Inspiring Stuff, November Edition

Welcome back Math Geeks!

In this week’s Global Math Department newsletter, I wrote about some stuff (activities, resources, writing, thinking) that I found useful, inspiring, and worth sharing.  I’d like to share a few of them with you here. There’s some Desmos stuff and some pondering about place value stuff. There’s some questioning stuff and student discourse stuff. There’s also other stuff and it’s all inspiring stuff. Let’s get started.

“We’re Gonna Need a Different Denominator”

Check out this compeling video from Andrew Stadel. What do you notice? What do you wonder? How can this be used to teach students about adding fractions?

I conducted a lesson study about fractions with some 5th grade teachers.  We used Andrew’s elegantly simple lesson called Black Box 2 to get students talking about adding fractions with unlike denominators.  This task is ideal for introducing the intellectual need for finding a common denominator before adding fractions procedurally.  Student discourse is rich and meaningful and lively.  Give it a read.  You won’t be disappointed.

Make Lesson Study Meaningful

I had the opportunity to give a talk at CMC-South earlier this month about my work conducting lesson studies.  About 40 inspiring educators showed up to geek out with me and learn about ways to generate teacher buy-in so that teacher learning made during lesson study leads to lasting professional growth.  This post contains a quick outline of part of my talk and the resources I shared with participants.  Please feel free to use the resources in your own work conducting lesson study.  I’d love to hear feedback.  Let’s get better together. 

Making Data and Stats Matter More in K-6, Part 2

Welcome back math geeks!

I love teaching young students about data and statistics.  And I enjoy finding ways to make data and statistics matter more to young students.  But I’m troubled by two curriculum practices about how we teach students to think about data and statistics, especially at the K-6 level.  This post is Part 2.  In my first post, I wrote about how data is often represented to students in heavily scaffolded textbook pages that rob students of the opportunity to purposely engage in thinking, wondering, and discourse…and a solution to this practice.  (If you missed Part 1, click here.)

In this post, I’ll outline another troubling practice and my attempt to help to teachers work around this obstacle.

Making Desmos Elementary: A 1st Grade Card Sort

Hello math geeks!  Welcome back!

I’ve been an advocate for using dot images and visuals as problems for number talks in the elementary classroom.  (You can find a great bank of visuals here.)  I’ve also been an advocate for using Desmos as an instructional tool for letting student thinking drive the classroom discourse.

Traditionally, Desmos has been used mostly by middle and secondary teachers as a teaching tool.  But recently they’ve introduced Card Sort as a way to make Desmos a useful instructional tool for elementary teachers and students as well.  I wrote a bit more about this on my post here.  Annie Forest made some brilliant screencast videos about how to use Desmos here.  Check them out!  She also has a bank of activities (small but growing!) here.

Here’s a link to my card sort activity. 

How Much Sugar in a Soda? A 3rd/4th Grade Division Problem

I conducted a lesson study with some elementary teachers.  We used Dan Meyer’s engaging lesson called Sugar Packets to get students talking about an interesting problem, sharing their thinking, showing what they know about division strategies.  Dan has the lesson listed as 6th grade ratio and proportional reasoning activity, but we found this problem to be suitable for both 3rd and 4th graders and possibly as a review for 5th graders.  There is a remainder in the solution.  And we found that this lesson works best if students haven’t had many opportunities to learn about remainders.  It’s a wonderful introduction to thinking about the contextual and mathematic meaning for the remainder.  (If you teach 3rd grade, I think you’ll find that your students will dig it!  Don’t let the remainder spook you off!)

This lesson addresses many of the Operation and Algebraic Thinking standards for 3rd and 4th grade.  It is also a rich opportunity for students to reason abstractly and quantitatively and to communicate their reasoning with each other.

So, give it a read and give it a go!  Let us know what you learn.  Let’s get better together.

Making Desmos Elementary

For the past few weeks, I’ve had the fun opportunity to write for the Global Math Department newsletter.  Haven’t heard of the Global Math Department?  It’s great tool to find out what’s going on in the online math world about math teaching and watch professional development webinars.  Check the site out here and read about some of the fine folks that coordinate the work here.

In the last newsletter, Bridget Dunbar (@BridgetDunbar), Anna Bornstein (@Borschtwithanna), and I (@mathgeek76) wrote separately about the importance of grade level teachers sharing and learning from teachers at other grade levels.  Teachers of all levels have a lot to learn from each other.  You can find the complete newsletter here.  (If you sign up, you’ll get weekly newsletters straight to your inbox!)

Here’s what I wrote about using Desmos as an instructional tool in the elementary classroom.  While historically used by secondary teachers, several elementary teachers are creating a lot of useful stuff.  Give it a read.  Share your thinking.  And I invited you to a call to action.

Punch-A-Bunch: A 3-Act Math Lesson on Probability

Welcome back math geeks!  I need your help making a lesson better.
I love Price is Right because many of the games require contestants to make predictions.  This often involves estimating prices of products.  But sometimes contestants have to make choices of a different nature, and these choices are ripe opportunities to think about probability and expected value.  And I love when a fruitful 3-Act Math opportunity presents itself.  (I’ve written about one before here.)

The example I want to share now doesn’t seem to fit a 3-Act format.  Maybe that’s because it’s not truly a 3-Act Math lesson.  But I don’t know what else to call it.  I’m curious about your thoughts on how to make it better. 

Some questions I’m asking: 

Is it too clunky? 
What grade levels will find this lesson useful? 
What concepts/standards does it best target? 
What opportunities did I miss? 
What extensions can be made?

I’m inviting your feedback in the comment section.  Thanks for helping me get better!

Making Data and Stats Matter More in K-6, Part 1

Welcome back math geeks!

I love teaching young students about data and statistics.  And I enjoy finding ways to make data and statistics matter more to young students.  There are two curriculum practices that trouble me about how we teach students to think about data and statistics, especially at the K-6 level.  In this post, I’ll outline one of these troubling practices and my attempt to help to teachers work around this obstacle.

Beyond the Blame Game

A friend and I were reflecting over a beer at Twitter Math Camp in July about how to get more elementary teachers to attend this amazing conference.  (Click here to know more!)

He’s an inspirational colleague with a background in special education at the elementary and middle school level.  We were talking about content knowledge.  He said, “My ability to teach math has always been limited by my lack of content knowledge beyond middle school.”  After pondering a beat, I replied, “Me too.”  Knowing my teaching experience, he leaned back with a skeptical smirk and looked askance at me.  I continued…