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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Math Learning/Teaching Routine: Fifth Grade

Optimal math programs encourage students' mathematical
thinking, creativity, imagination, problem solving, and visualization. 
A steady routine of math learning and practice supports the entire learning team including students who are learning the material, family members and colleagues who are supporting the learners, and leaders and community member who want to understand the program, see it in action, help out, and advocate for resources.

Therefore, what is the weekly routine for math teaching and learning?

Daily Lessons
Four-five days a week, the typical daily lesson includes a 10-20 minute introduction, discussion, and/or share, about 35-45 minutes of active learning time, and a five minute wrap-up/transition. Daily lesson content is typically introduced with a big question, comparison, or idea and then followed up with a scaffolded, active review of the material presented during the introduction guided by a some kind of online or offline activity guide such as a worksheet, menu, project outline, model making description, puzzle, or game. For example on Monday, we'll review divisibility rules together and then students will apply that learning as they compete in a Factor Captor tournament.

The daily activity guide is sometimes sent home at the end of the lesson and sometimes saved for future classroom work and reference. Daily learning activity guides are typically scaffolded activities that extend from review to enrichment. Student completion of the daily activity will differ dependent on their learning rate and depth with regard to a topic. For example for some assignments, some students will quickly reach the enrichment level and for other assignments students may spend the whole learning activity time on the review portion. Individual students and small groups tend to react differently to each assignment dependent on interest, experience with the concept, background knowledge, skill, and multiple other events or dispositions that affect learning. Therefore if parents receive a daily activity guide that is only partially completed, they should not worry since children will complete assignments with different rates and depth dependent upon the assignment focus and students' experience with the topic.

Home Study
Each night students are expected to practice their math for twenty minutes a night with a specific assignment related to the current week or past week's focus or math learning in general. The home study ranges from paper/pencil practice to online practice to project work. There is always bonus options for those who want to do more. The homework is listed on an online chart with links so family members and students can easily access the assignments. There are often links to charts, videos, and other information which serve as resources to the child and/or helping family members.

Students work on their own for approximately one hour every one to two weeks to complete an assessment. I review the assessment to determine next steps with regard to the teaching as we move towards the goal of mastering all grade-level standards and enrichment.

Student Response and Coaching
Student response is provided in a large number of ways. Every one to two weeks students receive specific response about their math learning and performance via assessment corrections and written response. As needed students receive response via email which is usually in response to a question a child or parent sends to me via email, a homework reminder, or to congratulate an extraordinary effort or result. Students receive lots of response daily via individual, small group, and whole class coaching since during the active learning portion of each lesson all teachers in the room are actively responding to student learning and helping to teach everyone the new skill, concept, or knowledge points.

Program Communication
Once a week the teaching team sends out an online newsletter that updates families and students about the learning that has happened and the learning to come. Generally the updates include links and other information for families who want to understand the curriculum with greater depth.

Math RTI
Twice a week students work in groups of similar-ability/interest groups to study specific math content with specific shared goals for 30 minutes each session.

Math Tech
Approximately one to three times a week students learn and study math with online tools such as Symphony Math, That Quiz, TenMarks, Khan Academy, and more.

Theme Days
Approximately once a month students engage in STEAM related Theme Days in which they engage in an all day project/problem base learning project that includes mathematical thinking and application.

Standardized Tests
During the year approximately four mornings are devoted to the PARCC Math test and 10 other math periods are devoted to standardized testing. These tests help us to gauge overall student growth, ability, and need with regard to math. education.

Parent Conferences
All parent conferences and meetings begin with a review of students' strengths, interests, talents, and highlights. We want to make sure that we all recognize the unique and special value that each child had as a first step. Then, during the twice-a-year standard meetings, students' showcase portfolios and goal setting sheets provide a point of reflection as students, parents, and teachers review students' signature work. We also may share data from assessments at that time. As we meet and discuss a students' overall profile, we'll then discuss possible goals and plans for future, holistic growth and progress.

With regard to parent-teacher meetings regarding specific topics, again we'll start with the positives and then work on any issue or problem that might arise to make sure that every child has a terrific learning program and that every parent has access to the information and materials they need to best support their child's growth and progress.

The Program Year
The routines above make up the year-long math program, a program that travels the main content areas of the fifth grade Common Core Standards. As noted above we use a broad range of materials to teach the standards and multiple lesson examples and resources for each topic are noted on our class website, Magnificent Math.

Data related to students' performance on standardized tests, weekly assessments, and online work are kept and used to analyze the overall program with regard to each student's growth and progress. The data is used to inform future study choices and focus.

Year's End
At the end of the year, the cumulative data is used to make a recommendation for each student's placement in the Middle School program where math is leveled into three groups including an enrichment group, grade-level group, and an extra-help developmental group for those who struggle most with math learning. The extra-help group generally has the lowest teacher-student ratio in order to give those students the extra support they need at this time. Parents are generally consulted about their child's placement. The data that informs this decision is always open to parent review.

PARCC Scores
Our system-wide standardized tests are used to inform program and student decisions throughout the year, while the PARCC scores are analyzed when returned and used to assess the program decisions in general with regard to teaching every child well.

Interdisciplinary Project/Problem Base Learning
At the end of the year after all unit tests are complete and recommendations have been made for the Middle School program, we typically move into a three-four week period of project base learning that includes special projects, field studies, grade-level presentations and performances, exploration in the "outdoor classroom," and a greater emphasis math as integrated into STEAM lessons and activities.