Friday, July 12, 2013

Upcycling for math

When I was in elementary school, I loved math.  I felt confident in the subject and was even in the math club.  However, that changed in middle and high school. I don't know if it was the larger classes or my inability to ask questions, but I stopped feeling smart in math.  I was never bad at math, I just was no longer great.  I hated that feeling of inadequacy then and I hate when I see it on my students' faces now.

So, I made some changes to how I teach math.  As often as possible, I have my students working in a small group setting on real-world challenges.  They also do centers (or stations) to reinforce the concept.  However, I try to make these stations fun and game-like so they forget they're practicing math.  I model appropriate discussions about the topic, which align perfectly with the 8 mathematical practices.

Math Idea One: Jenga

(Image from here, since I can't access my classroom during the summer)

I have multiplication facts in one color and division facts in another.  Students can pick which operation they feel more comfortable with and the group is responsible for checking the reasonableness of the answer.  

I used an old jenga set and am constantly on the look out at Goodwill for more (since I don't necessarily want to buy a new, expensive one).  This teacher printed cards and attached them to Jenga blocks, but I found sharpies work just fine as well.

This idea could be modified for addition, subtraction, equivalent fractions, decimals, etc.  I've also made a set for character questions and another for Greek and Latin roots and affixes.  My students love the game aspect and can be trusted to be on task, even when sitting in the hallway.  I'd recommend groups no larger then six for this activity, that way everyone is participating and on task.

Students discuss the reasonableness of the answers, use and look for patterns, discuss their logic with one another as well as practice their math facts, which aids in number sense!  I love that this center is one that requires virtually no upkeep.  Once prepared, the pieces can be kept in a ziplock bag, bucket, decorated pringles can, whatever you'd like!  If a piece or two goes missing, it's not the end of the world :)

Idea 2:
Popsicle sticks and markers can be upcycled to make this:

Students can work independently or in table teams to put these in order.  They can practice math facts, this can be easily differentiated for students' needs and you can use different colors to keep sets together.  Plus, I'm a fan of any center that can be made at home while watching TV!

Happy upcycling!

Ms. Vice

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