For Valentine’s Day, a group of four of us — two teachers from the States and two teachers from Canada — decided to plan some math problems together. We created a GoogleDoc and shared ideas. Our thought was that we would have the students complete the problems, and then use Skype, to have classes interact together for our Math Congress. Since it would be difficult to have all four classes Skype together, we split into groups of two: @jgriffith2 and @amsgoodwin‘s classes paired up, and my class paired up with @techieang‘s class.
Angie Harrison, @techieang, teaches a Grade 3 class in the York Region District School Board. We’ve done other projects together, but our classes haven’t met up yet this year. Since Angie teaches a higher grade than me, she also added an extension to the problem for her class. I also modified the problem for my Grade 1’s. During the Math Congress Skype call though, only a couple of groups of Grade 2 and 3 students shared their work.
The math problem itself, and the Skype call, both led to a lot of reflection. I found it interesting that all of my students automatically added up the students in the question and figured out the number of Valentine’s Day cards based on the total number. Nobody in my class looked at the individual class numbers compared to the card options. One of Angie’s students did though, and it was great that my students could hear this solution as well. They got to see a different approach to the problem.
Angie also had her students working with 100s strings and “nice numbers,” and her students taught my students about both of these. It was clear that the 100s strings would be a great tool for a problem like this one, and these strings also work well with “nice numbers,” which really focus on tens. It was great because after our Skype call today, students applied what they learned about “nice numbers” to solve a variety of addition questions. Then they shared what they did and how these “nice numbers” helped them solve the problems. Thank you to Angie and her students for helping guide our learning today!
As for my reflections, I learned that my students do better discussing their thinking when they do so soon after they’ve thought it. When I was working with the children yesterday, they shared some great ideas, but they had more difficulty articulating their thoughts today. The learning was not as fresh. In retrospect, I should have had the students review what they were going to say, and had some of the discussion prior to the Skype call. This may have helped them share more during the call itself.
I also realized that with students sharing their math thinking in so many ways in the classroom, they’re not always writing down every step that they do and why they do it. They are recording these steps in their video dialogues or talking about these steps in their Livescribe pencasts, but they’re not putting them down in writing. The thinking is still there, and I realize the benefit of this, but Skyping today with a Grade 3 teacher that is going to be doing EQAO in the coming months, indirectly reminded me of the importance of having students write their thoughts. I liked the format that Angie’s students used, and I think that I will do more direct teaching of this writing component as well. This doesn’t mean that I will stop using all tools besides a pencil and paper, but it does mean that I will include the pencil and paper component more often. The children can even type out their steps on their blog posts or write them on the iPad, but I want to move more of them away from the oral responses to the written ones.
Thank you to Angie Harrison and her students for teaching me as much about good teaching practices as you did about math! It was a very reflective afternoon. Have you ever done a Math Congress Skype call before? What did you learn from this experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts!