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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Making Math Children Will Love

Making Math Children Will Love:  Building Positive Mathitudes to Improve Student Achievement in Mathematics

Loving the Math!

“Instead of trying to make children love the math they hate, make a math they’ll love.”

Seymour Papert

Make no mistake...math is math.  However, our individual approach to teaching math is sometimes not math.  I think this is what Seymour Papert means with the above quote.  The curriculum is something we all share but how we 'bring it to life' is very much up to the individual.  

"We know that learning often begins with play." 

Experiential learning via curiosity is at the core of student engagement. Kids do this naturally with their play every day. In 'bringing the curriculum to life' it is the talented teacher who can do this with all students each and every day. Initially this might seem a relatively easy task, however, once you begin to immerse yourself you will find the opposite true. The good news is that it does become easier as you begin to practice and change the way you think about planning/organizing your math program. 

Have Fun with Math! ...

“... games and play have more positive effect on motivation and retention of knowledge than conventional instruction.”

Jonnavitula and Kinshuk

The key to planning/organizing is simply to 'have fun with math' as Jonnavitula & Kinshuk stated. One way to approach this is through 'macro' (yearly/monthly) planning.  Macro planning allows for 'big picture' planning.  You are able to set the pace, monitor the pace and thus effectively 'drive' the curriculum road. This 'drive' allows for periodic stops/breaks to delve deeper into the natural student inquiry as it arises without the pressure of feeling the need to 'plow' through textbook pages.  

Another key to capturing that natural curiosity is to utilized innovative ways to engage.  In today age of technology this is a relatively easy undertaking.  The hardest part would be to choose from the vast possibilities (e.g.. educational TV, Youtube, vivid texts, the internet, etc…).  

The Prime Radicals Shows

The Prime Radicals Pentomino App
(from App Store)

Mathemagic: Number Tricks

Furthermore, kids need to be 'freed' of the responsibility of the 'right answer'.  The mathematical process (or how we get there) matters more than whether or not they produce the correct answer.  It is the 'thinking' that needs the praise.  Thus, designing activities that allow this to occur is key.  Present a problem to solve (i.e. Dan Meyer style) and then let them spend time working through it.  

"Before children can learn mathematics, they must become interested in it."

Overall, I believe making math 'come to life' is a realistic expectation for all classrooms.  It requires a hard-working, caring and nurturing adult to plan, organize, preserve and provide an environment to allow students to be 'free' to take risks, inquiry and solve open-ended mathematical problems.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Voice Comment App

This App was highlighted at a Conference I recently attended.  Using Kaizena to provide Voice 'descriptive feedback' has opened a whole new world.  Students submit their work via Google Drive and you open and provide that rich descriptive feedback based on the success criteria that you and your students developed around your learning goal.  Check it out....

Professional Self Reflection

Recently this blog post was shared with me.  I find it very timely as we just completed Term 1 with a 'Celebration of Learning' (i.e. Student Led Conferences).  At our next Divisional Meetings I would like to take some time to debrief and discuss the 'next steps' with respect to Assessment & Evaluation.  Assessment & Evaluation is key to what we do each day as the expression goes, "Assessment drives Instruction".

This blog post really hits home for me.  As professionals, we have a responsibility to our students (and ourselves) to continue to remain 'current' in our practice.  To continuously self-reflect and hone our practice based on the most current research.  Take some time to see if your 'heart is visible' in your classroom.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Classroom Independent Libraries

Timing is everything.  I subscribe to a number of blogs and although I often simply skim & scan, I was drawn to go deeper inside this particular post.....and I wasn't disappointed.  Follow the link and check out this teachers video describing her journey to reorganize her independent classroom library.
As we continue to upgrade our classroom libraries, I thought this was perfect timing.  Also, check out the other individual blog posts across the top tool bar.

Monday, December 9, 2013

RCAC Symposium 2013

The Western Regional Computer Advisory Committee (RCAC) Symposium was held in London, Ontario on Thursday, December 5, 2013.  Great Day!

Travis put into words my thinking.  He began by stating that it is not about putting technology in place of what we are already doing in the classroom but we need to think differently and use technology to enhance what we do.  Check out his initial Youtube video he made after using his first SMART phone in a class in his high school to help him keep organized

Gary highlighted that one good prompt is worth a thousand words (i.e. one good question).  It is less about us and more about them (the student).  The most powerful idea of all is the idea of powerful ideas.  Gary went on to say there is an epidemic of whole class instruction (i.e. too much focus of teacher directed instruction).  Check out his blog

Did a lunch & learn with Kyle Pearce (  Very interesting.  Anybody who references Dan Meyer ( can't be all bad.  

