Tag Archive | Math Workshop

Tech Fail

“Boys and girls, today we are going to explore the app Talking Tom Cat, an app that we’ll be able to use often.  I bet some of you are familiar with this app.  What do you know about the app?”  And so began my well-planned Guided Discovery.  Until we discovered that, after an hour and a half, the app had only downloaded on a handful of the iPods.  Although I had wanted my students to explore this app, I quickly provided them with another option, to explore Doodle Buddy.  Again it was only downloaded on a few iPods, and the disappointment was growing amongst my students.

Tech fails happen.  The wireless can shut down or slow down.  Access can suddenly be blocked.  Batteries can die in the midst of an engaging project.And when it does, I have found a few things helpful.  Remain calm.  Having integrated technology into my classroom for a number of years now, one thing I have come to expect is that it rarely goes as planned.    “Boys and girls, it looks like it’s taking a while to download on the devices.  That’s okay.  Let’s take a look at Doodle Buddy.”  Remaining calms shows our students that we can not only expect the unexpected, but that we can beyond a disappointment and try something else. It’s good to have a backup plan, but even if you don’t you can still try something else.  On this particular day I chose Doodle Buddy.  It would have provided me with a slight alteration in how I was going to provide the choices that day, but what can you do?

Not everyone is going to agree with me on this, but…when all else fails let them play“Okay everyone, there must be a problem with the wireless, and we won’t be able to do what was planned today.  We will try again tomorrow.  In the meantime, explore one app that has gone unnoticed before and be ready to share about it.”  I have discovered over the years that once a huge tech disappointment has occurred, no matter how calm you remain, it can create problems throughout the day.  The kiddos just had this expectation to be working with tech, you got them all pumped up about it, and now you’re going to rip it out of their hands?  All it takes is one to two minutes for them to explore something else and an additional three to five for them to share.  In the end they feel fulfilled and they were able to become the new expert in the class on a particular application.  Not to mention that they have now added to their “I’m done, now what?” list!

Thankfully, the next day Talking Tom Cat downloaded on 90% of the devices and the children were able to produce their multiplication stories. Talking Tom Cat was a choice, but they all choose to use it.  It provided a great opportunity for us to talk about everything that I had initially planned in the Guided Discovery.  Not to mention the conversations we had about fluency and rate.  This app has now become something the kiddos use to create videos for themselves: they read their multiplication facts into it & listen to them repeatedly.  It may be lower level on Bloom’s but, it is making a difference for those who have chosen to do this!


XtraMath: A Site to ❤

I was visiting one of my favorite blogs when I came across the website XtraMath.  Kristen has such great resources and she chatted up this math resource so much that I had to immediately check it out.  I liked what I saw and created an account for my classroom.  While I am not a fan of kill and drill, I do think it is incredibly important that children know there facts well.  We all have situations where we need to add ‘on our feet’ and in order to protect ourselves and financial security … fact fluency is important. 
The website makes it easy to sign up and create a classroom.  It is easy for children to sign into.  And they can access it on any device.  I was quite pleased that my kiddos could complete XtraMath activities on the iPod.  Kiddos can also complete XtraMath at home.  Teachers can print out flyers that provide parents with the information they need to set up the home computer for their child to easily access XtraMath.  My kiddos were incredibly excited about going home to ‘play’!
In addition to the ease of use are the friendly progress reports.  This is a report for one of my kiddos from yesterday.  He was able to complete two activities.  The report show which facts he got correct and incorrect.  It also shows which facts he knows in 3 seconds or less (☺) and which he ran out of time (⌛) to answer.  Data is shown in a couple of other ways as well.  There is a chart that shows which facts have been mastered as well as a line graph that charts the child’s progress over time.  The nice thing about the reports is that they get emailed to the teacher and parent directly.  The reports make it easier for me to decide when a child is ready to move on to the next type of computation.
XtraMath has some quick and easy video tutorials on their homepage for teachers, parents, and students.  It even suggests one way for it to be managed in the classroom.  My classroom is a workshop model and so my students are engaged in a mini – lesson, independent work, and then a wrap-up.  The indpendent work time is when I have them engaged in a Have-To, an activity or task that has to be completed before they move on to a Choose-To.  The Have-Tos take on many forms that include blogging, art activities, games, and/or worksheets.  Once they have completed the Have-To they are able to choose another activity, a Choose-To.  Originally, I was going to have XtraMath as a Choose-To, but because I value fact fluency it is going to be a Have-To 2.  In other words, before the kiddos can do a Choose-To they need to complete at least one XtraMath activity.
I am really excited to see the progress of their fact fluency and look forward to passing that excitement on to them!

