Math: Breaking Traditions

I've spent the last 2 days in 2 different meetings about math.  Any of the precious people I teach with can tell you that I'm a total math nerd.  Numbers are how I think.  I like things to be logical and orderly. And math is absolutely one of my favorite things to teach.

All that being said...16 hours of math meetings makes even my nerdy math brain hurt! Ya know what I mean?!?! One of the meetings I was in is a monthly leadership meeting with our Ed Coop about analyzing content, curriculum and progressions in math.  It is a 3 year project where we are looking at the different strands of math to deepen our content knowledge and then trying to decide as a school district what an appropriate progression will be for our kids in K-5.  It's an awesome project...but it is quite an undertaking and most months I leave with so many ideas swimming through my little brain that I have a {bit of a} headache...

I should probably back up and tell you that our district and our region is heavily trained in Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) {affiliate link}.  Here is the research that this teaching philosophy is based on...

If you're not familiar with CGI, it is a way of teaching math that completely breaks traditions in math instruction. No textbooks, no teacher guide, no worksheets with 20+ addition or subtraction problems, no timed math tests... CGI is based on the idea that kids come to school with a natural understanding about math.   My job is to facilitate student learning through word problems and problem solving that matches how kids naturally think about math.  One good example is base 10.  We use story problem types that are teacher-written that will help kids think in 10's and understand how to compose and decompose 2-digit numbers into 10's and 1s....or 100's, 10's and 1's.  When I was in school {many moons ago}, we were given math problems from our textbook, or cutesy color-by-number 2-digit adding worksheets and taught to borrow, carry, etc.  But that is not how kids naturally think about math.  I can ask several of my first graders to add 67 + 24, and they will say with no prompting or direct teaching from me, "60 + 20 = 80 and 7 + 4 = 11, so 80 + 11 = 91." There are fewer mistakes with my kids and they have a better understanding of number sense and operations.

I went through my first CGI training 6 years ago and I immediately fell.in.love.  I knew this would change how I taught math, but I knew it would be for the better.  It is a lot of work on me as a teacher.  I'm writing story problems for my kids based on what they know and understand and purposefully giving them problems and numbers that will deepen their thinking.  But I've seen the fruit of this research-based instruction and I wouldn't go back for anything.

As great as CGI is, there are some areas that are more difficult to cover in a "word problem."  So, we also have a non-traditional "Math Wall" time each day where we cover essential skills that are not taught through CGI or need to be reinforced for fluency purposes {like time, shapes, measurement, rote counting, etc...}  I absolutely love it!  We do it Monday-Thursdays for about 30 minutes on our Promethean Board.  In that 30 minutes, we cover 12 {count them...TWELVE!} Common Core math standards.  It covers building 2-digit numbers with base 10 blocks, counting on/back, skip counting by 2's, 5's and 10's, mentally adding and subtracting 10, comparing numbers, true/false equations, dividing shapes into halves and fourths, non-standard measurement, telling time, 2D and 3D shapes.  My kids love {really LOVE!!} how interactive Math Wall is too! They love getting to write and move manipulatives on our Promethean Board.  They love the You Tube songs and dances embedded in the slides.  They are totally engaged and not even realizing that they are learning math along the way!

I have several different Math Walls for kindergarten, first grade and second grade in my store.  I have created 6 Math Walls for first grade, 6 for second grade and 4 for kindergarten.  Each progressive math wall goes a little deeper into each of the standards and skills covered.  Watch this video to see how I use these in my classroom...

I also had several requests for a more traditional "calendar" on Promethean Boards.  So, last year, I made a more traditional calendar flip chart  and powerpoint option based on what I did with my first graders before Common Core.  It includes calendar, days of the week, months of the year, yesterday/today/tomorrow, ten frames, tallies, money, seasons, weather, and base 10 blocks, as well as video links embedded in slides also.

How you are you "breaking tradition" in your math instruction?


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