Showing posts with label math. Show all posts
Showing posts with label math. Show all posts

Summer Fun with Money (freebie)

There is never enough practice in math for money. I have no memory for learning money or coin value growing up, I just know that I'm asked all the time how to help and build those money skills. I think in many times our math move faster than many kids are ready to move. Some need more practice other need that practice that always be part of their day as review.

For me, money practice can from my weekly allowance--sometimes I would try it get it twice week but there were times when the bank would have to owe me as well. (That didn't work out so well.) Summer is a great time for kids to work with coins plus gain some responsibility.

In class, I have set up a classroom bank and charged students for everything from borrowing pencils to renting the chair they are sitting in.

Ok some ground rules.

In either event, before they get an allowance, a child should be old enough to count money. The key to a successful allowance is structuring it right from the outset.

Make it clear to your children what kinds of expenditures the money is for, and that they are expected to save some of it. Younger children - ages 7 to 10 - shouldn't be held accountable for items like school lunch money as part of their allowances, but it's not a bad idea for older kids and has the added benefit of fewer payments changing hands.

Some experts think parents should not link the allowance money to household chores. Children should be expected to help out around the house and in the yard because they are members of the family, not because they are paid. That's your call, obviously, not mine. When my family moved, my sister and I were slave labor and charged riding the lard of weeds at 5 cents a pop--we were rich in no time.

Yet with children over 8 or 9 years old, giving an allowance doesn't preclude paying them for specific chores, especially the occasional type that you might otherwise pay outsiders to perform, such as shoveling the sidewalk or washing the car. Why not keep the money in the family?

So instead of grimacing when your children hit you up for a raise, decide when the time is right and then engage them in fruitful negotiations. How long since the last raise? Will new expenditures be covered? What amount of the raise will be saved long-term for expenditures requiring your approval?

The most vexing decision on allowances is how much - a decision affected by personal values, family income and common sense. Don't let your children influence the amount by saying what their friends are getting: Any normal child will bring in high figures.

Many parents like to give their children the equivalent in today's dollars of the allowance they received at the same age. Assuming that these parents have more or less the same means as their parents did, this can be a comfortable solution.

Something to think about trying. It seems easier than running a classroom bank. My freebie is designed to help you teach and reenforce learning the value of coins. Without knowing those, kids are sunk. Print it off and use it to reteach coin values and to help you in the class and at home.

How to Build Number Sense

Number sense involves understanding numbers; knowing how to write and represent numbers in different ways; recognizing the quantity represented by numerals and other number forms; and discovering how a number relates to another number or group of numbers. Number sense develops gradually and varies as a result of exploring numbers, visualizing them in a variety of contexts, and relating to them in different ways.

In the primary and intermediate grades, number sense includes skills such as counting; representing numbers with manipulatives and models; understanding place value in the context of our base 10 number system; writing and recognizing numbers in different forms such as expanded, word, and standard; and expressing a number different ways—5 is "4 + 1" as well as "7 - 2," and 100 is 10 tens as well as 1 hundred. Number sense also includes the ability to compare and order numbers—whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and integers—and the ability to identify a number by an attribute—such as odd or even, prime or composite-or as a multiple or factor of another number. As students work with numbers, they gradually develop flexibility in thinking about numbers, which is a distinguishing characteristic of number sense.


Number sense enables students to understand and express quantities in their world. For example, whole numbers describe the number of students in a class or the number of days until a special event. Decimal quantities relate to money or metric measures, fractional amounts describing ingredient measures or time increments, negative quantities conveying temperatures below zero or depths below sea level, or percent amounts describing test scores or sale prices. Number sense is also the basis for understanding any mathematical operation and being able to estimate and make a meaningful interpretation of its result.


In teaching number sense, using manipulatives and models (e.g., place-value blocks, fraction strips, decimal squares, number lines, and place-value and hundreds charts) helps students understand what numbers represent, different ways to express numbers, and how numbers relate to one another.

When students trade with place-value blocks they can demonstrate that the number 14 may be represented as 14 ones or as 1 ten and 4 ones. They can also demonstrate that 10 hundreds is the same as 1 thousand. By recording the number of each kind of block in the corresponding column (thousands, hundreds, tens, or ones) on a place-value chart, students practice writing numbers in standard form.

