Friday, September 18, 2015

Math Rangers

Our school highly prioritizes reading with the Reading Rangers program.  Students graduate through levels, with increasing complexity in texts and increasing ZPD levels, that roughly correspond with grade level equivalencies.

The program isn't perfect, because nothing is, but my students have reading stamina and want to read.  This is a welcome change from past years where getting students to read a few chapters within a week was challenge.

However, one criticism from both teachers and students alike can be that math is not prioritized.  It's a valid point, so the math committee decided to create a similar "Math Rangers" program.

We are focusing on students mastering their basic facts, because so much of later concepts relies heavily on the automatic recall of multiplication and division. Early elementary still needs lots of hands-on time with manipulatives, but they should also be exposed to thinking about number bonds.

One of the things I like about Common Core (and the Engage NY lessons we are using) is how addition and subtraction are taught they should be.  

We decided that as a school, there needs to be a focus on math as well as reading.  So the math committee, which I'm a part of, is piloting a math fluency program.  We went with an online component because it would take the grading off the teachers' plates.  We already feel overwhelmed, so telling us we have one more weekly probe to grade was not going to be successful.

We decided to go with mathfactspro, which has a free 30 day trial.  The cost was pretty reasonable ($1 per kid per year).  I made a tracking form, but after meeting with the committee, we're tweaking it again.  

I tried to have all my students use the computers today...that didn't work.  We'll be assigning tables and they'll go once a week during independent practice.

The students start with addition facts, then move on to subtraction, multiplication, and division.  The program tests both their computer skills and their math skills, so it's nice to have those skills embedded into math practice time. 

For me, the prep work was about an hour before I could get them onto the program.  I had to manually enter all my students, create passwords (their student ID numbers), set their levels, and set the number of practice questions.  I also had to make copies of their trackers because they are responsible for tracking their own progress.  They keep their trackers in their math data folders. 

The first time on any computer program is always a learning experience.  What should have taken ten minutes took forty.  We learned to hit the "no jokes" button and that it only worked for part of the time.  Hopefully with the purchased version we won't run into that problem. 

For the students, the logging in part is fairly straight forward.  For me, that's important.  I don't want to have to help them every single time.  I want to be able to go over it a few times and then hand over the control to them.  I don't want this to feel like one more thing I have to juggle because as a very overwhelmed teacher, that's important.  I want this program to be useful, but I also want it to be beneficial for my students.

The kids enjoy it and I'm excited to see if it makes a difference.  We'll compare math scores between our kids (only the math committee got licences) and the other classrooms.  

My munchkins are excited to be part of something new.  I told them that it's a learning opportunity for us all.  

When was the last time you tried something new?  How is it working for you?

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