I Speak Greek When I Teach Math

Or maybe it’s Spanish or Chinese or Pig-Latin, but today I felt like I was definitely not speaking English to my kiddos during math.  Meaning no one understood what I was trying to explain, and many kids ended up more confused than when we first started.  WHAT?  It’s not like I’m new at this, nor to the topic.  We were even working on a problem that I made up!  Needless to say, we all wanted to throw in the towel, or rip up our papers and start over.  Or something else that you shouldn’t do when you’re frustrated.  And no, in case you’re wondering–we didn’t.  But we did put the problem away until tomorrow when we’re fresh and can tackle it again.  And I am already armed with a different plan for how to address it, but am hoping you can help me, too!  (And by the way, after how fabulous the first round of problems-with-posters went the other day, this was all the more mind boggling!)

Ok, so I’m hoping that you can help me figure out what might be making my friends so confused.  Here is the problem that we were working on yesterday and today:

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This problem is 1) based on a real-life problem, 2) uses math skills we already have (or at least that are not new!), and 3) really just focuses on making sure they use clear and concise notation to record their solution and thoughts.

Part 2

Part 2

PLEASE give me feedback on parts you see that may  have tripped them up.  After working on it for two days, I see a couple of things, but I really expected this to be a rather simple fraction problem; the difficulties they were having were not ones I had anticipated.  My hope was they could focus on the poster part, as a prep for how they’d answer questions as we start testing next week.  Instead, now they’re all convinced that math is hard and confusing.  Pretty much a teacher fail, huh? 😦

Thoughts?  Oh, and I guess it’s a given that I want you to be nice.  Truthful, but nice, please. 🙂  And maybe you could even tell me what you think the answer is.  That might help me see if the problem reads the way I intended it to.  THANK YOU, FRIENDS!

Math Warm-Ups April 8-12, 2013

Wow–how has it been a whole month since I last posted math warm-ups?  Oh, yeah, because MARCH was crazy–including a SNOW DAY and SPRING BREAK right next to each other.  And not that April is any less busy, but at least this week could be considered somewhat normal.  Oh, not it wasn’t–I had a sub on Tuesday.  But hey, what’s normal anyway, right?  Regardless, here are some recent math warm-ups I haven’t shared yet.

First of all, a couple from last week:

This one was to help discuss fraction place value, and also to help us talk about writing clear and concise answers to questions like these (in preparation for MAP testing in just over a week).

This one was to help discuss fraction place value, and also to help us talk about writing clear and concise answers to questions like these (in preparation for MAP testing in just over a week).

Can you tell I ran out of paper and didn't have a chance to get more for a couple of days?  Sorry. :)  This one is another place value one, hoping that students would see the relationship between money and fractions, and how they can just "move" the decimal (by multplying by 10), rather than having to use the algorithm to solve the problem.

Can you tell I ran out of paper and didn’t have a chance to get more for a couple of days? Sorry. 🙂 This one is another place value one, hoping that students would see the relationship between money and fractions, and how they can just “move” the decimal (by multiplying by 10), rather than having to use the algorithm to solve the problem.

This week’s warm-ups:

Wednesday

We needed to reminded (again) about equivalent fractions, as well as their tie to decimals.

We needed to reminded (again) about equivalent fractions, as well as their tie to decimals.

This one came right off of our Edison benchmark practice from this month.  We're using the problems on that assessment to help us analyze the "why" of the ones we get wrong.  This can help us not make those same mistakes again the next time we encounter them.

This one came right off of our Edison benchmark practice from this month. We’re using the problems on that assessment to help us analyze the “why” of the ones we get wrong. This can help us not make those same mistakes again the next time we encounter them.

This is another Edison problem, but I changed the numbers.  Many students are still not remembering to make the denominators the same before they add.  This one also elicited great conversations around simplifying answers--both how and why here as well.

This is another Edison problem, but I changed the numbers. Many students are still not remembering to make the denominators the same before they add. This one also elicited great conversations around simplifying answers–both how and why here as well.

 

I’m hoping I’m back in the routine of posting warm-ups.  Sorry if you’ve missed them! 🙂

 

 

Math Warm-Ups February 25-March 1, 2013

Last week was a little crazy, so we only had three warm-ups that stretched all throughout the week.

Monday

IMG267We came back to division (again) this week, as it’s a skill that many kiddos still have trouble with, even at this point in the year.  We have another unit of it in a couple more weeks, but we need the practice nonetheless.  The difference, too, this time is that we’re working on using a different strategy.  In the past–like when we were first learning how to divide–we thought about the number as a whole, and worked to find groups inside of it, rather than using the traditional algorithm.  Our focus was on understanding what division means, and we incorporated what we knew about multiplication as much as we could, as well.  This time, we’re trying to use the traditional method–still connecting to multiplication–but just organizing our thinking and our numbers in a different way.  We have been talking about reasonableness of answers, too, and use estimation to help us determine if our answers make sense.

 

The Rest of the Week

IMG269The rest of the mornings during the week were busy, we we actually took a couple of days to work through these problems.  You’ll notice a second division problem and then a good ‘ole adding fractions problem because we’re still fuzzy on this concept.  But truly, this is what is perfect about Math Warm-Ups–being able to easily revisit concepts that we need more time with.

