Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Teaching Math Virtually

With students at home, it is my goal to continue to support their math learning. Yet, how do I do that without the typical staffing and supports?

This is the challenge many educators are facing during COVID-19.

I have decided to explore this problem in a number of ways.

Online Math Practice
There are seemingly limitless math practice sites online. This is positive. My students are accustom to using IXL, Symphony Math, and Khan Academy on a regular basis. I've encouraged students to continue this practice with the goals of finishing Symphony Math first, then completing grade five on either Khan Academy or IXL. If needed, I offer students one-to-one and small group support via email or small group coaching. What is positive about this practice is that students may do it on their own and there are videos and other supports on each program to help students out.

Deeper Learning Menu
I have also created a deeper learning menu that takes students step-by-step into deeper learning with concepts that have been introduced, but not explored with depth. This deeper learning menu includes watching short videos, taking practice tests, taking tests, and engaging in related projects. Students may take the tests and practice tests as many times as they would like. Each time they can see their score as well as the correct answers if they got an answer wrong. The scores don't count, but the goal is to work on the topic until you get a good score which shows you have a good understanding of the content. The projects are deeper and provide students with multiple options of exploring the topics and showing what they know in creative ways.

Small Group Math Talk
Each student is invited to two small group math talks a week. The focus of each math talk is open ended problems to explore, solve, and discuss together. Each problem has been presented on an interactive Google doc "white board" - which is simply a Google doc or presentation where editing privileges have been opened up to the group so they can color, draw, or write on the document as we solve the problems together. The goal is to engage students in discussions about the deeper learning aspects of the content which also gives students the opportunity to practice using mathematical thinking and language. Each activity has an extension that students can follow-up with if they would like. I've tried to make the extensions engaging and fun to deepen their understanding and extend their playful math learning time.

All of the learning opportunities are open to all to review and utilize on a grade-level learning menu with links. Family members are welcome to join in and participate in any activity. Special educators, teaching assistants, and other staff members are also invited to join the activities to help out.

This menu offers me considerable opportunity for professional learning too as I carefully listen to and observe students' efforts and try to respond with positive support and tailored follow-up activities. Thanks to our shared teaching model at fifth grade, I am able to focus deeply on math education while my colleagues focus deeply on other subjects.

So far, so good. I'll continue to develop this practice with the objective to deepen math engagement and understanding now and better my understanding and lessons for the future too. Onward.