S.T.E.L.M.

STELM: Science, Technology, Engineering (Literacy?!) and Math 

STEM activities are unmatched in our virtual Kindergarten class this year. STEM challenges are the perfect storm for beginning conversations, exploring inquiries, answering questions and challenging new ideas. In addition to the academic learning happening through these challenges, students also have opportunities to practice patience, persistence, problem-solving strategies and critical thinking skills while engaging meaningfully within their classroom community. 

Recently, I have been on my own exploration. I have been investigating how to purposefully incorporate literacy connections into STEM activities. Here are some of our literacy inspired “STELM” challenges students have worked through: 

10 on the Sled – by: Kim Norman, illustrated by: Liza Woodruff

STELM Challenge: Create a sled that can hold ten animals.

Our students were so excited for this challenge. They used materials that they could find around their homes to build a sled and found objects of their choice to represent the ten animals. Students engaged in conversations about the number 10 and how they could group the seats for all the passengers to fit on the sled. In the picture above, the student wrote themselves into the story and shared they would also like to ride on the sled. They shared that now there would be 11 seats because “10+1=11”.

Not a Box – by: Antoinette Portis

STELM Challenge: What can you make your box into?

This one feels like a classic. So simple, but so open-ended and thought provoking. The experience of creating something from “nothing” seems to come so naturally to Kindergarten students. No matter how many groups of students I do this activity with, I am always learning from them. I feel like this challenge gives me a window into student’s imaginations and undoubtedly strengthen’s my view of them as competent and capable learners full of wonder.

The Most Magnificent Thing – by: Ashley Spires

STELM Challenge: What is the most magnificent thing you can make?

Similarly to the challenge of creating something from a box, students thoughts and ideas were not limited to using a box. We did however, challenge them to use recycled materials found at home. Before beginning the process, we listened to the story ‘The Most Magnificent Thing’ by Ashley Spires and asked students to draw a plan before beginning construction. Students entered this activity at their own level. Their plans consisted of pictures, words and symbols to represent their ideas. Not all of their plans matched their finished products – but this was part of the process. The changes and challenges students faced while building their magnificent ‘things’ were a springboard for conversations about different ways to solve problems. One of my favourite moments of learning that happened during this task occurred after I shared my own frustration with my tape that “just would not come off the roll in one piece”. “That’s ok Ms. Turnbull” one of our students shared, “That happened to me once too”, “me too!” other students exclaimed, as we talked about different ways to solve this problem effectively.

The Very Cranky Bear – by: Nick Bland

STELM Challenge: Design a bed for the cranky bear to get some rest in.

We have all experienced the feeling of being tired, cranky, upset or frustrated. So many wonderful conversations of empathy and understanding came from this challenge. Students amazed us with their kind words towards this cranky bear as they constructed cozy beds. They were excited to test out their beds made from LEGO, Play-Doh, blocks and more by using their stuffed animals or dolls. They began acting out the story, snoring and roaring like the bear.

The Mitten – by: Jan Brett

STELM Challenge: How many ‘animals’ can you fit inside a mitten or sock?

The story ‘The Mitten’ by Jan Brett has endless possibilities in regard to follow up activities. For our group of Kindergarten students, we challenged them to think about capacity after listening to this story. We asked them to find something to use as ‘animals’ (with some of the top choices being LEGO or toy animals), and a sock or mitten to put them in. Students explored concepts of counting, spatial sense, and sequencing while they created their own versions of the story.

I am excited to continue thinking about ways to provide my students with meaningful and literacy rich learning opportunities while they engage in hands on experiences that challenge their thinking.

In what ways are literacy experiences imbedded into your STEM activities?

Please note: ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that the daily, in-person model of instruction and support best meets the educational, developmental and social needs of students, provides the best experience for support, and is the most equitable learning model for all students.

ETFO’s expectation is that elementary virtual learning in any capacity, including through hybrid models of instruction, will end once the pandemic ends.

Questions that Matter

My 7/8 students have been learning about data and how it connects to the world around them. Data is more important than ever as it relates to the way our province will go forward during these challenging times. Students were able to comment on how important data is when making decisions that impact our world. As always, I am grateful when math concepts are so easy to relate to the world around them.

I usually end the data unit each year with a survey project that would directly impact their learning. Students come up with some questions that they can ask their classmates and then we use the collected data to start something in the school. Times are challenging right now and it seemed like there was no question to pose to the student body. So, I let my students come up with some questions that matter. Here is what they came up with:

  1. What low contact sports would you like to play? (Options: dodgeball, soccer skills, badminton and volleyball)
  2. What time of day would you prefer to play? (Options: first break, second break or after school)
  3. What days of the week would you like to play? (Options: Monday to Friday)
  4. Who would you like to play with? (Options: mixed classes or class vs. class)
  5. What would you like to eat at graduation?
  6. What trips would you like to go on this year?

Of the six questions, students determined that four of them related to something we could start immediately while the other two were not necessarily good questions for this point in the school year. We started this planning period before the government announced that there could be a return to high contact sports should they be offered in schools. Provision of extra curricular activities is voluntary and a number are offered in my school.