Using fraction strips, students find that 1/4 is less than 1/3 and that it names the same amount as 2/8. Using decimal squares, students see that 8 tenths can be written as 0.8 or 8/10. By pairing up counters to identify even numbers and marking these on a hundreds chart, primary-grade students discover that, beginning with 2, every other number is an even number. Intermediate-grade students can mark multiples of 3 and 6 on a hundreds chart and find that every number that has 6 as a factor also has 3 as a factor. Using a number line, students see how fractions with different denominators relate to the benchmark quantities of 0, 1/2, and 1. From these concrete experiences, students build the foundation for number sense they will bring to computation, estimation, measurement, problem solving, and all other areas of mathematics.


Many teachers use the calendar as a source of mathematics activities. Students can work with counting, patterns, number sequence, odd and even numbers, and multiples of a number; they can also create word problems related to the calendar. A hundreds chart can help them count the number of days in school, and the current day’s number can be the "number of the day." Students can suggest various ways to make or describe that number. For example, on the 37th day of school, children may describe that number as 30 plus 7, 40 minus 3, an odd number, 15 plus 15 plus 7, my mother’s age, or 1 more than 3 dozen. The complexity of student’s responses will grow as the year goes on and as they listen to one another think mathematically. This is a great language building time.


  • Model different methods for computing:

When a teacher publicly records a number of different approaches to solving a problem–solicited from the class or by introducing her own—it exposes students to strategies that they may not have considered.  As Marilyn Burns explains, “When children think that there is one right way to compute, they focus on learning and applying it, rather than thinking about what makes sense for the numbers at hand.”

  • Ask students regularly to calculate mentally:

Mental math encourages students to build on their knowledge about numbers and numerical relationships. When they cannot rely on memorized procedures or hold large quantities in their heads, students are forced to think more flexibly and efficiently, and to consider alternate problem solving strategies.

  • Have class discussions about strategies for computing:

Classroom discussions about strategies help students to crystalize their own thinking while providing them the opportunity to critically evaluate their classmates’ approaches. In guiding the discussion, be sure to track ideas on the board to help students make connections between mathematical thinking and symbolic representation.

  • Make estimation an integral part of computing.

Most of the math that we do every day—deciding when to leave for school, how much paint to buy, what type of tip to leave in a restaurant, which line to get in at the grocery store relies not only on mental math but estimations.  However traditional textbook rounding exercises don’t provide the necessary context for students to understand estimating or build number sense.  To do that, estimation must be embedded in problem situations.

  • Question students about how they reason numerically.

Asking students about their reasoning—both when they make mistakes AND when they arrive at the correct answer—communicates to them that you value their ideas, that math is about reasoning, and, most importantly, that math should make sense to them.  Exploring reasoning is also extremely important for the teacher as a formative assessment tool.  It helps her understand each student’s strengths and weaknesses, content knowledge, reasoning strategies and misconceptions.

  • Pose numerical problems that have more than one possible answer:

Problems with multiple answers provide plenty of opportunities for students to reason numerically.  It’s a chance to explore numbers and reasoning perhaps more creatively than if there was “one right answer.”

All of these number sense activities contribute to your students’ abilities to solve problems. When children have daily, long-term opportunities to work (and play) with numbers, you will be continually amazed by the growth in their mathematical thinking, confidence, and enthusiasm about mathematics. By helping your children develop number sense, especially in the context of problem solving, you are helping them believe in themselves as mathematicians.

Multiplication Accommodations and Instruction Ideas

My third grade students are going back to multiplication after Christmas Break. This will be the second time they will have had the content. This time I have to get them to mastery. These guys have a working foundation of the meaning of multiplication through creating models to represent equations.

What are Accommodations for Multiplication?

These are suggestions for mathematics learning accommodations based on specific learning disabilities. These learning accommodations have been proven successful with many learning disabled students. Not all of these learning accommodations are usually needed for most of the learning disabled students. Even using all these learning accommodations may not circumvent every student's learning disability. However, in every case the learning disabled students must be taught math study skills to help compensate for their learning problems.

Visual Processing Speed/Visual Processing

  • Note-taker
  • Re-Work notes
  • Tape Recorder with tape counter
  • Large print handouts
  • Large print copies of important textbook pages
  • Taped textbook
  • Turn note book sideways
  • Take notes in different pen colors

Short-Term Memory/Auditory Processing

  • Note-takers
  • Re-work notes
  • Tape recorder with tape counter
  • Physical proximity Math video tapes
  • Tape record important tutor explanations

Fluid Reasoning/Long Term Retrieval

  • Note-takers
  • Re-work notes
  • Tape recorder with tape counter
  • Handouts
  • Math video tapes
  • Fact sheets (flash cards)
  • Color coded problem steps
  • Tape record important tutor explanations
  • Strategy Cards for Higher Grades
  • Calculators
Anchor Charts that will help these guys understand the relationship between repeated addition and arrays. Both of these will be perfect. They have to master a least one strategy to solve multiplication problems. 

