Monday, March 5, 2018

Resource Ideas to Use for Small Group Instruction and Centers in the Math Classroom

It's time to dust off this blog and start reconnecting and sharing.

After recently doing a session with some teachers on guided math, one area I know that is of interest is resources. Questions I hear are: What do I do use for students during small group instruction? What resources do I use for those students I am not working with? Let me share a view that might work for you. I included links below to some sites that you might find beneficial for your students.

First and foremost, I recommend looking at the curricular resources your district supports. Sometimes there might be an untapped gem that you can use that you simply cannot "fit" into your normal instruction routine. Are there any center activities or games or technology resources or virtual manipulatives that students can use to grapple, explore, and strengthen their skills as mathematicians? Sometimes these types of resources can be used for recycling skills. Think about repurposing what is already available to you in district curriculum.

Technology sites such as LearnZillion, MobyMax, KhanAcademy, Johnnie's Math Page, and Mr. Anker Tests are some resources that can be used to scaffold student learning while providing some independence, differentiation, and feedback. Do you have any other technology resources that  you find useful with your students. Share in the comments below.

Some additional resources that can be used to extend standards include Illustrative Math, K-5 Math Teaching Resources (some free resources available), Illinois Teach and Talk (some standards are populated), and Dare to Differentiate (look at the structures such as choice boards, RAFTS, and tiering for math on the left-hand side).

These are just a few of the go to resources when something is needed in a pinch to develop learning experiences for students in small groups.

Hope you find something that might help your mathematicians.

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Sunday, October 2, 2016

TpT Gift Card Giveaway

Fall is in the air. October is here. Halloween is at the end of the month. Enter this giveaway for a $25 Teachers Pay Teachers gift card and stock up on some new resources!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS: Prize: $25 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card

Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher)

Co-hosts: An Apple for the Teacher, The Chocolate Teacher, Pam's Place, A Library and Garden, Schoolhouse Treasures, Ms K, and ZippadeeZazz.

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. Giveaway ends 10/7/16 and is open worldwide.

Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media? Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers!
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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Mathematical Mindsets: Chpt. 9

This is it. The last chapter of Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler. This chapter recaps key takeaways to help foster a growth mindset classroom. There is so much information to digest from this book to help pave way to mathematical mindsets for all students.

...,it is important to remember that not helping students is often the best help we can give students. ~Jo Boaler (179)

Key Takeaway: Let's encourage students to be mathematicians. Rather than set limits on what students learn and explore in math,it is okay to introduce higher level math in an intellectually honest form to students to pique curiosity and allow them to grapple and wonder (189).

Classroom Connections:
  • It is important to establish classroom norms and expectations that are not only shared verbally, but also shown through teachers' actions.
    • Every student is valued and expected to achieve at the higher levels.
    • Mistakes are valued. Mistakes make the brain grow.
    • Failure and struggle are integral in the process of learning math.
    • Multiple pathways and representations for math are important and valued more than speed.
    • Questions are welcomed and encouraged!
  • When giving feedback, we need to be cognizant of the words we use. Words such as "smart" need to be replaced with feedback that reflects specific student actions and strategies used such as: "It's great that you learned that." or  "I really like how you are thinking about that problem." (179) The word "smart" develops a fixed message that it's great when I know things, but when I make mistakes and fail...I am no longer smart. We want students to struggle in math. Without failure or mistakes, students may not be getting the opportunity to wade into new areas of mathematics or to develop deeper understanding of complex and rich mathematics. 
  • One reality of mathematics is that in today's work world, computers are available to do calculations. We need to grow students in being comfortable making conjectures, posing questions, and defending their reasoning. Rather than always using problems posed in textbooks which tend to focus on procedural calculations and contrived situations have students use real world data to generate their own mathematical questions. Modeling with mathematics (SMP 4) and interpreting mathematical results also can help ramp up how we can engage our students in the math classroom. If a student quickly gets an answer ask them to model their did they arrive at that answer? This can bring in a whole new level of mathematics to some students.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. Now as the school year unfolds, the goal will be to take some of these ideas by Jo Boaler and embed them into daily practice. has a Week of Inspirational Math that could be used as a springboard to begin to transform the way students view mathematics. Wishing you all an engaging and successful mathematical journey!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Mathematical Mindsets: Chpt. 8

This is one of the chapters I have been waiting to read: Assessment for a Growth Mindset. It seems somewhat contradictory when you think what growth mindset stands for and then the word assessment is associated with it. Let's begin a recap of chapter 8 in Jo Boaler's book, Mathematical Mindsets.

