addition and subtraction activities
For years I have used the phrase "problem solving does not equal word problems", but I love it when I have a real world "math experience" that helps prove this point.  Today was one of those days--so I thought I'd share!

If you have followed me for any length of time, you may have seen me post about "Mind Boggling Math", a resource I created about three years ago to help provide me students with a challenging way to practice their addition, subtraction, estimation, and perseverance skills.  I have used it in different ways--sometimes as an activity for fast finishers, sometimes I have done it cooperatively, and sometimes I introduce it to the entire class and just see what happens!

That's what happened this year.  I explained the tasks to my class...explained that the goal was to improve their math organization, to work on their addition with regrouping fluency and accuracy, and to persevere with challenging tasks.  I was kind of anticipating using it as a part of math workshop...where students could be working on something meaningful while I pull small intervention groups.  That's how it started.

Until today.

I had a group of four girls working together when one of them came up to me and said, "Mrs. A, we have been working really hard on this page--but we have four different answers."

Yikes, right?

I asked them what they thought they could do to try to find their mistakes...and one suggested the start with one column and see if they could get agreement on that one.  I thought that sounded like a great idea--and let them get back to work.
math workshop
I walked past another student who told me, "I keep getting screwed up on what numbers I have used."

I sat down next to him and asked what he thought he could to to organize his thinking.  He thought for a minute and then said, "Maybe I should cross off numbers I use so I can easily see them."  I thought that seemed like a great strategy--and let him get back to work.
problem solving
So as I was circulating around the room getting ready to pull my next intervention group, I saw a group of three boys huddled up--one with his arms crossed and a pretty sour look on his face.  The other two had a packet on a clipboard and were pointing and looking at their own sheets...so I asked what they were doing. (First thought--can't like--they were copying off each other).

One replied, "---- has a different answer than we have so we are trying to help him find where he went wrong."

The "victim" chimed in with "I think THEY are wrong and I am right!".  I asked how they planned to figure out the correct answer...and they thought for a bit.  One said, "Let's try adding them up in a different order and see what we get."  I smiled and asked them to let me know what they found out.
math workshop
So...despite the fact that I am a HUGE believer in word problems, I think it's important for us to remember that "solving problems" is more than solving word problems...it's about solving "problems" that occur when processing math.  These three examples literally happened within 15 minutes of each other...and within 20 feet of classroom space!  I shared with the students what I had noticed--and how that type of thinking is TRULY what builds mathematical minds.  This is way more than solving these addition tasks--it's about developing strategies (like solving a problem a different way...or marking off numbers to keep organized...) that can apply to MANY other math situations.  This is why the Standards for Mathematical Practice are so critical--it's more than the content.

I watched the students start to understand this...and to be proud of the struggles they had.  This is why I teach.  I. Love. These. Moments.  I reminded my students what we had learned about the brain and how it grows from mistakes--and how proud I was that they were sticking with the task despite it being challenging and frustrating--and that their hard work truly was paying off...even if they NEVER find the correct answer.  #teachablemoment
addition and subtraction problem solving
If you are interested, I have this resource in the version I have pictured (The "original" Mind Boggling Math) and also a "Money" edition to add decimals and also a 2 digit version...I may replace this one with the two digit version for some of my struggling students.  I may also have a few use a calculator to check their work as they go so they don't get too frustrated...the activities are so valuable and I want all my students to have access.  See what you think!

Today is my day to blog over at Upper Elementary Snapshots, and I'm chatting a bit about the importance of teaching students how to work in partners.  Want to read more?  Check it out by clicking the image below!  Thanks--and have a great day!
classroom culture

classroom culture
 first 6 days of school...and we have been working hard to learn some routines, get to know each other, and establish some positive classroom culture "vibes".  I thought I'd share a few snapshots of some of the things we did to build our new community!  