Division is new for them, so I will have to teach them a couple of strategies as well. This one will take them some time but will practice I'll get them there.

Have a wonderful Christmas Break and a great break. Safe travels to all who are traveling. 


Subtracting the Common Core Way

The beginning of the week started by teaching my 3rd grade math group subtraction. We worked on addition before leaving for break--I was amazed that they remembered how to do addition after getting back. With addition using unifix cubes and drawing the pictures out had them adding within minutes.

Common Core Standards highlight building number sense with third graders.  To build number sense, we have taught several strategies for addition and subtraction: using a hundreds chart, an open number line, and place value blocks.  

This anchor chart shows how to subtract using an open number line.  The hardest part for the students is using the skill of counting backwards, especially when going back over a ten-mark. We struggle with remembering friendly numbers.

Here is my anchor chart for using place value blocks to subtract when there is no need to regroup. We started with real place value blocks.  Then we moved to the picture model.  After a bit of modeling, my kiddos really caught on to this strategy well. When subtracting without regrouping, this method tended to be especially easy for them. 

Ultimately, the boys decided on the standard algorithm for problems needing regrouping. This poem helped them remember to regroup.

A great online manipulatives resource is from the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives. They have base ten blocks for addition and subtraction. This can be used from a SMART board--my students would do the problems from the board. They also have Number Pieces. This app is free and is easy for the students to build the problems and solve them.  Both work great to provide students with practice. 


I hope this gives you some inspiration on how to help students master subtraction. Common Core has many twists and turns. It's important that whatever strategy students find and have success with that they are able to explain their thinking and tell is the strategy they choose is effective and efficient.  

Addition Strategies for Small Groups

For the last couple of days I have been teaching addition strategies for adding 2 digit numbers with something could be called success. These guys have a hard time remembering the steps--which makes moving on to regrouping tough but yet they have a couple of strategies that have helped them. The basic strategies they have built on to help them work to find the answers. I would love, love if they would memorize the basic facts but getting a correct answer with another strategy is all that matters at the end of the day. Even if its not the most efficient. It has to be efficient and effective for them--not me the teacher.

Though mastering the basic facts is one strategy its not the end all be all. It is equally important that they make sense of number combinations as they are learning these facts. Here are some strategies to help with this understanding.

Adding Zero
Model adding zero (with younger students) or review it with older students. If a child understands that when you add zero you add nothing, he/she should never get a basic fact with zero wrong. Make sure this understanding is in place.

Adding One (Count up)
Adding one means saying the larger number, then jumping up one number, or counting up one number. This happens every time you add one. It never changes. Never recount the larger number, just say it and count up one.

Example: 6 + 1 = say 6 then 7
44 + 1 = say 44 then 45

Adding Two – Count up Two
Adding two means saying the larger number, then jumping up or counting up twice. Again this is always correct and never changes.

Example: 9 + 2 = say 9 then 10 then 11
45 + 2 say 45 then 46 then 47

Commutative Property:
You also have to teach or review the commutative property. The answer will be the same regardless of the order you add the two numbers. 9 + 2 = 2 + 9 Order
doesn’t matter.

Adding Ten 
Adding ten means jumping up ten (think of a hundred’s chart). The ones digit stays the same but the ten’s digit increases by one. Students must understand this. Using a hundreds board to teach this works well to build understanding. Have students actually count up the ten and write down the result. Then affirm with them the pattern and explain why it works every time.

Example: 5 + 10 = 15

10 + 7 = 17
For older students you can relate this to higher numbers:

Example 23 + 10 = 33
48 + 10 = 58

Double Numbers
To add double numbers there are a couple of strategies that might help students.

When you add a double you are counting by that number once.
For example: 4 + 4 = think of 4,8 … counting by fours
Practice skip counting by each number in turn:
4-8 etc. This gets harder with the higher numbers but skip counting is an important skill for students to have.

Doubles occur everywhere in life.
For example: an egg carton is 6 + 6
two hands are 5 + 5
16 pack of crayons has 8 + 8
two weeks 7 + 7 =

Do a variety of activities with double numbers and have students determine and explain which strategies help them remember. Each student should look at each fact and relate to a visual image or counting by strategy that works for them.

