It’s a Match! Fractions, Decimals, and Percents

All that cutting was sure worth it! Fractions, Decimals and Percent Sort in action.

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That was my tweet this morning as my 3rd period math class got to work on a fraction, decimal, and percent matching activity. Not long after, came some encouragement to write about the activity (thank you,  and )!

Knowing that there would be a school-wide special program in the hour preceding my class today, it was clear that I needed an engaging task to practice relating fractions, decimals, and percents. So yesterday afternoon I created a deck of fraction, decimal and percent cards, and brainstormed a variety of activities to use them for. Then, this morning, following a quick review of the fraction-decimal-percent relationship, card decks were distributed and my students worked in small groups to find the matches. Matches were recorded on a 3-column chart. To differentiate the decks, I removed several card trios and replaced them with cards that were more challenging. The blue deck, for example, has fractions of a percent, percents greater than 100% and applies equivalent fractions a bit differently.20140506-172651.jpg

Not only were students engaged, but there was some great conversation going on. There is nothing more satisfying than listening to students try to convince each other that their card group is correctly matched! Of course, the discussion also illuminated student misconceptions (i.e. 1/20 is 20%).

Over the next few days, my hope is to include some of these variations into the classroom.

  • Remove the image cards from the basic deck and replace them with their corresponding fraction cards. Match the fraction, decimal, and percent.
  • Use either the basic or challenge deck, with the decimal cards removed. Play Fraction and Percent Go Fish. Player One requests a card from Player Two by converting the fraction to a percent. For example, if the card in hand is , Player One would request 75% from Player Two. If the cards make a pair, Player One keeps the both cards. Player Two then takes a turn. For example, if 20% is in hand, Player Two would request . Players select a new card if no pair is made. Alternatively, remove the percent cards and play Fraction and Decimal Go Fish
  • Similar to Go Fish, use either the basic or challenge deck with the decimal cards removed. Play Fraction and Percent Memory. Increase the difficulty of the game by finding a trio of cards (do not remove the decimal cards). Practice matching decimal numbers with their percentage by removing any fraction and image cards.
  • Use either the basic or challenge deck to play Fraction, Decimal, and Percent War (thank you  for this idea!).

You can grab a copy of the Fraction-Decimal-Percent Card Deck here. The recording sheet and activity variations are included.

What would you do with these cards? Please share any new ideas that you may have in the comments section!

Adrienne 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Classroom That’s Distinctly Mine: MTBoS Mission #1

MTBoSMSSundayFundayMy classroom feels like a unique place for learning math, though it may be similar to others found in the MTBoS. It is nothing remarkable, extraordinary or spectacular, but it is also not the standard, expected, cookie-cutter lesson.

My classroom is the synthesis of collaborative learning, discussion, problem solving, making connections, hands-on activities, number talks, and interactive student notebooks. It sounds like “why?”, “how do you know?”, and “convince me”. It looks like partnerships, chart paper, stations, dice, and whiteboards.

For both teacher and student alike, it is a place to take risks and a place to grow. It is an environment crafted by my pedagogy and my practices, ever-changing as I learn more and more.

And perhaps it is because my classroom is not one distinct thing, that my classroom is distinctly mine.

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Laying the Foundation for 2013-2014

MSSundayFundayThe first day of school. In less than ten days! Yikes. Clearly there is no time like the present to set goals and lay the foundation for 2013-2014.

Building Block #1: Rapport

The tables were turned in June, as my students completed a Teacher Report Card, evaluating their experiences in my classroom and my performance as their teacher (thanks to @MrVaudrey and his blog post). The results were simultaneously reassuring and humbling. While proud of high marks for “seems to enjoy teaching”, “encourages me to be responsible” and “gives tests that reflect the material in the unit”, it was the mediocre marks for ” shows interest in students’ lives”, “makes me feel important” and “tries to see the student’s point of view”  that left me deflated. Quite honestly, it was a hard pill to swallow. My perception of connecting with my students was just that. And that had to change!

Deciding that connecting to my students must be a top priority was easy. But the devil’s in the details, and right now the details are still a bit fuzzy. For starters, I’m thinking about an interest inventory or survey to kick off the year. Though for it to be meaningful, I still need to figure out how to integrate the survey into the daily life and routine of my classes. Another thought is to delay focusing on the syllabus and procedures for a few days (thanks to the suggestions of my colleagues in the MTBoS). Perhaps I will begin with some pattern problem solving or this lesson. An activity would certainly leave a better first impression than a lecture!

Building Block #2: Patience

Forty minutes. Only 40 minutes to develop an understanding of mathematical concepts. Only 40 minutes to warm-up, review homework, engage in discovery and assess. Only 40 minutes to nurture a relationship with my students and cultivate a community of learners.  By the way, did I mention that on Fridays I only have 30 minutes to do all that? The pressure of time is fierce and it often tries my patience. It’s an impediment to connecting with my students, because connecting requires both time and patience.  When the pressure is on, admittedly my tone becomes sarcastic and my responses short. Neither are desirable traits in an educator.

