Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Support Math: Day 6 - Students bring Qs to Circle and Number Talks!

Today was our third day of talking using the circle format.  Yesterday I had a couple "Would You Rather" questions to get the discussion going.  Today, trying to slowly share ownership of the circle, the students brought in the "Would You Rather" questions.  I was scared about appropriate questions, and kids forgetting to come up with questions.  Turns out I had nothing to worry about.

We started with a quick check in round, again completed with one-word answers.  Then each student got to ask one "Would You Rather" question to the circle.  Everyone answered, and then the next student asked their question.  It led to some great conversations.  The answers were a little shorter than I would have predicted, but still fun.  I tried to model giving longer answers, the kids just laughed at me for being weird.

We then went into a number talk.  The number talk was again from Visual Patterns.
The students focused on the number of triangles.  I found it very surprising how easy it was for students to miss the triangles with the point down.  For example, they kept counting three triangles in figure 2.  Which is fine.  It leads to a nice triangular number pattern.  However, the pattern is easier to generalize if you count all the triangles.  The students picked up on the pattern quickly, but struggled to reach a formula.  We did get there, but it took awhile.  

I cannot overstate how these number talks based on patterns has helped the students in their 8th grade math class this week.  In their regular math class we have started studying linear relationships.  I always do this by starting with patterns.  The students who are in support math have developed a comfort with patterns that is letting them engage in the linear patterns with more confidence.  

Preteaching some skills using support math is a highly valuable practice I will try to use more this year.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Support Math Day 5: Circle Talk Day 2 and More Number Talks

Today we started class with our second circle talk.  We did a quick check-in round to see how everyone was doing.  To no surprise, it was mostly 1 word answers by everyone.  We will have to come up with something to work on that.

Then we played about 4 rounds of Would You Rather.  I found this excellent set of would you rather questions online.  It is from the Measured Mom blog.  It is aimed at younger kids, but by selecting the right questions and aging up some others, it will be a great resource.  The kids had a great time and they got homework.  They were each asked to create a "would you rather" question for circle time tomorrow.  Hopefully the questions are appropriate and lead to some good answers.

Circle today created some fun moments with the kids and I can already start to see the sense of community starting to build among these students.  It might all be based on the fact that they are "getting out of doing normal math" but I will take that for right now.

The number talk we did today was a step up in difficulty from yesterday.  We took 20-25 minutes breaking it down.  Most students really dug into it and wouldn't give up.  We eventually arrived at a nice formula for triangular numbers.  Are they going to remember that, probably not.  Right now though it is about not giving up and sticking with hard problems.

In 8th grade math today, we tackled some tough patterns to talk about linear patterns.  The students in TIP math did really well.  I hope that the foundation for that was partly laid down in TIP math by working with difficult patterns the last couple days of class.  

So things are off to a great start so far.  We are building a good foundation for a couple of my 4 pillars of support math.  

Monday, August 29, 2016

Support Math Day 4: First Circle Talk and a Number Talk

Day 4:
Today in support math class was our first day talking using the circle format.  We started by writing down 1 word on a note card that represents how we like to be treated.  We then used that as a springboard into creating guidelines we will use for our circle time and class time.  Our guidelines we agreed to are:

1. Respect talking piece
2. What's said in circle stays in circle
3. No fighting
4. Listen to each other
5. Can pass the talking piece without answering
6. Eye contact with speaker
7. Don't talk while others talk
8. Have fun, get work done

We then did a couple rounds of questions to help build people's confidence and the community of the circle.  Those questions were:
1.  If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?
2.  What was the highlight of the first four days of school?

There might have been another question, but I can't recall it right now.

The second part of class was a number talk.
We used this image and asked
1. What do you notice?
2. What do you wonder?

We talked about what we noticed.  They still didn't wonder to much, but that is really okay at this point.  They noticed how it grew and immediately latched onto the rate of change of 2.  (although not in those words)

I then asked groups of 2-3 to answer the following questions
1. How many cubes in figure 5?
2. How many cubes in figure 10?

After discussing the classes solutions, we then asked about figure 20.

These questions brought out some great misconceptions and things for us to work on the rest of the week.

