Every year, the teachers in our Board write an Annual Learning Plan where we set our own goals for the year. This year, my goal is to use problem-solving when teaching all of the different math strands. I want to continue to improve my math program.
I have never been a fan of worksheets, and I don’t use a math workbook either. I do believe in providing open-ended activities where students can apply what they’ve learned in class. I know the benefits of communication in math, and I try to get my students to orally share their thinking or to share their thinking in written form. I learned about the three part problem last year, and throughout the year, I tried out numerous three part problems with my students. I really tried to make problem-solving a big part of my math program.
That being said, I think that I was more successful in certain strands than in other ones. Since September, I’ve joined in on numerous Twitter chats about math. I connected with Kassia Wedekind (@kassiaowedekind), a teacher and the author of Math Exchanges: Guiding Young Mathematicians In Small Group Meetings. I read her book, and I regularly read her blog posts too. Math talk and problem-solving are key features of her excellent book! I also spoke to Angie Harrison (@techieang) about how she teaches math. She spoke to me about Fosnot’s Contexts For Learning. I found out that our math facilitator has one of the kits, and she has loaned it to me to use in class.
At the end of last week, I really started to make a change in my math program. I read through the teacher manuals in the Fosnot kit, and I tried out the Day 1 activity in the “organizer problem.” It was great! I really enjoyed walking around and taking video footage of the students discussing how they were counting the objects in the different bins. You can see a selection of these videos below:
Throughout this process, I learned that I really need to think about the questions that I ask. I need to ask more open-ended questions and provide fewer possible answers to the students. Listening to the students discuss their thinking has helped me set some goals for our next mini-lesson, and I’m glad to see that the Day 2 activity in the kit will easily allow for me to address these goals too.
I love how these activities give me more small group and one-on-one time with the students. I love how much documentation I was able to get from this single activity, and how this documentation has helped me set some class goals too. I love the focus on problem-solving and on communicating in math. I love that these activities are hands-on ones, and easily meet both the Grade 1 and Grade 2 math expectations. I love all of the different suggestions for extensions, and I love that these activities are differentiated. I love that all of my students can be successful when doing these activities.
Now comes my concern though: I usually have a math centre time each day. These math centres include the use of games and math problems, and they address numerous expectations in math. I work with individuals and groups of students during these math centres, and this time really seems to benefit my students. They’re excited about math, but they’re also learning a lot too. I’m concerned about time though. If I do one of the Fosnot activities each day, I don’t think that I’ll have time for the math centres too. I don’t want to rush either one, as I see value in both. Do both types of activities need to be done every day?
How are other people structuring their math program? How do you get time for everything? I would love to hear your ideas! Thanks for your help!