Take a deep breath. Relax. Be in the moment. Be patient. Those are true words of wisdom and sound advice. Advice that needs to be heeded, though it will be a grand challenge for this working mom and wife with 4 young children. But I know that conquering this mountain will make me a better wife, mom and educator.

Building Block #3: Confidence

Reflecting back on the journey, it is incredible to witness my growth these past 14 years. My personal and professional experiences have validated my beliefs and practices, as well as expanded my teaching repertoire. I am fortunate to have an amazing professional network that encourages me and supports me. I am also fortunate to have an administration that believes in me and my pedagogy.

So, why confidence?

In the coming school year, my role will expand to math coach in some of the lower grades, as the paradigm continues to shift away from more traditional models of math education. Often change fosters nervousness, anxiety and misgivings. There is a fear of the unknown. Through modeling, resources and advice, it will be my responsibility to dispel any fears and eliminate any reservations. Ultimately, success will hinge on my confidence – confidence in my knowledge, confidence in my skills, and confidence in my teaching. Without it, no one will see the value in transitioning and the entire process will hit a brick wall. I am counting on my passion and enthusiasm to bolster my own confidence, hopefully inspiring others’ growth and change.

What are your goals for 2013-2014? What would you like to do better? Recommendations and advice would be greatly appreciated!

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MS Favorite Three from TMC

For the past week or so, I have tried to hold on to every last detail and every last feeling from TMC13 (Twitter Math Camp). Reflection is a great way to make those moments last and allow each one of them to sink in. Eager to share my thoughts, finding a starting point was a challenge for me. The task seemed overwhelming. With so much to tell, where would I begin? Then Julie emailed me (and everyone else who attended the middle school planning sessions) about a “MS Favorite Three for TMC” initiative. Since writing from a prompt is way easier, and so is sharing only three thoughts, I was ready.

TMC was such an incredible experience! It was two amazing days learning from and networking with a group of creative, talented, passionate and knowledgeable  educators. TMC grew out of the mathtwitterblogosphere, an online professional community of middle school and high school math teachers, a community I discovered no more than a year ago, and a community that has greatly enriched my teaching and learning. The opportunity to mesh my virtual world with the real world was awesome! It kind of felt like meeting a rock star and long-lost friend all wrapped into one. We bonded while walking to dinner, watching windows being broken, answering trivia, folding origami, lunching by the food trucks, sitting in the courtyard, and claiming the hotel lobby as our own (who knew math teachers were so loud and rowdy?). We exchanged ideas, shared enthusiasm, asked questions and offered encouragement.

These are my MS Favorite Three.

1.  My Favorites: 4 to 1 – As a lover of all things whiteboard, Jenn Crase’s favorite was right up my alley! Students simultaneously solve questions, each answering in one of four sections on the board. The sum of the responses is then recorded in the center box. Simply check the center box. Groups with an incorrect sum work together to find and fix the error. What an awesome way to engage all students in practice!

2.  MS Math Session – Aside from making some great connections and meeting some incredible people, my biggest take away from the session (thanks, Fawn!) was the importance of incorporating problem solving into the classroom routine and not making it an afterthought. Relevance to the current concept or topic not required!

3. I Notice, I Wonder – Who knew that two little questions could lead to such rich discussion?! Max Ray demonstrated that regardless of the simplicity or complexity of the problem, everyone has something to contribute. Furthermore, by recording every response, everyone’s ideas are valued. Use at the beginning, middle or end of a task, and is a rich feedback opportunity.

With a new year on the horizon, I am excited and ready to put my learning into practice (and am early waiting for TMC14). Thank you to all of the planners, session givers, and my TMC friends. How I miss you!

Are you hungering for more? Click here for more MS Favorites. What favorites do you have to share?

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Hurray! My First Global Math Presentation!

Hurray for me! Though slightly terrified, I presented for the first time at Global Math (without talking at the speed of light)! The topic for the evening – My Favorites: Let’s Get it Organized!

The favorite shared was a sorting activity based on concept formation. This type of activity appeals to my meticulous nature and need to have everything organized. Even better, they tend to unearth students’ prior knowledge and understanding of a concept or idea! You can catch the presentation here (advance to 21:30), or scroll down to view the slides from the presentation.

The Activity:

  • Create sets of index cards based on a particular concept, such as algebraic expressions or polygons. When printing the cards, consider using different color card stock to keep track of the different decks and numbers to make sure that you have all the cards in the deck.
  • Distribute the cards and give these simple instructions. “Organize the cards into groups. Be prepared to explain how you sorted your cards!” Initially, my students demonstrated great discomfort with such open-ended instructions. They wanted more explicit directions and more specific objectives (i.e. How many groups? How many cards should be in each group?). My response to the students – “Read/study the cards”.
  • While students are engaged in the activity, the teacher’s role is that of facilitator. Move through the classroom and observe the students at work. Question students during the process. Have them share their decision making process. Should groups need more guidance or support, ask prompting questions or select cards to compare. Ask the students: What do you notice? How are the cards similar, or how are they different?
  •  At the conclusion of the sort, debrief. This prompts great discussion as students share their groupings and rationales. Or, rather than jumping into discussion, provide students the opportunity to rotate to another table and study the categories created by others. The benefits include positive reinforcement, the identification of misconceptions, ways to improve the system and the establishment of connections between the cards (particularly for those struggling to do so themselves).

