Sunday, 7 May 2017

Journal Writing in Math class? What's up with that?

Have you tried journal writing in Math class yet?

I have been using journal writing to assess my students general understanding of math, and gain a deeper knowledge of their thoughts and feelings about math, for quite a while, and I cannot begin to tell you how beneficial it is.
When I first introduce journaling to my students in my class, I generally hear comments like, "Aren't we in Math class right now?", followed by, "Isn't journaling for Language Arts class?".

Who would have thought that you can journal in Math class too!

So, the BIG question...

Why Journal in Math class?

A Math journal can be used as a strategy to provide students with an opportunity to:
  • reflect on their math understanding and learning
  • search for real life connections
  • openly write about ideas, thoughts, and feelings about math
  • become more actively involved in their own learning
  • make use of the math vocabulary presented in class
A Math journal can be used as a strategy to provide teachers with an opportunity to:
  • differentiate for a variety of learners
  • assess their students' knowledge in a variety of ways
  • provide students with an alternative way to explore and enhance their learning
  • integrate outcomes/standards from other subject areas

How to Journal in Math Class

How and when to journal is completely up to you and your students. To maximize the benefit of journaling, I recommend doing it at least once a week as a warm-up/wrap-up activity in your math class. To help me incorporate journaling into our weekly routine, I refer to Thursday as, "Thinking Math Thoughts". At the beginning of the class I present a journal starter to the class and allow them 10-15 minutes to write their thoughts in their journal. Depending on the topic, we may have a class discussion afterwards.

Another way to encourage your students to journal is to keep a basket of journal starters out in your classroom. If students finish an assignment early, they can grab a starter and write a journal entry on their own.

Journaling can also be a very insightful form of assessment. Journal entries can be both an effective and efficient way to check for understanding. Once a lesson is complete, it can be followed with a quick question for the students to solve. They can then elaborate in their journals. Use as an exit slip to determine where you students are today and what they will be ready for tomorrow.

Using journals as a formal assessment will often tell you more about your students' understanding that a test would. In order to assess specific skills, relate your journal entry directly to the concept you want to assess. Journaling requires students to put their thought process on paper, a difficult task for some. I always find it fascinating that the ones that struggle the most with this assessment are often my strongest math students. They often default to, "I just know it. I can't explain it." 

Student sample explaining Order of Operations to another student.

I encourage you to attempt journaling in your own Math class. As this becomes an established expectation, your students will gradually become stronger mathematical thinkers and more confident math learners. If you see value in incorporating this into your teaching practice, you can check out the full resource here.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Warm-ups aren't just for Gym class!

Hi there!

I am interested to hear how you start your math class. I find that the first 5 minutes of the class are crucial to getting your students to "buy in" to your class. Are they going to be engaged, are they going to try their best, and they going to have a positive attitude? 

I am here to tell you about how I get my students engaged and thinking mathematically within the first 5 minutes of class. Math warm-ups! Have you tried them?

Transition times can be rough, especially in the social atmosphere of middle school. Students come into your room, already fully engrossed in the conversation they started in the hall. So how do you grab their attention while prepping their brains for a period of math?

I have found the best way to start my math class is by using a short and simple math warm-up. I know it can be a challenge to get through our curriculum in the time we have with our students, but I can tell you that taking the first 5 minutes to engage your students with a quick activating activity is well worth it.

Let me backtrack for a minute and tell you how I incorporate math warm-ups in my class. From the very beginning of the year I implement a math routine. Each day we start class with a different activity. Some days it can be as simple as an optical illusion (kids LOVE these), while other days we start with a journal entry, a brain teaser, or a number activity.

After a bit if training, students know what is expected of them, and they usually get down to the task at hand right away. Whatever activity is happening that day, the instructions are on the board/projector as soon as they walk in, that way they can get started on their own without any support from myself. If you decide to implement a similar routine, I can tell you that you will notice a difference in your students. They will begin to automatically focus on the day's warm-up as they enter the room, settle quicker, and get working sooner!

Today I am going to share a few different number activities I use in my classroom to get my students engaged, while strengthening number sense at the same time. It’s a win-win!.

Spot the Imposter

I love this activity! It is so fast and simple, but the kids will love it. Tell them that they need to be math detectives and determine which number does not belong.

106 is the imposter, as it is the only one where the sum of the digits is not equal to 8

 As an additional activity, have students create their own in their notebooks to share with a partner.

{Download level 1 for FREE here!}

Number of the Day

Definitely not a new idea by any means, but often only used in the lower grades. Select a number as a class. I often have random students roll dice, or select from a deck of cards.

The great things about these activities is that they can be used multiple times, simply change the number. Easy differentiation as well, as you can decide how many digits to use.

It’s all the Same

This is a great activity that helps stress that numbers can be expressed in multiple ways. It seems easy enough, but quite a few students will begin to struggle once they have the first 5 or so. I find it encourages them to be a little creative, by coaching them to make use of pictures, numbers, and words.

I always have the students come up to the board and show one of the ways they came up with, In the end, we usually have a lot more than 8 ways represented on the board.

Making Numbers

I love this activity as it incorporates a visual and kinesthetic component. Provide each student with a set of number chips, and have them create different numbers using a set criteria.

I hope you found a few ideas that you can try in your own classroom. These activities can be used in multiple ways as well, not necessarily as warm-ups alone. Have 5 minutes left at the end of class? Use them as a wrap-up activity/exit slip. Have some early finishers? Use them as an enrichment activity or in a center.

Interested in using Math warm-ups in your class? You can check out my full collection of warm-ups in my TpT store.

I hope you give some math warm-ups a try this week! Let me know how they go.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Celebrating Pi's not just for Math class!

Hi there!

I am here to tell you that I LOVE Pi Day!
Every year March 14 comes around I get a little giddy! I think every math teacher understands.
I always make it my personal mission to make a big deal out of it, and get the kids super excited, days in advance.

Here's a glimpse at how I celebrate Pi day:

Every year Pi day looks a little different. I've celebrated the day simply within my math classes, I've celebrated with my whole team, and I've also organized the day for a whole grade level. I've done small scale and large scale celebrations, and they have always been well worth the organization required. The kids (and teachers) always have a blast!

One misconception I think a lot of teachers have about Pi Day is that it is all about Math...not true! When I first sat down with a colleague of mine, we made sure to integrate our activities within all the core subject areas. This way we were able to convince our team teachers to get on board with us, to make Pi Day an all day celebration! Research a little Pi history, write a funny poem or song about Pi, integrate some Pi Art, the possibilities are endless.

Here's just a few of the activities I do throughout the day.

1. Pi Memorization - I don't think Pi day is complete without a memorization competition. A week in advance I inform students of the competition and provide them with cards with the first 100 or so digits of Pi. I had a student last year blow my class record of 170 digits out of the water, by memorizing 217! My mouth was literally on the floor!

2. Pi Facts - Read interesting facts about Pi to your students throughout the day, or post them around your classroom. If there is time, use these facts to create a short trivia game that students can compete in at the end of the day. 

3. Pi challenges - I do a couple of these throughout the day as quick engagement activities. One activity the kids really enjoy is making a list of all the words they can think of that start with "pi".

4. Pi Centers - Have students work through a series of centers to learn even more about this amazing number.

5. "Pi"e activities - Pi Day wouldn't be complete without some actual pie. Two ideas - pie eating competition, pie throwing auction - enough said!

Want to celebrate Pi Day, but don't have the time to plan it?
Check out my full resource for a fun-filled Pi Day here.

Happy Pi Day to all my fellow Math teachers! Have an ePIc one!