The most important preparation we can give students is a growth mindset, positive beliefs about their own ability, and problem-solving mathematical tools that they are prepared to use in any mathematical situation. ~Jo Boaler (142)

Key Takeaway: Jo Boaler emphasizes the need to transform how we assess students in the math classroom. The goal would be to replace fixed mindset testing with growth mindset assessment that channels mathematics that is broad, creative, and rich in problem solving. In this way, students would be empowered. Rather than students seeing a grade, students should see diagnostic comments/feedback that celebrate their knowledge and guide them to improvement.

Classroom Connections: As teachers, we need to help students become more cognizant of the math they are learning and where they are in the learning process (151).
  • Self-assessment through reflection can help students become more aware of the mathematics they are learning. When asked what are you working on in math, we want students to focus on the content of mathematics and not the chapter, lesson, page, or problem. Students can choose one of the following to respond to at the end of class (158):
    • What was the big idea we worked on today?
    • What did I learn today?
    • In what situations could I use the knowledge I learned today?
    • What questions do I have about today's work?
    • What new ideas do I have that this lesson made me think about? 
  • Exit tickets can be used as a tool to guide instruction. The exit ticket can focus on the key target understanding from the lesson. In the past, I have asked students upon completion to place their exit tickets in a red, yellow, or green basket. In this way, I can get an understanding of student's understanding of content, while allowing students to self-reflect on their ability in completing the skill: green: confident, yellow: getting there, red: help needed. If a student demonstrates understanding yet places his/her exit ticket in the red basket, this may indicate some positive growth mindset messages may be needed. If a student does not demonstrate understanding yet places his/her exit ticket in the green basket, this may indicate a misconception needs to be addressed. 
  • Grading should move beyond checking the accuracy of procedural questions. How might student work be used differently with a shift in focus to whether students ask questions, use multiple representations to show math, build on the thinking of others, and justify their thinking? Math is multidimensional and simply grading if an answer is correct/incorrect does not convey a complete picture of a student's mathematical performance.
Above all else, it is important to view assessment for learning! Assessment should provide information about a student's learning. Rather than focus on grades, the emphasis should be on constructive feedback. Ultimately, the parameters set by a district set the expectations for teachers in terms of grading and assessments, but within those parameters, fostering positive messages and focusing on student learning, and not only achievement, are steps that can be taken.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mathematical Mindsets: Chpt. 7

We are winding down with just three more chapters left in Jo Boaler's, Mathematical Mindsets. This week the focus is on tracking to growth mindset grouping. Boaler emphasizes the need to de-track students and group heterogeneously. I know this has been an ongoing debate in some elementary classrooms.

I do not value speed or people racing through math; I value people showing how they think about math, and I like creative representations. ~Jo Boaler (135)