How might you use sorting activities in your classroom?

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(Shout out to PamJWilson for helping me show my slides!)

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What’s in Your (Math) Closet?

MSSundayFunday

It’s been quite a while since my last post. Life with four children, a husband and a full-time job sure is hectic! But having shared some of my favorites before, this topic was gentle enough to entice me to post.

The Classics:

  1. Dry erase boards – These little white wonders allow everyone (from the shy student to the outgoing one) to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding simultaneously. With students revealing their answers in the air, feedback is easy! There’s the quick thumbs up for accurate solutions or a “Hmmm. Take a look at…” when an aspect of the solution needs attention. I love hearing the board clunk down on the table as a student begins to revise the solution, and the subsequent “yes” when success is achieved.
  2. 10-sided Dice – It’s amazing how the simple roll of a die transforms simple practice into something grand. All of a sudden there is a greater willingness to engage.
  3. Dominoes – These offer the same motivation as 10-sided dice. Dominoes are great for comparing and ordering activities, as well as basic operations (including fractions).
  4. Sorting Activities – There is something satisfying about listening to the discussion generated by a pile of index cards when the only instruction given is to “organize them into groups”. It is fascinating to hear how students think about the cards and make connections between them.
  5. Interactive Student Notebooks – Foldables are awesome! As a lover of all things organized, the ISN had me at “Hello”. I hope to post more about my experience in the future!

The New:

Recently my 6th grade students went 1:1 (iPads), thanks to a very generous donor. The integration of technology into my classroom has been quite exciting and has given me a couple of  new favorites!

  1. Show Me – This app is a technological twist on the classic whiteboard. Show Me is an interactive whiteboard that allows students to record voice-overs. With this little gem, students can narrate their thinking process as they solve problems and show their calculations. Presentations can then be shared! The added bonus – having constant access to a whiteboard and stylus saves precious minutes and improved classroom cleanliness! (No passing out of markers, erasers and boards. No dirty hands from the ink.)
  2. Socrative – Warm-up, exit ticket, check-in or quiz. This app is fast became a staple and has been integrated into our daily routine. Rather than complete the daily warm-up on a dry erase board, students open up Socrative and begin a mixed review (created using the app’s teacher version). Responses are collected and a spreadsheet generated! (Multiple choice quizzes are actually marked for you!). A quick glance at the spreadsheet gives me a snapshot of students’ understanding. Taking it a step further, emails are sent to every student, either informing them that all questions were correct or informing them of which concepts should be reviewed.

I hope to discover some new classics and new technology! So, what’s in your (math) closet?

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Homework Review – A Work in Progress

Insert here your remark about my homework blog post being one day late!

MSSundayFunday

Homework in math is expected. Review and practice are seen as part of developing automaticity and fluency. My students are assigned homework after they have had the opportunity to practice a skill or concept. Homework is less challenging than the examples presented in class, and is expected to take students 10-20 minutes to complete.

Enter the homework review dilemma.

Reviewing the homework allows students to evaluate their work. Self-checking is a powerful and valuable tool. However, modeling the solution for each question can be time consuming, and in a 40 minute period every minute counts. This strategy has some additional unwanted consequences, such as boredom and disruption. Only a handful of students, at best, are engaged at any given moment. The relationship between student engagement and mistakes is direct. Without errors, a student has little incentive to stay on task and that will lead to trouble!

Reviewing homework does serve another purpose – law enforcement. Most of my students complete their homework in a timely fashion, making missed assignments the lesser concern. The greater lies with the quality of the work. Without review, will students give assignments the attention they deserve?

Enter the compromise.

Students review homework with a peer, identifying the solutions that are common and those that are not (marked with a *). For the latter, students examine and compare their work to find the reason for disagreement (generally a small calculation error) and then the assignment is submitted for my review. A quick perusal gives me a snapshot of my class – the good (concept mastery), the bad (struggling students), and the ugly (misconceptions) – and becomes a guide for future instruction. A nod to law enforcement, homework is graded on a simple 10 point scale. And since I do not want the grade to be a detriment to struggling students, the scale weighs heavy on completing the entire assignment, using the proper format, neatness and organization. At the end of the term, homework marks are averaged (think mode, not mean) and considered as a unit test.

For now, this compromise seems to work. But it is a work in progress. You see, reflection is a great opportunity to step back and put things in perspective, to look at things objectively and draw conclusions. It’s a chance to learn and explore. Usually, it breeds tranquility and calm. It brings me to a place of deeper understanding and insight, but not today. Today, reflection has left me unsure. And though it’s difficult to articulate why, I just know that my approach to homework review is officially under construction. It’s a good thing that I have some amazing people to learn from!

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