Sunday, 13 January 2013

Generalness and Math

Hey Everyone,

Happy New Year, hope everyone had a relaxing holiday (I know, that break seems like forever ago)! I am coming to the end of a extra-long weekend due to a storm day on Friday (woo hoo)! One of the perks of teaching outside of the city is being able to roll over and go back to sleep after that great phone call while all your friends who teach in the city still have to go to school (sorry, friends)! :)

If you are wondering, no, I still haven't found a job, but I am doing a short stint in a classroom in a school I used to work in for the next week and a half. So I get snow days too. Unfortunately, there were a bunch of things at school that I wanted to take home for the weekend from her classroom to get ready for this week, but I wasn't able to since I wasn't at school. Oh well, I'll take sleeping in, going for breakfast with the hubs and getting my grocery shopping done by 10am.

So I've had a couple of questions about my guided math program that I'm going to try to answer, and later this week (hopefully) I'm going to post about my exciting math-related project I'm doing for my post-bacc course.

Guided Math

So Aviva was asking about problem solving and communication in my guided math groups. One thing to stress with the students when building your guided math routine is how to work when you are not with the teacher. Some of these strategies include the mechanics of station work: how to get and pack up materials, how to move from one area to another, etc. But the other important routines to build with your students are how to work together, how to "help" one another, and how to talk about math. (As a disclaimer, I would like to say that all of my schooling and experience has been in grades 3-7. So some of my ideas may need to be tweaked for first and second graders).

The idea of teaching kids the second set of routines is super important. I don't know how many times I go into classrooms and am trying to help students with a problem, when the next kid in line whispers the answer. They think that they are helping, but really, they are just speeding the process along. This becomes important to kibosh when you are doing g.m. because the students are working alone in their groups without you for 3/4 of the time. One of the preteaching things that I always do is talk about how we can help. I try to teach students to talk about processes, not results. Talk your friend through how you started to solve the problem, or important words, or where to look to find the info you need to begin. I find, especially at the middle grades, that this is difficult for kids. They don't want to show their work, or talk about strategies; teaching them how to do this effectively is super important (and for little kidlets too, that way they'd be used to it by grade 5)! :)

For problem solving, I would start off as a whole group, and go through strategies to use. We would probably start with different problems that would use the same strategy. I used a program called "Problem Solver 6". What I might do in the future is to give each group a problem once a week when they meet with me. Then in one of their breakoff groups (paper/pencil, or instead of fact practice) I would get them to take turns talking about the steps that they would use to solve the problem, or maybe give each group a different type of problem, and have them be 'experts' on that type of problem to teach the rest of the class.

As I said, so much of it is about pre-teaching these routines. Like in the Daily 5 program, you have to start small, and definitely teach kids the language, expectations and routines. You might not get into fully operating guided math groups until November. But that's okay. All that preparation means that it will run so much smoother later on.

Hope that helps! Any questions, ask 'em in the comments!

As a final note on this incredibly long post, I need to share this picture, which may finally help me to remember what the difference between mean, median and mode is. I shared it with a group of grade sixers on Thursday and they were repeating it all morning!

median mode mean range - maybe I won't have to Google it every time a kid asks me which is which! :)

Take care!


  1. Thanks for sharing what you do here. I continue to do more "guided math groups," and it's great to hear about how other people are making this routine work. I wonder about math problem solving with students that struggle in math. How do you build these communication skills for these students? How do you balance the need to teach computations and the need to teach communication in math? I'd love to hear some of your ideas!

    Thanks for being so willing to share!

  2. Hi!
    I'm looking for some awesome Canadian teacher bloggers to participate in a blog hop I'm hosting for Canadian kids books with matching free activities,and I really hope you're interested in participating.