Near Doubles 
To use the near doubles strategy a student first has to master the doubles. Then, if the double is known, they use that and count up or down one to find the near double.
Example: 4 + 4 = 8 5 + 4 = 9 (count up one)
Or: 4 + 4 = 8 so 4 + 3 = 7 (count down one)

Adding 5
Adding five has a strategy that is helpful but not completely effective as it is a bit tricky. You can decide if it is helpful or not.

To add fives look for the five in both numbers to make a ten then count on the extra digits.
Example: 5 + 7 = (10 + 2) = 12

5 + 8 = 5 + 5 + 3 = 13

Students who can see the five in 8 should have no difficulty. Students who can’t visualize numbers will find this hard. Most students can be taught to do this with some extra work.

Math manipulatives are an important bridge to help students connect the concrete to the abstract in mathematical learning. Math manipulatives allow students to see, touch, and move real representations of conceptual ideas. Numbers on a page are brought to life when students can model with representations. Concepts such as decomposition, place value, and fractions benefit from the visual and kinesthetic aspects of manipulatives. Challenging and multi-step problem-solving activities can be made more manageable when students are able to use tools like manipulatives to compute and represent various parts of the problem. Practice in choosing appropriate manipulatives deepens student expertise with identifying the correct tools for solving a problem.

Explaining and critiquing mathematical reasoning are important skills in understanding mathematics. Manipulatives help students discuss and demonstrate their methods for solving problems. This type of collaborative communication builds precision in language as well as procedure. When students can demonstrate the how and why of a math concept, they build connections and prepare for more advanced skills. Manipulatives also provide students a tool for testing their theories and the theories of others. And, manipulatives can assist English language learners, who are still building their vocabularies, demonstrate understanding of math concepts.

Manipulatives are great for concrete, visual learners who need to see the problem to solve them. Unifix cubes moved my math group from having no clue on how to add two digit numbers to having a working strategy that they can use with confidence. For showing their work they just draw what they created. This list is full of great ways to help students to solve addition problems. I hope your students find one or two that help them solve addition problems efficiently and effectively. Have a great week!

Currently in August

I'm linking up with Farley again for her August Currently. I still have a week before I have to go back.

I'm listening to City of Bones by Cassandra Clare before it opens in the movies. Its been an interesting read. I'm hoping to finish it before going back. I'm loving the cooler weather. I doubt it will last much longer but the rain in the afternoon has been great for walking my dogs first thing and still have time to get a run in before it heats up. I have to set up my iPads for the beginning of the year but just not gotten to it yet. (Will share when I figure it out). I hate unpacking my classroom. I'll need to suck it up and go in and get that done before heading back in a week. I'm needing to train two new teammates and bring them up to speed. I will need to update my data charts with last years state assessment data once I have it. This information will help make decisions for the coming months. What I always do once back--Starbucks, lunch with teachers at least once before the end of the first week back, and have the first couple of units planned out and ready to go. (This I have done of math and reading.)

Have a great weekend, enjoying the time before returning to school.

Monitoring Mathematical Comprehension--Chapter 9

When I started reading this chapter, I was struck by how much this was like how I teach reading comprehension strategies. Laney Sammons, opens the chapter with a quote by Keene and Zimmerman, that they "describe proficient readers, these mathematicians "listen to inner voices, make ongoing connections, and adjustments, are are aware of how meaning evolves." Like so many students and more so those with exceptional needs need to have those strategies taught with precise precision and then retaught again and again. (Kenne and Zimmerman are the authors of Mosaic of Thought.)

She continues to layout in the chapter a sequence of teaching  the strategies to students. Her layout is a lot like "The Comprehension Toolkit." Starting with monitoring  thinking through metacognition. This is where students need to ask themselves "Does this make sense? Students who get math do this without thinking. Students that struggle in math-I think this is the hardest thing to get them to come to terms with. I think of my own students and if they aren't getting it-they just throw out answers and hope the right one comes out. (Any one else have students who do this?)

The first step in monitoring comprehension is monitoring conceptual understanding. Back when I learned math (which really wasn't that long ago) the focus was on the procedure needed to get the right answer not the understanding behind it. Now fast forward to Common Core and its ALL about the understanding and explaining your thinking. Its getting students to take responsibility for their own monitoring and know when they don't get it. Teachers can help by asking explicit questions like "How do you know whether or not you understand? What do you do if your confused?" Get them to identify where they stop getting it! One thing I do when I'm teaching math and a student tells me they don't get any of it is ask "Where are you not getting it? Which step don't you get?" I don't let them get away with telling me "all of it" any more. They HAVE to be specific.

