# Where did the numbers go?

Back in January (yes, I’m back logged a few months) I did a professional development for 4 – 6th grade teachers.  I was asked about presenting something that could help with the ever-looming testing in the spring.   My purpose was to introduce them to the strategy of Notice & Wonder while showing them what a numberless word problem was.  I emphasized the fact that we have to slow down the problem solving.  The students need to focus on content rather than just grab numbers and add them together (I call them calculator kids). Both strategies (and my presentation) were a HUGE success.   Each teacher not only left with a base knowledge of notice and wonder, they also left with 2-3 numberless word problems to try in their classrooms.  One 5th grade team tried them out the very next day.

Fast forward a few weeks, when I met with my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. P.   We planned a lesson which would introduce the kiddos to a numberless word problem.  During our planning session, we came up with the idea of putting a bunch of problems together so that the students could review all the previous material.  Little did I know, this one planning session turned into me running between 3 different schools showing all 3rd and 4th grade students numberless word problems.

Now let’s begin with my favorite —the marble problem.  I did separate marble problems for both 3rd and 4th grades.  And both problems created the most conversation.

I got the students into a routine by starting off with “notice & wonder” before drawing any concepts or figuring any of the problem out.  I created this template to help the students navigate through the problem.  It also helped that they kept track of their thoughts throughout the process.

3rd grade  (each number was a separate slide of a powerpoint)

1. Jeanne has marbles.
2. Jeanne has marbles.  Some marbles are blue and some marbles are yellow.
3. Jeanne has marbles.  Some marbles are blue and some marbles are yellow.  The rest of the marbles are green.
4. Jeanne has 12 marbles. Some of the marbles are blue and some marbles are yellow. The rest of the marbles are green.
5. Jeanne  has 12 marbles.  3/12 of the marbles are blue and 2/12 of the marbles are yellow.  The rest of the marbles are green.  How many marbles are green?

Was a little apprehensive about doing a problem on fractions with 3rd grade, but they stepped up to the plate and were superb with their problem solving.

Here are a few pics to see…

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4th grade – each slide was a separate slide of a powerpoint.

1. Ty has more marbles than his sister, Pam.

2. Ty has more marbles than his sister, Pam. Pam has many marbles.

3. Ty has more marbles than his sister, Pam. Pam has many marbles. Louis has marbles.

4. Ty has 6 times as many marbles than his sister, Pam.  Pam has many marbles. Louis has marbles.

5.  Ty has 6 times as many marbles than his sister, Pam. Pam has 34 marbles. Louis has 202 marbles.  Who has more marbles, Ty or Louis?

By the time we got to number 3 (…..Louis has marbles.) the students were freaking out.  “Who’s Louis?”   “Why does he need marbles?”

By the time they got to the last layer of information, they were excited to find the answer.  More importantly, they knew what they needed to do.

Final thoughts….

• “Layering” the information of a word problem really helps the students focus on the content of the problem.
• It slows down the problem solving process.
• Students get to create a mini – movie in their heads before they are slapped with numbers and the question.
• The teachers noticed that by the time students got the question, they knew how to solve.  They were also able to draw out and model their thinking.
• One big AH-HA was that students don’t know how to properly give an answer.  They need to work on being specific with their thoughts.  For instance, students would tell me 7.  I asked them 7 what—7 flamingos at a dance?  7 cows jumping over the moon?  Students need to be able to write/type out their full complete answers to get credit on the tests.
• The notice/wonder routine is really inclusive.  Teachers were amazed at how many students were engaged and participating.  Everyone of the students had something to say.
• Lastly—Mrs. P did a notice and wonder talk with her students about the whole numberless word problem.  This is what they had to share….

Such a worthwhile routine especially before testing where there are MANY word problems.  Here’s hoping that all of it transferred to the test.

Crossing my fingers…

Kristen

# What’s a Shape?

Back in February, I came across a blog post from Telanna about shapes.  She saw a Twitter post from Sarah Caban asking a simplistic question.

How would you define the word “shape”?

Not wanting to miss out on the bandwagon, I decided to jump in.  Considering that I have access to such a grade span, I patiently waited for the right time in each grade level’s curriculum to pop in on a few classrooms and have a conversation.    Each teacher that I chatted with was also intrigued with my master plan and wanted to see/hear the results.

Kindergarten

And so my journey of defining shapes began with Mrs. Z’s kindergarten in March.  She was right in the middle of her shapes unit (perfect timing) and so she asked the kiddos the question “What is a shape?”

Here’s a snap-shot of what was discussed….

• Some shapes are big and small.
• sometimes round— circle or oval.
• some are skinny/ thin
• different sizes
• star, heart, rectangle, square, triangle, diamond, hexagon
• shapes have points and angles.  (T asked –do all shapes have points)
• Not all shapes have points.
• shapes you can trace or cut out.
• Everything we color or write or draw is a shape.
• Shapes are everywhere because they are.

The kiddos keep having side conversations asking questions like “are they lines?” and “what about letters?”.  One child proclaimed “the sky is not a shape.”  Upon hearing this, another child replied, “but what’s in the sky?  Sun, Stars and Clouds”.

