This week, in math class……

Math No Comments »

So what did my students do in math this week? Lots.

 In grade 7 math we solidified understanding of factors and multiples and then moved on to divisibility. I also introduced some great challenges to them this week that they had fun exploring.

Courtesy of @Mathnasium, they tried this problem:

 If two monkeys can eat three bananas in two minutes, how many monkeys will it take to eat 18 bananas in six minutes?

I gave them a few minutes in class to attempt it. Some students figured it out quickly, while others thought they had the answer, only to be disappointed when I told them it wasn’t correct. Their homework for the evening was to continue to work on the challenge, and to clearly write out the strategy that they used. The next day everyone came back to class with the answer. I am not saying that they all figured it out independently, but they left class more curious and enthused than I ever could have hoped for. What is important, too, is that they all came back with strategies. So even if they had received help, they got to a point where they could explain the reasoning behind the solution.

From the nRich website, on Friday they tackled Take Three from Five. For the weekend, I left them thinking about why this challenge always works. I don’t expect them to come up with the solution provided by nRich, but I am curious to see what they discover. 

In grade 8 math we have been working on prime factorization and I also introduced scientific notation.  The students are slowly working their way through the Power Mad challenge from nRich, which is a great follow up for the concepts that we have been covering. I find that even in grade 8, the most common mistake students make with powers is multiplying the base by the exponent. If anyone has any tricks that help students avoid this, I am all ears.

I love all of these challenges that I can directly incorporate into the curriculum, but I also know that students have other interests, as well. So I brought out about ten to fifteen different resource books of math puzzles, logic, and games, and had students put sticky notes with their names on the books with the puzzles that interest them. Next week I will go through their choices and personalize some extra challenge booklets for each student. I haven’t quite figured out when that is happening, as it seems like a daunting task, but I know that the reward of having engaged students will make it all worthwhile.

A Great Beginning

General Science, Math 1 Comment »

I had a fantastic first week of school. I incorporated some great resources into my repertoire, both internet resources and resources shared through twitter.

For my grade 7 and 8 science classes, I used the Subversive Lab Grouping Game, courtesy of Frank Noschese. His version uses American states and American presidents as two of the categories, which were not as relevant for my students. Instead, I added in chocolate bars (Twix, Aero, Milky Way, and Kit Kat). My largest class is under 20 students (yes, be jealous), and so there was no need to come up with a 6th category. I anticipated the questions regarding Mars – is it a planet or a chocolate bar? Technically, the chocolate bar is called a Mars Bar, but I was going to be lenient with this. As it turned out, that conversation came up, and the students knew that it is correctly called a Mars Bar. I also anticipated some discussion around Milky Way, as it could be grouped with planet names under a “space” category, but the students kept it in the chocolate bar grouping and just grouped the planets together.

For my grade 8 classes, I also conducted an activity on observations vs. inferences. Using this Powerpoint (original source unknown, but greatly appreciated), we talked about the differences between what we know and what we think. Students looked at a series of tracks on the first slide, and shared what they observed on the slide. At first it was difficult for them, as they immediately began making assumptions about the scenario being portrayed. After we shared every possible observation, they then had the opportunity to infer what they thought was happening. We then went to the second slide and third slides, which showed a continuation of the tracks, and went through the same procedure. As a final wrap up, we discussed how these skills are important in the science classroom.

In grade 7 math, the students completed the Fish Dish rich task from Bowland Maths. This activity required the students to help a chef determine the correct order to cook a meal, in the shortest possible time. Many students came up with the correct order, but soon realized that they had not determined the most efficient time. We compared everyone’s answers, and they helped each other determine how they could improve upon their methods.

In grade 8 math we conducted an investigation of the game of Tic Tac Toe, courtesy of Jim Noble from InThinking. The first investigation asked all students to determine the number of ways one could win with the basic 3 x 3 game of Tic Tac Toe. They were then asked to determine the number of possible ways to win in a 4 x 4 grid where four-in-a row wins, and in a 5 x 5 grid where five-in-a row wins. They then looked for the algebraic expression that determines the number of ways to win from the grid size. This immediately had them recall learning from the previous school year. The students then had a choice between two further investigations. They needed to attempt one, but were free to attempt both. One investigation had them determine the number of possible ways to win with three-in-a row, given a 4 x4 grid, a 5 x5 grid, and a 6 x 6 grid. Again, they searched for the algebraic expression, which was definitely harder this time.  The other investigation had them determine the number of possible ways to win with three-in-a row, given 3D grids (3 x 3 x3 and 4 x 4 x 4). I had only a few students attempt this investigation.

I spent many hours this summer researching rich math tasks and assigning them to specific units for grades 7 and 8 that I will incorporate throughout the year. The success of this first week of school has shown me that the time taken to search out these tasks was time well spent.

Have a great week.

Not the beginning

General Education No Comments »

A new school year begins tomorrow…for the students. My school year has already begun.

It began last June, when I started making decisions as to how I would change and adapt for the following year. It encompassed both the finer details, such as unit questions, and also the bigger picture, such as how to better differentiate my lessons for all learners.

It continued throughout the summer, as I spent many hours researching rich tasks that would allow students to apply their learning to the world around them. I revised planners, made new long range documents, and I read about theories, strategies, and best practices.

It further continued throughout the past two weeks, as I began the physical preparations in the building. By Thursday my rooms were ready. I had met with individual teachers and participated in team meetings, and I had prepared my lessons for the first week of school.

By Sunday I was already revising my first day lessons. I came across a great resource through twitter, and quickly decided that I was going to make a lesson switch for one of my classes. I took the original lesson and modified and differentiated it for my students, and I am much happier with the new plan.

So far all of you who are welcoming new students tomorrow, I wish you a great day. If you are anything like me, then it is not a new beginning. Rather it is just the next day in this wonderful world of education.

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