Students got to work with this survey project. They were excited to ask their classmates sport related questions and predicted that volleyball, which has always been the favourite, would still be the favourite. A grade eight made a comment that even though they assume it will be volleyball, it would still make sense to complete the survey to see if their classmates were interested in more than one sport. Although the students in my class know that not everyone enjoys playing sports, they could not think of any survey questions relating to other topics. They noted that since these activities would be played “for fun”, that many students may come out.

Here is how the rest of the project played out:

  • Three students created an online survey differentiating between check boxes and multiple choice questions. They came to the conclusion that students should be allowed to select more than one sport and more than one day of the week but should have to chose between the time of day they preferred the most and the style of play they would most prefer.
  • My class helped me write an email to the six classes we would survey as they acknowledged you cannot just walk into a class without first planning a good time to survey.
  • Students came up with a contact-free way to survey where they had a sanitizer bottle near both devices and had students get called up row by row by their teacher to come complete the survey. They made sure that students who did not intend on participating in these activities should not complete the survey as it would skew the results.
  • We read the results and drew some conclusions.Here were our results:
    87 students completed the survey

Sports:

  • 58 students want to play volleyball
  • 24 students want to play badminton
  • 33 students want to try some soccer skills
  • 32 students want to play dodgeball.

Time of Day:

  • 38 students prefer to play after school
  • 33 students prefer to play at first break
  • 16 prefer to play at second break.

Style of Play:

  • 60 students want to play with mixed classes
  • 25 students want to play class vs. class.

Day of the Week:

  • 32 students would play Monday
  • 24 students would play Tuesday
  • 32 students would play Wednesday
  • 26 students would play Thursday
  • 30 students would play Friday
  • 37 students said it wouldn’t matter to them

Conclusions we drew about the data:

My students were not surprised that volleyball came out on top. They did however share that they did not know that many students would be interested in dodgeball and badminton as they had never been offered before. My students knew that after school would be popular but were shocked it was so close to the first break results. They knew second break would not be popular as most students go home for lunch during that time. They thought class vs. class would be the most popular as we had done a trial survey in our class and it was the most popular vote by far. The last question shocked them the most as they thought nobody would pick Monday. They were confused about the low numbers for Tuesday as it was a random day to have the lowest number of votes.

We then discussed next steps regarding our results. My students thought we would need to:

  1. Meet in their groups to discuss the results of each questions
  2. Write a small paragraph explaining the results of their question
  3. Have a meeting with the principal and vice principal to share the results
  4. Ask permission to run mixed intramurals as previously cohorts could not mix

After completing steps 1-4, the five students who shared the results with admin mentioned that at this time, we cannot mix cohorts. So we will have to run with the less popular result and explain that it could change in the future (class vs. class). Since basketball is running right now as the announcement of changing COVID guidelines allowed high contact sports, we will only have a few time slots to run these sports. As long as students see that their voice matters and their selections inspired programs in our school, then that is what counts!

Something that I did not expect to happen occurred during this survey project. One of my students made a realization that 87 students are interested in these intramurals but only 30- 40 students tried out of the team sports offered at our school. We discussed why this could be and my students came up with many great reasons. To summarize, the pressure of being on a school team may be too much for some and they prefer the smaller commitment of a fun intramural. My students assume that the time commitment of being on a team could have been too large or the pressure of a whole team depending on you being too much. I love competitive sports and I think they are great for students as it teaches them so much when being part of a team. However, I see how beneficial it is to have options for students that may not enjoy that competitive setting.

Our project has come to an end and we are excited to see how students enjoy these new activities at our school. My students will hopefully see that their questions mattered and that they will enrich the lives of students in the school. I think we will even be able to find ways to run most of these programs during DPA time (during the regular day’s schedule).

Provision of extra curricular activities is a voluntary part the work we do. It is important that they remain voluntary. Additionally, it is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic that if they are offered, they are only provided if all health and safety protocols can be observed to protect students and staff.  

Teaching Social Justice and Equity Through Mathematics

By the time students reach high school, they are already being streamed into different academic levels that often limit their full potentials for growth and development. This streaming pathway closes the door of opportunity for many underserved and racialized students. It is important that educators develop multiple entry points, honour different ways of knowing, and provide numerous opportunities for students to experience success in mathematics.  When mathematics is introduced as a tool for understanding the world, we are helping to liberate the minds of students and championing the educational goal of creating informed citizens who will contribute to, and participate in, an inclusive and democratic society. An inquiry-based approach to mathematics with a focus on teaching for social justice and equity (which values multiple perspectives, the social construction of knowledge, and interconnects student experience with mathematics) can empower students to develop both mathematical and social/political knowledge. 

 

As an intermediate classroom teacher, as well as a special education teacher, I have learned over the years how to embed culturally relevant and responsive equity and social justice issues into my numeracy program as a form of engaging students and empowering them to understand and confront inequities inside and outside of the classroom. This personal philosophy and teaching pedagogy did not happen overnight or within my first five years of teaching. It really required, from me, a personal philosophical understanding and belief in what it means to educate young minds and to effectively prepare them for the realities of life. Over time, through my experience of navigating the educational system for myself and for the students and families I service in my numerous roles, I began to develop an equity lens approach to my teaching practices. As an avid math enthusiast, I took numerous math AQ courses and got my math specialist. These AQ courses were instrumental in my discovery of the connection between numeracy and equity. I began to see beyond the numbers in teaching mathematics to a place where the numbers themselves took on deeper societal meaning in terms of what they represented, who they represented (or did not represent) and the impact of these numbers on various groups of people within our society. I’m telling you, it was a very enlightening experience for me to reach that level of understanding about mathematical justice. If you have never taken a math AQ course, I implore you to consider taking one for your own personal and professional growth and development. 

