Math, Kinesthetically Speaking.

By Victoria Jasztal on September 2, 2009

In the photo- Three boys in my class complete Math Bingo together, which is like "Getting to Know You" Bingo, where students must get twelve classmates to respond to different problems on their papers and initial them.

Despite how often we encounter math in our daily lives, the concepts we have to cover can be extremely difficult for our students to grasp. Even in my own classroom, encouraging students to explain how they solved a specific problem can be a tedious challenge, particularly with advanced students who are used to solving problems with very little thought.

Recently the Title I schools in our district have made a transition to hands-on math instruction by adopting a portion of Scott Foresman Investigations. I have always considered myself a hands-on teacher, so at first I thought I would delve into the methods with very little difficulty. Considering I rarely grasped math concepts traditionally when I was in school and had to learn using kinesthetic methods, I thought it would come naturally. However, the planning has been an immense challenge.

Journaling

Our school has decided to try a journaling project called “Glue it and Do it” where students receive a problem on a strip of paper daily. They must glue the strip of paper in their journals (specifically designated for the project) and solve it using words, numbers, and pictures. Additionally, they must restate the information from the question at the start of their journal entry. Since most of the questions my students are answering now revolve around multiplication, they are encouraged to sketch clusters and arrays to explain how they came to their solution.

I have been inspired by reading several articles written by the sensational Marilyn Burns, which can be viewed here.  Explained Burns in a 1995 article- “Their writing (in math) is a window into what they understand, how they approach ideas, what misconceptions they harbor, and how they feel about what they’re discovering.”

Daily Data

Classes can also try Daily Data. Basically, a question can be posed to your students every week, such as-

·         In which season were you born?

·         Do you prefer dogs or cats more, or do you like them equally?

·         Out of these choices, which is your favorite theme park?

An area is designated in my classroom to display the data question for the week. Students can then complete activities over the course of the week relating to the question that has been asked.

·         Monday- Ask the question, and record the data. I printed pictures of my students on a piece of cardstock with a magnetic backing, so they can move themselves around on the whiteboard to respond.

·         Tuesday- In their journals, have the students put the data in some sort of graph- bar graph, circle/pie graph, t-chart, pictograph, or any other type of graph they find appropriate.

·         Wednesday- Have students write down observations, inferences, and variables for the data.

·         Thursday- Have students write down a word problem that goes along with the question.

·         Friday- Students will conclude the week by displaying the data in a different way from the way they displayed it on Tuesday.

References

As I feel more comfortable utilizing the workshop approach in math, I will post pictures of our journal entries, graphs, and partner explorations. For now, please visit my Delicious website to view my math links- http://delicious.com/Ms.Jasztal/Math. Additionally, I have math resources uploaded to my website that you can use- http://www.teachingvision.org/resources/math.html.

Comments

Hi Victoria, Congrats on becoming a teacher mentor. I was just in a meeting today with our schools Math Coach and my third grade colleagues. The importance of "hands on" math activities was discussed in detail. Thanks for sharing your great ideas!

... Thank you, Tracey. I believe you'll like some of the ideas I hope to post in the near future. I have done some awesome graphing activities this week that has certainly engaged my class. - Victoria :)

Hello! I recently thought of something more that you may like trying in your classroom. Last week, my students wrote surveys with 4-5 choices and got the entire class to vote. They then had to make posters with bar graphs, pie graphs and tally charts as well as write what they noticed about the data.

I really like your Daily Data routine! We are about to begin a study of data and I think your routine will really help my kids understand the concepts while having fun. Thanks so much.

... You're welcome, Eve! We had a very fun question this past week that got the entire class going- What is your favorite theme park? (Very good question for us Floridians, considering we have many theme parks within a two-hour radius of our school!)

I have enjoyed having Daily Data so far this year. Hopefully you'll also enjoy using the routine.

Victoria- I work in a school that embraces the workshop approach as an overarching philosophy. I have no math textbooks in my classroom. The majority of our math activities center on exploration, math games, problem solving. We are fortunate to participate in Marilyn Burns' MathSolutions inservice workshops several times per year. I also use a 'glue it and do it' type of journaling. I make up the problems myself to complement what we are focusing on in math, maybe tying in an idea from another content area. We teach kids to solve problems using pictures, words and numbers to show their thinking. Are your 'glue it' problems part of a packaged program?

... Charlene, they are not part of a packaged program. They are from a teacher in Lafayette County, Florida. Basically, FCAT questions without the multiple choice component. Sometimes, though, I believe I will write out appropriately challenging problems with their names and even go for the multiple choice component to tell why certain answers were correct over others. Overall, how do you like your program? Have your students better embraced math? Do you ever worry about the students getting more practice? - Victoria

I really like this workshop/problem-solving approach to math instruction. I have found that it provides my lower-level students with the opportunity to show their understanding. I look forward to reading more about this.

Barb- I know I still need help with this. The links I found that I linked on my Delicious website over the summer may help me as time moves on, though. I am just hoping my students get enough practice with this new approach. - Victoria

I love some of the ideas that you have posted here. I definitely think I will be trying the daily data! I teach all of the 5th graders so I think this project would be fun to do to compare classes!

Jill- Thank you. Daily Data is going to be great once it really gets in action. This week is going to be the first time we're going to spend a lot of time analyzing the data. Our question will be about the favorite theme parks. - Victoria

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