Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Fractions and Slope

I just read a great article in last month's NCTM journal, Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School. It describes how algebra teachers can use the properties of slope to clarify student understanding of fraction operations. If you are an NCTM member, you can access the article here.

The article got me to thinking about several different ideas. First of all, the ability to work with fractions is critical for student success in upper levels of math. High school teachers are constantly providing remediation to students who are having trouble with fractions. I would dare say that fractions are to pre-algebra and above as basic facts are to arithmetic. I hear 5th-8th grade teachers saying, "My students struggle with what I am trying to teach because they don't know their basic facts. " I hear 7th-high school teachers saying, "My students struggle with what I am trying to teach because they don't know how to work with fractions." Each year in math builds on the previous years' work. If students are missing crucial pieces of their mathematical foundation, they cannot build upon that foundation and acquire the new knowledge they need. The longer this is allowed to continue without repair, the more unstable the structure becomes.

I am not saying that we should neglect the required content for a grade and just reteach skills from earlier years. The second thing I want to share from this article is that we should be constantly looking for connections in the content we teach. There are many ways to embed skill practice in grade-level contexts. In fact, the new context may be what certain students need to see in order to master content that has been troubling them. As the author of the article says, making a connection between two math concepts may help "students develop a richer understanding of both (Cheng, 2010)." Where are other places that we can embed fraction understanding?


Cheng, Ivan. "Fractions: A New Slant on Slope." Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School 16 (August 2010): 34-41.

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Look what technology can do!!!

This is a test of the mobile blogging network. I'm sending this post from my mobile phone. Isn't that cool!!!

I just sent the previous sentence to my blog from my phone. Now I am editing the post from the computer. I can see possibilities for this! I get lots of stray ideas that I would like to blog about when I am away from the computer. Now I can send those ideas to my blog, start the conversation, and edit it later if necessary! Blogging has changed a lot since the old days! (ha!) I am really excited about the possibilities and hopeful that this will encourage me to blog more often!


Monday, September 20, 2010


Cooperative Learning Strategies

I love going into classrooms and seeing teachers excited about what they are doing that is working well! Last week I visited a 6th grade math and science teacher who is thrilled with the way her new cooperative learning strategies are working in her classroom. She learned these strategies at AMSTI training this summer from a math specialist who refuses to take credit for the ideas. :-) However, they both gave me permission to share, so here goes...

Rules for Super Teams
She groups students randomly and changes the groups regularly. Students are seated in groups of four, and each student has a role in the group. Cards outlining the duties of each role and "sound bites" that might be overheard from someone performing that role properly are at each desk.

Roles for Team Members


Sound Bites
Sound Bites
Sound Bites
Sound Bites
The teacher encourages teamwork by giving points for working together, completing homework, improving test scores, etc. She has a collection of green and red craft sticks: green sticks are for positive behaviors that are rewarded with points, and red sticks subtract points for inappropriate behavior and work ethic. Each team turns in a record of points earned at the end of each class period, and the team with the most points is rewarded with a treat at regular intervals. The students are working together to help each other learn, and their teacher is very happy with the results!

So, how is cooperative learning working in your classroom? What strategies are working well for you? What challenges do you face? Let's start a conversation and learn from each other!


Friday, September 03, 2010


What's on my mind

Lots of new projects to ponder....coaching...formative assessment...differentiated instruction....interactive student notebooks...5E lessons...distance learning...new hire training...sustainability...

Trying to decide where to focus my energy for the moment, but knowing that some mundane details must be taken care of...More to come later...back to work for now!

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