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Friday, June 17, 2016

The 2016-2017 Math Year: Lessons that Matter

As I think ahead to math year 2016-2017, I want to list the lessons that have made a difference in the past few years--lessons that were engaging, empowering, and evidence of good learning and teaching.

Beginning the year by creating a strong math/teaching community is a good idea. Students can "play" with numbers as they get to know one another and understand the class as a whole.

The next part of the year includes many lessons that "warm-up" students by allowing them to work with simple numbers as we review vocabulary and concepts simple and deep. Using simple numbers early on in the year invites all students into the math teaching/learning community and gives us all a chance to establish routines, learn and review essential vocabulary, concepts, and skill, and study the basic concepts, models, and tools that we'll use throughout the year.

After that using calculators to learn the order of operations and practice number operations again invites all students into the learning while we look at the underpinnings of algorithmic thought and action.

Once these units are complete, students are ready to go deeper with regard to number work, conceptual understanding, math talk, model making, and more to develop rich math understanding and work.

Some lessons that have been integral to this effort include the following:

Who Are We?
Line plots that describe our learning/teaching teams and create an infographic about the class.

Who Are You?
Math facts about you?

Your Math Story
A letter autobiography about your math learning.

Khan Academy -- A Tech Math Teacher
Teaching students and family members to effectively use Khan Academy to support math learning.

Number Stories
The history of math with a focus on zero.

Number Line, Landmark Numbers, Properties and Vocabulary
Learning about and creating number lines. Analyzing the properties of the first twelve numbers and the main math words that describe those numbers. Creating a numbers 0-100 reference board.

Geometry Review
Learning to look at, analyze, create, and compare two-dimension geometric figures. This is a simple unit to teach and can be easily embedded into early year math lessons and referred to throughout the year.

Area, Perimeter, and Volume
Learning to determine area, perimeter, and volume with real-world problem solving. Students grasp this information quickly and its a good way to practice basic number facts too. Learning this early sets children up well for learning the area model of multiplication and division of whole numbers, decimal numbers, and fractions later on.

Calculators and Order of Operations
Learning to use calculators and solve complex expressions.

Where do we live?
Introduction and practice with coordinate grids.

Place Value, the Base Ten System, and Powers of Ten
Learning with and creating animated models. Watching and discussing the Eames Powers of Ten Film.

Addition, Subtraction, and Multiplication Review and Problem Solving
Reviewing addition, subtraction, and multiplication algorithms and meaningful problem solving strategies and practice.

Multiplication/Division Area Models, Algorithms, and Practice
Using multiple models, processes, and manipulatives to learn and study multiplication and division.

Money Problem Solving
Using play money and word problems to study addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with decimals.

What is a fraction? Fraction Models and Study.
Learning with and creating multiple math models. Utilizing signature stories to learn fraction concepts, vocabulary, and processes. Solving many real-world fraction problems.

The key is to make sure we have substantial time on task for math during the year. It's also important that the homework is simple and straightforward each night. I'll back up the simple homework with Khan Academy assignments and practice.

Frequent assessments are also important. I'd like to institute bi-weekly or weekly assessments to inform instruction and help students to assess their proficiency and needs.

We'll institute RTI too to support student learning as well.

During the summer, I"ll organize this list and probably create a math book blog that moves lesson by lesson throughout the fifth grade year. Most of these lessons already exist in my blog. Further, I'll have to keep my eyes on the changing tests and possible changing standards with regard to Massachusetts' Next Generation MCAS too.