Monday, July 21, 2014

Mathy Monday-Number Talks

Testing, this thing on?  It's been a while since I've blogged, but like many of you, my brain is shifting back into school mode whether I like it or not! So I'm jumping right back in with a Mathy Monday post about Number Talks, one of my favorite parts of my entire day.  So let's get to it!  

What is a Number Talk?
Have you ever stumbled upon something, a product or simple routine, that yields amazing results?  This past year, for me, it was the number talk routine.  This short 15-20 minute snippet of our day transformed my students into mathematical communicators, capable of speaking about their conceptual understanding, constructing arguments about their problem solving, questioning and critiquing the reasoning of others, and eventually, using this foundation to write about their thinking.

A number talk is a daily routine in which students have a chance to deepen their mathematical thinking.  For teachers, number talks are a great way to quickly and informally assess understanding while helping students transition from ineffective to more effective and efficient problem solving techniques.  During number talks, a problem is posed, students solve the problem individually using their mental computation skills, then students discuss their problem solving while the teacher records their method. In the primary grades, number talks focus on developing number sense, building fluency with small numbers, subitizing, and making tens.  In the intermediate grades, number talks still focus on deepening number sense, but also develops place value understanding, builds fluency, strengthens properties of operations and helps connect mathematical ideas.  Number talks provide big bang for your buck!

Where do you even begin?!
 As with any new routine,  it's all about consistency and implementation.  First, decide what mathematical idea you want the students to consider.  Is it strategies for adding multi-digit numbers?  Building equal groups from a set?  Or determining a quantity of counters on a ten-frame.  The beauty of number talks is that they can be modified and adapted to address almost any mathematical concept. 

Next, set the purpose for your students and introduce the routine.
In my classroom, a problem is posed, students silently solve the problem mentally, then they give a "secret thumbs-up" (thumbs-up in front of their body) to let me know they have solved the problem.  When the majority of thumbs in the room are up, I begin to cold-call students to share their thinking aloud with the class.  As they share, it is your job to ask questions to help clarify and solidify their understanding.  Over time, students will begin to ask questions of each other as their curiosity grows.  Modeling good questioning and providing students with thinking stems is key in promoting student-to-student interaction.  Simple stems like "How did you know to..." or "Why did you choose to..." and "I'm curious about the way you..." can promote a spirit of inquiry, which strengthens understanding for the student explaining, as well as those listening.  

Now, this is important, in my classroom, we emphasize the thinking behind the problem solving, as opposed to the correct answer.  And because of that, mistakes will be made.  But guess what?  There is power in mistake making.  My favorite mathematician, Jo Boaler explains it: 
 Allowing students to work through the thinking behind their mistakes has proven to be extremely powerful in my classroom.  Of course, the environment in which students have a sense of safety to be able to take risks without fear of being labeled a failure is crucial in developing the growth mindset that Jo mentions above.  

So, what does it look like?
Number talks look different in every classroom, and as a teacher, you modify it to meet your students learning styles and needs.  Youtube has tons of sample number talk lessons that teachers have shared from around the country.  Here are a few of my favorites that illustrate how different it can look, yet also show how powerful the mathematical conversations can be.

My students loved the number talk routine this past year, and as their teacher, I loved the impact a small routine had on deepening student understanding, developing mathematical communication skills, and building confidence in our learning.  I will definitely continue to number talk with my 3rd graders this upcoming school year. If you still have some fight left in you, I encourage you to check out "Number Talks" by Sherry Parrish.

So what about you?  Do you number talk?  What has your experience been?

Happy Mathy Monday!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Test

It's that time of year...time for the big TEST!!  For my 3rd graders, this is their first experience with State standardized testing, which means as their teacher, I have a big responsibility.  Yes, I must prepare them academically, but more importantly, I have to make sure that their first testing experience is a positive one.  So, like many classrooms all over the country, we go into "test prep mode".

I begin at least a month out, usually around Spring Parent Conference time.  I make sure to talk to parents about the test and what they can expect.  I also ask them to write an encouraging note for their child so that when we begin testing, their child has that extra little bit of motivation to help them get through those long days.  In the past, my students have really LOVED these special notes.  Most of the time they have notes from their parent or guardian, but every now and then, a drawing from a little brother or sister makes it into the mix.  No matter who the note is from, the look of pride on my students' faces are priceless.

Another big component of "test prep" is minimizing fears and maximizing confidence.  We talk honestly about the test-how long the sessions will be, what our days will look like, and what types of things will be covered on the test.  They usually have TONS of questions, but taking time to talk these things out usually helps students feel less anxious.

In the weeks leading up to standardized testing, I do everything in my power to give my students as many opportunities for success as possible.  This looks different for every student, but these small moments help build confidence.  Every chance I get, I provide feedback for the things they are doing well, and then help to guide them one step further.

