Friday, September 16, 2011

Growing Computation Skill

As I understand it, children who are facile with computation skill have a greater ability to access and work with higher level math concepts.

Hence, developing computation skill is essential at the elementary level.

I also realize that developing computation skill is an algorithmic task, an area of mastery that is often dull, repetitive and laborious--the type of skill that Daniel Pink's book, Drive, suggests profits from letting the learner know it can be dull, and allowing the learner (worker) to determine his/her own path to mastery.

That understanding leads me to wonder about the amount of independence fourth graders can handle when it comes to algorithmic tasks?  What is the best way to create an environment that supports this learning with motivation and success?

Currently, I'm employing the following efforts.

1.  I started this learning effort by applying a "Motivation/Interest Criteria Chart."
  • First, I asked, "What is computation?" and we discussed the definition
  • Next, we discussed, "Why study computation?"
  • After that we told stories from our lives related to computation challenge, study and mastery.
  • I introduced the grow-at-your-own-rate computation ladders and our road map to mastery.
  • I also introduced the evaluation or "move up" system.
  • Finally, today we'll create "Kids' Choice" list of favorite tools and actions for reaching computation mastery.
2.  I organized many tools for student computation mastery.
3.  Next week, I'm giving the GMADE and another paper/pencil computation assessment. 
  • I'll review data and create computation teams.
  • I'll make time to meet with those teams to determine best paths to mastery.
  • Teams will meet to practice and learn computation skill.
This is the way I'm starting this year.  I teach two threads in math: a computation thread and a concept/knowledge thread.  I know this is a challenging area of classroom teaching since students come to school with all different rates and ability levels related to computation. For some, it's so easy to learn, and for others it's so difficult--even Einstein, I've heard, had trouble with initial computation facts.

Please send me your thoughts, feedback and resources.  How do you help students master computation in a differentiated, motivating, engaging and successful ways?  I hope this becomes a topic for an upcoming #4thchat discussion.