soul strikers

powerful moments in education

Hands on Algebra? Why yes, thank you!

While school has been out for not even a week, our SAU boldly planned a “Summer Institute” day where mini-workshops would be offered by our own talents.  The theory was that since our New England winter was so mild (count zero snow days!!!) that we felt as though we were out “early”.  Many educators have the beautiful ability to shut off immediately, slowly awaking their brain as August 1st approaches.  Since I am not so lucky and require a full 2 weeks to wind down, I attended.

Choices ranged from examining what the Common Core means for Mathematics K-8 and Reading and Writing, as well as Inquiry Science in relation to the Next Generation Science Standards. In the morning I participated in the discussions around Inquiry, and for the afternoon, I originally signed up for Reading and Writing with regards to the Common Core, almost as an automatic instinct.  It is however, where my path has been, as evidenced from so many blog posts regarding Literacy Workshop. At the last moment, I switched over to….Hands-On Algebraic Equations! Yes! I loved it!

Often my latest and greatest ideas are born early, slowly churning in my brain and exploding with full force come late fall.  My current thought is shaking up the way I teach math.  I think I am a very good math teacher. My students frequently enjoy math, I observe progress in classroom problem solving, and (of least importance) they score extremely well on a variety of standardized tests. I teach with a deep understanding of how and when to follow our curriculum, Everyday Math, and a clear understanding of how and when NOT to use it. I skip lessons that do not apply, mix in the arts to differentiate when needed, and work with small groups to allow everyone to move at a personalized pace.  Next year I am going to experiment with flipping my math class a bit, giving me more quality time with the students and providing the opportunity for students to access lessons as a many times, or as little, as needed.

But I know something is missing.  I know this because Everyday Math is all I know.  It is all I have ever taught and clearly there are other approaches that I need to gain. My first year of teaching? I had no math program.  I had a 1980’s early workbook (in 2002) and the internet.  These instincts led me to Hands-On Algebra today, with a small group of 5. Watch this video,  to see how a 4th grader solves the equation using the strategies I learned today.

I have always sensed that some children do not “see” numbers.  In so many ways, I work to make them more concrete, rather than just squiggles on paper.  But when it comes to mathematical process, manipulating the concrete can really be the key for some learners.  When I stare at an equation, eventually I can figure out what I need to do, tapping into my 8th grade schema.  But when I looked at the cubes and pawns today, after a short while I knew exactly what to do. If you are interested in the more advanced problems? Watch the following screencast.

I want to know more about Singapore Math! I want to know what flipping my classroom is going to do for all levels of math students. (an inspiring video on flipping here) I want to know what teaching hands-on equations early is going to do for the lightbulbs of my young math students.  It’s time to shake up the comfort of a math program, no matter how well I think I see beyond it.  In other words, I need to start looking at math the way I have been looking at virtually every other subject I teach.  Do you?


4 comments on “Hands on Algebra? Why yes, thank you!

  1. janna5225
    June 20, 2012

    Love it!!!


  2. Judy
    June 20, 2012

    Me too!


  3. Melissa
    June 20, 2012

    You are amazing and inspiring! I am looking forward to getting the hands on equations started. I love the idea of flipping. It really makes so much sense. Let’s go to a Singapore math workshop.


    • soul strikers
      June 20, 2012

      You are too! I just write what most of us are thinking, as a result of mid-day coffee keeping me up late at night. I imagine Singapore math must be very concrete, from what I see…


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This entry was posted on June 19, 2012 by in education, PD Power and tagged , , .

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