Another way to help students monitor their comprehension in math is to draw pictures of the problem. If you can't visualizing the problem then you have a problem. I know from work my building has done to raise our standardized math scores, that being able to explain thinking two different ways--drawing a picture counts. And even better if students use numbers and a couple key words. Sammons's lays out several other strategies that include: identify unfamiliar vocabulary, rereading the problem, making connections to other math concepts, using manipulatives, and trying a different problem-solving approach.

Those in my mind are student actions. Strategies that I can teach  for my students to use. But what about teacher actions once these have been taught? Both in Guided Math and in the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model-you do modeled lessons and think-alouds. These are the perfect places to teach or reteach strategies on your thinking. Most of my math lessons start with a think-aloud and a modeled lesson. I get students to do think-alouds when I'm wondering if they are ready to do it on their own. One teacher I work with has his high students do think-alouds to the whole class. I think that the more students hear and see someone's thinking other than that of the teacher can only help. They may have a way of explaining it that helps the student get it.

I have created a set of Math Comprehension Strategy Posters with examples. Be sure to pick up your copy by clicking on the picture. Brenda's at Primary Inspired for more on Chapter 9.
I can't wait to use them with my students in the fall. I think that they will help students make the connection of the strategies I use in reading I can use to understand math. Stop by



Math and Technology

I'm linking up with iTeach 1:1 to share what apps my students use during math. In many cases they have a wide selection to chose from. The ones I have decided to highlight here are the ones that they used the most and ones that they will be using in the fall.

Others like iMovie are part of a group of choices that also include PuppetPals, StoryMaker, and Toontastic. They all give students creative license while illustrating a story problem that will later be shared with the whole group. These apps fall into what you could call "Surprisingly Educational Apps."

Towards the end of the year, I started playing with a portfolio type setup for their work but didn't have a way to 1) email it off the iPad and 2) some place to put it. In May, I solved one problem by creating a classroom email account in which students just send me work. They don't have access to it. I have just recently solved my second problem. I needed a place to collect student work that I could easily share with classroom teachers and parents without it being a process or nightmare. All work will either go to Evernote or 3 Ring in the fall. I love that students can email me their work.

Also new for them in the fall, will be CBB or Creative Book Builder. I talk in a previous post how I will get rid of notebooks and students will do that work in CBB instead.

Have a great day blog hoppin'. Happy 4th of July.

Fractions by ETA Hand2mind & Giveaway

5th grade Hands on Standards Common Core Fractions 

By: ETA hand2mind

This program is a hands-on fraction lessons created with differentiated instruction in mind. Each lesson clearly defines for the teacher the steps needed to give every student the tools for success. Each lesson demonstrates a hands-on exploration using manipulatives to help students get a physical sense of a concept and “see” the meaning. The students begin by using manipulatives, move on to creating visual representations, and then complete the cycle by working with abstract mathematical symbols.

From ETA Hands2Mind I received a copy 5th grade Hands on Standards Common Core Fractions. With this copy, I also had online access to the digital tools. Also they recommend the VersaTiles for Fractions, VersaMate, and a variety of fractions manipulatives. I had pervious purchased VerseMate for my iPad. With the exception of the manipulatives the other pieces are used as enrichment. I was able to down load students from ETA.

I used this program to reteach fractions to a small group of 6th grade exceptional needs students. This program reminded me of Scholastic’s Do the Math: Fractions. This book covers only adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing fractions. It doesn't provide any remediation to early fractions skills.

The program lesson plan laid out in a user-friendly why that builds on the gradual release of instruction model. Each lesson begins with building background knowledge through a whole class or focus lesson. The concept introduction builds upon the focus lesson of a quick whole class activity. Guided practice follows with reinforcement of the concept as a whole class. The closure asks for students to share out.  There is an assessment after each chapter but no pre-assessment for the book like there is in “Do the Math.” I’m able to complete a lesson in a 30 minute period with extra time built in for vocabulary work.

I liked how each lesson starts off by telling how to support my diverse learners with the vocabulary. I had to take extra time to build their background before beginning each lesson. Because of the time frame that I had these guys, I didn't use the warm-ups but can see the benefit in that they do help to activate prior knowledge. The directions both teacher and student are clear and easy to understand.

I used the guided practice and reinforcement activities together to provide enough practice for my students so they could explain their thinking and answer “how” and “why” questions.

