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.


6/30 how to recognize home 

How to recognize home

1. They say a week in nature will reset circadian rhythms and that trees speak to each other. I wonder if a tree shivers the same excitement at seeing me that I do when I walk into the shadow of the forest and the cool shade greets me and the earth absorbs my worries? I wonder if the trees in my back yard are too tame and too far from wild trees to whisper how much I need them? Do blades of grass play telephone, telling the woods to call me? I wonder if they are embarrassed for me when I can’t greet them by name?

2. A prairie wildflower, transplanted, she lost her childhood home to flames, victim of a serial arsonist and realized home wasn’t a house.

3. Carigana pods snap in summer heat, raining seeds. Sun bakes. Lake hair.

4. Chinook winds blow but who knew they weren’t warm, just the “snow eater”

5. “Home isn’t a place,” she reassured her mother, nervous about letting go of land, “it’s people. ‘But do carrigana seeds pop where Chinook winds blow?’ she wondered, not having noticed carigana here.. 

7. Home is known as home by how it feels.

**I am participating in #30daysofpoetry, in part to show my students I am a learner, too.

5/30 important

The important thing about libraries is that they are full of stories.

They are places where people meet and learn.

Full of children playing and people hunt-and-peck typing.

The shelves make space for more games and maker items than they used to, but that’s just another way to story.

So, the important thing about libraries is that they are full of stories.
*Inspired by Margaret Wise Brown’s The Important Book

4/30 a poem

A poem is when you read words more with your heart than your mind.

A poem is when you do something you love and you fill with sunshine..

A poem is a long lingering coffee with an old friend who knew you before all the things happened and loves you more because of all the things.

A poem is splashing water on your face before you dive into a cold lake so it won’t be such a shock.

A poem is the quiet before the rest of the house wakes up.

A poem is what a risk looks like on paper.

* Today’s poem inspired by This is a Poem that Heals Fish, which I used to help my students define a poem. I love that they took a risk in learning even though they didn’t all love it, they all tried it on.

2/30 a personal dictionary of obscure emotions

What’s that word for future missing; being in an experience and knowing someday it will fondly remembered and deeply missed? Trees reach dark fingers toward black sky, while snow floats gently down and gathers on your eyelashes as we chat about work, and errands, and other banalities.

* I’m writing 30 poems in 30 days to take a writing risk for my students. Eek… it’s hard.

1/30 Legends

When he was six,

He made a joke and I went along with it

And we laughed and laughed.

Five years later, he still tells the story of how hard we laughed that day.

And that’s how family legends are born.


*I decided to celebrate poetry month by writing a poem a day for 30 days…Taking a risk to show my students it can be done 🙂