 

Where do you begin?

Dr. Bev Caswell who works at the University of Toronto, OISE, developed an inquiry-based Math and STEM social justice program for junior and intermediate students. The Robertson Program focuses on creating a space for student voice and authentic learning experiences in the classroom and out in the community. Furthermore, the lessons incorporate 21st century competencies, universal design of learning, differentiated instruction and culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy. They are also connected to the new Ontario math curriculum and have a cross curricular approach that infuses math, STEM, history and relevant global systemic issues. As a central staff, my role is to build teacher capacity in implementing effective teaching practices in the classroom. This program is something that I recommend to teachers as a supplemental resource to their numeracy program. 

Here are some lessons I would like to highlight: 

 

  1. Historical Figures in One Minute – a lesson for students in grades 4 to 7. This lesson makes convincing arguments and informed decisions regarding the data and graphs collected to discuss why some groups appear to be over-represented while others remain severely under-represented.
  2. Water Inquiry – a lesson for students in grades 4 to 8. This inquiry-based, water-focused lesson integrates mathematics, environmental science, geography, Indigenous rights, language arts and social justice issues.
  3. Price Check – a lesson for students in grades 4 to 8. This lesson explores socioeconomic reasons for the price difference in grocery store options in different locations in Canada.
  4. Milk Bag Project – This is a Google Docs presentation of the lesson for grades 4 to 8 students. This lesson focuses on the City of Toronto’s packaging-reduction bylaws passed in 2008. Students complete a collaborative inquiry on how many plastic bags (from a 4-litre milk plastic bag) it would take to make 10 mats (as described in the lesson).

 

So what?

Sometimes it can be scary to try something new or to teach in a way that can perhaps seem foreign and unconventional. However, this is exactly why we need to take a social justice and systemic approach to our teaching practices. A social justice approach to teaching mathematics should include equitable and inclusive teaching practices, high expectations for all students, access to rich, rigorous, and culturally relevant mathematics to promote a positive learning environment. To me, the results are more rewarding than the burden of planning, documenting and evaluating. We should feel honoured to be part of the process in which we are helping to build a better future for all by empowering students to understand how to navigate the world around them and how to confront systemic inequities in all aspects of their life. 

Which One Doesn’t Belong? (WODB)

Have you ever tried ‘ Which One Doesn’t Belong?’ (WODB) in your classroom?

WODB is a short, number talk used to get students thinking before beginning a daily lesson or math activity. Students are shown a picture like the example attached below (from mathbeforebed.com). Students take a close look at the picture and decide which object they think does not belong. After sharing their ideas, students are asked to explain their thinking to justify their answer. Here is why we love WODB in our Kindergarten class:

There are no wrong answers

This gives students the confidence to share their thoughts and encourages them to take risks in their learning. 

 

WODB shows students that there are multiple ways of solving problems 

I am finding that aside from building confidence in students’ attitudes towards math, this activity builds community. Students typically begin with a strong opinion on why their answer is correct, but begin to understand and uncover the varying perspectives of their peers. It is also a great activity to practice turn taking, active listening and showing kindness towards others with different ideas.

 

There are multiple entry points

This activity is inclusive and allows students to use their own mathematical language to describe which one they believe does not belong. Students can participate in this activity regardless of their understanding of specific math concepts. In Kindergarten, with students ranging in various stages of development – this activity gives myself and my DECE partner a window into their thinking.

 

WODB promotes mathematical thinking and the use of mathematical language 

When justifying their answer, students begin to use math words like bigger, smaller, shorter, taller, less, more and begin to use the names of shapes, numbers or symbols they are learning about. Students can activate their prior knowledge and apply their current knowledge while they work with educators to extend their knowledge. I often reframe what students are saying and repeat it back to them. For example, in the picture shown below a student may share that they think the “blue” one does not belong, “because it’s blue and the others are not” and I may say, “(student name) thinks that the blue rectangle piece does not belong”. 

 

WODB can be used in any grade level 

While I am currently enjoying this activity in Kindergarten, I think about all the ways this activity could be used with students of any age. As students learn new concepts, WODB could include pictures of fractions, decimals, equations and more. When students get comfortable engaging in WODB activities, they can even begin to create some of their own pictures to challenge their peers to think critically.

 

Which one do you think does not belong?

from https://mathbeforebed.com/

 

“I like this math better than real math!”

Fake Math vs. Real Life

“I like this math better than real math” was exclaimed by my grade eight student on Friday while we were playing Trust No One on Gimkit. Gimkit is a live, gameshow style learning that requires students to solve basic math problems in order to reach a common goal. Gimkit is an excellent way to see what students need more help with the math concepts taught that week and who understands what was taught. So why does my student consider learning in such a way “fake math”? I asked her and her response was interesting. To summarize, my student mentions how real math has to be with pencil and paper, must be boring and has to be done quietly. This is the exact opposite of the way that I like to teach math. It is interesting to hear the different perceptions of math from each student. After my student said this, I asked the class to explain the math concepts we were exploring in that Gimkit live show. My students then answered: solving for the greatest common factor, finding square roots, etc. I then explained to my student that all of that math is “real”.

