Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Rethinking Math Menus

First, let me begin this post with saying that I love teaching math.  I remember, at a young age, sitting in the office with my stepdad.  He'd tutor me every Saturday morning and reteach the concepts that I didn't quite understand from the week before.  We'd use a dry erase board and different colored markers...which is probably what I loved the most.  I remember him trying to explain the reasoning behind the math concept without making me just memorize the information.  Math class...the feeling of not understanding and the way I felt shy about answering questions.  Ugh...and I dreaded those timed multiplication tests every day.  Man...those stunk!  (*and I still, to this day, hate them)

Fast forward to current day and I love math.  I love teaching it.  I love explaining why it's important and the many uses for it.  I love using body movements to get the kids up and "doing" math.  I love math!  So when I went to a conference that had "a new way to look at math menus" I just couldn't pass it up, and I'm sure glad I didn't.  Here are some of the take-aways I had from the session that I wanted to share with you. 

1.  Notice and Wonder - Two simple words, but a powerful way to have students truly examine the problem before beginning to work it out.  The idea stems from the typical time in every math class where you dive into a story problem.  You may use CUBES or FISH or some other type of problem solving strategy.  But what it comes down to is a child looking for number and "clue words" to circle.  Right?  This strategy tries to break us away from that idea.  Instead, give the students just a picture from the story words, no question.  Ask them, "What do you notice or wonder".  Let's try it:
What do you notice?  Did you notice that some numbers are whole numbers and some are fractions?  Did you notice that there are letters and numbers?  Did you notice that the picture is a number line?  How about least to greatest?  Did you notice that some of the lines on the number line are smaller than others?  How about noticing that there is a space between some numbers and no space between others?

Now wonder....wonder what type of question could be asked with this picture.  What could you ask a friend about this picture? 

These are some of the ideas you could use this simple number line with in a classroom. 
Next, you would show the actual question and see how the students would use what they have noticed and wondered to answer the question. 

2.  Create a menu that allows students to practice a skill and extend their thinking without having to create center after center.  In this model, students are given a GUIDE sheet to "guide" their own learning through purposeful work.  GUIDE stands for "games", "using what you know", "independent work", "developing fluency", and "expressing math ideas".  I created a "MUST DO" and a "MAY DO" column for each part of the GUIDE.  My students use the GUIDE as a true guide to what they are doing for the week and to turn in (the back of the sheet has specific parts to complete).  While my students are working from the GUIDE, I'm calling math groups to teach the lesson in small groups.  With teaching the concept in small groups I can personalize the lessons, correct misconceptions, and address any questions my students have.  Each small group lesson ranges in length (time), but I do have a timer to help me keep on schedule.  I adjust the small groups based on pre-assessments, which helps group students on the same understanding level. 
Here are some links to the GUIDE sheets:
Example 1
Example 2
Example 3

I certainly hope you found something useful and can take something new into your classroom!  Enjoy!