As testing gets closer (next week, for us) I always make a point to read "Hooray for Diffendoofer Day", by Dr. Seuss (and Jack Prelutsky & Lane Smith).  This is one of my all time favorite books that highlights individuality and creative thinking.  My students can connect to the students at Diffendoofer School, who are also taking a big test.  Of course, because they have been taught to think, they succeed.  Awww! 

When it's time to cover the walls, I plaster them with motivational quotes and messages of support.  I want to leave no doubt in their minds that I truly believe in them and think the world of them, regardless of the outcome of the test.  And of course, being mature enough for testing makes you also mature enough for special treats and surprises along the way.

Do you have any "test prep" rituals that help get your students through testing?  I'd love to hear, so share away!  

March Currently

Ugh!  Where did February go?  I spent the last week protesting the arrival of March (because, really, what happened to February?!) by pretending it wasn't here.  It didn't work out so well, so I guess I'll finally post my March Currently with Farley from Oh' Boy 4th Grade.
I can accomplish so much more when the T.V. isn't distracting me, and I have way too much that I need to accomplish, so Spotify it is.  I L.O.V.E. the warm weather that we've had lately, because recess and duty is so much more enjoyable when you aren't shivering.  But... warm weather brings with it energetic...squirrely...hyper kids, so I can't help but think that Spring Break can't come soon enough.  Two more weeks!  I want a second weekend to prepare for this week.  I only have my evaluation observation, lesson plans, newsletters, copies, and centers to prepare.  And finally, the mystery answers- What are things that gross you out for $1000, please. 

Looking to procrastinate, or finally acknowledge March?  Link up with Farley. 

Happy Sunday!  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

December Currently

Hello, blog world!  Long time no see!  What better way to jump back into the swing of things than by linking up with Farley and a new Currently, so here I go!

Oh' boy fourth grade
It's been awhile...let's see if I still remember how this ol' thang works. 
I'm listening to Sunday Night Football, my dog snoring (this is not a new thing), and an excited 5 year-old talking about Christmas from his bed.  I'm loving my newest teacher-y Christmas d├ęcor that we picked up over the summer while visiting Bronner's Christmas Store in Frankenmuth, MI.
Like many of you, I'm thinking about my ever growing TPT wish list because there is a HUGE Cyber Monday (and Tuesday) sale happening tomorrow!  My store, like many others, will have everything you NEED (ok...want...badly) for up to 28% off when you use the code "Cyber".  Don't miss out!

I'm so excited about my latest product, Santa Math, which I blogged about last year.  Snatch it up on sale tomorrow and Tuesday!

Of course, I'm wanting Winter Break to be here quickly...but not before I finish decorating my tree and putting up the rest of my decorations.  It helps that we only have three short weeks left, and that I will get to partake in my favorite Holiday tradition, which is baking with my Mama!  Most recently, we've up the Pioneer Woman's pumpkin cinnamon rolls, and lemon blueberry rolls, and caramel apple rolls.  But we will bust out with the cookie baking soon enough!
I'm hoping to get back on the blog train again, so check back soon for what we have been up to.  In the mean time, link up and share your own 'Currently'!
Happy Sunday!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Multiplication, Mice, and Math practices

I can hardly believe October is here!  With cooler weather comes one of the concepts that students are most excited to learn about in 3rd grade...multiplication!  I've written before about how important the idea of multiplication is in 3rd grade, and how the progression of concepts eventually leads to the concept of the Distributive Property, but did you know that multiplicative concepts encompass an entire critical area in 3rd grade Common Core?!?!  Let's just think about that for a second and 'word-nerd' it-- According to
1. containing or making severe or negative judgments
2. containing careful or analytical evaluations: a critical dissertation
3. of or involving a critic or criticism
4. of or forming a crisis; crucial; decisive: a critical operation
5. urgently needed: critical medical supplies
6. informal  so seriously injured or ill as to be in danger of dying
7. physics  of, denoting, or concerned with a state in which the properties of a system undergo an abrupt change: a critical temperature
8. go critical  (of a nuclear power station or reactor) to reach a state in which a nuclear-fission chain reaction becomes self-sustaining
Basically, with the help of multiplication, our 3rd graders will reach a state of nuclear-fission!!  But in all seriousness, I think the fifth definition sums it up best, multiplicative concepts in 3rd grade are "urgently needed" so that our students have a foundation so strong enough to support and deepen their understanding of later concepts and grades.

So, obviously, multiplication is important, but how do we, as teachers, build that strong foundation?  For us, we start by thinking about the math ideas necessary to truly understand the concept of multiplication.  Together with my amazing third grade team, we mapped out what we believe to be a logical progression of ideas that would support the bigger idea of multiplication in 3rd grade.  Here is what we came up with: repeated addition, skip counting, equal groups, arrays, area models (area as additive, then multiplicative), and eventually, the concrete proof of the Distributive Property.  In reality, these ideas will be the primary focus of our math instruction, and will take us until about mid-November until we move on to other (related) concepts.

