Thursday, September 24, 2015

Fractions "Bug" Us!

I gave each of my students a clean sheet of white construction paper and asked them to draw a bug.  They could make a bug that lived on the earth or one that hadn't been found yet.  Most of them decided that the undiscovered bug was more fun to draw.  After 20 minutes of time, I put the pictures up and started asking some questions about the bugs on the board.

I started asking them questions like:
  • How many bugs are on the board?  
  • How many bugs make up one half? 
  • How do we know that ____ number of bugs make 1/2?
  • How many bugs make up 1/4? 3/4? (Followed by, how do we know?)
  • What characteristic on the bug is on 1/2 of them?  
  • What characteristic is on almost all?  
  • What fraction represents almost all?
  • What characteristics can we put together to equal 1/2? 3/4?
I kept asking questions and listening to their responses.  My purpose was to try and figure out how comfortable the class was with benchmark fractions and estimating with fractions.  There were some huge differences between my sixth grade groups.  Some groups argued with each other about how many bugs made up 3/4 and other groups there were crickets.  It was a good eye opener for me about how well they get benchmark fractions and how well they will be able to estimate with fractions.  


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Exponent Task Cards/Stations

Well, hello everyone!  This has been a crazy summer of job hunting and decision making.  I have found myself back in the classroom teaching sixth and eighth grade math.  The first month of school is almost over and things are going well.

My eighth graders are studying exponents and their rules.  There have been learning so many rules that students are starting to mix them up.  To review the individual rules again, I wanted to have task cards and students moved from station to station.  I had a really hard time finding task cards that just focused on one rule at a time.  So, I made my own set of task cards.

I thought that I would share them in case anyone else was looking for the same.  I will also leave it as a PowerPoint in case any little tweaks need to be made.  I made theses for my students and where I think they are.  I wasn't thinking generically, so I understand that some tweaking may be involved.


9-24-15: I make a couple of adjustments to the task cards.  I added numbers to keep them all straight and make the title separations into station signs.  An answer key will be coming!  I just have to finish making it!  I will also post my answer sheet for this set of task cards.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Where Have I Been?

Well, there have been some big changes in my life over this past year and adjusting to them has been interesting to say the least.  The biggest change is that I will not be returning to the classroom next year.  I am taking a break and trying something else for a bit.

I still want to blog about math!  I love developing and creating things to use in the classroom.  I also love having people with whom to share it.  I have cleaned out the classroom and as I dig through the mountain of boxes in my basement, I am sure that I will find some gems from this past year or years past.  I can't wait to get back to sharing with all of you!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Group Test after the Test...Here's How It Went

I tried something that I learned by reading a conversation on Twitter this summer.  I would only be guessing at who was having this conversation, so if you read this and it sounds familiar, let me know so I can give you credit.  Anyway, the conversation was about tests and retesting.

What I found interesting was the idea of retaking the test as a group the day after they take the test individually.  The group has limited time, say 15-20 minutes, to complete the test.  I tried this with our first skill quiz in Algebra this year.

My reasons for trying it were to:
1) help students see that they are not the only ones with a question,
2) allow peers to work together and think through the quiz, 
3) to give me and opportunity to listen to how students were explaining the math to each other, and
4) to make sure that everyone had a copy of the quiz in their math binders with the problems worked out (some students will never bring back the signed test to put in their binder).

I have two completely different groups.  My first group is a higher ability group that doesn't enjoy being quiet and still for more than 10 seconds.  This has been a challenging group so far.  My other group is quieter, but as a group, they struggle a little more to understand the material.  They present a different type of challenge.

I say this because there were two different outcomes for this activity.  In my first group, I walked away feeling "meh" about the process.  It took a lot of work to get them started and on task, even with regrouping them so that students that did well were placed with students who didn't.  They were also more argumentative with each other in a nonproductive way.  I struggled to convince them of the value of their work.  We will try this again on another quiz/test, but I am thinking to take it another way.  I am thinking of making it an error analysis activity and using mistakes that students actually made on the test.

My second group had a totally different experience.  They got right to work, helped each other, and talked about the questions.  I heard thinks like "I thought you had to..." and "But why wouldn't you..." while they were working with each other.  This was completely beneficial for them.  I also was able to answer questions that stumped the entire group, which made for a great dialog between the students and I.  I felt like this group walked away with understanding of what they did wrong and what still needed more practice.  It was a good use of time and we will try it again in the same way.

In sharing this technique, others thought that I should do this before the quiz/test.  I don't think that it is a bad idea by any means, however I have two concerns.  My first concern is that the only way that they will review for the test, will be the group test.  I want them to know how to study for math without me giving them questions.  The second concern that I have is that the questions are standards based and more open ended.  I am a novice at writing questions this way and am just not confident I can write three or four questions that I really like, so I can do a practice test, test, and re-test.  I'm not ruling it out, but I'm just not ready to go there, yet.