 

Feast Week Part 7: THE FEAST!!

Ok, so I’m not at all sure how it got to almost the end of February and I didn’t tell you about the final part of Feast Week!  I know…I’m sorry!  But you’ve been reading blog all along, right?  We’ve been busy!

But here’s perhaps the most important part of the whole thing we called Feast Week–the feast!  (And just in case you haven’t read the first parts of Feast Week, you can find the first one here, and then the others are linked from there.  It’s worth your time if you haven’t read them!)

The day had finally arrived, and we were excited.  But no, we were not excited about the fact that Winter Break was just a day away, or because we’d be off for 14 days–we were excited because all of our hard work with fractions and recipes and cooking and baking and planning was about to pay off!

And it went even better than we’d hoped.  Thanks to some fabulous parents who were willing to let us throw out this crazy idea of our Winter Party to them (and then just told them to run with it!), we ended up with a lovely, delicious meal that helped us all see the fruits (and hams and green beans and ice cream pies) of our labors.  It was definitely a  FABULOUS FIFTH GRADE FRACTION FEAST!!

Anticipating our fabulous feast as we wait outside the cafeteria!

Anticipating our fabulous feast as we wait outside the cafeteria!

Looks good, doesn't it? Tablecloths and centerpieces and everything!  So elegant!

Looks good, doesn’t it? Tablecloths and centerpieces and everything! So elegant!

Here's our handiwork!  Looks yummy!

Here’s our handiwork! Looks yummy!

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That bowl is guacamole–I promise, it was pretty good!

Moving through the line

Moving through the line–sausage snack wraps were a hit!

A toast to food, fun and friends!  (and fractions!)

A toast to food, fun and friends! (and fractions!)

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WE LOVE FEAST WEEK!

WE LOVE FEAST WEEK!

 

Feast Week Part 6: Now We Cook!

So before we could FEAST in Feast Week, we had to have a feast, and that meant we had to make it!  So Friday afternoon, before our big party, we got busy making things.  Remember, our appetizers were party pickles, sausage snack wraps, fruit, and guacamole.  We got into our tribes to work.

Check out our culinary creations:

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If you missed any of the previous parts of this tale, check out the Feast Week tag for parts 1-5.  Next up: THE FEAST!!

ActivActivity–January 16-17, 2013

Remember when we were in the middle of our fraction unit and we were dividing?  Think about the problem about bows: Avery had 6 yards of ribbon.  He’s making bows for packages, and each bow uses 1/3 of a yard of ribbon.  How many bows can he make?  Then think about how we all said 1/18 for the answer?  I’ll remind you of how we solved it:

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Today your job is to create a fraction problem with division.  I’m not going to tell you what the answer has to be–I want you to figure out that part, too!  You can divide a whole number by a fraction (like this one), or you can divide a fraction by a whole number if you remember how to do that.  Remember to make sure your story makes sense, that you have an answer that is LOGICAL, and that you sign your names so we know who’s amazing thinking it is! Good luck, friends!

Feast Week Part 5: Let’s Go Shopping!

Hopefully if you’re here, then you’ve been along for the first parts of the journey, but if not, you can catch up on the beginning of Feast Week, the fractions involved, the meal planning, and the way our plan was derailed before I go on.  It’s been quite a journey already, that’s for sure!

After we had figured out exactly what we would finally buy, we had to decide where to shop and then head there to get what we needed.  Part of the job after they totaled up their appetizer cost was to determine whether it was a better idea to shop at Schnucks or Dierbergs for our ingredients.  Overwhelmingly, they decided that Schnucks was a better option for us.  And so to Schunucks we went!  Yes, you heard me right: I put 20 5th graders on a bus and took them to the grocery store.  And I did it by myself (along with Mrs. Hong and her class).  And they were great. 🙂

IMG655I wonder how many people were confused by the sight of a school bus at the grocery store!

We started by having a quick grocery store overview lesson–we talked about the general area where everything was, talked about the expectations (which were the same as at school!) and made a place to meet when we were finished.  And then they set off with their shopping lists to get what they needed.

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While they shopped I ran around wandered around the store to make sure everyone was doing ok (remember, this was the week before Christmas–the place was a madhouse!) and finding what they needed.  I cannot even tell you how proud I am of these kids.  Completely on their own, they maneuvered a really large store, politely made their way through crowds and even made smart shopping decisions–everything we bought was on sale!  We were all finished and back to our meeting spot in just about half an hour, which was record time, I think!

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Our original budget was around $97, and we made it out of there even under by a few dollars!  We spent right around $94, and like I mentioned before, EVERYTHING they chose was on sale.  The best part to me was when a group figured out that it was more cost effective to buy bags of 4 avocados that were 2/$5 than individually at 10/$10.  That’s some savvy shopping!

IMG658Check out that receipt!  My favorite part is at the bottom: “YOU SAVED $35.97.” Nice!

IMG656Congrats on a job well done, 5th graders!  You are grocery store superstars!

Next step–Part 6: Now We Cook!