Thursday, January 16, 2014

Math thinking in action

First grade mathematicians are hard at work, every day! After Morning Meeting, we begin our day with Math Workshop. During our math meeting, we do the calendar/number of the day routine or we engage in a whole-class mini-lesson from our Everyday Math curriculum. Currently, students are building their understanding of place value and how to solve number stories with larger numbers. For example, recently students pondered the following number story:

At the zoo, we saw a 75-lb. penguin and a 56-lb. beaver. What is their total weight?

To solve stories such as this, students have to identify the important numbers (75 and 56) and then decide what to do with the numbers--put them together (add) or take part away (subtract). We discuss what number model would go with the story (75+56) and then take thinking time with our dry-erase markers and boards to solve. We then take time to share solution strategies. We've been working on using base-10 blocks to help solve number stories like this, and many students are becoming more proficient with this tool. Several others have strong mental math strategies, such as taking 70+50 and 5+6, so 120+11=131 lbs. It's the sharing our math thinking that really makes the difference--many students can come up with a correct answer, but being able to describe and/or demonstrating how they arrived at the solution is a higher-order thinking skill. Since it's so important to be able to explain our math thinking, we spend a lot of time with this. 

Pondering the "Math Message" to get warmed up for our math mini-lesson.
I wish this weren't fuzzy, since she's drawing base-ten blocks to show how she added two numbers--demonstration by students is sometimes more powerful than my demonstration!
Our Mystery Number Skypes are another way in which students are building their number sense and math thinking skills. Since this has become such a regular part of the routine, students are better able to focus on the math behind it. At first, it was so novel that it was more fun to check out the other class and wave to each other. :-) Our list of questions to ask the other classes to guess their numbers has become quite sophisticated, and we add new questions when we get ideas from other classes. This is our current list:

In our call today with Mrs. Simmons' class in Columbus, Ohio, we designated "question answerers" to go up to the iPad to answer the questions from the other class. Students took turns with this role, as they do when asking questions to guess the other class' secret number.

This student is answering a question from the class in Ohio.
Students are becoming better each time with marking off the numbers that we eliminate through the questions we ask. Just a month ago, students recording as we go was a very difficult task. It's getting easier every time!

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