Tag Archives: math

Math Journals Enter 21st Century with Mobile Apps

connected mcgraw hill_Much of what I do is on my iPad. My husband (and our school custodian) call me obsessed. Call it whatever you like. My iPad is a tool that just makes sense to me and the opportunities it provides for me to organize, share, and evaluate student work are endless throughout the day. When I learned that our new math program (McGraw-Hill’s My Math) has a mobile app, you could say I was intrigued. I jumped in, and with my students’ help, we were able to figure it out and integrate it into our math workshop. Students have the choice to complete their daily assignments using the traditional paper math journals, or they can do everything digitally right on the iPad. Once you learn the apps ins and outs, it works out pretty well.
The “My Math” program has many digital tools to support teaching and learning (found at http://connected.mcgraw-hill.com). The iPad app is a mirror of what you (or your students) see when logged in. The coolest thing is how you can check each child’s work. They no longer have to come up to you, stand in line, and wait for you to look over their answers. You have the capability to check each and every child’s work without ever having them come to you. The “student review” function allows you to select each child’s account and evaluate their work while they are working. You can catch inaccuracies before they are practiced and ingrained. Pretty cool, huh?
You see the “student review” button on the mobile app as well. I have used it and have been able to see what my students are doing. However, you don’t have the capability of writing on student pages and giving corrective feedback. You do have the ability, however, when you log in to connected.mcgraw-hill.com and click on the student journal. Students will be able to see whatever you write.
I have attached the handout that I prepared to share with staff members at my school. You might find the handout handy if you also use McGraw-Hill’s ConnectEd “My Math” program. Enjoy!

ConnectEd mobile app user guide


Communicating Mathematically

I am a learner. I am always striving to see what is new in education. As my school is going 1:1 with iPads, I am especially driven to see how technology can enhance the learning experiences of my students. I know that children are more engaged when they use technology and so it just makes sense for me to look for ways to use it more.

As I began this school year, I remembered what my former principal, Katie Coppenbarger, taught me when we began implementing iPads in our elementary school. The goal, she explained, is to find ways that you can use tech to do things that you normally couldn’t do. Instead of merely replacing an activity, (ex. doing the same thing but just on the iPad), we should be looking at things from a different angle and providing opportunities for students to do new and awesome things.

The technology should also enhance the lesson, rather than hinder it, and we should start simple. Making things too complicated from the start will cause confusion and inhibit independence. (You also won’t want to stick with it and are more likely to abandon your attempts.)

In math, the new Common Core State Standards require students to communicate how they solve problems rather than just arrive at the right answer. Our new math program gives students ample opportunities to explain their thinking in writing and tell what strategies they used. This is our first year doing the program and so I know that my first graders aren’t accustomed to doing this. Rather than handing the class their math journals and saying “Here you go. Explain how you solved that.” I am using the app “Screen Chomp” and am modeling how to communicate mathematically.

Steve Dunn, a former teacher, principal, and current literacy educational consultant, once taught me that something needs to be in a child’s oral language before it can be used in their written language. “Screen Chomp” is great because it allows you to draw and record your voice at the same time. You can play it back and listen to what was captured and it works really well for students to be able to explain their thinking. I modeled the process several times and then began to release the responsibility to students in the class. (They love to be the one who gets to record their thinking and share it with the class.) Now, after some time, students are writing their thinking in their math journals. They have a better understanding of how to explain the processes they used.

The first time I asked my students to explain what it meant to add, I was greeted with the response “14.” Rather than throw my hands up in the air in exasperation, I tried to think of how I could use technology to help my students be more successful. It is a process that I work at each day. The results are exciting!

Picture: A screen capture of a student’s work as they explain what it means to add.

Integrating Comprehension Strategies into Mathematics Instruction (part 2)

I enjoy learning new things and am energized by jumping in and trying to see how these things can be applied in my own teaching.  As a literacy coach in my district, I share information with other teachers.  As a rule, I try out the things first so that I can experience for myself what it is like to do the things I present.

Helping students understand mathematical processes better by integrating comprehension strategies is one of our building goals.  I “stumbled” upon the book “Comprehending Math” by Arthur Hyde when I was searching for comprehension strategy related books in math late one night on my beloved Kindle.  The result is a two part series to help teachers (including myself) begin to recognize what the comprehension strategies look like in math.

