Focus on Math

Helping children become mathematicians!

Welcome to SUCCESS! July 31, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 12.36.30 PMAs I write this the summer is half over — at least for students and teachers in BC, Canada. Schools are generally out for July and August, and then begin after Labour Day in September. I know in other places school will resume in mid- or late-August.

Whenever it begins for you, my question is this: what tone do you set in those first days/weeks of school? What is the most important message that you relay to your students?

For me it was simply this: WELCOME TO SUCCESS!  I had cut the letters for that saying out of construction paper 12 inches high (one letter for each page) and I stapled the message above the chalk board at the front of the classroom.

I talked about student success many times each day for the first few weeks. I basically inundated the students with the message that they would succeed in my classroom because I would not let them fail. I would do whatever it takes to work with them to be successful throughout the year. Failure was NOT an option — this was a classroom of successful students! I even went so far as to tell them that it was their lucky year getting  me for a teacher! Oh, there would be work involved along with lots of learning, talking, thinking, wondering, solving, thinking, testing, proving, thinking, recording, demonstrating, thinking… But we would be working together as a class and each and every student would be successful.

I was especially vocal about success in mathematics. I was teaching grade 6/7 in the early years of my “WELCOME TO SUCCESS” campaign, and it was clearly evident that a large proportion of the class came to me telling me they did not like math and that they were not good at it. I knew the real story was that they did not UNDERSTAND the math and they were not good at remembering all the rules. My plan was to work continually with the concepts in the mathematics knowing that once they understood they would get better and be more confident. My promise was to help them be successful even in an area of study they thought they could not be successful in.

The wonderful things was, of course, that my statement of declaration proved true year after year. All of the students WERE successful! They believed me when I declared it (I guess I said it and they read it so many times that they could not help but believe it!) and ultimately their personal belief regarding their personal success was a turning point for them.

I will ask my question again: what tone do you set in those first days/weeks of school? What is the most important message that you relay to your students?

Mathematically yours,
Carollee

 

Math in Nature July 15, 2014

Filed under: General Math,Parents — Focus on Math @ 3:03 pm
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Pinecone fib pic 1When you are spending time in the outdoors, one of the mathematical things you can look for is the connection in nature to the Fibonacci number sequence. Of course, one must know the sequence in order to recognize when it shows up in nature, and it is as follows:
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…
Do you see the pattern? It begins, with 0 and 1, and after that each successive number is the sum of the two previous numbers. Thus the number after 34 is 55, derived by 21 + 34 = 55.

The sequence shows up in nature in a variety of ways. For many flowers, the number of petals that they have is a Fibonacci number. Looking at the bottom of pinecones, the number of spirals formed, whether left spirals or right spirals, is a Fibonacci number. This is true for pineapples and sunflowers as well. The number of seeds found in fruit is often a Fibonacci number. The next time you are eating an apple or orange, or squeezing lemons for lemonade, stop and count the seeds! Even when looking at how plants branch off a stalk or grow their leaves we can see the Fibonacci sequence.

Click here for one great site for delving into this further— there are many others out there, too!
Happy number hunting!
Mathematically yours,
Carollee

Pinecone fib pic 2  tree branches Fib pic

 

GPS: It’s All Based on Math! June 12, 2014

Filed under: General Math — Focus on Math @ 12:55 pm

Ever wonder about how a GPS works? It is all based on math — lots of math, in fact! Here is a delightful explanation of how it works that was shared with me recently. I enjoyed watching it — I hope you do to!


Mathematically yours,
Carollee

 

Breaking Apart Numbers: Practice Sheets May 27, 2014

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 10.57.33 AMI have mentioned before about the importance of breaking numbers apart, of having students understand that every number can be broken into smaller numbers. I have included this practice on all of the Number of the Day sheets (level l, level ll, level lll) that I have posted, but it warrants adding these other sheets that focus on this Whole-Part-Part number relationship.

Regularly practicing this skill can change students’ thinking. They will be much more likely, in any given situation involving numbers, to look for alternative ways of thinking if they have spent time pulling numbers apart in many ways.

Remember, the students are not starting with a new number in every circle. Rather they are using one particular number for a line or for the whole page! In different situations it may be more beneficial to break a number apart in one way than it is in another way.