Sticks and Sand

A dear friend of mine says that all she really needs to teach her students is a sandbox and a stick. How can that be? Take a moment and think. Strip your teaching down to the essentials of what you do, the core philosophy and pedagogy.

How about that interactive white board? What does it do that can’t be done with some base-ten blocks, beans, or Popsicle sticks? Sure it projects. But, if I have a big enough meeting area all of my students can see whatever modeling their peers or I do.

Speaking of meeting areas. Does a rug need to define it? Not necessarily. I could create the same effect by carefully arranging my classroom. Maybe push the tables to the perimeter or cluster them so that there is enough space for all of the children to gather in one space and/or see from a chair.

I can not easily say the same for other classroom materials. I would need manipulatives for math. Even if they were just counters or beans. Not all of my students would need them, but some would and it is important that they have the option.

Paper would be necessary as well. Working with primary aged children I have found it difficult to get away from. Many of them need the paper to flesh out their ideas. Sure, they could use word, paint, or excel, but many of them prefer using their hands to plan.

Technology is a must. While it may not be necessary for every child to have his/her own device it would be necessary to have some technology. Being able to access up-to-the-minute information and resources is invaluable. Never mind students being able to create interactive content of their own.

As I looked around my classroom last Wednesday it seemed bare. Granted many of the books were piled high on the counter. But, bare it looked because I eliminated those things that we could live without. Now what would happen if I did that with the curriculum?

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Helen Hunt on SNL (1994) – BBye by fraggleclaudi

If you are a Saturday Night Live fan from the nineties you probably recall this Helen Hunt/ David Spade skit. This is exactly how I felt as I gathered up all of my math and literacy games. The games that certainly looked pretty in baskets around my classroom. That is until theY began to collect dust. I am happy to have them find some usefulness in someone else’s classroom because they have ceased to do so in mine. So… Race Around the Clock, Multiplication Mountsin, Round and Round Addends…Buh-Bye.

Open-Ended Math

I’ve been using a blog for math since December. I’m finding it pretty successful on many levels and wasn’t aure that it would be this successful. With my background in Responsive Classroom I like to incorporate academic choice and challenge by choice. I try to make it a point that the children have a choice in how they solve the problem and where they enter the problem at. Does that sound tricky, making a math problem do those things while also ensuring that they are working cooperatively?

I spend time introducing math materials to my students. Base-ten blocks, counters, fraction rods, rulers, etc. Anything they need to use in math I make sure we take the time to learn how to use and care for it. I find this important to do because I want my students to use them if they need them. As new materials are introduced, they are added to their math tool kits. I also make sure that we have plenty of grid paper handy of various sizes in case it is needed. Having the materials out and handy makes a big difference when it comes time to solve problems.

When I first started to create open-ended math problems I began simply. At the time I began we were learning multiplication and division. A post looked something like this:
My four friends came over for lunch the other day. One of them brought brownies for our
dessert. When she cut the brownies, there was enough for each of us to have the same
amount. How many brownies could each of us have and how many did she cut? Explain how
you found your answer.
This was one of many problems we used for the children to learn the fives facts.

By this time the children had identified a strategy that worked for them: equal groups, repeated addition, arrays, or skip counting. They also identified the materials that worked best for them: dry-erase boards, counters, or graph paper. These two choices building Academic Choice because the children were able to choose the how.

As you can see from the problem, it is designed to be Open-ended, allowing the children to choose how to challenge themselves. For some of my students, discovering that we each had two, 2×5=10, was challenging for them. Whereas for others, discovering that we each ate 12, 5×12=60, was challenging. And all of them took the time to find multiple solutions to the problem.

Now that we are working with money, I have made the posts much more complex. I still want the children to practice their multiplication facts, paticularly the 6,7,8, and 9’s while at the same time subtracting money amounts. One of the posts the children will be doing in the next couple of days requires them to choose a number of friends (over 5) to take to the movies. They then have to choose which movie they will see (Pirates of the Carribbean or Kung Fu Panda) ANd how they will see it (2-D, 3-D, or IMAX). Then they have to determine which snacks they will buy, all while staying under a $100 budget. This problem still builds in all of the choices of the earlier problems, but are now learning some ways to organize a lot of information using graphics.

And all the while the children are required to work cooperatively, with a partner to solve the problem. They post their solution together, and if they have time they provide feedback to their classmates on their response. And of course, we come back together to talk strategy. I think we all enjoy this because the children have the opportunity to share their expertise. It may sound like something like this will take a lot of time, but it takes anywhere from 45-60 minutes a day. On most days, the children have ample time to hop on an online game that allows them to practice math skills. Every mow and then we spend a couple of days on a problem, but that’s usually to provide the children with an opportunity to find a new solution to the problem.