I prepared the following handout on smore.com to correspond with the slideshare presentation (above).



Integrating Comprehension Strategies into Mathematics Instruction

One of the building goals in my school is for teachers to integrate comprehension strategies into our mathematics instruction to help students truly understand the concepts we are trying to teach on a deeper level.  We already have a strong foundation of how the strategies apply to reading and now we are striving to make the connection in math as well.  As I began to learn more about the topic, I got really excited as I taught math in my own classroom.  I am not only convinced that they help students understand math better, but I believe it has helped me be more succinct as well.  Math just makes more “sense” to me now!  I will be sharing the following presentation with my colleagues next Tuesday.  The strategies I am focusing on initially are making connections, visualizing, predicting, and inferring.  The works of Laney Sammons, author of “Guided Math: A Framework for Mathematics Instruction” and Arthur Hyde, author of “Comprehending Math: Adapting Reading Strategies to Teach Mathematics, K-6” are the foundation for this presentation.

comprehending math (A helpful brochure to accompany the presentation.)


Today I am encouraged. In an earlier post, I admitted that a part of me was tempted to just go back to the way I used to teach when I taught math to my first graders (translation-whole group right out of the book). It would be easier I thought and I wouldn’t feel as stretched all of the time. I resisted taking the path of least resistance and started the year off implementing math workshop in my room from day one. The result has been amazing. The first two weeks of school were spent defining and practicing what it means to work by ourselves, with a partner, and with technology. (Major sources of information for me were http://www.thedailycafe.com where I found information about what Math Daily 5 is and how to launch it, and “Guided Math” by Laney Sammons).

You might wonder “Why math workshop?” I chose math workshop because I wanted to teach my students to be accountable and responsible for their learning. I believe in giving students choices and trust them to set and work towards goals with my guidance. I want to teach specific math skills in a coherent manner so that my students begin to apply them to their daily lives, and so I also chose math workshop because it allows me to structure my math time so students work independently while allowing me to work with small guided math groups or in one-on-one conferences.

The posters above show our “I-Charts” (posters describing the behaviors to support learning) on top and our math map on the bottom (our math map will be where specific math skills are listed throughout the year organized under four headings taken from the common core standards).

By the end of our math time, I had worked with a small group on comparing numbers and writing and counting tallies in addition to teaching a whole group mini-lesson on the concepts of more and less.  We learned a new “math with self” game called “Roll the Dice” which provided the perfect opportunity to introduce and practice counting on (a term we added to our math vocab wall), and students played previously learned math games during “math with someone.” Transitions were seamless and the room was quiet. The students didn’t need me to remind them countless times to work or to “keep it down.” Everybody worked. That in turn allowed me to work.

This student is independently playing a game that will help her work on counting on and basic addition facts.
New vocab terms will be added throughout the year illustrating the new terms we are learning. The purpose is to help students comprehend the math we are talking about.

Interested in seeing how I set up my math block? Click on the file below to see the template I created to help me plan purposeful whole-group mini-lessons as well as small group guided math groups and individual conferences.Math Plans

Progression vs Regression-Where do You Stand?

As I am busy preparing for a new school year, I have found myself often thinking back to last year. It was a dynamic year filled with learning, reflection, and information that revolutionized the way I teach. I learned about guided math and coached my students in declaring and working towards math goals. I learned how to get the most time-on-task out of my students as I generalized what I knew about teaching independent behaviors in reading to math. My planning time was deliberate and I strove to prepare purposeful lessons for my first graders. The result was many “Aha!” moments as I watched math making more sense to me than ever. Even though everything went so well, I must embarrassingly admit that recently a small part of my did feel tempted to go back to the way things were. (To teach math mainly through whole group instruction without my small guided math groups.). “The old way is easier,” I told myself. “I could be done already.” I was at a point where a decision had to be made. I could do what I’ve done for so long because of ease, or I could continue to stretch myself and grow. You can probably guess what I chose! I chose to continue my quest and to not abandon my goals and dreams from last year. How about you? What will you choose to do with your time this year? Who will you impact as you take a risk and try something new?


Giving Students a Voice in Assessment? Seriously?

