What will be the cost of the pizzas? Where can we look to find the price of the pizzas? How can the pizzas and cakes be divided amongst the guests?

Materials: pencil, paper, fraction manipulatives, pizza flyers (or online), grocery story fliers (or online)

The Boy in the Drawer


In this story, a little girl is bothered by a little boy who shows up in her sock drawer. The more she tries mean tricks to get rid of him the taller he grows. She learns that kindness is the only way to get rid of him.

I used this book in the math classroom to have students work on measurement. They each chose a starting size for the little boy and each time he grows they add to his height.

Extension: have students estimate: how much water will it take to fill up a bread box? Estimate the number of socks in Shelley’s bedroom. What are you using to help estimate?

Materials: pencil, large paper, centimetre rulers, meter sticks, water and a breadbox (why not try it for real?)

Stinky Socks

For this little girl a new pair of socks is a big deal! What math questions might we ask about this story? What information do we still need to gather?

Materials: pencil, paper, catalogues, scissors, glue

Alligator Baby

This little girl’s parents end up making several trips to the zoo in the search for their own baby! What information do we still need to know to do the math? What distance will this family have covered in their car and on bike? What would be a good unit of measure to measure that distance? (mm, cm, km?) How tall is each of the babies? What unit of measure might we use?

Down the Drain  

Adam asks his father to buy him many items. What math questions might we ask about this story? Where will we find the information we need to finish our math story? What is the estimated total of what his father bought? What is the actual total of what he bought? Why do we estimate?

Materials: pencil, paper, catalogues, scissors, glue

Daily 5 in math

I feel like I’m still getting the hang of Daily 5 in math in grade 3; with every change of grade level there is a learning curve while learning a new curriculum and gathering materials that support the learning. 

This week my students are moving into multiplication and division, which has them over the moon (maybe because they perceive this to be “big kid” math).

Our centres are:

Math by myself: copy new vocabulary and begin this chapter’s illustrated dictionary.

Math with the teacher: guided introduction to the concept.

Math with a friend: textbook practice

Math problem: continue work on designing the community garden for our school.

Math with technology: IXL on the computer or splash math on the iPad 

Math games: I have… Who has…

I started the students who already have a foundation in multiplication and division at the more independent work and those who were still at the introductory stage in more supported work. I love that this allows me time to really target students at the right level for them but also allows them to interact, practice, and learn from one another. 

The Math Lab

Many years ago, I worked with some colleagues at Hawrylak to develop a math lab for our students. We put all of the French Immersion students in Grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 together in the Shared Learning area.

We created an extensive bank of levelled math problems and colour coded them according to difficulty. Each student was allowed to choose their own level with the understanding that they were each responsible for the work they did each week in math lab.

Each student kept a math journal. At the top of the page, students were required to record the colour of the problem and the number of the page they were working on. These problems were evaluated through meetings with the teacher, which allowed students to get one-on-one, just-in-time feedback. During this time, we had the support of every classroom teacher, the learning support teacher, and the vice-principal, which helped to reduce the student-to-teacher ratio. Our goal was to check in with each kid every day and ensure that they were getting exactly the support they needed.

I enjoyed this time with my students and am looking forward to adapting the math lab format to my current classroom. I have developed a bank of problems that are eau levelled. So rather than choosing a different coloured sheet, which might be a deterrent to some students who are embarrassed about choosing easier problems, each student gets a problem sheet that looks the same as the others and on the sheet there are four different levels of problems.

Many of the problems I have used for the first batch have been inspired by the book 50 Leveled Math Problems.

Math Centres

Today’s math centers are:

1. Math with technology: students will be using the ipads and ipods to create an “ebook” about “plus grand”. During centres, I will send two groups of students into the school with our mascots Coco and Biscuit to take pictures of things that are “plus grand que”. Students will return to the classroom to stitch their photos together into a book.

2.

Math by myself: students will complete an addition worksheet.

3. Math with someone: students will use manipulatives and their math journals to create addition stories.

4. Math games: there are two today: addition war and addition tenzie

20140415-082610.jpg