My math program changes each year as I learn from different teachers such as the ones that presented last year at the OAME conference (more information can be found about that conference here: OAME) I like to integrate different ways of learning whether it be with whiteboards (non-permanent surfaces), manipulative based problems, problem of the week, asking the students which one doesn’t belong (WODB), solving patterns, estimating with a daily prompt (Estimation180) or my favourite, playing a math game that makes students think they aren’t even doing math. This was evident last Friday as my student thought we weren’t even doing real math.

I love hearing about all the different approaches to a math program. With the updated math curriculum in its second year, it is especially interesting to take a look at the different approaches to the financial literacy and coding programs. I am still getting used to the new curriculum but I love the easy online format that is available online: Math Curriculum I have printed this out and I look at what expectations work well together. I work with my grade team partners to take about what strands we report on each term. Ideally, I would love to try a fully spiralled math program but I am not 100% comfortable with this approach yet and am interested in learning more.

Challenges in Math Today

Today I struggled with a student who did not want to try the zeros principle when adding integers because she already knows how to add integers. I asked her a few times to try it out on her whiteboard and eventually, she did it. She asked me why she had to try this strategy if she already knew how to add integers. I told her that I teach many strategies so that students can pick their favourite. However, this student had already developed her own strategy, so did I just confuse her by adding another one to her toolkit? Should I have let her answer the question using the way she already knows? So many things to think about and at the time, I did not know the answer. How would you handle that situation? I love hearing many different ways that teachers approach math strategies and how to work with students who do not want to learn new ones.

With a split class this year, I am fortunate enough to tackle each lesson as a review for the eights and at the same time it being new content for the sevens. This allows for student teachers and a great review for the eights as last year was often interrupted by closures of classes and ultimately, the board. I am excited to teach the eights their new curriculum while inviting the sevens to try it out. At first, I viewed math in a split class as a challenge but now I just see it as an exciting opportunity to challenge students to be teachers and leaders. I look forward to continue blogging at my math program as the year continues. Next time you have the opportunity, ask your students if they consider any math task at any given time “fake or real”… a perception that I loved hearing last Friday!

Final Reflections from a Remote Teacher

Wow, what a year it has been! And to think, we didn’t think things could get any wilder than 2020. I have taught grade seven online since the first week of school and am finishing up next week. I have learned so much this year about myself as a teacher and about the things that children go through each and every day. Taking away the physical aspect of school has been challenging for some students yet so beneficial for others. For most of the students in my class, it was an overall positive experience. I was so lucky to have my 29 incredible students for this online experience. 

As I mentioned in my last blog post, my students participated in an interview with me where they asked questions about their efforts in certain subjects. 

I am pleased to say that many of them took the opportunity to hand in extra assignments or to bump up current ones. My students also had a chance to reflect on the learning skills they were most proud of and ones that they hope to work on in the future. They also had great final reflections about their year online. I posed the question to them, “What are you most proud of about your grade seven year?” Here were their responses:

  • The fact that I am in a class full of kind people
  • I am most proud of my marks and grades. I have been working so hard and it has paid off
  • Not getting distracted 
  • Staying on task and asking questions if confused 
  • Attendance and coming on time 
  • How to use different websites, finishing my work on time and kind of mostly everything because online school can be hard sometimes
  • My participation
  • I think I am proud that I did everything on time and proud that I did well
  • Improved on tech. skills 
  • I try my best and that’s what I’m most proud of
  • Doing my assignments on time, coming to class on time and being respectful to others in the chat or either the mic
  • I’m proud of staying in class and working on difficult work
  • Participating, even if I get the answer wrong
  • I’m proud that me and the class did a whole year of online school
  • How well I did even though I was nervous starting
  • I’m proud of my first term report
  • Doing online learning and enjoying it even though I thought it would be boring
  • Work through the MS teams platform, virtual activities and enjoying the whole experience
  • I’m happy with my marks
  • For making it through the year 
  • Not losing focus from the IRL transition to online learning
  • The fact that i can learn both in this environment and outside in an actual school
  • Being nice 
  • Online learning in general 
  • Finding a really good friend 🙂 

As you can see, it was an overall positive experience as my students learned how to see the positive in almost all situations, especially, learning remotely.

I have also learned many things throughout this year. I have discovered some incredible new programs and have developed some new teaching strategies in math and literacy. I have also discovered some game-changing activities and routines that I hope to keep as a permanent part of my program.

Math:

 I would like to keep using the virtual whiteboard in the classroom, having six (or however many iPads I have) students using the iPad during math. These students will share their strategies with their classmates after solving on their whiteboard platform. This will be a leadership opportunity and I am hoping as time goes on, all students will want to share their strategies. This was my favourite math teaching style that occurred this year as many “ah-ha” moments occurred as a result of the students sharing their work. I think it is much more exciting working on the whiteboards rather than coming up to write on the physical whiteboard. This will also ensure that students can work in their own space if we still need to worry about physical distancing. Other students will work in their notebook or physical whiteboard until it is their day to have the whiteboard app.