We are currently in our third week of building multiplicative concepts in 3rd grade, and I can definitely say that my students are using a very wide variety of strategies to solve our multiplication math tasks.  Today, we completed a "Mouse Problem" in which students were asked to select a number of mice to "buy" from the pet store.  Each year, their mouse population increases in size (2nd year, population doubles, 3rd year it triples, and so on), and students were asked to figure out how many mice they would have by the 5th year.

Skip Counting in parts
Multiplication with repeated addition

And some of our progress with Math Practice Standards...

This last pic is my fav because it is SO 3rd grade.  This student had a very interesting patterning strategy to find their products, and was extremely ambitious in the original number of mice they started with (501), but check out the "math" vocabulary!  I LOVE "sixdupal" and the others that follow it, and I can definitely appreciate an attempt at attending to precision in our mathematics vocabulary.

Now that October is here, what are you working on in your classroom?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October Currently!

It's October already?!  Where did September go?  Either way, I'm linking up with Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade for the latest installment of the always interesting 'Currently'.

Oh' boy fourth grade

 I'm listening to Property always.  I love them, and pretty much everything on HGTV.  It's mindless entertainment, and I'm all about it.
I've LOVING my 3rd grade team.  Not only do we get a lot accomplished, but they get me.  Not in a corny, soul-sister, type of way, but more of a no-judgment-when-I'm-hangry kind of way, and a listen-to-my-crazy-math-ideas way, and most importantly, a want-to-do-what's-good-for-kids way.  Obviously, these chicks rock.
I'm currently thinking about Baltimore in 2 weeks, where I will be attending and presenting at NCTM.  It's like Math Christmas, and I love it.
Here in southern NM, we've had a bit of a crazy monsoon season.  With that came mosquitos who are hungry for my blood.  I'm in serious need of cooler weather...or better bug spray.   
Like most teachers, I could use a few more hours in my day.  More time with my students, more time with my family, and more time sleeping.  Can someone do something about that, please?!
And finally, when it comes to Trick-or-Treat, I'll pick treat almost every time.  Especially if it's an Almond Joy.  Or a Reese's.  Or a Snickers.  But NOT those gross orange and black wrapped candy things.  Yuck. 
Happy October!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mathy Monday- MP Edition

Holy moly!  Has it really been over a month since I've blogged on here?  Apparently, it has, but in my defense...back-to-school is all consuming!  I consider it pure luck that I could even remember my password for this ol' thing.  But now that I'm here, let's make this a Mathy Monday and chat about making the Standards for Mathematical Practice accessible to kids. 

New Mexico is one of 45 states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards, and as a third grade teacher here in the Land of Enchantment, we are in our second year of adoption.  It's actually a really nice place to be- we've had a year to play around and try things out, and now, we have a chance to keep what worked and refine what didn't.  Our approach to introducing the Standards for Mathematical Practice is something that worked, and this is how we do it.

We begin each week by introducing the MP using the language directly from the Common Core.  Often times (much more often than not), this language can be extremely challenging for third graders, but this provides the perfect opportunity to implore reading strategies for encountering unknown words while getting kids to "think about their thinking" in mathematics. 

We start with an anchor chart with only the MP written (see picture below, blue ink).  We dissect the language of the MP using prior knowledge, word association, context clues, and even dictionaries.  As a class, we talk it out and break it down so that we come to a common understanding so that all students know what is expected of them. 

From there, it's time to do the math.  Math tasks are selected intentionally so that students have explicit opportunities to engage in the math practice standard.  For example, for MP 1- Making sense of problems and preserve in solving them, students were given a multi-step math riddle that could be solved in many different ways, but would require perseverance to determine the correct answer. 

As students work, I ask guiding questions that will help facilitate our summary at the end of the lesson.  I craft my questions based on what students understand about the math practice (ex: What strategies are you using to make sense of this problem?  Talk to me about how you are persevering through this tough work...").  By doing this, students have already began to think about how they use the math practice in their own work.       

After students have had a chance to do the math, we come back together to summarize and debrief the math practice standard.  I try and use the same guiding questions I used during the exploration so the language is consistent.  I record student responses in another color (green) on our anchor chart.  Your landing point should be along the same lines as the expanded MP standards in kid-friendly language.  Throughout the week, we constantly refer back to the MP standard, whether I am pointing out ways in which students are using it, students are identifying how other students are using it, or they are reflecting on their own use of the MP standard.  Later, we add sentence stems to promote the use of the direct language when speaking and writing about our math thinking.

While this took time, it was well worth it.  I was amazed to hear 3rd graders talking about "attending to precision" and "choosing appropriate tools strategically".  More importantly, these are the habits of mind we hope to instill in our students, so being able to refer back to them while I am teaching helps build self-efficacy skills that are invaluable.     

So, that's how I do it.  In my second year, I am making small tweaks here and there, but I am seeing similar successes.

How are you tackling the Standards for Mathematical Practice in your classroom?!  I'd love to hear and learn from you!