I love using manipulatives in math. I think it’s a great way to help students understand concepts but in some lessons it was just too much. Needs three or four different ones to get through one lesson just plan confused them.

Overall, my students had nothing they didn't like. They liked the lessons. The lessons where broken down into small enough pieces that in many cases by the end of the lesson they were demonstrating mastery. But there was nothing built-in to each lesson to stretch their thinking to apply what they had learned. We had to wait to Fractions Explore Action. These were great but I needed to build this in to meet the rigor of my district teaching evaluation rubric in regards to asking higher order thinking questions of my students throughout the lesson.  This would be a solid addition to any grade level fractions unit where students need extra practice on adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing fractions.

I wish to thank ETA Hand2mind to this wonderful opportunity to review their 5th grade Hands on Standards Common Core Fractions. They will generously send one Teacher's Guide of either the 3rd, 4th or 5th grade Hands on Standards Common Core Fractions to one lucky winner. Be sure to enter the giveaway will close Wednesday at 6:00 pm mountain time. I'll let the winner know by email within 72 hours of the contest ending. Have a great weekend!

Guided Math in a Resource Room

My building has been slowly, slowly taking on guided math. As a building we are moving towards pulling small groups after whole group instruction. My question is how do you maintain rigor of what students are doing while you are meeting in small groups.

Before going to Spring Break, it was decided that I would be providing replacement core of three of my sixth graders and about half way through my time with them I provide support to a small group of fifth graders that come as well.

I have decided to use interactive notes for both groups for the rest of the year. I came across this from Rundes Room on Pinterest, where students are responsible for the learning goal and the proof. This is perfect for my students because it aligns with how I write my daily learning targets.

My students have to provided proof that they have mastered the learning target every day. Even in reading, when the target and outcomes are the same all week. This will mean that I will have daily evidence of what my sixth graders are doing while working on their own. It will be interesting to see how this idea works with both Investigations and Do the Math. More to come as I play. Have you used interactive notebooks, I'd love to hear how they turned out. Have a great week.

Math and a Freebie

I have eight weeks for school left. Of which only 6 with students. In my building we tend to end services a couple of weeks before the end of the year to do all that FUN end of the year paperwork and inventory that needs to done.

I made a couple of big schedule changes right before I left for Spring Break. One change was how math was going to be provided for the last part of the year. In some way a grand experiment with Do the Math and in other ways letting me have more control on the amount of time a couple of students spend truly (I mean truly) spend accessing core.

These guys are moving on to middle school and the data shows it was time for a change. My building uses Do the Math as an intervention. It has not been used in my building as a core replacement. I understand that others in my district do and have had moderate results. I guess we'll see.  More to come on using Do the Math as core replacement. The classroom teachers are on board with this change. Which is odd--they have not let been very open to changes this year. I think they, like I'm hoping to send them off stronger than when they walked in.

The freebie, is something that I plan on using with this group to strength the basics. Enjoy!

Happy Spring Break!


Vocabulary is tough to teach; let alone to student with exceptional needs. It doesn't seem to matter how many times I go over the term or have them tell it to me. They never seem to get to a place of mastery with it. Using Thinking Maps has been a tremendous help to them this year--they are USING them. OMG!!! This has never happened before. As I'm reviewing at the beginning of a lesson and ask "What's the formula for perimeter?" and someone might start guessing, while someone will get up and walk over to where the map is and come back with a  hand up. For my guessing students, I tell them to go check the resource as I wait for the student. They come back and tell me the answer. But these can't stay up for state testing. I've been racking my brain to find ways to get students to remember terms. I've been using iPads for retelling and storytelling--what about to reinforce vocabulary. I began to think of ways to bring in technology to work on vocab but not take more than one 30 minute lesson period to do it. I think I've figured it out but I'm still playing.

So began this idea of finding ways to bring in apps and websites, so students can create definitions for  vocabulary. My goal is to have students work weekly on expanding their vocabulary with various tools. (And not taking forever.) My hope is that they will begin to rely less on the Thinking Maps and begin to demonstrate mastery for the term they need to know. As they create examples I will share them. I have a one to get to the ideas flowing. You'll find a for some apps and websites, to support our vocabulary work. Have a great week!!

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Math and Common Core

Math has been challenging for me this year. I go into one class and pull out two other groups to teach/reteach math. Last year the comment that I got from evaluations was, "How is what you're doing helping students access core in a timely manner?"  Meaning, stop spending all your time filling in the holes and do it as your helping students understand core. Well-easier said than done.  But I had a light bulb moment early in the week, when I was talking with my coach about my math instruction.