 I would also like to save Fridays for games in math as a way to summarize the learning from that week. The games my class loved were: Kahoot and Gimkit (which offers about 12 different types of games within). 

Language

This year I loved meeting with a small group one day a week to teach a lesson and then they would have the rest of the week to work on that activity. I received the most amount of participation during the small group sessions and by the following week, students always had their test completed. Many students commented about how their favourite part of the day was the small language groups. Having that small group size allowed all students to share and have a turn. This was actually the only time where I heard from students that did not participate in the main call. The setting of the small groups made them feel more comfortable.

I also want to make sure I have another class novel next year. I would love having students as the readers once again and they would pass the book to the next reader after they read a page or two. This was a great way to cover all the reading expectations which I would post as questions that would follow that days reading. They would answer these questions in the chat and in the classroom I would love to have this continue either by them raising their hands or by documenting it in a notebook. 

Routines/Activities:

  • Saying hello to each student in the morning
  • Spending every Monday morning sharing about our weekends and creating a goal for the week (and if they met the goal from the week before). These goals contributed to their self regulation mark.
  • Having student shoutouts at the end of each week. A student would raise their hand and give a shout-out to a specific student who went above and beyond that week or improved in something, etc. It could really be for any reason
  • Independent work periods once or twice a week as catch up periods and instead of breakout rooms, having the middle table open for students who need one on one support
  • Asking how everyone’s break was when they come back in from break 
  • Morning music until the announcements start
  • Student-led movement breaks where students design and lead a 20 minute DPA activity on the days without physical education
  • Discussing current events rather than hoping they didn’t hear the news 
  • Openly talking about all board holidays, special weeks or months in the year and celebrating in our class 
  • Cooking lessons led by students

Teaching online is an experience that I found very rewarding as it really tested all of us to see if we could handle this change. I know that as a teacher I appreciated the challenge and I know my students definitely rose to the challenge. I look forward to blogging about my in-class experiences in September!

Have an amazing summer everyone! 

Note:

ETFO’s position on in-person learning remains unchanged. The union firmly believes that the daily, in-person model of instruction and support best meets the educational, developmental and social needs of students, provides the best experience for support, and is the most equitable learning model for all students.
 
ETFO’s expectation is that elementary virtual learning in any capacity, including through hybrid models of instruction, will end once the pandemic ends.

OAME Math Conference 2021: Equity Counts

I am very excited to write today’s post as I had the pleasure of once again attending the OAME math conference this year. The conference ran from Monday, May 17th and ends today Friday, May 2st. There were over 160 sessions to select from so it was hard to narrow it down to three per evening. I was offered a volunteer position with OAME to assist with moderating 3-4 sessions. This gave me access to the entire conference and as usual, this year’s conference did not disappoint. I would love to tell you about the exciting sessions I went to and some details about them. I also attached resources that were made publicly available and some ways I have already used my learning inside my grade seven math classroom.

Session Name: Supporting the new Elementary Math Curriculum: Educator Learning Modules
Presenters: Moses Velasco and Chantal Fournier
Summary of my learning: Moses and Chantal shared their presentation about ELMs. They shared a great resource as well! This presentation was geared towards more of a math coach audience which as I am not was not able to connect with much of their content. The ELMs were from 2017 and I know there were some questions about making new ones with the new math curriculum. Moses let the audience know that they will be coming out soon. The examples that we saw on the website were great! Feel free to explore their resource.
Resources: https://sites.google.com/view/operation-sense/home
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Session Name: Assessment that Moves
Presenter: Jordan Rappaport
Summary of my learning: Jordan was a gifted speaker and he had so many important things to share. Many of them I implemented in my class the very next day. Jordan spoke a lot about virtues in math:

  • Being creative
  • Being a thinker
  • Curiosity
  • Perseverance
  • Willingness to take risks
  • Ability to collaborate

Jordan shared that these virtues are important to people who hire mathematicians and essential in every math classroom. We also looked at a forward thinking rubric which had three boxes and a large arrow on top. He talked about using this so students can see where they are and where they should move towards. For the topic of collaboration, on the left column on the rubric, you would put terms like excluding, not being supportive, etc. and on the far right you would put the expected behaviours (opposite of the left side). You would then circle the place where the student was at. Jordan mentioned that building a rubric should be a collaborative process and he starts jamboards and shares them with his students. They generate ideas together when talking about a specific math virtue, what you should see and not see.
How I used this in the classroom this week: The day after hearing from Jordan, I posted the virtues on my slide and asked students to share what their best math virtue is. This allowed us to engage in conversations about why they take risks, why others may not, etc. This conversation was so meaningful and I loved hearing from my students.
Resources:

https://www.francissu.com/ 

https://buildingthinkingclassrooms.com/ 

https://www.peterliljedahl.com/ 

http://fractiontalks.com/
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Session Name: Designing Classroom Explorations that Engage All Students
Presenter: Gail Burrill
Summary of my learning: During this session, Gail spoke about many exciting topics. Gail shared that in her math classroom, she has her students complete various math tasks such as: book reports, research reports (math in art, etc.), write stories from graphs and many more. This connects math to many other subjects and is meaningful for students. Some other key takeaways included:

