Friday, August 28, 2009

Data Collection: What's in a Name?

Chrysanthemum is a great math-literature connection for the beginning of a new school year. Teachers naturally include introductory activities so that students get to know each other and, in the lower grades, become familiar with the different names.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes presents an excellent opportunity for a data collection activity as students collect data on the lengths of their names, comparing them to the length of Chrysanthemum's name. Some primary teachers use this as an introductory reading activity in the beginning of the year as students learn to "read" their classmates' names. A video of this book is also available as a possible culminating activity.

Extending the Mathematical Activity:
  • Teachers may also extend the book to include more formal data anaylsis through line plots, graphing and identifying statistical landmarks (median, mode, range) of the collected data.
  • Students might also analyze the difference in lengths of first names versus last names.
  • Download Mathwire's How Much Is Your Name Worth which asks students to find the cost of their name, then show two different ways they could pay for their name with money.
  • Investigate letter symmetry. How many letters have line symmetry? Younger students should be given Ellison punched letters so that they can fold them to check for line symmetry. Older students might collect data on the number of symmetrical letters in students' names.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Game Day

Many teachers have instituted a weekly game day. On this day, students rotate in small groups through various math centers. Students play games, practice math facts, finish up projects, meet with the teacher, or work on enrichment activities. A simple work chart and a timer are all that are needed to keep the activities rolling.

Teachers who plan this day find that they are better able to differentiate instruction to meet both the need for reteaching and the need for enrichment. While students play games to practice math facts or math skills (e.g. place value), the teacher is free to meet with small groups of students to reteach a concept/skill, provide additional guided practice, conduct oral assessment, introduce problem solving tasks or provide enrichment to more talented students. Each group may rotate to the teacher station for varied purposes.

While at first, it may seem tough to carve out this time in an already demanding schedule, teachers find that it is incredibly successful and very effective in keeping the class on the pacing schedule. This day provides dedicated time to meet varied needs, catch up on workbook correction, practice open-ended problem solving skills and/or conduct one-on-one or small group oral assessment. Grade level teams may coordinate to effectively plan activities for these weekly sessions.

Read more about setting up a Game Day on Mathwire:
Try it -- you just might like the practice!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Active Participation: Using White Boards

Active Participation: Using White Boards

A few years back, NCTM sold buttons that said “Math is not a spectator sport.” This is so true as we know that students have to be ACTIVELY involved in math lessons in order to construct meaning for themselves. White boards are my favorite tool for easily adding participation to classroom lessons and activities. Each student must write on his/her white board, allowing the teacher to see what each student is thinking. This makes it easy to evaluate learning throughout the lesson and modify, reteach or enrich, as needed, to meet these identified needs. Teachers who sprinkle these quick, written checks throughout lessons find it easy to form small groups for additional instruction or guided practice. They also identify more capable students who do not need the extra practice and would benefit from some enrichment activity.

Cheap White Board Alternative
Each student should have a whiteboard, dry erase marker and eraser that is kept in his/her desk for easy retrieval. If you do not have whiteboards, or need more to have one for each student, consider using the cheap alternative. Place a sheet of white card stock in a shiny sheet protector and use this as a white board. You could use regular paper, but the card stock is heavier and holds up better. It will also remain upright when students hold up their white boards for checking. Erasers can also be small pieces of black felt so each student can have his/her own.

Use White Boards to Assess and Differentiate Instruction
Students love working with white boards. There’s something about the dry erase marker and the ability to wipe the slate clean and start over that appeals to even the most reluctant students. Unlike paper and pencil, wrong answers and mistakes are easily wiped away in the process of learning. Focusing on only one problem at a time also helps students who need chunking to reduce visual clutter or students who are overwhelmed by a whole blank worksheet or workbook page. So, get out the white boards, markers and erasers this year and start planning to use them throughout each math lesson. They are an extremely valuable tool as you quickly evaluate student understanding of the lesson’s objective. They are also provide a way to assess previous learning before beginning a new unit to be certain that students have the requisite concepts and skills.

Some Suggestions for Using White boards to Increase Active Student Participation:

  • Do Now or Warm-up Activity

: Give students the date (24) or any number, and have the students write as many different names for that number as they can in 1-2 minutes. Have students share their results in small groups, then ask groups to share their best responses.

