Monday, November 26, 2018

Five Minute Fluency

A few years ago, my coworker Kyrstin (@k_scaliatine) and I noticed that our students were having trouble with their math facts.  I know, math facts aren't everything.  However, many of our assessments in 7th grade are "no calculator" and math facts were impacting their performance.  We brainstormed ways to incorporate fluency into our class.  We knew that giving timed tests was not an option because it can cause a great deal of anxiety for students.  We also wanted to do something more than just rote memorization using flashcards.  This was something so important to us that we decided to devote the first 5 minutes of every class period to fluency. 

We started simple:  decks of cards, flashcards, and dice.  We searched online for games and activities that our students would find engaging and involved strategy.  Playing a game became a consistent way we started class.  Students came in every day, looked at the board to see what materials they needed, and started playing.  And yes, we set the timer every day for 5 minutes! 

We discovered early on that we needed a convenient way for students to access their supplies.  We purchased these from Ikea and labeled bins with student group numbers.  Most of the games are for pairs, so there are two of everything in each bin.

As the year went on, we continued to add to the bins.  We found ways to incorporate fractions, integers, exponents, and rounding into our fluency.  We never talk about speed or getting "faster".  We want this time to be fun for students and to help them strengthen their skills.  Many of the games are actually about strategy and we remind students to focus on that. 

What I currently have in my bins (most games are for two people)

  • Two of every game board (see ideas below)
  • Integer Game cards (1 deck for four students)--from Eureka
  • Two decks of playing cards (for playing integer war, etc.)
  • Two decks of multiplication flashcards (perfect for days with a sub)
  • One bag of dice including 4 six-sided dice and 4 twelve-sided dice
  • One bag of integer chips (yellow/red)
  • One bag of transparent counters (great for playing BUMP!)

Suggestions and ideas
  • No prep math games:  2014 and 2015 editions
  • Integer Football
  • BUZZ--sometimes, we even play good 'ole BUZZ!  We can even take that outside!  (see picture below!)
  • Integer Game--it is part of our curriculum (Eureka), but we still love playing it with ALL our students!  There are variations of the game to make it more challenging for higher levels, too!
  • War--red is negative, black is positive.  Start with simple War (higher card is the winner), flip over two cards to play "addition integer war" or "multiplication integer war", flip over two cards for fractions.... the possibilities are endless!
  • BUMP--there are SO many for free on Teachers Pay Teachers!  My 7th graders love them!
  • Count to 100--roll two 6-sided dice and find the sum.  Continue to add to your total until you roll doubles.  That is the end of your turn but remember your score!  Your partner keeps going until they get doubles.  If you get "snake eyes" (two ones), your score is reset to zero.  First person to reach 100 is the winner!  (plenty of variations!  Try subtracting from 100, etc.)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Desmos Coloring Pages

I recently Tweeted about my 7th grade students making coloring pages on Desmos.  I originally saw the idea from Sarah Plain and instantly fell in love with the idea!  Here is a little more information, for anyone interested!

If you're anything like me, you find every possible way to get students engaged in math.  Our district is fortunate to have 30 minutes every day for students to take mini-courses that they choose.  This block of time, called "acceleration", is 4 weeks long and courses range from STEM to poetry to sign language.  Teachers create the courses and come up with an outline to get approved.  Every round, students rank the courses and are placed into (usually) one of their top three choices.  I designed a course called "Drawing with Desmos" and my students love it!

Getting Started
Obviously, there is going to be a wide range of background knowledge with seventh graders.  My Algebra 1 students have been graphing linear functions for a solid year at this point, but students on grade level and accelerated (in Pre-Algebra) have not gotten to graphing yet.  I wanted all students to get interested and excited about what they were going to learn, so I started with everyone's favorite:  Polygraph (twelve functions).  I then created a choice board that had different "levels" for students to choose from:  beginner, middle, and expert.  For the students in the "beginner" category, I gave them codes for things that involved plotting points (mini golf, etc.).  For the middle category, I created an Activity Builder that included several different functions, starting out with sliders and ending with marbleslides for each.  And then there was the expert level where students could explore and create pictures.

This went really well for several days.  However, I noticed that students were not wanting to push themselves outside their comfort zone.  Students would create a pumpkin, but only used lines.  I really wanted them to try new functions.  Therefore, once a week, we did an Activity Builder as a whole class and I pushed students to graph using parabolas, exponential functions, and even circles.  And what I started seeing was magical!  Algebra students really stepped up and helped out students that were new to graphing.  Students shared ideas, helped get curves "just right", and were cheerleaders for each other.  Definitely some proud teacher moments here!

Coloring Pages
I was still full of excitement and JOY for my students when I stumbled upon Sarah Plain's (@mrs_plain_LCPS) Tweet.  I came back to school the next day with a new task for my Drawing with Desmos students:  create a coloring page to send to elementary students.  The concept is brilliant:  students choose a picture of their choice to create on Desmos and then they are sent to our feeder schools to show students the awesome things you can do with math!  This helped give students a purpose for creating a picture.  I had a student create the Chicago Bears logo and now there was a reason  That really helped encourage them!  They emailed me their creations, told me the name of a teacher to send them to, and some even created a second picture.  A-MAZ-ING!!!

On Twitter, I was asked if there were guidelines for this project.  Since this course is not graded, it is difficult to have guidelines.  I encouraged creativity, but also realized that some students were still beginners.  I had one student create a Z that took him a week and I was SO PROUD of his perseverance!

*Side note: every Friday of this course, we had a "gallery walk" where students open their Chromebook to something they've been working on lately.  Some students showed a half-finished coloring book page, some showed Marbleslides, and some showed a slide from Activity Builder.  Again, I LOVED that students celebrated everyone, no matter what they were working on!  If you haven't done a gallery walk with Desmos, I highly recommend it!

In the end, I sent over about a dozen pictures.  All students hid the grid and axes, as shown in the pictures below.  I included a cover page for the teachers I sent them to, explaining what the project was and how students created them.  I love the connection it created between our school and the elementary schools.  We are a unit district, but do not connect nearly enough.  I am so proud of all my students and hope their former teachers are, too!

Questions?  Comments?  Just ask!

Things I Will Continue in 21-22

I hope everyone reading this is doing well, staying healthy, and enjoying the summer!  Wow, what a year we all just had!  I haven't blog...