  • Data driven tasks are important in the classroom
  • Connecting math to student’s lives
    • Gail gave an excellent example where students had to find the problem with Fred VanVleet from the Raptors as his shooting percentage was in a rut. They had to solve if there was a rut or not and look at percentages with his shooting statistics.
  • Following instructions doesn’t mean your students have learned anything
  • Turning procedures into problems because then students will want to solve them and remember them
  • Vertical non-permanent surfaces
  • Visibly random groups
  • Comments before grades; feedback should be for thinking

Gail also mentioned a great resource where you can visit https://censusatschool.ca/ and have students answer: What do you notice? What do you wonder? These real life statistics engage her students for the first fifteen students of her class and she looks at real life scenarios. Gail also left us with some things to think about:

  • How much time do your students spend..
    • in silence?
    • talking to peers?
    • listening?
    • presenting?

Resources: https://censusatschool.ca/
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Session Name: Building Math Residue with Lessons That Stick
Presenter: Graham Fletcher
Summary of my learning: Graham shared many ideas that help students engage in explorations and lessons that really make students wonder, what is the answer to that question? I loved this idea from Graham:

  • Estimation Waterfall: asking students to wait until they hit enter so that they are not just copying the student who always gets it “right”

Of course, the focus of the session was what makes a good task? Here were Graham’s steps:

  1. Simple: Is it accessible? Avoid language due to any language barriers
  2. Unexpected: Does it fire up the guessing machine? Do students actually want to know the answer?
  3. Concrete: Do your students have any prior knowledge to connect to?
  4. Credible: What validates the math?
  5.  Emotional: Does it create an ah-ha moment?
  6. Stories: How will the math story be told?

Graham also mentioned the following ideas which are important to know and to understand:

  • Anyone can be good at math
  • Listening to a student’s thinking is more important than the answer
    • Graham showed a video of him working with a student and he was so patient, waiting to hear the student get the answer and listening to their process
  • Right answers should only matter at the end of a unit (assessment/test). The journey along the way is for making mistakes and for building understanding
  • A good math question makes you excited for the answer
  • Teachers shouldn’t jump on their students when they see a wrong answer, they should question them and wait for them to have that ah-ha moment

How I used this in the classroom this week: The day after hearing from Graham, I asked my students join a jamboard and I posed the above statements to them. I had them disagree or agree and if they wanted, they could share their reasoning on the mic. Students had such incredible things to say about all of the statements and we even got one anxious student to admit that making mistakes along the way is okay!  A huge breakthrough for this student.
Resources: https://gfletchy.com/Be sure to check out the tab “3-Act tasks” for some engaging lessons that stick!
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Session Name: Math, Social Justice and Actions
Presenter: Robert Berry
Summary of my learning: Robert Berry brought up incredible conversations that need to be had in our math classrooms. Robert shared a provocation for us: Who are our essential workers? What do you notice, wonder and how does it impact your community? Robert shared a lot of insight on how to create your own social justice math lesson:

  • Learn about relevant social injustices
  • Identify the math
  • Establish your goals
  • Determine how you will assess your goals
  • Create a social justice question for the lesson
  • Make student resources
  • Plan for reflection/action

There should be conversations about connecting math with students cultural and community histories. This was a great session and I was so engaged in his presentation, I did not take many notes!
Resources: https://padlet.com/rqb3e/sjmathresources Attached are incredible social justice mathematics resources
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Session Name: Some of my Favourite Problems
Presenter: Mike Eden
Summary of my learning: Mike is from the University of Waterloo and he shared many engaging math problems from various contests and from challenging math lessons. He asked people in the chat to share their answers and we looked at many ways to solve these challenging problems. I am sure you are all familiar with “Problem of the Week” from the University of Waterloo, well Mike took us further with these incredible problems!
Resourceshttp://: https://www.cemc.uwaterloo.ca/ https://www.cemc.uwaterloo.ca/contests/past_contests.html
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Session Name: Slow Reveal Graphs as Social Justice Provocations
Presenters: Kyle Pindar and Jennifer Fannin
Summary of my learning: This was such an engaging session that used the website https://trends.google.com/trends/ to design slow reveal graphs. The focus of the lessons are asking the questions these key questions: What? So what? Now what? Also, what do you notice? What do you wonder? Slow reveal graphs are innocently framed as hard hitting social justice questions. Kyle explained how to make these slow reveal provocations using these steps:

  1. https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=CA Make sure you are using the Canadian trends (setting on top right should say “Canada”
  2. Download the image (graph) you want to use
  3. Open up a blank google sheet
  4. Upload the download and re-size the columns
  5. Delete the top two lines
  6. Create slide show

Then, show your students these graphs, slowly revealing new features on the graph such as: the actual data, x axis information, y axis information and then eventually, the title (trend). Kyle and Jennifer discussed generating expected students responses so that you can be prepared to have these discussions as a class. They had great examples, specifically a graph showing the googling of “BLM” and you could see the spike on the day that George Floyd was murdered. Both presenters discussed how you would have that conversation with the class of what made these search results spike up in May of 2020? These are such great ways to have social justice discussions in class!
Resources: https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=CA https://www.statcan.gc.ca/eng/start

Overall, I am so grateful for the opportunity that was this year’s OAME Math Conference. I wish I had been able to attend/moderate more sessions but as an OAME volunteer, I have the ability to listen to recorded sessions I could not attend. I will listen to some over the next few weeks and post anything else I gather. I hope this post provides a snapshot of such incredible math presentations and all of their wisdom that they wished to pass on to math educators! I know it is late in the year to take in this much incredible math information, but this post will be here to refresh your memory after a well-rested and well-deserved summer vacation!