  • Check for Understanding: ask students to write their response on the white board. Circulate around the room as students are writing. After several moments, ask students to hold up their responses. Call on specific students to share their thinking.
    o Write another fraction that is equal to ½.
    o Which is larger 7.2 or 7.20? Why?
    o What do you call the number that appears the most often in a data set?
    o When you measure around the yard for a new fence, are you finding the perimeter or area of the yard?
    Transition Times: give students a task to do as you check homework, distribute papers, etc. Tell students they will have to explain their thinking when you check whiteboards.
    o Write the fact family for these numbers: 4, 5, 9
    o Write as many different names as possible for the number 12.
    o Write down 5 fractions that are between ¼ and 5/8.
    o Show 4 different ways to make 45 ¢.

  • Guided Practice: have students do several examples on the white board for checking. Identify the students who have mastered the day’s objective and release them to independent work. Gather students who need more practice at a small table and guide them through additional examples, as needed, until they are ready for independent work.

  • Jeopardy-type review at the end of a unit: every student gets to answer so you quickly identify any sticky points before testing

  • And so on and so on and so on…

  • More Active Participation Strategies:

    Check out additional active participation strategies on Mathwire:

    What’s your favorite way to use white boards in your math lessons? Post a comment with your favorite strategy.

    Sunday, August 9, 2009

    Contig and Contig Jr. Games

    Contig Game

    The Contig Game is one of the best games for practicing basic facts and one of my personal favorites. I have found that both students and teachers quickly become engrossed in the game. It is rewarding to watch students mentally rehearse many different options in search of the best move! Students also learn from each other as they watch partners combine numbers and operations, strategizing aloud to create the perfect move that captures the most points. It is a rich game that allows for differentiation as students begin play at their own entry level of comfort yet accommodates growth as students become more proficient at basic facts and operations.

    In the Contig Game, students toss three dice. They use those three numbers and any operations (*,-,*,/) to form a number on the game mat. Players earn an extra point for each covered number their new number touches, so students quickly learn to search for the best move that will yield the maximum possible points. The instructional benefit of the game is that students try many different combinations in search of that best move. Students with solid “fact power” definitely have the edge in this game!

    Check out the Mathwire version of Contig to download the directions and game board in PDF format.

    NEW: Contig Jr. Game

    Now younger students can also practice their addition and subtraction facts with the new Mathwire junior version of the game. The new Mathwire Contig Jr. game board is obviously different and provides lots of options for students to mark their answers. Scoring is similar to the regular Contig game, in that students earn more points if they can make an answer that lies next to X’s already on the board. The game may also be played in a very simple mode, where students simply use the dice numbers and addition and/or subtraction to make a number that is open on the game board. If they can’t make a number that’s still free, they lose their turn, and the other player goes.

    Check out the Mathwire version of the new Contig Jr. game to download the directions and game board.

    Implementation suggestions:
    · Place the game board in a sheet protector and let students mark their numbers with dry erase markers. They may also keep score in the margins of the game board so that everything is all in one place. Alternately, use manipulatives to cover the numbers.
    · Group students homogeneously to play this game so that better students are challenged by equally competent players. Likewise, students who are still mastering basic facts have an even playing field when matched with similar ability students. This should encourage all students to master basic facts in order to capture more points and win the game. This grouping also provides the necessary pacing (faster or slower) to match student needs.
    · Limit play time to 5 or 10 minutes, if needed. The winner is the player with the most points at the end of this time period.
    · Place the game in the math center and allow students to play when they have finished their work, during indoor playground time, and during other identified times.
    · After lots of experience playing the game, organize a class play-off where the winning player advances to the next round to play another winning player, etc. Continue rounds until only one player is left to be crowned Class Contig Champion.

    Saturday, August 8, 2009

    Welcome to the Mathwire Blog: New Games

    Welcome to the new Mathwire Blog. Each post will feature the latest addition to the Mathwire site , a new twist on a Mathwire classic activity or an internet resource that supports elementary math learning. The Mathwire site features classroom-ready, Standards-based math activities for elementary teachers and students.

    Check back often as new activities are featured on the site as well as this blog. Please let us know if you try the activity in your classroom and how you might have adapted it to best meet the varied needs of learners in your class.

    New Games on Mathwire
    The beginning of the new school year is always a great time to brush up on basic facts mastery. Be sure to check out the new Three Strikes And You're Out Game which provides practice in addition or subtraction facts. You can download the directions, game board and game pieces in PDF format on Mathwire.

    While you're there, check out the new M&M Probability Game Pieces which were created to go with the M&M Probability Game, at the request of some users. You'll find links for the game directions, recording sheets, and game pieces. There are also pictures of the game being played so that you can see how to create the sentence strip game board complete with the M&M game pieces. Check out these resources and download the PDF files on Mathwire.

    Math games are a great way to provide basic facts practice. Students feel that they are playing, but they're really practicing their basic facts over and over, trying to make the best move to win the game. It's a win-win!