I have to say it has been easier to do than I thought. My district has done most of the work for teachers. They have broken down each unit using Understand By Design: Backwards Planning. I can then take the unit and figure out what skills students must have to make through the unit and that is where I put my time when I'm working in small groups. I must admit this thinking gives me the time that I need to reteach skills that students should have mastered years ago. Using the Gradual Release framework, I have been able to at least help student's do better in math if not out-right master the content being taught. 

My building coach, has also been pushing back on my thinking to increase the rigor of my instruction by helping to redesign my learning targets to increase students depth of knowledge. I usually start my targets with an essential question--it tells them what I want them to walk away with at the end of lesson. In many cases for the last few weeks they have started with "Can I." She asked my if I thought my question got at the depth I was wanting and if it matched my lesson. The day she visited, students had to create two different graphs and find the measures of center, so they could interpret the graph but the posted essential question was Can I create the graphs. See the disconnect.

As we talked, she showed me a Common Core Resource that was a summary of math standards and questions I could use to develop math thinking. Between this resource and spending time making sure that lesson matches with the depth I'm wanting, should help me increase my rigor and help students get more out of what I teaching. I have shared this resource below. How do you increase and maintain the rigor for your students with exceptional needs?

Throwing a Sale!!!

This week has been crazy. I throw together an Oral Spelling Bee for our Area Spelling Bee next week. Its always fun but you have to love it when communication falls apart. (This was to happen back in December, so the students could practice.) The students had a great time this afternoon. Even at the end of my crazy week, I had fun.

Everyone love a good sale. I'm joining other at Teachers pay Teachers Super Bowl Sunday for a Flash Sale this Sunday and Monday. Everything in my store will be on SALE!!!

I also have a math freebie for you. It can be used at any time in the year but it provides a great review as my students have to get ready for state testing. I've been working on a new set of word problems for multiplication. I'll share a sample when here soon.

M & M Math

Giveaway Winners & Freebie

Thank you for everyone who entered this weekend's giveaway. Congratulations to both Susan and dbednarsk for winning a $10 gift certificate to Teachers pay Teachers. I'll be sending them out to the email address you posted, please let me know if they don't come.

 I have a freebie for everyone as well. I played with adding QR codes to this multiplication practice. The packet includes two and three digit multiplication by one digit. The answers are shown both as QR Codes and just the answers. Enjoy.


Each year, my school tries to come up with way to get parents and our community in our school. Each year this gets harder--its been a challenge this because we have moved our hours back and are out at 2:30. We always hold a parents night for reading in the fall and in the spring its math. This year it's a Math-teroon. The classroom teachers are working on games that students can play a round or two at school and then take them home to play. We have a computer lab as well as the iPads. As I'm working to create parents handouts for our Math-ternoon, I wanted to share them. Here is the first. Its a collection of websites that our students and teachers like and use on a regular basis. Do you have any that your students rave about--I'd love to here about them?

Special Needs Sunday

When the going gets tough the tough get out the iPad. I have seen my students grow and latch onto concepts like faster than in the past when I find ways to bring technology in. I have one group working on probability. For this they have to collect the data and create pie charts before they can answer the questions. They loved creating the data and then getting to use the computers to create the pie charts. I created the directions, so they could do it on their own. Those are the things that move students and create learners who understand grade level material. My directions are simple but they have to create it and take responsibility to get it done. So, I can focus on the learning and not trouble shooting the technology.

Doodle Buddy has been great for students who need to draw their thinking out. I have students draw out the beginning, middle and end of stories to help them with retelling before writing it or telling me. This is something that students can do on their own with the iPads back in class.  Doodle Buddy is free.

iPads and computers don't replace my teaching, I use them to enhance lessons when it makes sense. Something as simple as using a computer changes a students motives from "really, do I have to" to "I liked doing this today."

Currently, this little project has been limited to students who are either RTI or students with IEPs in reading and math. Stay turned for other awesome ways technology can help struggling learners be more successful in the classroom. Have a great week!

Math Progress Monitoring

Every teacher has to do some sort of progress monitoring. In my building we reading very, very well--it's second nature. But math we just can't seem to get our hands around. For me as well. I have two small math intervention groups and I have to say I relay on student work samples to determine if they have it or not. This is not enough to determine a student has a math disability or even if they are making progress within the intervention. Exit tickets work to show what if the student got the material taught that day and can be used as part of the data collection but for me these tend to be once or twice a week. One of the classroom teachers, I co-teach with during math uses them to make his small groups during the unit--they don't cover skills from previous units or missing skills. These are all great things but according to Colorado not enough or the right thing. (Go figure--that they tell you this know half way through the year.)

