### 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?

Reference

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

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?

Reference

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

Labels: basic skills, fractions, slope

## 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!

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!

Labels: blogging

### 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

Roles for Team Members

Coach/Leader

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!

Rules for Super Teams

- Works together for common goals
- Makes sure that everyone in the group understands the concept
- Allows for different opinions in working toward a solution
- Is patient with all members
- Encourages each member to do their best work
- Stays on task
- Is eager to share after exploring together
- Is careful with manipulatives and tools of math
- Leaves team area neat and clean
- Brings our math notebook each day
- Collects papers when a team member is out
- Increases scores on tests and daily work

Roles for Team Members

Coach/Leader

- Makes sure every voice is heard
- Focuses team on learning task
- Collects handouts for members who are absent
- Manages time so that the group gets the task completed

- “Let’s hear from Ben next.”
- “That’s interesting, but let’s get back to our task.”
- “Let’s settle this by voting or paper/rock/scissors.”
- “If we can’t agree, we will have to ask Mrs. Smith to intervene.”
- “Here are the handouts you missed and I will ask Mrs. Smith to give you a copy of our Venn diagram from yesterday.”
- “We only have 5 minutes left. Let’s see if we can state this in a sentence or two.”
- “I think it is time to ask the teacher for help since I am not getting cooperation.”

- Follow directions regarding materials for the day
- Picks up materials when instructed
- Makes sure everything is in good shape
- Reports to Coach if anything material is broken or not working
- Turns in all materials in good condition
- Collects all papers to be turned in

- “Coach, this ruler is broken. I will get another for us if you will let Mrs. Smith know.”
- “Please hand me your papers with your names on them so that I can turn them in.”
- “I see you are still using the calculator, but my instructions are to return them now.”

- Reports to class what the group has discovered
- Makes sure that he/she understands what the group wants to say about a topic
- May not always agree with the groups response
- Speaks clearly so that everyone in the room can hear
- Uses graphic representations when appropriate to help audience understand

- “My group thinks that…”
- “We found that….”
- “As the graph shows…”
- “Although we all did not agree, the majority thinks…”
- “The last group was correct, but we also found…”
- “We got the same answer, but we did it this way…”

- Records what the reporter will say
- Completes any written assignment that the team is required to turn in
- Reads instructions on any handout to the team
- Rechecks figures on answers

- “Here are the instructions for this sheet we are to do and hand in at the end of the exploration.”
- “This is what we have decided the reporter should mention.”
- “Will you help me because I need to write a summary statement and draw this polygon.”
- “Now, let me read this to you and see anyone has anything to add.”
- “Well, we can do it that way, but it has to be done this way to hand in.”
- “Let’s all write our names on this since it is being turned in.”

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!

Labels: cooperative learning

### 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!

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!