Infographics In Math

Blogging is a norm in my classroom to learn and practice mathematical concepts.  I find that engaging my students in realistic stories helps them construct their own meaning of third grade math.  Lately, the stories have become more complex.  About a week ago we worked on a problem around my co-teacher’s recent wedding reception.  The children had no problem applying the mathematics, but it was difficult for them to keep track of all of the information.  I thought that infographics could be one tool they could use.  
Throughout the year, I show my students how to break apart complex mathematical stories.  Using a strategy from Comprehending Math, I show them how to read the problem and determine what they know (K), what the want to know (W), and what conditions there are (C).  Over the years I have used a KWC chart, and have also shown the children how to underline what they know, circle what they want to know and highlight/box the conditions.  This typically works when what they want to know and/or the conditions are limited to one thing.
Back to the wedding favor post…
As I conferred with my students I noticed they were not struggling with the math at all.  I was confident in their abilities to solve the entire problem.  Yet, as I was looking back at their comments on the blog I realized that they when they went to respond they were missing chunks of their answers.  I decided that infographics would be a good way to meet a variety of their needs.  That night I took the post, broke it apart and created an infographic to model the process for them. 
Using the picture from the blog post, I highlighted the condition with a green arrow to show that we had to spend less than $500.  Next, I created the table that would be helpful in solving one part of the problem.  I highlighted how much it would cost to make one favor and added a note next to it explaining what I was showing.  Then I highlighted how much money would be spent in all and how many favors would be bought in all.  Again, I included a note explaining what that was showing.  Another part of the problem requested to know how the favors would be paid for in exact cash.  I included the money and a speech bubble explaining what it was showing.  In the end, I included a post-it note on the picture to pull all of that together in a few sentences, explaining the entire infographic
The end result?  Some of them were really jazzed about the idea, while others not so much.  Some of them tried this with the next problem about baseball gear.  My baseball fanatics were happy because they drew a baseball field.  Quite creatively, they decided that they would label the position with the corresponding dollar amount.  For example the item that cost $4 would go on second base and the item that cost $8 went in center field.  They used one dugout to hold the conditions and then another to host the table that would help them calculate.  A couple of them swore that they would never do an infographic again, but they would now start using a table instead.  All good, because I really just want them to find a tool that works for them and use it!


I have become obsessed with infographics.  I have seen them popping up more and more frequently on Twitter, blogs, and articles.  Last week, I tried to create an infographic for my end-of-year review.  I had tons of information on it, and probably too much on there.  For our summative review we need to include data, student work, and reflection.  
Kinda pretty, in an elementary way, isn’t it?  But honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing.  I was more concerned about meeting all of the criteria for my summative review.  Which this does, but not in a format that will be accepted.  Yes … I had to do it over in Word format.  
Despite being told I had to do all of my work over, I decided to give infographics another go.  Because I’m really not a data girl, I decided to create another one based on the data I had to collect.  Which, in the long run was a good thing, because it helped me get re-focused on what I had said my goal was this year.  Yes … I went through the motions of the summative review process.
So over the foggy weekend, I hunkered down with my iPad and started searching for more info on infographics.  It wasn’t until searching through Cool Infographics, Wild Apricot, and Six Revisions (along with a few others) that I realized an infographic is truly no different than those full page elaborate diagrams in a magazine or informational text.  Infographics typically include a visual representation of numerical information like timelines or graphs, and your conclusion of that information (Spyre Studios).  
I sketched out what I wanted to include in my infographic and went from there.  My sketch and my final result really look nothing alike.  As I was creating my infographic I remembered that my professional goal was related to 21st Century Skills.  In remembering, I realized that I had not included anything in any of my review about 21st Century Skills.  So, I started to go through my blogs, and classroom Twitter feeds to gather more data.   As you can see, I have much more data on this infographic accompanied by a couple of conclusions.  
There are all kinds of Web2.0 tools that you can use to create charts, timelines and maps.  But really, all I used was Excel.  If I were to include a timeline, I certainly would use a Web2.0 tool.  To create the graphic itself, I used Microsoft Publisher.  I happen to enjoy Publisher, but for this particular medium, it has its limitations.  However, Glogster, LinoIt, Prezi, and even a website or blog host could probably allow you to do the same.  Now that I feel more confident in creating infographics, I look forward to using them in the classroom.  Particularly, now that it is the end of the year it would be a great way for my visual-spatial kiddoes to reflect upon their school year or even tell their fourth grade teacher about themselves.