A list of go-to resources

There are so many great resources out there, but one of my favorite sites for lessons and tasks this year is from the Mathematics Assessment Project. I’ve already used their Money Munchers and Boomerang tasks as formative assessments. They’ve provided a window into student thinking as well as artifacts in terms of where students are at with constructing arguments.

Another source for MARS tasks can be found at the Sonoma County Office of Education. The list is organized by grade level and include links to Illustrative Mathematics and Inside Mathematics.

I can’t forget NRICH!

I also love the growing list of blogs in my Netvibes reader. However with time being so precious during the school year, I’ve been zeroing in on the post title and the first sentence displayed in the reader. I know I’m missing out on some great writing and ideas, but it’s the only way I can manage right now.

In my delicious account I found this list of tasks. I’m not sure of the source, but it includes rubrics that you can use as is or modify. I also found Cut the Knot. I haven’t used it but I must have bookmarked it for a reason!

Everybody loves Fawn. She goes without saying. The right rail of her blog links to several heavy hitters.

I’m sure I’ve missed plenty, but those are my first places to go for lessons, task, and activities.

Trivial pursuit vs. constructing a purpose for learning

Do relationships matter? How do relationships define us and construct meaning?

Is this the core concept we want our students to discover about rational numbers?  I’m late to the game in terms of developing good essential questions so I would appreciate your feedback.  In the past I didn’t have any EQ for rational numbers. As a result, I’ve been doing a lousy job of constructing a purpose for learning. In fact, my daily learning targets are playing cards pulled from the Trivial Pursuit Rational Number edition. For example:

Students will be able to:

  • place whole numbers, decimals, fractions, and integers on a number line
  • convert a decimal to a rational number
  • calculate rational numbers in an expression
  • identify whether the square root of a number is a rational or irrational number

Do you see what I mean about teaching trivia? I am so caught up in the minutiae students don’t see the relevance or the big picture.

I also have the Trivial Pursuit expansion pack for Number Properties.

Students will be able to:

  • Identify and apply the commutative property
  • Identify and apply the distributive property
  • Identify and apply the associative property

If I make a conscious effort to link the essential question back to the learning target will students construct a deeper meaning of rational numbers and the number system? If I ask students to ponder the essential question in their math journals or with exit slips I can monitor their depth of understanding.

It’s not too late for me to go back and fix my blunder. We just kicked off number properties and have yet to start rational numbers.

How do we get students to see the big picture?

What to do when you don’t know what to do

My students do not have much experience with non-routine problems. On occasion they’ve completed complex tasks, but certainly not enough, or a variety, for students to build self-efficacy. I’m trying to change that by living a SMART goal I created for myself. Last Thursday, day 8, I presented a formative lesson designed by the Mathematical Assessment Project.

The problem began: Emily doesn’t trust banks with her money. She has stored $24,000 in one dollar bills under her mattress. The rest of the problem can be seen below. This student’s attempt was typical.

money munchers4
Most students guessed and provided no mathematical reasoning to support their answer–revealing a lack of understanding of how to approach the problem.

After they worked on the task independently for fifteen minutes, I collected their work. I found myself providing the same feedback over and over. (My handwriting is atrocious. I know. )

As I reviewed their work, I came upon this response:

money munchers5
This student has recognized that mattresses come in a variety of sizes, but provides no math to justify her thinking.

One or two students thought to estimate the size of a mattress, but their dimensions weren’t reasonable. For them my feedback was, “How tall are you? What do you think the dimensions of your bed are?”

For estimating a stack of one dollar bills, nearly every student has this feedback: “How could a book help you? How could the pages in it help you estimate a stack of money?”

When I see the students tomorrow, they’ll take that feedback and work independently for about 10 minutes. They’ll then work in their groups to share their progress and come to a solution.

One thing I will add is criteria for success. Your work is: a reasonable estimate that is organized and clearly labeled.

I love this lesson. I get to see individual thinking. The feedback offers progress while not enabling. Plus, when they collaborate every student should be able to contribute to the solution.

Day 6: Launching problem solving with a think-aloud

A think-aloud for day 6. It’s a tad more detailed than my usual post-its. Plus, I didn’t want to rewrite it so I’m sending you the 180 blog today.

180 days of math post-its

I want the students to get used to solving group tasks and non routine problems. I also want to do more with reading instruction in math so I solicited our reading specialist to script a think-aloud for a specific task. I really didn’t solicit; she’s been encouraging the non-reading teachers to utilize her. So I did. It worked fabulously.

The task I chose was a  Basketball Camp task I found in Charlotte Danielson’s A Collection of Performance Tasks & Rubrics: Middle School Mathematics. Side bar: Amazon provides a wonderful preview of tasks when you “look inside”.  The task isn’t a mind bender, but there is a lot of information to consider. Take the train, or fly. Sign up for individual or group lessons.  Determine the possibilities then make your recommendation.

I let the students attempt the problem in groups before I did the think aloud. The six groups had some…

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