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.

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…

My New Favorite Term: Abductive Reasoning

What is Abductive Reasoning?

I’m going to share my new favorite term:  abductive reasoning.  Maybe you’ve known about it for years and never told me about it.  (If that’s the case, you might be a jerk.)  Or maybe it’s new to you too.  (If that’s the case, let me know because I’m a little embarrassed I haven’t learned about abductive reasoning until recently.)

To recap, deductive reasoning is about making specific conclusions from general statements (like a math proof).  Inductive reasoning is about making generalizations about specific observations (like a science experiment).

By comparison, abductive reasoning is about making your best prediction based on incomplete information.

Abductive reasoning?!?!?!  Where have you been all my life?  Welcome to my lexicon.  Have a seat front and center and let’s talk.

What is Argument? And Emerging from the Rabbit Hole

Welcome back math geeks!  Last week, I was preparing for a workshop facilitating the learning of a dozen elementary teachers as they prepared for a 6-week interdisciplinary math/science summer academy.  I chose to focus their thinking on “argument.”  More specifically, I wanted teachers to internalize how making arguments based on reason and evidence is a […]

Access, Equity, and the Bias of Brilliance

A Confession

As a student, math class was mostly about taking notes, practicing algorithms and getting right answers. And I loved it. I really did. I could hide. It was safe and without risk. I was comfortable. “I do; we do; you do” was my jam as a student. More importantly, in this teaching style, I identified as a really strong and talented math student because I learned algorithms and got right answers. That’s what good math students do in class, right? I never had to share my thinking, never had to learn from the thinking of others, never had to challenge the dimensions of my adolescent bubble of insecurity. I never had to share or listen to a classmate share an interesting math question or an elegant solution. I never had to be vulnerable.

When I started teaching, I created the same classroom culture. I was safer as a teacher as well. I could hide. Never take risks. Be comfortable. I was the author of culture in my classroom. They were the factory workforce with one job to do: consume the algorithm and produce right answers. And my teaching aligned to this goal. Employing this style of pedagogy created a silent pact in my classroom: If you sit there and do your job and let me do mine, I will never ask you to take a risk, to challenge the dimensions of your adolescent bubble of insecurity, to share anything unique or interesting about you or your thinking. Time will pass and so will you. We might be bored, but we’ll get through this together without ever knowing each other or our vulnerabilities. Now let’s open up our textbooks and get to work.

Why Lesson Study?

Imagine a football team operating like a faculty at a school site.

Players (teachers) gather at the beginning of the season (school year) for some team-building and some pep talk (fall PD) about goals and visions for improvement from their coach (principal).

The players then study a playbook (curriculum) and some plays (instructional strategies) and maybe they practice them. Maybe they don’t. Once the season starts, they hardly ever observe each other run drills (routines). They definitely don’t scrimmage together. The coach may walk around once or twice, check some boxes on a list, and give that feedback to a player, but rarely does the coach model techniques or facilitate collaboration and discussion between players.

The players practice all year for one single game (student testing) that they don’t even believe is worth playing but everyone makes them prepare for it anyway because how else could we measure our effectiveness except through standardized test data. The players won’t find out until 4 months later how they did and how they compared to other teams (schools) in the league (district). Except by then, the offseason has happened, players have shifted teams, new playbooks have been adopted, perhaps new coaching has been hired, and it’s time to start the whole process again.

The season concludes without any player ever watching another player play.

How stupid is that?