Key Takeaway: The repetitive theme throughout Boaler's book is to move beyond the one-dimensional math class where the practice of executing procedures correctly is valued above others (121). Transforming classrooms into multidimensional classrooms where good questions are asked, ideas are proposed, different methods are explored and connected, multiple representations are encouraged, and reasoning is encouraged through different pathways is a goal to strive for. Dream big!
Classroom Connections:
  • When students are grouped heterogeneously, there are different ways to encourage students to look at a problem. These include asking good questions, rephrasing problems explaining, using logic, justifying methods, using manipulatives, connecting ideas, and helping others (122). In this way, there are multiple entry points to a problem for students of different readiness levels. At the start of the year, it would be interesting to ask students how they can approach/look at a problem and record their responses. Then as the year progresses, we can add to that list. Hm...definitely something to think about.
  • When students are working collaboratively, the role of the teacher is the facilitator. I really liked the idea of how groups were assigned roles such as a reporter. If the teacher needs to share something new to move the task along rather than stop the whole class, the teacher can call the reporters from each group over for a huddle. Love the idea of a "huddle." Once the information is shared with the reporters, they go back to their respective groups and convey the necessary information. Sometimes trying to get everyone's attention when they are immersed in a task to stop can be challenging. I will be adding this idea to my toolbox.
  • Feedback is essential for student learning, especially for those who may not find confidence in the subject. Boaler recommends that feedback to raise status of those who may not feel like they are as "good" as others in their group needs to be public, intellectual, specific, and relevant (135).
    • public dimension: highlights that a specific student contributed the idea
    • intellectual dimension: addresses the aspect of the mathematical work the student offered
    • specific dimension: showcases exactly what the teacher is praising
Math really is a social subject where students can bring their independent understandings to help accomplish a group goal.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mathematical Mindsets: Chpt. 6

Well, hello, again! Here we are in Chapter 6 of Jo Boaler's book, Mathematical Mindsets. The focus of this week's chapter was mathematics and the path to equity.

Mathematics is a broad subject that goes beyond computation and procedural speed and involves understanding of ideas. ~Cathy Williams (101)

Key Takeaway: Mathematics needs to be a balance between computational/procedural skills, conceptual understanding, and problem solving.  It is really important that we take steps to move beyond procedural based math classrooms and transform math into a connected, inquiry-based subject (104). As Jo Boaler would say, "Viva la Revolution!"

Classroom Connections:
  •  "Mathematics is not more difficult than other subjects--I would challenge people who think so to produce a powerful poem or work of art. All subjects extend to difficult levels; the reason so many people think math is the most difficult is the inaccessible way it is often taught (Boaler, 96)." This is such a powerful statement that I will need to keep nearby as I continue this journey and support others in helping our students develop a mathematical mindset.
  • Creating hands-on experiences, offering project-based curriculum, providing real-life applications, and fostering collaborative work are ways to help strengthen engagement for students, especially girls (103). 
  • The issue of homework was discussed. Boaler's recommendation is that homework should be given only if the homework task is worthwhile and draws upon the opportunity for reflection or active investigations around the house (109). In her beliefs, homework should be eliminated, reduced, or changed. The idea of procedural practice with repetitive problems for homework needs to be re-evaluated in our quest to foster equity for all students. 
As a teacher, intentional decisions need to be made to ensure equitable opportunities are provided for all students to thrive in mathematics. Mathematics is a gateway to their future!
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Monday, August 8, 2016

$75 Monthly TpT Gift Card Giveaway - 2 Winners!

I am so excited to be participating in this month's TpT Gift Card Giveaway hosted by An Apple for the Teacher! This month there will be TWO winners! With school in full swing or just around the corner for you, this would be a welcomed treat!

Giveaway Details: $75 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card

Giveaway organized by: An Apple for the Teacher Co-hosts: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher),  A Plus Kids,  Teaching SuperkidsPeas in a PodEmbellished EducationLattes and LunchroomsKB3TeachDancing intoFirstTeaching Ideas For Those Who Love TeachingThe Chocolate TeacherMs K MathKnowledge MobileMrs. RoltgenElementary Antics, Crazy CharizmaCarla HoffThird Grade GigglesMickey's PlaceRissa HannekenActivity TailorKamp Kindergarten, Reading and Writing RedheadPlanet Happy SmilesA View Into My ClassroomMomma With A Teaching MissionSara RuckerThe Literacy GardenPam's PlaceHeart 2 Heart TeachingMrs Humphries ClassSliding Into 1stGrowing Grade by GradeJackie CrewsLife As I Know ItSarah GriffinTeacher Treasure HunterGlistening Gems, and A Classroom for All Seasons.

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter form to enter. Giveaway ends 8/13/16 and is worldwide.

 Are you a blogger who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your blog?  Click here to find out how you can join a totally awesome group of bloggers!

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