Thursday, September 17, 2015

Tips and Tricks for Organizing Math

Hi! It's Jen from Teaching in the Tongass.  I hope you are starting your year off on a good foot and things are going as smoothly as they could at this time of year (a tricky task, I know!).  I wrote this post in an attempt to help you organize at least one part of your day.
So let's just dive right in!
One element of Math Workshop that I absolutely love and that I still use every day (and am a huge advocate of), is Roll and Write.  Now, this may be a lengthy explanation, but stick with it.  Here's how it works: Materials: Some teachers use lined paper (notebooks) for students to do their Roll and Write, but I have come to prefer these packets that I made.  I actually like students to write in a lined notebook (is that crazy?), but for some reason, this fits my brain better lately....The Roll and Write packet is stored in their Math Binder (1 inch).  They open it to a new page, write the date, and wait for me to start the timer for 5 minutes.
Personally, I love the yellow foam dice. You can check them out by clicking below:
You can snag the FREEBIE I made by clicking below.
The timer I use is PERFECT because a.) it is big enough to see from the back of the room, b.) it has a light to make it stand out, c.) it gives a 1 minute warning, d.) it visually counts down by the second, and e.) you can choose to have the audio (this one is a "beeper") or not. I bought it from Kagan.
Students have a set of either dot (the easiest because they can count the dots) or digit (a little more advanced) FOAM dice, or for students working at a harder level, I have colored wood dice with 5-10 numbers or octa-dice with larger numbers.  If a student isn't using the foam dice, they get a small square of felt to roll on (so that it is silent).  You can also use a deck of cards for "Flip and Write" if you don't have dice or would just rather use cards (just separate 1-5 or 5-10 if you want them to be working within a certain range).  Each student keeps their dice in their zipper pouch (in their binder).  I have a tub that I store dice in so I can switch out quickly if need be.
Directions: At the beginning of every year, I give explicit instructions on what Roll and Write should look/sound like. Students need to hold the dice in their hands, put their wrist down on their desk and open their palms.  I've discovered there is no reason to roll or shake the dice (sometimes kids like to shake dice for 30 seconds...time wasting). After the dice are rolled, they ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH THEM. For some reason, I've noticed lots of kids (girls in particular), that like to adjust their dice and make them side by side or perfectly aligned so the number isn't upside down.  Doing this each and every time adds up.  I demonstrate why we don't roll dice, drop them from above, or waste time making them 'look pretty' (I make a show of it, dropping dice all over, acting silly...acting is such a big part of our job, isn't it?).
After students have mastered how to quickly roll their dice, I start the timer and students get to work.  They roll and write, roll and write, roll and write.  While they are working, I roam the room with a RED pen (I know, I know, I'm a terrible person).  It could be a different color, as long as it isn't the same as what they are using.  If I spot ANY mistakes (number reversals, digit reversals, incorrect answers, sloppy writing, etc.), I underline the mistake with my red pen and WALK AWAY.  That part is really important.  Students need to be able to identify their own mistakes, and I've learned that if I stay there right next to them, they tend to argue or get in a discussion of "what I meant to write was a ...." instead of just fixing the problem.  As soon as I underline, students need to fix their mistakes.  This is really important as I don't have time to look over each roll and write every day, and I don't want them practicing something incorrectly.
After the 5 minutes is up, the timer goes off and students get to finish the equation (and yes, that is the word we use) they are working on. Then, they count up all of the equations they were able to complete and write their total at the bottom of their page.  Because I've assessed where they should be at (which dice, which type of equations), they should be working at their "just right level" (not just for books!).  This means, they should be getting at least 15 problems done in the 5 minutes.  If  a student wasn't able to complete 15, I keep them in at recess and have them do it again for 5 minutes (I do this so that I can watch to see if it's something like they are wasting time adjusting or something else...usually it's just that they were off-task though).  At this point, I've discovered students will sometimes cheat and start writing on a previous day's page to make it appear they have completed 30 that day. So, to combat that, I've added a "you must get the teacher's signature at the top of the page the same day you get 30/30" rule.  That way, if they try to show me a 30/30 that isn't signed from a previous date, I know they were combining two days of work. Motivation plays a big factor in a successful day of Roll and Write.  I sometimes use Matthew Cando (get it? Math you can do!) as a motivator.  I got him at a district training a few years ago and the kids LOVE him.  He has a cute robot voice (my husband taught me well) and likes to sit on the desk of someone who had a CAN-DO attitude during Roll & Write.
We also have a discussion about "not announcing your score" and how they are competing against themselves rather than eachother.  I want them to beat their best score and not worry about anyone else's.  For the most part, this isn't a problem after the first day.  On some occasions though, I have used competition to get a couple of boys who were unfocused to get the job done.  Worked like a charm for them (sometimes people just need a lil competition!).
When a student completes 3 days (does not have to be consecutive) of 30/30, I move them on to the next thing on my Roll and Write checklist and write the date they started the new skill.  I keep this list in a page protector on the whiteboard so that I have quick access to it.
And because I'm not always there to remind a student how to do the skill they are working on, I include this how-to page in their packet (it's also helpful for a guest teacher or a paraeducator working in your room, or a parent when you send a packet home).
Another element of balanced math is spiraled review. I use Drops in the Bucket.  After students finish Roll & Write, they get out their Drops in the Bucket packets.  Again, kept in their Math Binder. Click below to check out their website and download sample pages. Note: I'm not being paid to advertise for them, I just like it that much!
The idea behind these worksheets is that they are REVIEW (not new learning) and students should be working INDEPENDENTLY.  That means, if a student doesn't know how to do a problem, I do not use the packet to teach them.  That doesn't mean I don't help them with a minor issue they are stuck on, but if they are totally lost on a problem, I don't sit down right then and there to show them how to do it: they skip it.  I will teach the concept later during a math minilesson or during Calendar time (this is a great way for me to see what things I need to add to my minilessons).  Basically, this means I don't stand in front of my projector going through each problem with the whole class and using it to teach new skills/concepts.  Each student works at their own pace, and at their own level.  I use levels A, B, and C for just 2nd grade.  I set the timer for another 5 minutes.  While students work, I roam around with that red pen I was just using during Roll and Write. I underline or circle mistakes and walk away so they have to figure out what they did wrong right away.  If a student reaches the bottom of the page before the 5 minute timer goes off, they TURN THE PAGE and keep working.  When they finish their whole packet, they turn it in so I can have a thorough look at it.  I correct any other mistakes I wasn't able to catch during my roaming, and write which page numbers they need to fix on the front of the packet.  They might turn that packet in 2 more times before all of their corrections are done, but it doesn't ever go home with uncorrected mistakes in it! I personally like Drops in the Bucket because it has such an extensive selection of types of problems and I love that the different levels are really differentiated while the format stays the same.  You could do this daily math review with Evan Moor or Minute Math as well though.
I store all of my Drops in the Bucket masters in binders for easier packet-copying.  Each packet has the level and range so I can quickly see what a student is working on. A couple of things that go in the binder and are used all year long... Number words poster (these are a FREEBIE and HANDY!):
And Coin War (also a FREEBIE...this is the default game for my Sub lessons and whenever there is a need to keep them busy for a moment while I deal with an issue):
I keep this anchor chart up all year for a reminder:
Hopefully, this post was very clear on how I manage my daily math fluency and what we store in our Math Binders. If you have any questions, or do something similar, I'd love to hear about it! Comment below! Head to the next post in this series by clicking below:

1 comment:

  1. Love your ideas! Looks like I will be putting some math binders together this weekend!