Why The Math D5 Fits

Lots of teacher types seem interested in applying the Daily Five principles to mathematics. What does that mean? For me, it means that teachers are struggling to find ways to deliver comprehensive instruction to our students and to differentiate so that rigor is applied to all students no matter what their level of accomplishment.

The Math Daily Five as developed by Gail and Joan consists of four categories really – Math by Myself, Math Writing, Partner Work (Math with Someone), and Math with Technology.  I like the categories, really I do, but I also know I need to be accountable to expectations for teaching math that are required in my school district.

My current thinking – notice I am saying current because I expect this will morph as we figure out more of what the kids need in transitioning to Common Core – is that I need five, not four major categories. The categories I currently use in my classroom are: Math Exploration, Fact Practice, Problem Solving, Technology, and Math Games.  Here is why:

  • Our district has adopted a Launch-Explore-Summary model for delivery of instruction.  The “explore” activity on the Math D5 board is connected to the lesson that has been launched during math.
  • We also use Investigations in Number, Data and Space as our basal mathematics resource.  This structure supports the materials we have the most consistent access to.
  • Fact practice is necessary as students are often deficient in knowing their facts – I still have students who try to count on their fingers to add and subtract and they need to master those pronto. Common Core requires students in Grade 3 to master multiplication and division to the 10s family. The fact practice games and flash cards (we use the triangular ones) fit well in here.
  • Our Unified School Improvement Plan specifies that students get direct instruction in problem solving – not to mention the Massachusetts Common Core docs also call out problem solving structures. I give students at least one problem to solve each week in their Problem Solvers’ notebook to track their progress.
  • The games I choose for the Math Game choice function as review of prior skills and often as intervention practice for struggling students. Many of these activities are based on Number Sense and Operations/Algebra as that is where my students are weakest.

With all the nuts and bolts of why I use the Daily Five out there, one of the most beneficial aspects is actually more general.  The Sisters advocate for teaching students to be independent – accountable for their own learning actions and trusted to stay on task without constant teacher intervention.  For me, this is the ultimate reason for teaching students the Daily Five structure. I need to pinpoint which students are struggling and provide targeted help (an initiative also mandated by our District).  If I am constantly redirecting students I simply can not do that. I need to know that the students who are not directly interacting with me at any particular point in time are engaged in meaningful mathematics activity for the entire 90 minute mathematics period.

Another reason why I’ve embraced the Daily Five structure for mathematics is that it allows for segmenting the time frame.  Does anyone really have those long imaginary blocks of time with class interruptions at the end of the day? I don’t think so. My schedule is much more coherent this year than it has been for the last 3 years; however, I still need to interrupt my mathematics block for lunch and recess. So the general structure of the block goes like this:

10 – 15 minute Launch with whole group

20 – 30 minutes (students start with Explore and move to a choice)

10 minute mid-point check in (either we solve/discuss the daily activity or we check in with something I’ve notice as I observe students working).

15 minutes additional independent choice time (at this point I pull one or two students who are struggling with the daily concept for some clarification OR if everyone “gets it” (right), I work with a group of students to extend thinking.


20 minutes additional independent activity (intervene with students who struggle with number sense)

10 minute Summary of what we’ve done or learned for the day.

So far, this structure is working for me and my students. Perfect? I don’t think so, but the more I learn about what my students need and the more read and study about the thinking behind the Daily Five, the more I think I am on the right track for helping my students.

A New Old Project

Tonight, my colleague Colleen Turco and I shared our new and improved third grade mathematics curriculum with our peers as part of our course final. The more I work on curriculum — and I’ve been at it since 1987 — the more I realize that nothing is every really “finished”. Curriculum is a fluid as the students who populate our classrooms from year to year. Can we ever consider something done? I doubt it.

This project was started nearly a year ago when Colleen and I realized that following the Investigations in Number, Data and Space curriculum strictly left us little time to develop number sense or conversation about mathematics. We also came to the realization that the timing of the units left our students with little time to learn the math facts, multiplication and division, expected in computation. With these things in mind, we spent the summer pulling apart the curriculum and reordering units in a way that seems to make sense for our student population.

Additionally, Colleen, who is our school’s Math Resource Teacher and who knows the big picture like no one else can, made sure we had addressed all the third grade standards in the Massachusetts framework. Working together, we’ve pulled in lessons and resources from many different places (Math Solutions – THANK YOU!) which we felt supported the philosophy of mathematics teaching, yet improved upon, supported, or revisited the curriculum framework.

Now that we’ve developed this document, or plan if you will, and implemented it on a pilot basis in my classroom, Colleen and I are ready to roll it out to the rest of my grade level team — and adjust it. Already I have a list of things that need tweaking.

Our first attempt at making sense out of the mathematics curriculum feels pretty good; although I do have an eye on the standardized testing which I hope will show some improvement over prior years.

We hope any readers of this blog — if you are out there — will offer up suggestions for materials or lessons that will enhance our work in progress.