Another Look at the Daily Five and Math

How does that saying go? If you’re not green and growing, you’re rip and rotten. One of the key components of the Daily Five – teaching learners to be independent – is not only appealing, but imperative. After some false starts last year (based on my reading of both the D5 and Cafe books), I attended a Daily Five workshop. And the whole thing is becoming less muddled.

Typically, my students don’t do well with a million and one different teaching models thrown at them. We already have a Launch-Explore-Summary model in place for our mathematics instruction. There is a great need for small group/individualized math conferencing and intervention, particularly this year when we transition from the Massachusetts 2004/2009 Frameworks to the Massachusetts version of the Common Core Curriculum. There will be gaps, that is certain.

To address both the transition to a new curriculum and my students’ need for consistency, I have decided to make a go at implementing a Daily Five model during mathematics instruction. What are the five areas going to be? Well, here’s what my current thinking is:

  • Exploration activities based on the launched mini lesson (a “must” do)
  • Strategy Activities. Through the use of games and other constructive activities, students will address computational and conceptual gaps.
  • Problem Solving. All of my students, but particularly second language learners need practice in the structure of problem solving situations. This will be a weekly assignment with time built into our schedule for students to discuss how they solved the problem (rigor! perseverance!)
  • Basic Fact Games/Practice
  • Technology Tool (a chance to use the accompanying programs for our math program OR the interventions found in the Galileo program).
I’ll need a minimum of 85 minutes; 90-100 would be better. That means getting back to class and started on our mathematics work right after recess. Hopefully the stamina-building and direct instruction in expectations for independence will give us greater success. On paper it looks do-able, in reality – I am hoping so.
Planning out the block comes next.  Suggestions welcome.

Circle and Stars

I don’t remember when I first came across this game — I suspect it was during a Math Solutions Summer workshop week. For certain, it is included in several of the multiplication resources Math Solutions publishes, including the Third Grade Month-by-Month resource.

It is empowering to find a game that children can just pick up and play. Circle and Star uses only a dice and a piece of scrap paper. Sometimes I get creative/fancy and use some wooden cubes that I have numbered from 5 to 10 so when the children play the game they’ll have some larger numbers to work with.

So here’s what we do:

1.  Roll the die once. The number that comes up is the number of circles you need to draw on your scrap paper.

2. Roll the die a second time (or alternatively, roll the 5-10 die). The number that comes up is the number of stars to be drawn in  each circle.

3. Write the resulting multiplication fact as number of circles times number of stars in each circle.  Compute the product.

When we begin playing this game, I have students write the resulting multiplication fact 3 different ways:

NOTE: C = number of circles, S = number of stars

C groups of S equals Product
C S’s = product (use the number words)
C x S = Product

The students always are looking for this game on our Daily Five Math board. We both like it – the kids because it’s fun, and I like it as a way to keep students practicing those important multiplication facts.

The older I get, the more things stay the same

Summer hiatus is a challenge for me ; I am compulsively obsessed with education. However, this summer I have made an effort and, until today, have left my pile of things to consider in a far corner of our spare bedroom.

This week, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved implementation of the National Standards. Standard based education – and the testing that goes with it – is nothing new. We’ve been working with standards for years. The new standards – like it or lump it – will be tied to testing and most likely funding. Isn’t that the SOSDD?

There seems to have been a lot of debate about the merits of adopting the National Standards in Massachusetts. I don’t know for sure because 1) teachers are seldom invited to be part of the debates, and 2) most of this happened in the Spring when teachers are too busy with actual teaching to engage in investigations of new standards.  That would leave the politicos and “think tanks” to debate the merits. And despite the predictions of watering down the education (and testing!) of students, the Board adopted the National Standards.

So, we in Massachusetts, have something new to consider. As a grade level Math Lead, I downloaded the National Mathematics Standards for my grade level (thereby breaking my summer hiatus) and to be honest, they seem to be exactly what we focused on with just the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks . This is hardly a surprise. The Massachusetts Mathematics Frameworks have historically been based on National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Standards and, if what one reads in news outlets is correct, the National Standards are heavily influenced by the Massachusetts Frameworks.

Some who oppose(d) the adoption of the National Standards have predicted that this will mark the end of MCAS testing. Puh-leeze. If a single high-stakes do-or-die test is done away with in this state, I’ll fall off my chair. MCAS or something resembling it (and possibly dictated by the Feds) is here to stay. For those who think that a single test tells whether or not a child has a good education, whether or not a teacher is qualified, whether or not real estate can fetch top dollar because students score well (oops, let that little piece of sarcasm slip), relax! We can and will continue to spend inordinate amounts of time testing the students.

So what is all the uproar about? Maybe I’m missing something, but what I’ve seen doesn’t appear to be education Armageddon.

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.