Of course, there were tons of things we did that I haven't included...lots of anchor charts about expectations, shared picture books, body breaks (thanks, GoNoodle!), and more...but each of the things I have pictured did SOMETHING to move us forward in our attempt to build our classroom family. We have started talking at length about "growth mindsets" as well--and a post will be coming soon about that!

The first thing I want to establish early on is collaboration--in my class, we work together ALL THE. TIME.  Asking students just coming off of summer break to work in groups is not always reasonable...so I always start by establishing partnership expectations.  We talk about how to work together...how to invite your partner to participate...how to make sure we know how to help and ask for help, and so on.  This simple "making words" activity was a simple way for partners to work together and practice that "give and take".
cooperative learning
Another skill we work on in the first days is learning how to go up to someone and ask a question.  For some more introverted students, this is really challenging so we have a discussion about how we can help shy people feel safe in these situations.  We practice using language that "includes" rather than excludes and also practice asking questions.  This "bingo" type activity helps students practice going up to other students and asking simple questions.  ("Do you have a cat?" "Do you have a brother?") and then when they find a "match", that person colors in the matching shape.  I walked around and coached students who were struggling with the interactions.  
building classroom community
This is a part of a building classroom community resource.  Click HERE to see this one and the other activities included in it.
 Another key part of our first days together is a discussion about work quality.  We worked together to make an anchor chart entitled "What is quality work" where we talked about neat printing and coloring, careful spelling, rereading our work and so on.  To practice, we working on making back to school "pennant glyphs" to display outside our classroom.
community in the classroom
This project is another part of my resource with ideas to build classroom community.  Click HERE to see more.
 Getting to know each other also involves acknowledging our own traits!  One morning's "warm up" activity was called "put yourself on the line".  I do this throughout the year as a way to get students to express their opinions about different topics...they actually line up according to their beliefs.  This activity was a little different in that I put two cards on opposite ends of the line and asked students to stand by one of them--or somewhere in the middle. We did it three times...we put ourselves on the line for the following ideas:

shy ------- outgoing
rarely participate in class ------- participate a lot
leader  --------- follower

We came back together as a class and had a discussion about these ideas--and how they impact learning and how we need to understand and appreciate each other.  We talked about positive leaders and negative leaders.  About ways to participate in class--even when it's hard.  How to help shy students feel more comfortable--and how to not be overbearing if you are outgoing!  I am hopeful that all students have done some thinking about their role in our "family"--and how to make sure they can help others feel valued as well.
classroom community
 Another activity we worked on was jigsaw puzzles...because it gave us a time to practice making "strategy suggestions" and then trying them.  Some groups decided to sort by color, others worked to find all the edge pieces, and so on.  We used this as a time to practice our "helping" stems where we talked about how to offer help, accept help, politely refuse help, and accept help graciously.  We worked cooperatively to put together 10 puzzles!
back to school
 By the fourth day, I felt we might be ready for a big challenge--working as a team to get Chromebooks set up and organized.  I know many teachers get everything all set up ahead of time--but I ask students to figure out how to keep their crates organized and cables clear.  It seems they have more ownership when they put the time in ahead of time instead of me doing it.  It was NOT an easy challenge, but by the time we were finished, all 4 crates were assembled and the "Chromies" were charging so they could be used the next day.  WHEW!
Chromebook organization
 Because I wanted to really set the stage for a year of reading in my class, I had desk groups each take a tour of my classroom library, learn how to care for it, and then browse through my thousands of books and start to generate a list of books they are interested in reading.  Want to see more about how my classroom library is organized?  I have a video tour HERE.  Students got SO excited to see all their options and to grab their first book.  We are off are ready to read now!
reader's workshop
This form is from my "Getting Ready for a Year of Reading" resource.
Next week is our first full week, so we will be really digging into content and more routines--but I definitely feel like we have gotten a great start on our classroom culture and that students can tell that we are going to have a great year.  Thanks for stopping by!  Stay tuned for updates soon!
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