Math In the Summer

Unexpected Email

MangahighThis was waiting for me in my Inbox recently; along with the message:

Mrs.N LOOK !!!!!!!!!

Now, this may not look like a big deal, or that the student was playing a game and beat it, but when you look deeper; it’s a big deal. I received this email on June 28. Our last day of school was June 4. This particular game helps to reinforce the concept of the PEMDAS Rule. So this means that ‘J’ has been playing meaningful math games during her summer break! Oh, and that this game covers standards above 5th grade, is just the frosting on the cake.

The Power of Games

Back in November of 2014, I wrote about how I was Gamifying my math homework. I was using Mangahigh. Then in the spring, my school decided to purchase a different system (that had math included) for the entire school. So I switched my math homework to the new system (I was using the free version of Mangahigh). My students were NOT happy.

When I first asked them about their preference, they all agreed that Mangahigh was better. At first they went on about the games, but when I pressed further on the issue they disclosed an interesting revelation. Mangahigh showed them steps, processes, and most importantly, where their mistakes were. After one student explained, “I like Mangahigh better because it tells me why I got an answer wrong,” the rest of the class quickly agreed and expanded on the value learning from their mistakes.

Next Year

After listening to my students go on about Mangahigh, and seeing that students were STILL using it on their vacation, I asked my school to purchase 2 classes. Unfortunately, due to a very limited budget, it’s a no go. So now I’m on to trying to figure out how to finance this valuable tool. As I always say, “It’ll all work out in the end.”

First Day

So normally a person wouldn’t pair Angry Birds, a sign that reads F.A.I.L (First Attempt in Learning), and school philosophy in a lesson to 5th graders; let alone 5th graders on the 1st day of school. But I did, and I’d say that I’m pretty darn brilliant.

F irst

A ttempt

I n

L earning

Today was the first day of school, and needless to say I was excited. We have common core, I have great technology, a huge imagination, and students that I had a few years ago when I taught 3rd grade. So what’s not to be excited about. For me, today began at 4 a.m. Not by choice, trust me I hate mornings. But today was no ordinary morning. So as I lay there in bed counting sheep, my A.D.D. mind wondered off into lesson planning mode. Don’t ask, just go with it. And that’s when my brilliant plan was hatched. I have listened, and agreed, to Alice Keeler go on about gamification. She often points out that we will try over and over again, learning from our mistakes, in order to make it to the next level of a game we are playing. And if you are on Facebook you can probably relate if you play Candy Crush. So why shouldn’t schools be the same way?

I have always told my students that we learn from our mistakes. But I really feel that this year I will be able to hit a home run with that message. I normally repeat that message throughout the year, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized that that message fell on deaf ears. I never related it to them, until today.

Today I introduced F.A.I.L. and explained it. They weren’t convinced. So I went on and turned on the Interactive white board and fired up Angry Birds. THAT got their attention! So I began playing, and messed up horribly on the first try. I asked them what I should do. Of course they had all sorts of suggestions. So as I began to try again, I pointed out how I wasn’t going to have the bird take the same path. I would adjust it based on what happened the first time. The second bird wasn’t much better, too far in the opposite direction. That’s when I hit them with the heavy stuff! I asked if I should give up. They were emphatic that I keep going. I then related it to school. Ah-Ha! Some light bulbs started going off. So we continued to play. They came up and took turns, shouting advice. When we finally cleared the level, we received 2 (out of 3) stars. One student said, “Let’s do it again and try to get 3 stars.” I couldn’t have asked for a better segue. So I pounced on that one too! I asked them if they took the same approach with school. I’m sure you can guess what the answer was. And from there we talked about the reasons why they gave up so easily in school and not games.

I truly feel that this is going to be a transformational year for all of us. In fact, from this lesson/discussion we have already started to rethink how we are going to view work. The first order of business is to look at how we track the number of pages they are required to read in class weekly. We have decided that there will be a minimum that will grant each reader 1 star, from there we will step it up for 2 and 3 stars. Not sure how it’s all going to work, but we’ll figure it out together. We’ll keep you posted!

I’d say that we’re off to a GREAT start!

Testing – 5th Grade Review

Sadly, testing is a part of our teaching lives. I could go on about the Testing Craze, but this is not the reason for this post. So, whether I like it or not, my students will be testing very shortly, like in 2 weeks shortly. In order to help them prepare, I have used a template of the game Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The template was created by Mark E. Damon. I am in no way taking credit for his hard work.

So tomorrow, my 5th graders will review some Language Arts concepts — questions came from CA Test Release Questions. So if you’re a 5th grade teacher in CA preparing for the CST, feel free to use in your classroom!

Millionaire review 1

Who Wants to be a Millionaire