If you wish to learn more about OAME or how to attend the conference next year, visit their website: https://oame.on.ca/main/index.php

Fun and Fresh Friday Math

After attending the OAME  Math conference in 2020, I was able to hear many perspectives about the math classroom and how it should look. One of the speakers was Gerry Lewis (@GLewisOCT) who spoke to us about spiralling as well as what the thinking classroom looks like. He spoke about many incredible concepts, my favourite was definitely an example of his daily math activities. There were many websites Gerry talked about and he described this as a “mini spiral” where you start to introduce spiralling with your students. You could do this by introducing these activities at the beginning of each class (10-15 minutes). Here are some of the websites Gerry introduced me to:

 

We have been spiralling since September and my students have enjoyed the programs listed above. It also is important to review the concepts of the week and I have done that in a few creatives ways. Our favourite thing to do is to review the concepts from the week in a “fun and fresh way” on Fridays. I teach online so all of these programs work well, particularity when students have a second device available.Here are our top three quiz apps. and a review from myself as well as my students:

Knowledgehook:
http://knowledgehook.com

My review:
Knowledgehook is available as an app or on any web browser. It is a live, gameshow style quiz game where the questions are directly linked to our Ontario math curriculum. You can actually find the strand you are working on and lead students through a three question quiz. Students never know who got what answers correct, which I think shocked them at first. Some students ended up sharing how many they got correct in the chat. I enjoy this because you can review the answer afterwards and there is no rush to enter an answer. It is a quick summary of student knowledge at the end of the week and works well. You can view the results after to see where students need help.

Student review:
My students enjoyed this app but they much prefer Kahoot (and other competition based apps).  I think they find this one a little bit boring since it acts as a type of exit card. They do not complain while playing but they request other apps. Again, I think at the end they are just eager to tell each other about their results, so this is what I think they are missing with this app.

Kahoot:
https://kahoot.com/schools-u/

My review:
This is obviously a great tool to use when reviewing concepts from the week. I like it because students are so excited when they hear it is time for a kahoot! I also like using this as a quiz option at the end of a concept but I always remind students to email me if there were any game glitches that affected their final store. I do not enjoy that I have to make my own kahoots to get exactly the content that I want. For a quick exit card, I much prefer knowledgehook. My students have not reacted when they receive a low score this year and I am thankful for that. That is another reason we continue to use kahoot to review, play fun games and sometimes, we just enjoy a random kahoot.

Student review:
My class has some competitive students in it so they do enjoy kahoot for that reason. I think they like to show that they were paying attention during the week and they get super excited when they win. Kahoot was the most requested activity when I read my students review of term one with regards to things that they want to continue. I know kahoot will always be a favourite activity and pairing it with math (which is often not a favourite subject) makes a good combo. I know students have mentioned it is hard to toggle between tabs, so two devices work best for this.

Quizizz:
https://quizizz.com/

Teacher review:
Best for last! So today was our first day using this quiz tool. This is a customizable quiz program where you can use a combination of your own questions as well as questions created by other people. You can select between multiple choice, checkbox, fill in the blank, poll and a few other options. The game format is very fun and I can see exactly how my students did during and after the games. It also shows an anonymous question review at the end to go over with your students to see how many people got each question right and wrong. All names are left out of this page. This program also allows students go through at their own pace so nobody is waiting for the entire class to answer each question. They also do not have to toggle between screens.

Student review:
I am still in shock after hearing this an hour ago but this is the favourite over kahoot. I did not think any quiz app could take its place! I just finished speaking to my students about why they prefer this over kahoot and the specifics are:

  • self paced so students can all finish at different times
  • the opportunity to 50/50 some of the questions like the millionaire show format
  • you can power up and earn some cool features you have an answer streak which may include pausing the timer, etc.
  • you can pick your own background and music during the game
  • you can also retry a question if you get it incorrect (these results will be displayed to me if a student was incorrect during their first attempt)

At first, I expected my students to be frustrated because I was throwing yet another app their way. They were actually so excited to play and ended up enjoying it more than any other app. I will be exploring another program this weekend that one my students shared with me. He explained that I would like it “even more”. https://www.gimkit.com/ I encourage you to try it as well.

I hope everyone can try out these three (or just one) fun Friday math apps! I know my students are so excited when Friday comes along because they can review the skills from the way in a fun way. I appreciate their excitement as we all know, sometimes we only get moans and groans when our students hear the word “math”.

I look forward to keeping you updated on future math quiz apps. Please share any of your experiences with me or any new apps that you have tried. Enjoy!