This week will be about creating the foundation for a good circle community and talking through number talks.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

First Week of Support Math Class

My initial goal is to continually blog about how my support math class for 7th and 8th graders is going this year.  This is the first year in a long time I have taught a support math class for junior high and I am pretty excited about it.  I wrote about my 4 pillars for the class last time.

My first week goal, was to get the kids over the dread of having a second math class.  The typical students in support math are not excited to even have 1 math class, much less 2.

Day 1:  Marshmallow Challenge

The students walked in on day 1 and we quickly went over why we were in the class.  Then we quickly went over the 4 class expectations.
   1. No Meanness
   2. Make Mistakes
   3. ...Yet
   4. Ask for Help

I then handed out materials for the marshmallow challenge.  The students were totally engaged.  This is a great problem with a great ending that allows me to again repeat expectation #2 about making mistakes.  It was a great day 1.

Day 2: Bridge Challenge
The second day we reviewed that class goals and expectations then quickly got to another building challenge.  This one involved the following materials for each group:
    12 marshmallows
    20 straws
    1 small cup
   50 pennies

the goal was to build the longest bridge that could hold at least 50 pennies that were sitting in a cup.

Overall the kids were just as engaged as day 1.  We did have  small mishap as one group decided to smash up 5 marshmallows to create a paste to stick the straws to the desk.  (Had to leave 10 minutes at the end of the period for cleanup)   I encouraged creativity, and then taking responsibility for clean up for those decisions as well.

Day 3: Number Talk 1 and Build Challenge 3
On the third day, I threw in our first of many number talks.  I grabbed the first pattern of  (seen below)  I just asked the students 2 questions,
    1)  What do you notice?
    2)  What do you wonder?
For their first time, they handled this pretty well.  They focused more on the noticing, and less on the wondering, but that was expected.  They focused on the number of small squares.  So after some questions about how it is growing, and how many would be in pattern 4, I then asked them to think about how many small squares would be in pattern 10?  They got time to think, and then discuss in small groups.  We then discussed as a class and it went incredibly well for the first number talk. 

We then spent 20 minutes on our third building challenge of the week.  They got spaghetti, straws, tape and string and their job was to build out from the desk as long as possible.  To pick a winner I measured from the edge of the desk out to where there structure stopped horizontal to the floor.  

It was a creative and fun week!  

Next week will see more number talks, and the introduction of circle time.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

My 4 Pillars of Support Math Class

Support Math Class for Junior High Students

This year I get to have a support math class for 7th and 8th graders for the first time in years.  I have learned a lot of different things since the last time I taught this class.  I am trying an entirely new approach this time around.  I am going to build the class around 4 pillars.

1. Computer Program - DreamBox Learning
    This pillar is pretty typical in a support math class.  I choose DreamBox over other computer based programs because it does a pretty good job of focusing on concepts and big ideas over skills.  My own children (7, 11, and 13) used the program over the summer and liked it.  I plan on not even introducing this part of the class for quite a while.

2.  Number Talks
     I think this pillar could really be a whole support math class by itself.   I love number talks.  I use them in every class, just not often enough.  I plan to use Chris Danielson's "Which One Doesn't Belong" to start with.  It has a low enough entry point that most students should be comfortable talking about these problems.  I will then shift math talks, visual patterns, estimation 180 and activities from Pamela Weber Harris' great book.  I envision this as the main pillar of the four.

3. MakerSpace/Hands-on/Genius Hour
     This pillar is kind of a mish-mash approach to getting the students moving and trying to ignite their passion.  I started the first couple days on this pillar.  I envision creating, making and igniting curiosity.  I am worried about resources for this pillar, especially in the MakerSpace part.  Trying to find the right kind of things the students will be curious about seems daunting, especially with no funds.

4. Restorative Justice/Circle Practices
     This portion will be used to create a community feeling in the classroom.  I was a circle volunteer for years in my county in the RJ program.  It was a great way to help and connect with youth and connect youth to the community.  I say in a 4-day training on using RJ in schools this summer. It got me completely excited about bringing this tradition to my classroom.  This article is a nice summary of using the circle process in schools.  Here is also a nice edutopia video about circles.

Trying to get all this together in a cohesive fashion is going to be a challenge.  It is a challenge I look forward to in the upcoming year.  I look forward to the mistakes, the victories and all the in-between.