Sunday, February 1, 2015

Making Math Meaningful

Our math text books are older than our students.  Our standards have changed several times in the six years that I've been teaching.  To say that planning math is tedious and copy intensive would be an understatement.

This year was my first year in five years of teaching a traditional, whole group, seventy minute math block.  It's been a challenge but I've got a wonderful fellow teacher who collaborates with me on a daily basis.  To put things into perspective, it takes two of us roughly an hour and a half to plan each math lesson.  That's two of us simultaneously copying, stapling, sorting, typing, and creating the math plans (and corresponding ppt/smart notebook) to make math meaningful.  I'm not one to have a math block go like this:

1. I say what we're learning.
2. I do two problems by myself.
3. We do a problem together.
4. You do one with your neighbor.
5. Got it? Good. Work quietly for thirty minutes.

That's not fun. That's not meaningful. That's not engaging. But most importantly, that's not good teaching.

We try to make our math block as meaningful as possible.  For our last geometry unit, that meant lots of sorts, hierarchies, and creating lots of polygons with our super fancy manipulatives:

We used maps of our surrounding area to find parallel, perpendicular, and interesting lines.  We got up and made polygons with our bodies and our pipe cleaners.  We had a lot of table team activities.  They had a lot of discussions and gallery walks to critique the reasoning of others.

I just finished grading their tests.  As a class, this was the best unit they've done.

We start coordinate grids next week and we're kicking off the unit with battle ship.  They're ten. School should be fun. School should also include high standards and productive tasks that challenge their thinking, but should still be enjoyable and memorable.

Most importantly, math should be meaningful.

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