Thanks to Mandy Robek at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for hosting Math Monday!
Kendra: In December, I wrote about math choice here:
Annie: As a teacher leader, there is nothing more exciting than seeing an idea come to life in a classroom. I love reading Kendra’s blog posts about math choice! It began in the #nErDcampMI car ride home and evolved through conversations with Kendra, her Super Colleague, the instructional coach, and myself. (Disclaimer here: Our district embraces Jim Knight’s model of instructional coaching. Confidentiality is an important part of the teacher-teacher leader relationship. I was invited into the conversation by the school's instructional coach and Kendra, and Kendra has granted me permission to share my perspective. Otherwise, I’m Fort Knox, people. Fort Knox without the gold.)
Kendra: Some great things have happened since then!
Annie came. That was just awesome, well because she’s Annie! :) Seriously, it was awesome to have her math perspective in the classroom. She watched the format of the choice time. She talked to kids. She watched our whole group interactions.
(Also, Annie’s not kidding about Fort Knox. In all seriousness, that is a part of her work she takes very seriously. Not only because she’s a dear friend, but this commitment to confidentiality helped me be brave and invite her in! I only wish we would have had that gold…)
Annie: I may have jumped for joy when Kendra invited me in. Ask me to talk to firsties about math. Yes, please. Ask me to share my observations about how students are working towards grade level standards during choice time. Yes, please. I’ll try not to run every red light on the drive over.
At the front of the room, Kendra turned her whiteboard into a choice board. Nine options, including counting collections. Let’s have a moment for counting collections. There is such power in counting collections in terms of number sense, and it is often something we abandon after preschool and kindergarten. Check out this video from Teaching Channel.
Kendra’s learning target is posted, “I can talk about and practice turn-around facts.” And written above it is this statement: “Mathematicians keep working.” Boom. Hello, Standards of Mathematical Practice 1!
If you’re a teacher leader or a teacher wanting to reflect on their own practice related to the Standards of Mathematical Practice, here’s a terrific list of look-fors from Laura Chambless. I use a similar one in my work with teachers.
As I visit with the firsties, they are clearly engaged in work around the grade level content standards. They are representing and solving addition and subtraction problems using the iPad and unifix cubes. They are thinking about shapes and their attributes with a problem they have posed to themselves using pattern blocks. They are using number scrolls to extend the counting sequence. They are developing fluency with their addition and subtraction facts through a game. It is mathematical play with a purpose. I’m here to think about standards, but the excitement around math is palpable. The power of choice strikes again!
Kendra: Then the good stuff happened. When Annie and I sat down to reflect, we spent time talking about Math Practice Standards and Strand focus by grade levels. You see, I love the power of choice, but it’s really for nothing if the students don’t understand why it’s so important.
Annie: When I think about math, I can’t help but draw parallels to what works in reading instruction. We talk about what real readers do. So, we need to be sharing with students what real mathematicians do. That’s the Standards for Mathematical Practice. I carry a device around in my pocket that could calculate any numbers I wanted. Our high school students can use the app PhotoMath to scan problem and see a step-by-step guide to solve the problem. Really. Ultimately, it is the mindset of a mathematician that makes me different/better than my iPhone. The Standards for Mathematical Practice lead us towards problem solving and critical thinking. In case you don’t have them committed to memory...yet...I like this straightforward blog post from Scholastic. Kendra and I talked about how we could infuse the language of the Standards of Mathematical Practice into her classroom.
My spidey-sense told me Kendra was unsure if choice time was focused on “the right things.” Kendra? (Kendra is completely shaking her head “yes” here. I knew there had to be more when it came to standards and “the right things.” The work had to revolve around math!) We looked at a recommended focus for Grade 1. Indeed. This is “the right” work.
I didn’t show my friend this video about Operations & Algebraic Thinking at the time. But I’ll bet you anything she’s about to geek out and watch it. The ramp up to algebra begins in our early childhood classrooms. (By the way, Kendra totally geeked out and ran right to the link. Annie finds such thoughtful, cool links! And it was confirming in the work that is being considered here!)
Kendra: With these two tools, I was able to return to the classroom and shift a few things on the choice front in math.
- Choice time always includes a place value activity and fact practice. Currently my students are loving two games from Everyday Mathematics: Base-10 Exchange and Beat the Calculator.
- We have added a mathematical practice statement to our learning targets for our work. This has increased on task behaviors. Anecdotally, I’ve noted that kids are actually talking about math when they are working!
- I’m hearing things like “Hey! You need 10 more to get to 100!” “That’s addition, not subtraction.”
Math choice is here to stay. Want to get started? If you are comfortable with your frameworks and content in math, just jump in and try something. Anything. Start with fewer choices if you need to. Start with more choices if you want to. But within the framework of your math block, introduce some choice around the standards. No really, just do it. Then, run and get your Super Colleagues, Super Coaches, and Super Teacher Leaders. Talk to them, ask them to watch, listen to their ideas. Eat a snack together. (Or drink some tea.) There is power in collaboration.