Sunday, 8 September 2013

Those first few days...(part 3)

Week one down!
I'm a little late on the last post of my 3 day series, and that is likely due to the fact that I was utterly exhausted on Friday, and just needed a little down time.
So here I am today, feeling somewhat refreshed on a beautiful Sunday morning.

So moving on to my last goal...

Goal #3

Now that I know a little more about my students and they know a little more about me, I want to get them interacting with each other, using Math of course.

I love presenting my students with a challenge that requires them to work in groups to determine a solution. Here's the challenge:

I first read the problem to the students and then provide each group with their own copy to re-read. Then they are on their own to come up with the solution. It doesn't take long before some get instead of solving the problem they start coming up with creative ways to get around the problem.

Here are some of my favourites:

"Why can't they just throw the flashlight across the bridge?"
"Why can't the 5 minute guy give the 25 minute guy a piggy-back ride?"
"What can't one guy stand in the middle of the bridge and shine the flashlight?"

I have done this challenge with grade 7's and 8's, as it is pretty challenging. Usually most students are not able to find the solution before time is up, so we solve it as a class. I ask for 5 volunteers - the 5 min guy, the 10 min guy, the 20 min guy, the 25 min guy, and a recorder to add up the time on the board.

The four explorers come up to the front of the room, and we act out the scenario (I even turn the lights out to make it authentic). I ask for a volunteer student to attempt to solve the problem. I ask them, "who should have the flashlight?", "what 2 explorers should go first?", we go until each explorer has crossed the "bridege" and we have added up the time. In most cases the total will end up being 65 minutes. By the end of the class, and some guidance on my part, we are able to discover the solution.

There is a solution, but I'm not going to give it to you...

For the first person to solve it and write a detailed explanation in the comments, I will send you my Team Challenges for FREE! Remember to leave your email.
Put your thinking caps husband was actually reading the problem this morning and wasn't able to solve it before asking me to just tell him the answer.

Unfortunately, I do not know the original creator of this challenge, I found it in a pile of stuff from my collaborating teacher 10 years ago. I searched online and found a few similar word problems. Another one I love, with a similar challenge is "The Chicken Crossing".


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Those first few days... (part 2)

So the first day flew by of course, and I barely got through a fraction of what I had planned. Looking on the bright side, as my husband pointed out, I guess I already have tomorrow planned!

So moving on from my post from yesterday...

Goal #2

Now that I have an idea of where my students are in terms of their math abilities, and their feelings about math, my next step is to get them thinking about math and how it relates to them. I do this in a very easy way...we talk about numbers! Shocking, I know!

The activity I am about to describe can be done at any's that simple!

{Psssssst - If you make it to the end of this post there is a keep reading!}

I strongly believe that the key to engaging your students in math class is to help them make real life connections to what they are learning. This activity not only assists in making real life connections, but also personal ones.

Before I do this activity, we have a class discussion about how math is all around us and ways that we use math every day. I pose the question, “Do you think numbers are important?” Most say yes. Then, “Do you think numbers are important to you?” Most think about this one!

I then place the above on the overhead and inform my students that these numbers are important to me for different reasons. I then turn it into a guessing game where they have to try and determine the numbers significance. I usually offer prizes for correct guesses.
Once the students have guessed all my numbers I have them complete the same activity using numbers that are personal to them.

How you choose for your students to present their numbers is up to you. In my classroom (grade 8), it is the first page in their math scrapbooks, but I think it would also make a great poster in the lower grades.

Once they are done, I  give the students time to pick a partner and guess each other's numbers. They always have a great time guessing!

Just a heads up...because I was caught off guard one year...there is usually one student who doesn't have a partner, so I end up guessing their numbers just so they don't feel left out. One year, I couldn't for the life of me figure out what this one boy's number signified. Turned out to be the year his dad left...I didn't know what to say, so I told him I understood why that number would stick with him. Now when I do this activity I might mention the fact that numbers are capable of bringing back memories, good and bad.

Here are some finished samples.

(some students choose to incoporate pictures within their numbers as hints)

I hope this is an activity you can see using in your own class. I bet your kids will love it and it works great as an ice-breaker at the beginning of the year.

OK, I promised you a giveaway, so here it is.
If anyone is able to guess any of my personal numbers from above, I will send you a copy of my "Number of the day" for FREE. Put your guess in the comments, along with your email. One guess per person please.

HINT - it may be helpful if you download your free copy of the activity here.

Stay tuned for Goal #3 tomorrow.




Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Those first few days... (part 1)

So this is it...summer is over.
I swear it went way faster this year, but I probably say that every year.
So we are back to reality tomorrow...and taking on a new set of challenges with new kids but my mission remains the same...
My Math Mission - to get kids to realize the importance of math and have a little fun while doing it!

I know that on that first day of school, there are a few kids that will walk into my classroom and already dislike me simply because I am the MATH teacher! I accept this. I acknowledge that math is not every student's favorite subject. So I take these students on as my personal challenge! They are the ones I am going to show that Math is important, Math can be fun, and Math is definitely real!

One way to not do this, is to start teaching "math" the second they sit down in my room. I cringe when I hear teachers say, "I start teaching from day 1, how else am I going to meet all my outcomes/standards?" I know there are things we need to get done, but throwing multiplicaton facts or algebraic equations at them the first day, is just going to push these reluctant learners further and further away. We need to help them warm up at bit first, get to know them as math learners, get them talking about math, and most importantly provide them with activities in which they will all feel successful. Once you do these things, your plans to meet all those outcomes/standards will fall into place. I promise!

My three main goals during the first week of school are:
1) Get to know my student's individual abilities and thoughts when it comes to math.
2) Get my students thinking about math and how it relates to them.
3) Get my students interacting with one another by using math.

Goal #1

One of the first things I have students do is complete a "Math Survey". This survey gives me a glimpse into my students' needs, abilities, as well as their feelings when it comes to math. We all know that math can often have a bad reputation, and some students will enter your room with “math anxiety”. They may be skeptical of math the moment they walk into your room, because of their parents, previous math teachers, or from previous math experiences. I feel that this is a great way to get students to open up about their views of math class, and more importantly have them feel that they have a say in the math classroom.


The typical responses I get for best and worst math experience are getting a bad/good mark on a test. But every now and then, I am taken aback by a response that I get, which makes me glad to have had them completed this survey.

One year a boy wrote, " My worst math experience was being pulled out in grade 3 for extra math help". This comment really made me wonder, I know the "pull-out" for extra support has been used on and off in some form for quite a while. As a teacher, I know we often think this will help, as they are getting the extra support they need when we are not able to provide it. However, seeing that this student has carried this with him since grade 3 ( I teach grade 8), makes me wonder did we make things any better for him in terms of his math learning? Or worse? Just something to think about...

Once my students complete the survey, I may ask for some to share their responses, just to get a conversation going. I then inform them, that since they told me what kind of students they are, I should tell them about what kind of teacher I am.

I usually start by telling them that math was not always my favorite (or best) subject in school, but I love to teach Math! I never use a textbook (this always gets a few cheers), I love to make math fun
with hands-on activities and games, and my main goal is to make them see how important math is and how they will use it one day in their future jobs, whatever that may be!

By the end of the period, I usually have a few more of those reluctant Math learners on my side...

If you would like to get to know your students as math learners, download your FREE copy of the survey here.

Stay tuned for how I meet goal #2!