Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Starting to Get in the Math Zone

I'm not going to lie.  I am tired.  I'm going to sum things up by simply stating . . .

We have room to grow.

At this time of the year when we are frantically trying to get to know our students, establish routines, build relationships with families, learn our new curriculum, assess, and more--it is easy to let ourselves get overwhelmed.  I cannot lie.  I am there.  I'll pull myself out . . . I always do--but MAN, I am TIRED!

So . . . with that being said, I thought I'd share our first math journal experience so you can sneak a peek at some of the nifty stuff I saw--one of those glimmers that make you remember why it is we do what we do.

Our curriculum has us working with place value in the first unit, so I wanted to get a sense of how well my students could break apart and build (compose and decompose) numbers.  I taught them how to play "Take 10", a game in my place value game resource and we talked about the different ways to make 10 using 2 numbers.  I then asked them to help me come up with ways to make 10 using MORE than two numbers and we recorded some numbers sentences on the board . . . solutions such as "5 + 2 + 3 = 10" and "2 + 2 + 2 + 4 = 10" came pretty easily to them.

I told them I wanted them to try this on their own with a different number (I picked 23 for the 23 students in my class) and I asked them to not just worry about finding ways to "decompose" 23, but I drew their attention to the mathematical practice posters and highlighted the following:


I asked them to consider how they were organizing their work and using their page to organize their thinking.  I told them they could use diagrams, math symbols, or any other way to try to keep track of their multiple solutions.  I simply walked around to get a feeling for who was able to get started, who was able to persevere, who was willing to think outside the box.  I thought I'd share with you some of the cool stuff I saw!

NOTE:  This child was "stuck" so I asked her to think about the 23 as being the students in our class and to try to find the different ways we could organize our desks.  That seemed to get her unstuck after we looked at the current room arrangement and saw that the 23 desks were grouped into 5, 5, 5, 4, and 4.

We did some sharing of strategies, and students enjoyed sharing some of the new ways to organize their work.  I am pretty sure we are ready for some additional place value challenges, but I really wanted something to set the tone for the type of classroom environment we expect in  math.  Math is more than filling in the answer on a worksheet.  What did we come up with?

There are many ways to solve problems.  When you learn from others, you add to your strategy bank.  When you get stuck, try another approach.  When you are frustrated, find a strategy to get unstuck (OK . . . I'm going to be honest.  I had about 5 kids who got stuck and had NO strategies to get themselves unstuck.  Blog post coming soon . . .)

Anyhoo . . . the journey toward better mathematical understanding and learning behaviors is underway.  Stay tuned!


  1. Love your honesty. I could not be more tired. And it is indeed those glimmers that get me through too. Looking forward to reading more about your journey in math this year.

    Quinnessential Lessons

    1. Thanks, Kim--glad you stopped by. Math is a huge passion of mine, so I would love to have you follow along!

  2. This is our 3rd week and I am still exhausted. There is too much to deal with and I don't have enough hands to help or ears to listen. I am still wondering how to fit it all in and do a good job.....

    1. Sigh. I think what you meant to say is, "Don't worry--I'm in my 3rd week and my ship is pretty much sailing itself." Right? Isn't that what you meant to say? Please? It blows my mind that I have been doing this for more than 20 years and it is NOT getting easier!

  3. When I was first starting, I always consoled myself that after a few years it would get easier. It hasn't! Every group brings unique challenges, plus the challenges of changing curriculum and administrative expectations.... But we do this because we can make a difference in the life of a child! Hang in there, Meg!

    1. Isn't that the truth? Each year has a different feel...but we always figure it out!