Explain Your Answer

Shifts in Math

2000px-math-svgOne of the bigger shifts in math, aside from the building blocks in the CCSS Framework, is the ever dreaded ‘Explain your answer’. When this first came out, I wasn’t sure what they meant, the frameworks hadn’t been written yet. I had students explaining that they ‘added the ones then regrouped to get the answer.’ And while they were technically correct, there was a lot missing.

Better Understanding

Now, I have a better understanding of what is needed. The students need to break down each step and explain, using academic language, what their thought process is. I furthered my understanding when I went to a training on this. Honestly, it wasn’t the best training, but it got me thinking. I used some of the techniques to create a better lesson.

The Lesson

First, I created a template that the students were going to be using. Then, as a group, we walked through each part of the template and filled it in. There was  A LOT of guidance this first time. I’m hoping with practice, they will become more independent. Students worked in table groups to solve their table problem. Finally, they were to film their process of solving the problem. Using their ‘scripts’ students explained the process for division. Here’s an example:



Remember that Mult/Div math paper I was sooooo excited about the other day? Well, it was an EPIC fail. Monday morning I introduced the paper to the class. They freaked out. Okay, that’s normal. It was new and unexpected. We walked through each part together…slowly. Oh. So. Slowly. They could almost handle the paper until…division! Yup, that killed ’em. And here is where the fail occurred. I was so excited, I didn’t worry about the 2 numbers they would be dividing. BIG mistake!

failCreative Commons 3 – CC BY-SA 3.0 NY – http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/scrabble/f/fail.html

I don’t remember what the numbers were, but it was a HOT mess! They were over it, I was over it, and they were super confused – it didn’t divide evenly and decimals were needed. For 5th graders who forgot how to divide in most cases, it was too much. So last night I reflected. I needed to choose the numbers (not let the kids) at least for now.

Today I went into class and discussed how that was an EPIC failure. I got jazz hands. Yes, we celebrate failure in my class. I told them what I thought and how I think it could be fixed. Then I asked what they thought. They agreed, the numbers needed to be smaller. So we went through the paper in a slightly different manner. We chose the whole number first. THEN, we went to the tool box and created equations. From here, we were able to find a decimal (first number box) that we knew would divide evenly. We had to manipulate the number (multiply 1/10 or multiply by 1/100) to get our desired decimal, but it worked. And hey, they are getting extra practice with place value!

I am happy to report that things went much more smoothly today. They kids were still a little perplexed as to how to confidently divide, but that’s why we’re in school; to learn. They got to see me fail, which is always a bonus. And they saw how the reflection and iteration are a part of the failure process.

Homework: We All HATE It!

Yes, it’s true, even teachers hate homework. We all know that kids hate homework and really, who can blame them? I mean they are in school all day working and then have to come home and do MORE work. Parents hate it – many find it a nightly struggle to get their child to do it. Whether the child has difficulty or wants to play outside, or both, homework is creating friction in homes. And finally, teachers hate it. First of all, we have to check it. Many times it’s done quickly and with many mistakes. This is painful for us! Secondly, we have to ‘get on’ those students who don’t complete it or complete it haphazardly. Again, painful and a losing battle.

I could go on and on about why homework is wrong on so many levels, but I’ll save that for another post. I’ve decided that next school year, I’m NOT giving homework! Instead, I’m giving activities that can be done at home. I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t that homework?”

The answer is, “NO!” and here’s why:

  • I want it to be fun.
  • I want it to be low pressure.
  • I want the students to have a choice.
  • It would be super awesome if the whole family got involved in some of the activities.
  • The students have the option to do it with their friends. For example, if one activity they choose is to learn a dance and teach it to the class, why NOT have a few students learning the same dance to teach to everyone?
  • If a student doesn’t do it, I’m not going to freak out.

So here’s my proposal: Create a ‘Home Activities‘ choice list where students choose 2 activities to complete during a month. At first, I was going to have the students do one each week, but quickly realized I was creating way to much work for myself. Definitely, NOT what I like to do. Since this is my first attempt, I am sure that it will evolve. I also welcome feedback. While this first ‘choice list’ has few digital choices, I plan to create another with more – create a video, take artistic photos, podcasting, etc. I can also incorporate more digital choices into this list as well. However, many of my students come from lower income families and don’t yet have a strong sense of digital citizenship. These are things that will need to be taught before I ask them to do several digitally related tasks.

At the end of the month, the students can showcase what they’ve been working on. Not sure how this would work. Maybe as they complete an activity they share it with the class. That way there won’t be 30 projects to present in one day. As I’ve said, the kinks are still being worked out.

So, here’s my first attempt. Feel free to take and amend to fit your needs. Please remember to share out! We’re all in this together.

HomeActivities1 (PDF)

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