Today I had a revelation! (I find myself saying that a lot this year…). As I am helping prepare my students for the end of the year assessments that my school district administers to ensure that all students meet minimum requirements in math, I had a conversation with my first graders about what they thought it would take for them to get a proficient score (a 3) with basic facts. Of course, going in to the conversation, I already knew. What I wanted, at this critical point in the year, was for students to take ownership in their role in the learning process. After reading “Guided Math” by Laney Sammons, I realized that involving students in self-assessment is essential. Students need to hear both what they are doing right as well as what they need to improve upon. I have been mulling this over in my head for quite sometime now. Students need to know the grading criteria, but what exactly would that look like for elementary students? I started the conversation off by asking students what a 3 (confident score) might look like. I modeled adding using my fingers without counting on and right away hands shot up. They knew that wouldn’t be a 3! We ended up concluding that students would need to solve facts quickly and accurately by using strategies and that a 1 would be working slowly, making many mistakes and using no strategies at all. This all makes sense, right? As a teacher, I know the grading criteria but is it necessary to lay it all out for students? Ask me in person and a resounding “Yes!” would spring forth from my lips. Here’s a case in point…The student that doesn’t attempt parts of a multi-step number story now sees that doing so would warrant a 1. Nobody really wants to get a 1 and this student is no different. He now attempts each portion and tries his best. (True story from my classroom…). Another student who writes down 8+3=5 and later explains that he wrote 5 because that was the first number that he thought of, now must reflect on his thought process and acknowledge what he has earned and is inspired to be more metacognitive. My students aren’t the only ones self-reflecting. All our talk this year about goal setting has forced me to be reflective myself. I have spent a lot of time trying to think of how I can connect all of our learning, make it as coherent as possible, and communicate the purpose of each skill we are learning. (Sometimes the purpose wasn’t even readily recognizable to me and so I knew I had to examine the activity more closely so that I could better articulate the objectives before I started teaching the lesson.). If you are anything like me, this all might be a bit new to you. I invite you to at least give it a try. If you’ve ever caught yourself saying “I don’t know what they were thinking today! They just don’t get it!”. Try involving your students in the process more. Start small. Pick one skill and go from there. I sure am glad I did!


Goal Setting

As an adult, it seems as though I am setting goals for myself constantly. I have goals for myself as a wife, a mother, a teacher…Setting goals is one thing, but how do you actually ensure that you accomplish them? The key is to set realistic goals that you can work towards (goals that have an end in sight). What about with students? Since reading “the CAFE Book” by Boushey & Moser, I finally understand how to help my students identify and set goals in readinBurnout then I thought, “What about math?” Cchi six and seven year olds identify an area of need and work towards it? After reading “Guided Math” by Laney Sammons I think the answer is yes. I’ve taken the Common Core standards and created a “Math Map” much like the Two Sisters Literacy CAFE Menu and conferences with each of mystudents about what skills they thought they should work on. Surprisingly, they knew…We then identified which activities they do to work towards their goals. The result was increased student ownership and a renewed sense of excitement in the classroom!


Mixed feelings about math…

Have you ever felt frustrated teaching math? In all honesty, sometimes teaching first graders how to fluently add or subtract, count money, or identify rules and apply them to numbers given in a “function machine” left me feeling tired and even a little bit cranky at the end of math. I wanted to meet the needs of all the learners in my class but didn’t always know how to organize my math time to make this possible. The book “Guided Math” by Laney Sammons has caused me to think about math in a whole new way (and I have to say that the “light bulb” has been going on in my head as a result). Drawing an analogy between guided reading (which I already know and am very familiar with) and math, Sammons has practical ideas to teach students to comprehend and effectively communicate mathematical strategies. Knowing that students can often learn a skill in math without fully understanding the process behind it, I’m now taking care to think aloud often, create anchor charts that cement student learning, and teach students to make connections between new learning and previous learning. (Boy was I surprised when I learned that students can make math-to-math and math-to-self connections!) I must say that I’ve spent more time planning and individualizing my lessons than ever, but the end result is a sense of fulfillment. I am energized when I hear students explain a complex mathematical concept to a peer and when they truly demonstrate that they understand something. The best part is seeing all of the students in my class work independently at meaningful activities, which in turn enables me to conference individually with students or meet with small groups of learners.