May Math Madness!

I realized the other day that I hadn’t written on my blog in a very long time, almost a year in fact! I keep thinking of things to write about but then I think, no, first I have to do a recap post and that will take a while when I just want to write one little post about something going on in my classroom. So finally, here’s a post with a VERY quick recap of what’s going on in my teaching life, followed by some exciting things that we’re doing in math.

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RECAP:
So this year I’m teaching grade 5 Intensive French again (still) and still loving it. I’m back at the school I was at two years ago, with a great team, in a brand new portable which has its advantages and disadvantages but for the most part I like it. We’re doing what’s affectionately known as the “flip-flop” this year with two of our grade 5 classes which means I teach French all year to two classes and Math to one class. It’s been a bit confusing with changing classes part way though the year but I really have two lovely classes so I haven’t minded it as much as when I’ve had to do it in the past.

I still don’t know where I’m going to be next year. I’d love to stay here if I can but there’s been a lot of cuts and changes in education so my position, as always, is up in the air but I’m trying to remain optimistic.

MATH:
One of the things I’ve felt more this year than in my last two of teaching math is that I really love math. I do! I love math and I’m enjoying teaching it more this year where I know the curriculum more and I’ve seen two ways of teaching it and am getting “into my groove” when it comes to teaching the subject. It helps that I have a class that also seems to enjoy math. In fact (and yes, I have video evidence of this because it was so crazy I had to record it) when I was teaching them division, I showed them long division and we did a few questions and I was getting ready to move on to something else and one student put up his hand and asked if we could please do more long division questions and the whole class shouted “YES PLEASE!” and I almost fell over laughing.

One of the math websites I learned about last year and continue to use to great success this year is called SumDog. It’s a great math game site, similar to MangaHigh in that it’s game based and when students play, their results are sent to me so I can see how they’re doing. The main difference and the reason I like SumDog better is that students can work on any of their math skills with any of the games. So with Manga High, a student who needs to work on, say, estimation, has to do the penguin game, but maybe that student is really into Egyptian myths and so they want to play the mummy game over and over again, only working on their geometry skills. Those are still great things to work on, but it doesn’t let them work on other things.

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With SumDog, they can play a game where they have to slingshot snowballs at dogs on sleds, or dress their avatar in funny clothes or shoot at aliens, and in any of those games they can be working on any math skill that they or I set for them. The rewards for playing are also pretty fun and motivating for students. They earn coins for answering questions correctly and then they can use those coins to buy clothes for their avatar or stuff to put in their virtual houses. Another great thing is they can play the games with each other and even with me or they can play against an AI or against another student in the world, but it’s set up so that they’re getting different questions. So for example if I’m playing against a student, they might be getting questions about one digit by one digit multiplication while I’m struggling to remember how to figure out the area of a triangle.
Even my weakest students love this site and play at home. In fact, I’ve noticed that some of my weaker students who play at home a lot are becoming not so weak in math. It’s not a great teaching tool, but it is great for working on skills they already know.

Today we tried an assessment. So we had tablets in the classroom for an hour and I set an assessment on geometry. It was my first time using it and I didn’t pick the questions so some of them were way too difficult but it was neat to see. When they logged in, they had to do the assessment before they could play any other games, so they went through and answered the questions and at the end of the day, I could quickly see how they did. It was very cool.

The other interesting math thing we’re going to start at our school in May (hence the title for this post) is flexible math groups for the three grade 5 classes. We’re hoping to do this as a school next year but for a little test run we’re going to try it out for a month. Each of us will take groups based on how our students did on an assessment we did back in January on different concepts of number sense. We grouped them based on ability but the groups will change each week and the teacher will change as well so the teacher with a lower group will have a higher group the next week so the students will get to have different teachers. We’re pretty excited about this and hope that it works well. I’ll post again at the end of May to share the experience went. Hopefully it won’t take me as long to post again.

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