Colorado has outlined what a math intervention needs to look like and what the progress monitoring needs to be. (This would have been great to know- oh I don't know like in August. But moving on.) Interventions should be no longer than 10 weeks with a clearly defined baseline from a diagnostic measure with weekly progress monitoring. The instruction should cover no more than two to four domains as a focus for instruction (i.e., combinations to 10, skip counting by 5’s, counting across 100). My lesson plan should be broken into two pieces:

  • Inquiry mode: Activity that produces something new for the student (involves challenging, but solvable tasks)
  • Rehearsal mode: Develop automaticity with something that has been learned before
The instruction should be explicit and systematic. This includes providing models of proficient problem solving, verbalization of thought processes, guided practice, corrective feedback, and frequent cumulative review.
  • Ensure that instructional materials are systematic and explicit. In particular, they should include numerous clear models of easy and difficult problems, with accompanying teacher think-alouds.
  • Provide students with opportunities to solve problems in a group and communicate problem-solving strategies.
  • Ensure that instructional materials include cumulative review in each session
My students have the black and white part down in math. They can use the algorithm and have their basic facts down. It's word problems they have the most problem with. I have several that just shut down when they are come across one. With this in mind, I talked with my coach before break and we talked about what progress monitoring could look like and still make the state happy. I have created a ten-week word problem progress monitoring tool that I started to use with on of my groups. Its based off our 1st grade math curriculum; most are single questions and all are addition and subtraction. I give them twice a week with one posted on the board and one in front of them. This makes it easier for them, since they have to complete it using Explain Everything. (A student favorite.) 

Why word problems? Word problems tell you more about what a student needs. Can they explain their thinking? Did they get the right answer but can't tell you how they got there? This describes my student. My curriculum has more word problem type of thinking than algorithms. Plus, this where Common Core is taking us. Scoring word problems is rubric based--so even if they get the wrong answer they can still get points for explaining how their thinking. Which is why I love using Explain Everything--the word gets done because they don't have to write their thinking.  Click on the picture to a copy. 

I'm planning on creating more since I'm needing them before returning to work next month. I hop you have a wonderful Christmas Break and safe travels if you are out visiting family and friends. See you all next year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

iPad and Math

One of the hardest things to figure out is how to integrate technology into my groups and it not be game time. Not that games don't have their place but not as part of daily small group instruction. I have been working on how to use a couple of different apps for math and be more paperless. The kids love it--even when the tech and I fail.

We have been using Evernote and Explain Everything for them to show their work. In most cases we us QR codes to get to work. I've spent most of the time teaching them how to use the apps. They have to know the technology and what it does before you can leave them alone to do work. This takes time. I have made this mistake and I spend more time on the technology than teaching the content.

When I'm planing a lesson, I start with a a non-tech version of what I'm wanting them to do and then figure out which apps make the most sense to use. This takes time because you have to think through every step of the lesson and what I want students to show me.

Their engagement has improved in ways that I could never had imagine--which is so cool for students who dislike math. They get the work done in half the time than it would have if they just had to do it on paper. You can see the paper I give the students below. The directions are short and sweet. The point is for the students to do it with as little support from me as possible.

For this one the students have to use the QR code to get the assessment (story problems) and then use Explain Everything to complete the work. Once they are done they have to upload it to Evernote for me to see. Easy right? Well I'll let you know. This is the plan for the next two days before break.

Math Intervention Idea Websites

This year I'm in and out of classrooms for math. When I'm in class I support core and help teachers help all students access core. When it comes to pulling students out for support, its for work because we don't have anything that moves students quickly enough to help them access core material. This is more true for students  in the upper grades, my district doesn't have a tier 3 math program. A couple of resources were shared just before break that I wanted to share that should help you out in your small group math planning.

Illustrative Mathematics has activities based on Common Core Math standards K-8.  Membership is free. All the activities are hands on and designed for small groups.

Solon's Math Recovery has several  math videos covering numbers words & numerals, structuring, addition & subtraction, multiplication & division, and place value. (Structuring is a skill that supports efficiency when solving additive and subtractive tasks as students learn to compose and decompose numbers with and without visual support.) The activities are hands on and have suggestions how to adapt the activity. They have a nice list of links worth checking out.

I;m looking forward to using some of these activities next week. Have a fabulous weekend.

About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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