After the in-depth conversation, Mrs. Z asked them to get up and make shapes with their bodies.  First, they made a circle (or the attempt at a circle) and then a rectangle.  Some students ran up to me to show me the shapes with their fingers/hands.

Fast Forward three weeks—->>>

My next door neighbor, Ms. N, teaches third grade and upon hearing about my shape quest,  invited me in to lead the discussion on shapes.  They were also in the middle of their geometry unit, so the kiddos wanted to impress me with their growing geometry vocabulary.  They also corrected me in that they are discussing POLYGONS, not shapes.

• something that has sides
• has a vertex (corner of a shape)
• has angles—> can be 90 degrees
• has different sides
• could be a quadrilateral
• has to have more than 3 lines
• has to be closed —-> all lines connecting
• can be a polygon
• shapes are all around us
• convex —> shape doesn’t have a cave in it
• can have a concave in it
• rectangle can have opposite sides
• can have parallel sides

OK OK OK.  I have a guilty conscience about this one.  I cheated.  Full admission of guilt.

I didn’t have time to go to a fifth grade classroom.  Time became of the essence for the fifth grade teachers with reviewing for CAASPP testing.

HOWEVER—- I have an a 11 year old son (5th grader) who was happy (** sarcasm**) to have a conversation with me about shapes.  Yes…this is what we do during our commute into work/school.

• shapes are in everything
• there’s no one thing that doesn’t have a shape
• shapes are the building blocks of life. (how philosophical of my son)
• have corners
• they can have an infinite number of sides, but then that might turn into a circle
• the sides are not always the same.
• there are squares, rectangles, hexagons, circles, triangles,
• rectangle has uneven sides
• square has all even sides

I asked what he meant by “uneven” and my son said that it was when one side was larger than the other.

Final Thoughts

Students in the primary grades start by being introduced to their shapes.  It becomes just identification which is the first level of learning.  By third grade, they are being exposed to more specific language and vocabulary.   This third grade wanted to impress me with their knowledge of geometry.  They had been testing out different shapes to see which would pass their definitions.  As for 5th grade, they have a broader view of what shapes are.  They have also explored 3 dimensional shapes as they discover volume.

If I had a chance to follow up with each class, I could ask the question, “what does NOT make a shape?”  It would be a great contrast to their base knowledge.  It would challenge their thinking and we could probably have an in-depth conversation about their comprehension of shapes.

A magnificent exploration.  Much thanks to Sarah Caban & Telannannalet.wordpress.com for the inspiration.

Until next time….

Kristen

# Kinder clothesline with 6th grade

Some of my 6th graders went back to kindergarten.  They didn’t know it and we didn’t tell them till the end of the activity.  The teachers and I just wanted to do it out of sheer curiosity.   And it turned out to be a curiosity that was worth exploring.

Let me back up a bit.  Just last week, I led a workshop on the clothesline activity.  I like starting off with the teachers trying one out on their own.  I pulled out my weight cards that were used for kindergarten.  These cards are filled with colorful pictures of a bike, building, tree, a leaf, and other objects.  Students are asked to order the objects by weight (the lightest being on the left and the heaviest objects toward the right).

When I tried this out in kindergarten, we had the students put their cards in 3 basic categories—-light weight, medium weight, and heaviest weight.  We were not looking for precision.   However, 6th grade brought in the precision aspect.  Because they have more background knowledge, they were not only integrating math, but science, social studies, and language arts.  The 6th grade teacher also told me that this was great because the students were persuading their peers as to which order the cards should go.  They had been working on argumentative statements in the weeks prior to this activity.  (Gotta love when you can bring more than one curriculum into an activity—I call it “more bang for your buck!”)

Let me give you a visual…

Kindergartenput these in the “light category”.  No arguments from them.

6th gradeargued whether the leaf or the feathers should be switched.  One student brought up the fact that the leaf was made of water and the stem makes it heavier.  Another student claimed that there were 2 feathers compared to just one leaf.

Kindergartenput the train in the heavy category although some questioned whether it was a toy train or a real train.

6th grade put it in the heavy category althought argued whether it was a toy or real.  One student said it was a toy because of the multi-colors.  Another student argued back that it was real because of the smoke coming out of the smoke stack.  Another student questioned whether it was made of wood or metal.

Kindergarten put this card in the heavy side.  No questions/arguments.

6th grade put this card on the heavy side, however others had issues with it.  One student wondered if it was a toy plane.  Another students said there was blue sky behind it and so it was real.  Another student said the weight might vary because we don’t know if it’s full of people.

Kindergartenput this on the heavy side.  They said they have seen these trucks on the roads and highways.

6th grade – put it on the heavy side.  Questions of whether or not it was a toy were brought up.  Another student asked it if was filled with anything because that would make a difference.  For instance, the weight would vary if it were filled with feathers versus bricks.

Kindergartenput this in the middle category.  They did wonder if it was filled with anything.

6th grade Wondered if it were filled with anything.  One student said that when she bought a new backpack it was filled with paper to make it look full.  Another student said it could be filled with books.