Kyle Pearce is a Secondary Math Teacher and Intermediate Math Coach with the Greater Essex County District School Board leading a Ministry funded part-time, one-to-one iPad project. He is an Apple Distinguished Educator and Authorized Apple Education Trainer who leads professional development in both math and technology in his district and beyond. Teaching secondary mathematics at Tecumseh Vista Academy K-12 in the morning, Kyle shifts his focus to the Middle Years Collaborative Inquiry (MYCI) Project in the afternoon.
Join Kyle as he shares his journey of creating a digital learning environment. In Kyle’s secondary one-to-one iPad math class, the goal was to effectively deliver a 3 -part math lesson while eliminating wasted time copying useless facts. This resulted in increased student engagement and high levels of student
success. Positive results from the one-to-one iPad math classroom have led to the introduction of a One iPad Classroom model for instructional use through the Middle Years Collaborative Inquiry Project for intermediate teachers in 29 schools. Both one-to-one and One iPad Classroom models continue to grow as GECDSB educators strive to redefine digital learning in mathematics.

Monday, November 25, 2013

When Do I Move Students to the 'next' Guided Reading Group?

If we already haven't done so, guided reading groups should be 'on the move' as the students gain more consistency at their current level.  In Debbie Diller's book, Making the Most of Small Groups - Differentiation for All (I have a copy if you would like to borrow), she gives some 'things to consider' to assist us in making good decisions about when is the correct time to move students (see below).

Moving students to the 'next group' is different in Primary grades compared to Junior/Intermediate grades.  As Nelson Literacy is our main resource in Junior/Intermediate, moving students occurs as you change reading strategies.  Moreover, our CASI scores also help us determine 'areas of focus' and thus appropriate groupings.  In the Primary grades, we rely on our Running Records, Flexible Small Group Folder & PM Benchmarks to guide our instruction and form our guided reading groups.  However, what is good in one area of the school (eg. Primary, Junior or Intermediate) can also be good in other areas (i.e. it is only the size of the students that changes).

Flexible Small Group Folder - "Reading Levels & What to Focus on in Lessons

From 'Making the Most of Small Groups' - Debbie Diller

As you are making your new guided reading groups, please consider the lesson planning sequence.  Diller reminds us within the first part of her book that deciding on which kids and what book are not enough of a plan.  She says, "Thoughtful teaching in small groups is a lot different than sitting with a group of kids and listening to them read.".  Overall, precision teaching is purposefully planned.

From 'Making the Most of Small Groups' - Debbie Diller

3 Part Math

We had our 2nd in a 6 part series of CILM (Collaborative Inquiry & Learning in Mathematics) this week.  In essence what we do is co-plan, co-teach & co-debrief.  A very positive way to develop the 'collective strength' as a school.  The unanimous comments from all involved were, "It wasn't so bad.  I wish we could do this more often."
The 3 Part Math strategy begins with a Learning Goal derived from a Big Idea.  Using our planning template we then began to 'fill in the blanks' of our 3 Part Lesson.  The lesson begins with 'Minds-On' to get the students engaged with the upcoming lesson (i.e. getting in the right frame of 'mind').  This is followed by the 'Action' (i.e. the 'getting messy' of the lesson).  The teacher moves around the room making observations (i.e. eves dropping) to gain important 'next steps'.  The final stage is called the 'Consolidation' in which the learning (from the students) is highlighted by the teacher.  Also during this stage the Success Criteria are co-created on an Anchor Chart to aid with the independent work.  The entire process doesn't have a specific time frame (i.e. it could be done in one day or take multiple days to complete the 3 parts).

During the Consolidation stage there are a number of 'Questions to consider'...
  • What were the learning goals and big ideas of the lesson?  
    • Stay focussed even if some students are 'working ahead'...
  • What mathematics is evident in students communication (oral, written & modeled)?
    • observation/notes
  • What language was used to show the mathematics?  What vocabulary requires reinforcement?
    • Word Wall, Math Journal, Anchor Chart, etc...
  • How are the solutions linked?
  • What misconceptions are present in the student work?
    • key piece to independent success
  • What are the next steps in instruction?
    • assessment drives instruction
adapted from "Communication in the Mathematics Classroom", September 2010, Capacity Building Series.

Overall, our planning template & curriculum document (over time) will be our greatest resource as it becomes the 'road to student success'.  For example, if we had a copy of the curriculum for our particular grade along with the Planning Template, then we could 'highlight' the specific expectations as we move from lesson to lesson.  If you combine this highlighting and our notes on our planning templates, then the real strength comes to the surface as we move from week to week, month to month and term to term.  Looking back and utilizing these resources as our 'assessment for, as & of learning' we will see how this then 'drives our future instruction' and precision teaching.