New math curriculum experiences

For the past month, my grade sevens and I have been taking a deep dive into the new math curriculum, specifically, financial literacy. Topics we have covered have included the following:

  1. Exchange Rates: how they come into play when travelling outside of Canada, how to convert to and from foreign currencies and how exchange rates fluctuate over time
  2. How to plan and reach financial goals: so many students in my class have large goals for their futures such as university, buying a car, etc. which we discussed as our unit progressed
  3. Financial Institutions: we talked about what institutions exist in Hamilton, how customer friendly their websites are as well as if students in our class have started savings accounts, etc. for post high school education plans
  4. Budgeting: how to make a budget for immediate, short term and long term goals. We also discussed incomes vs. expenses and how you would save for school or another larger purchases
  5. Interest Rates: we just finished today discussing how an interest rate could affect investing money as well as borrowing money over time

Over the past month, I have not heard one student ask the question that every teacher fears, “Why do we have to learn this? How will this help me in my future? These questions often come from inquiring minds of students who are frustrated with the math topic at hand and cannot seem to find the relevance. Not only have these topics been engaging for my students but this has been my favourite math unit to teach since I started teaching seven years ago. I wish I had been fortunate enough at a young age to learn about these topics so my parents did not have to walk me through them when I was 20.

I do wonder during some conversations if my students are too young to learn about specific topics, but maybe one day, they will look back on these math conversations and see the connection. Even though interest rates, etc. may not affect them today, it will still be more clear to them in the future when the topic is brought up.

Interesting (and challenging) discussions did come up with my students,  related to interest rates being haram in their religion. I discussed it with my admin. and those students were still able to learn about why interest rates could affect them if they need to borrow money for school, etc. It was interesting to hear that due to their faith, earning interest or being charged interest was haram. I recognize and hear what my students shared and continued to talk about how borrowing money in the future may involve interest rates in their future.

The other day while teaching remotely (at school) about interest rates, a teacher was nearby and heard our discussions. She was very interested in our discussions as a class and mentioned that she wished she had been taught these concepts back when she was in elementary. She mentioned how she learned a lot from our discussions and I felt great about that. I shared it with my class that these discussions will really help plan for their future and when they may not see the importance about learning how to find an acute angle, they hopefully will remember these financial literacy conversations one day.

I look forward to exploring other new curriculum topics in the future such as coding. It is a great day to be a grade seven math teacher when your students, parents and other staff around you realize the importance of these discussions! Now, to get there with other concepts taught this year 🙂

 

The KWC

Sadly, I can’t remember who introduced me to the KWC but it’s a strategy that I have used in Math with students for a number of years now and I should really find the person and thank them. If it was you, please reach out and let me know! Particularly when solving word problems, a KWC helps students to consider the question, what they know, what they want to know, and possible steps to take in getting started and solving the problem. 

Prior to the break, we were working towards demonstrating the knowledge and skills needed to make informed financial decisions. Using problems that we would encounter in the real world, students were tasked with trying to solve them and to justify their choices. In this post, I break down the KWC using one of the guided examples in our classroom.

K – What do you know?

After reading the problem, students are asked to list everything that they know about the problem. These are things that they know for sure based on the information given and sometimes, their prior knowledge. 

Here’s the question that we worked on as a class as we started learning about how to calculate the sales tax:

As a class, we learned a new term – subtotal – and understood that total now meant the cost, including tax. We also determined that the operations we would use would be addition, multiplication, and subtraction. We learned that there were different rates for tax based on the type of item. In this case, adult clothing and children’s clothing. 

W – What do you want to know?

This is the place where students can clearly state what they want to figure out, find out, or do. Restating the question in your own words helps to make sure that you really understand what is being asked in the question. In our case, this was a multi-step problem, so there were several things that we wanted to know:

  • What is the subtotal?
  • What is the total?
  • How much tax was paid?
  • Was it a good deal?

C – Conditions

This part is always one that is a little tricky for me. I often think of this section as the things that students need to watch out for but as in our case, I have used this section as the steps that we need to take in order to solve the problem. In other words, what are the things that we need to do to answer the question successfully? Through discussion, we broke down the problem and determined the steps involved in solving the problem so that when working in their groups, students could refer back to it. Even with the steps in place, there were groups of students who solved the problem differently. For example, for the third question, rather than taking the total and subtracting the subtotal to find the tax, some groups wanted to multiply the subtotal by the appropriate tax rate (0.13 or 0.05) and also state the amounts paid for the different rates. When it came to justifying their thinking for question 4, it was great to see that some groups asked questions about the discount for the sale. Many were eager to jump online to investigate the non-sale price and did calculations to determine how much of a deal it really was. Others thought about taking the total and dividing that by the number of items and thought about whether or not that was a deal based on the price per item. Different groups thought of different ways to use Math to justify their answer. 

This question took us a couple of Math periods to work through but it continued to help solidify the effectiveness of the use of this strategy. With gradual release – beginning with the teacher as a guide; moving into students using it in small groups, then partners, and then on their own – once students understand the problems they come across, they are better able to solve them with greater confidence. While students aren’t always going to stop and work through creating their own KWC, it’s one tool that they can use and when given problems to solve. I’ve seen students use it independently and confidently to answer all parts of multi-step problems.