Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mathematical Mindsets: Improving Math Teaching and Learning at Grade Five (One)

Several years ago situated in a chair by the sea in San Diego, I dove into Boaler's book, Mathematical Mindsets. Since that time I've been eager to embed Boaler's brain-friendly research, practices, and ideas into the fifth grade math program that I teach. That's why I was delighted to find that Jo Boaler and her colleagues Jen Munson and Cathy Williams have written the book Mindset Mathematics: Visualizing and Investigating Big Ideas, Grade 5. As I read through the book in the next few days, I will be noting the changes I'll make to the current standards-based grade 5 program to include Boaler's research and many "low floor, high-ceiling" learning experiences.

I must admit that to open the book and see room for improvement right away is daunting. That's when I have to remind myself that good teachers are always learning--we're always assessing what's working, researching what's new, and making the needed revisions to teach better for the current students and times.

Timed Tests
In the book's forward Boaler describes the way that timed fact fluency tests are counterintuitive as they obstruct the part of the brain that actually helps a child compute accurately and with purpose. She cites her popular article, Fluency without Fear, and suggests we do away with timed fact tests. Early in the year I plan to share the article's highlights with students and parents, and also use Boaler's popular game, "How Close to 100," to practice facts with children. I'll also check-in on students' summer study work with the landmark number quilt squares, and then have students use that number knowledge to figure out their "numbers" with regard to finding the sum of the letters of their first name when a=1, b=2, c=3. . . .z=26.

I will also emphasize the points below, engage students in a Boaler-inspired pattern activity,  and show Boaler's inspirational math video, a video that has proved to inspire children in the past.

From the article, Fluency without Fear

This will be a good start to what I plan to be an extraordinary year of math teaching and learning.