Thursday, April 28, 2016


As a student, teacher, or user of math a person can either love it or tolerate it.

I loved it when I was in school, because I was good at memorizing algorithms and spitting that back out on a test.

But then in college it got more real life and I had to solve problems and this thing called a Venn Diagram nearly gave me a panic attack. Thank goodness for a friend who taught me about those circles and what they meant, and how to figure interest (compounded, because that is apparently what interest can do).

As a teacher I tolerated math. Tried to figure out how to get kids to memorize those math facts and spit them out quickly again. Tried to teach how to solve kid sized problems (that might have seemed like interest to them). And tried. 

But it could be going better.

I've had the good fortune to attend some PD this year related to math.

Clearly I am part of a "shift" generation. We are teaching for understanding, not algorithms. But how? Why? With what?

It sort of seems that I need to go back. I need to understand how and why of the most basic concepts.

Today I sat in on four math PD sessions. The first two were all about number sense. Right up a primary teacher's alley.

My favorite quote of the day: "What teachers know impacts what they teach."

Here are a few more ideas that I want to remember from today:

1. 80% of math class is "getting to the answer." Even at first grade, I have to make this happen.

2. Ask how/why all the time. Get the kids used to defending their answer, so that they do not think the question means they are wrong.

3. A spiral curriculum means that it builds on what was previously taught. Not that the kids have another time to master. Must master first, then we will move deeper into the understanding.

4. As a homework or warm up activity, provide two problems. Have the kids work the first until I say move to the next. For each problem, solve in as many ways as possible. Probably after I have taught several. LOVE THIS SO MUCH and it will sooooooo work in first grade.

This year my good friend has taught me a phrase. She says it all the time, especially when I get down on myself for not doing something "right."

"When I knew better, I did better." (The credit for this saying is from a local administrator, next time I see her I will tell her thank you.)

So, for the last of this year I will do better and I am pumped to do better next year!

Coming up: more math PD tomorrow, and a good, long look at the 8 mathematical practices during the summer. 

Looks like I'm gonna need a new notebook.

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  1. This shift has been happening for me over the last few years. But math never ever made sense to me. The facts never stuck with me. When I finally gained some number sense over these past few years, I am finally understanding the how and why of math. It has made me a much stronger math teacher who actually likes math now! I am excited about your learning and can't wait to learn from you!!

  2. You're so right about how math is changing!
    Even thought I'm a literacy person, one of my best friends from undergrad (first grade teacher now) began a math blog and she's so into math stuff that it's got me a bit interested. She suggested a book by Van De Wall that I want to get my hands on and start investigating this summer. You should check out her blog: - I can't believe the stuff she does with her firsties....she totally inspires me!


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