Mathematically yours,

Carollee

download the breaking into two parts sheet here

download the breaking into three parts sheet here

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 10.57.53 AM

 

Mathematics is Much More than Numbers on a Page May 22, 2014

Filed under: General Math — Focus on Math @ 11:34 am
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Screen shot 2014-05-22 at 11.27.16 AM One of my favourite quotes about mathematics: “Mathematical notation no more is mathematics than musical notation is music. A page of sheet music represents a piece of music, but the notation and the music are not the same; the music itself happens when the notes on the page are sung or performed on a musical instrument. It is in its performance that the music comes alive; it exists not on the page but in our minds. The same is true for mathematics.” — Keith Delvin

Are your students really DOING mathematics, or just working with notations on a page?

Mathematically yours,

Carollee

 

Carollee is Retiring –from SD#60 but NOT from math!! May 21, 2014

Filed under: General Math — Focus on Math @ 2:10 pm

Screen shot 2014-05-21 at 1.52.20 PMIt is with great delight that I let you all know that I am retiring from my position here at School District #60 Peace River North. I am off to live in Comox, BC, on Vancouver Island, near my daughter and her family. I will be leaving The North in just a couple of weeks after being here for many, many years.

I will NOT, however, be retiring from MATH! I will certainly continue with this blog, and I will continue to work with schools and districts to work toward better math instruction and learning. My time for such involvements will be much more flexible and I am looking forward to new endeavours.

If I have had an impact on YOUR teaching, thinking, etc., or if you are just wanting to send good wishes, feel free to contribute to the google presentation that will be shown at the retirement tea on June 3. (I am under strict orders to NOT visit that site so as to be surprised at the tea itself!)

The google presentation site is this:     goo.gl/b5liVA    (You will have to copy and paste this one as I do not want to open the link myself LOL).

This has been a great journey, but it is time for a new chapter.

Mathematically yours,

Carollee

PS: The poster is the handiwork of my colleague and friend Toni Thompson.

 

Ecole Muheim Elementary, Smithers, BC: Math Week May 20, 2014

Math week picMy appreciation to the staff at Ecole Muheim Elementary in Smithers, BC, for your great participation in the workshop last Friday! With the weather as beautiful as it was, and the fact that it was the beginning of the Victoria Day long weekend, your focus and participation is doubly appreciated!

One of the things we talked about at the session was the idea of breaking away from the traditional focus of teaching mathematics in units that are seldom revisited. You know, the three-week unit on fractions, after which we do very little with fractions for the remainder of the school year. I showed you the “math week” I worked with as a classroom teacher, and promised I would post a copy of that.

Please note that the main focus everyday was on number and operations. I think particularly in elementary school that this is often neglected. We will do units on patterning, on geometry, and such (which, of course, are valid topics in mathematics!) that go for weeks at a time while leaving behind number. I personally believe that this is not the best way to cover the topics, and so propose a weekly plan where the other strands/topics are addressed in mini-lessons.

I have had teachers tell me that the idea of juggling all of the different topics at once was overwhelming – and to that I offer the plan of keeping the mini-lessons the same for a week or two. Even doing that you will be covering all of the topics each grading term, which I believe is a very good thing.

You do not need to re-invent the wheel so to speak when it comes to the mini-lessons. For example, as you consider what you will do in the patterns & relations mini-lessons, you can go to your regular textbook source and use lesson ideas from there – you will just chunk the lessons into smaller bits and do them in successive lessons.

I coached one teacher regarding the Math Week system, and she created for herself a series of thin binders to keep track. Her Monday binder had the unit content photocopied for the topic for each Monday mini-lesson, and she just highlighted the chunks she was going to do and numbered them in the order she was going to do them, and thus in one planning sitting she laid out for herself the next 8-10 mini-lessons on that topic. She did this same thing for each of the days of week. The system worked very well for her in that manner.

Download the Math Week sheet here.

For the Muheim folks I will add links here to a number of the handouts we used so you have access to clean copies of those:

–100 dot arrays (1 large)

–100 dot arrays (4 per page)

–100 dot arrays (6 per page)

–100 dot arrays (12 per page)

–number of the day level 1 (English)

–number of the day level 1 (French)

–number of the day level 2 (English)

–number of the day level 2 (French)

–number of the day level 3 (English)

–number of the day level 3 (French)

–base 10 grid paper (larger)

–percent circles

 

I would love to hear about the ideas you are trying in your classrooms! Please comment on the blog or send me an email!

Mathematically yours,

Carollee

 

 
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