Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Bar Modeling Resources

Thank you to all the parents that attended Parent University in October. We had a great hour together, learning about Singapore Math and its connection to the most current brain research on growth mindset. Parents had the opportunity to experience bar model lessons as they are presented to students, while practicing some of the same problems that the students work on in class. Bar modeling starts in 2nd grade in our math program, Math in Focus.

This is a great overview of bar modeling and the progressions through the years:
Math in Focus Bar Model Approach Explained

Here is a link to my Parent University Bar Model presentation:
Google Slides Presentation on Bar Modeling

As teachers work with students on word problems,  we use a core set of questions to guide our support of students. These questions help us to ensure that students are doing "the heavy lifting" when it comes to formulating a method to solve the problem that has been presented. These same questions can guide your efforts to help your child at home when they say, "I don't get this!" and/or "This doesn't make any sense. I don't know what to do!"
Our first instinct is to jump in and start telling them information; instead, if we use questions that support their own discovery of what they do know, we are helping them to be able to replicate the same strategies on their own.
GUIDING QUESTIONS to support growth mindset and combat "What do I do?" "I don't get this!"
What do you know? (I then usually rephrase what they are telling me they know. For example, "Oh so you know there have to be more balloons on Monday than on Tuesday. What else do you know?" And keep re-phrasing their answers.)
What do you need to find out?
What do you notice? What are you wondering? Anything you need clarified?
How is this similar to a problem you know how to do? How is this different?
How can you show what you do know?
Does your picture match the words?

Thinking Blocks is a great online practice site for Bar Modeling.
It is a great place for both parents and students to gain familiarity and practice with how to use bar models to solve the different types of problems, as outlined in the overview above.
Thinking Blocks to practice using Bar Models

Starting to think further about growth mindset vs. fixed mindset? 
Here is a great learning continuum for how effective our efforts are as learners. This particularly applies to learning in mathematics because so many of us (adults and children alike!) are hampered by our attitude toward mathematics and our mindset (i.e. outlook) when faced with a challenge or puzzle to solve.
As teachers of our children, we look for ways to model and encourage growth by naming habits that can be replicated across situations. For example, instead of saying, "Great job solving that!" we can name the behavior or effort that was successful, "You read the problem and thought about what you knew and didn't know. I see you started with a list of what you know and used a question mark to stand for what you didn't know."
Rubric for Assessing Effective Effort

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sumdog Launched in Grades 2 - 6!

All students in grades 2 - 6 have been given a log-in to our new math practice website, Sumdog. Each student is part of the Our Lady of Fatima School subscription. As long as they log-in with the username, password, and school code, their activity will be tracked. There is no need for you to purchase any subscription. This site will help students to practice math skills while playing short, engaging games with other classmates and students around the world who are also subscribed to Sumdog.
Our school bookmark is http://www.sumdog.com/sch/ourlady76853
Our school code is ourlady76853, and each student has a unique three letter username and password.

The program will "learn" the student's skill level during the first 150 - 200 questions and adapt accordingly. So while students choose the games they play, the program will offer the math questions. Teachers will also be able to set challenges and competitions to target particular skills or activity goals for groups of students or individual students.

New features this year are goal setting and progress tracking through the Progress Hub. Teachers, parents, and students can all track their progress and results.

Please take some time to read more about Sumdog here. This is the parent information page. It is also interesting to watch your child play the games, seeing the kinds of questions that they are presented with and their success rate.

Teachers will also be able to set quizzes that students will do upon logging into Sumdog. These quizzes give the teacher realtime data about who is successful and who is struggling with a concept covered in class.

If your child is experiencing difficulty logging into Sumdog, please email me and I will send you their log-in information and help troubleshoot as best I can. There are also Sumdog apps available for tablets and phones. So download the ones for your child's devices and they will never have an excuse not to practice their math!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Growth Mindset & the Power of "YET"

If you happened to read my profile, then you will know that I am excited about the research that has been done on how learners (both children and adults) can increase their achievement potential by shaping their attitude and approach to learning and its obstacles and challenges with a Growth Mindset. If you haven't already, take 10 minutes to watch this very brief Ted Talk about the power of "YET" and its contribution to what has been termed a Growth Mindset.

Try it on yourself. The next time you catch yourself saying, "I cannot (insert the new skill you would like to acquire or that you struggle with) and add the word YET to the end of that thought. It may transform how you view this challenge/problem/failure.

Have a look at the bulletin board that is outside my classroom. It is built on the power of YET and a growth mindset. When we change our words, and ultimately our approach, to the task of learning, we begin to adopt a Growth Mindset. These are in "kid-friendly" language and are geared specifically to Math, but really can be applied to any area of learning. You can help your children tremendously when they are frustrated by helping them re-frame their frustrations toward a Growth Mindset.
**If you are interested in these sheets, I am happy to share the files with you. They might be good reminders for your child in their homework area. Just send me an email, and I'll send you the file.

It's important for children to see us, the adults in their lives, struggling and evaluating our own successes and sharing with them how we face and deal with challenges. In future posts on Growth Mindset, I will share with you how I support students in re-framing the barriers to their learning to push them toward Growth Mindset. I am sure that students will identify roadblocks and how to re-frame them, so I see these 9 statements as being something that will be added to, changed, and built upon throughout the year.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Welcome to the 2015-2016 School Year!

I am excited to start my new position at Our Lady of Fatima as the Math Specialist. I will be working particularly with grades 2-6, working with teachers to assess students and provide support in the classrooms for a variety of math learners.

One of my favorite parts of our new Math program is the progression from concrete (doing stage--physically manipulating objects to build math models) to pictorial (seeing stage--representing math models with pictures) to abstract (symbolic stage--using numbers and symbols only) that is prevalent across the grade levels and part of all lessons that involve new skills. I started out my teaching career in a Montessori school in Toronto, Canada where concrete objects were part of every math lesson that I taught to first and second graders. The use of concrete objects to explore mathematical concepts is such an essential foundational skill, and when there are materials provided it is much more effective in re-teaching concepts that have not been mastered. The use of concrete objects also helps build a deeper knowledge of the mathematical concepts and are the stepping stones to more abstract thinking.

I often hear parents say, "I can't help with the math homework...it is so different from how I learned Math!" And yes, many things will be different from what you experienced in elementary school math class. This is a good thing! We know so much more about how the brain learns new concepts and how the way in which we learn can help us with future endeavors. There will be new vocabulary and students will be required to show their thinking in different ways. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to develop a Parent/Teacher Homework Help Desk for Nickelodeon this Spring. Many parents were polled and asked questions regarding the new math that their students are bringing home. There are explanations of basic questions and links to helpful sites for further reading and/or student practice.
Nickelodeon Homework Help Desk: https://homeworkhelpdesk.org/

Please check back often to the OLF Math Corner for more resources and links as the year progresses!