One last thing.  We did not say a word about this being a kindergarten activity to the 6th graders.  We just told them to put the cards in order from least to greatest. At one point, an exasperated student exclaimed “THIS IS SO COMPLICATED!”

Below is the final clothesline that the 6th graders “settled” on.  (There were some that were still not happy with the outcome.)

If you’d like to download your own set of weight cards..go here.

Until next time….

Kristen

# New Routines for 6th grade

In my district, there are several 6th grade teams at three separate elementary schools. They are an anomaly in that they are invited to secondary professional developments & textbook trainings with other middle school teachers, but yet they are their own special group.  It’s not easy to have secondary expectations, all the while being at a site with kindergarteners passing by your window.  With all these new expectations, new standards, and a new curriculum guide, I saw the need for help.  Me –being a middle school teacher turned math coach–jumped right in.

Our latest venture at one site has been to start math talks.  I introduced them to Which One Doesn’t Belong, Estimation 180 and Would You Rather. They were excited by these routines because they are engaging for the students.  It’s not their usual math.  It’s different.  The teachers are now sparking conversations with the pictures and questions.  It’s been incredible for them.  I recently took their principal on a math walk into the three 6th grade classrooms so she could observe their new routines.  The principal was supremely happy.

One popular thought that came up during our work last year and this year was a simple question….how do you review previous units?  How do we keep information that we did at the beginning of the year fresh?  For instance, 6th grade began the year introducing rates and ratios.  Part of their “Would you rather” routine reviews rates.  For instance…would you rather buy a Starbucks Venti for \$3.59 or a Starbucks Grande for \$2.99.  Essentially we are asking which is a better buy. We are starting a math argument.

So how do you bring fractions, decimals, percents, and ratios to life?  How do you make that lively and different from what they see in their textbooks?   Well…let’s first look at this pic….

What do you see? What do you notice?  What math questions could we ask?

What fraction of the donuts have green icing?  What’s the ratio between sprinkled donuts to stripped donuts?  What percentage of donuts have chocolate icing? What fraction of the donuts have purple icing?  Can you turn that into a decimal?

A simple routine comprised of many pictures of donuts, cupcakes, legos, or any variety of objects.  I’ve seen many math educators use pictures like this to start a visual routine/number talk.  Pictures are an amazing way to wake the students up and look at things differently.  I might bring this routine to my kindergarten teachers as a sorting activity.

So many donuts…..so many possibilities.

Until next time,

Kristen

# Change happens! Hello 16-17!

It’s a new school year!  And that means a whole new year as math coach! I say BRING IT ON!

My district has been in school for the past 3 weeks.  So much change from last year to this year.

There is something to be said about change.  Change is good.  Change pushes our practice.  It forces us to question.  It forces us to re-evaluate our situations

Over the summer, the district directors made the decision to move the coaches to the schools (rather than being in the district office).    This was a move that I welcomed considering I was hardly at my desk.  I liked the idea of being closer to the teachers, seeing sunshine again (didn’t have a window in my old office), and especially hearing kids outside my door.  I didn’t know it, but I really missed it.  It’s a constant reminder for me to keep doing what I’m doing.  And I’m in love with the school that I moved to.  The teachers are so welcoming.  They even invite me in for lunch when I’m on campus.

I’ll admit that the move hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows.  It took a while to get a desk delivered.  (When it was delivered, it was locked.  When it was unlocked, there was someone else’s stuff in there.  Awkward!)  Don’t have a work laptop or a printer yet, so that’s caused me to keep running to the district office to get copies made and print things out from my thumb drive.

Another positive change has been that out of the 8 elementary schools, I’ve been assigned 4 schools to work with.  Luckily they’re the schools I mostly worked with last year.  A little more driving is involved with trying to hit all 4 schools, but I always come out smiling afterwards.

Now…what have I been working on?  The answer is–sooooo much. These first few weeks have been jam packed!  I got the pictures to prove it!

The first day of school, I was invited to see ten frames being used by one of my 3rd grade teams.

A few days later..I joined my 6th grade teams to sit with them in a training with a math project they are doing.  We went over conceptual lessons using integers.  Here they are using number lines.

In the first days of school, I was invited to demonstrate how to do a 3 act lesson with the 2nd, 4th and 5th grade kiddos.  (I-heart-3-acts).  And what I love even more is seeing the teachers engaged in what I’m doing.  They are eagerly taking notes, asking questions, and being students themselves.  I was also invited into my son’s classroom.  It’s so special to be able to teach your own kid.  And it was awesome for him to see what kind of teacher I really am. That’s a memory I’ll hold on to forever.

During the second week, I was asked to do a numbers talk and a number line with 3rd grade.  I love using the number line because it helps the students make sense of numbers.  They can contextualize meaning from it.  Plus I really like finding different variations/representations on a number.  I’ve seen it done at the secondary level and it really surprises me that someone hasn’t done this for the elementary level.

Last, but certainly not least, there was rice.  Yes…there was rice.  My dear friend/colloaborator Mrs. Z asked me to dye rice for her so that she can create a sensory/exploring center for her little kindergarteners.  How could I say no?   It took 3 days and 3 nights to color 60 POUNDS of RICE!  You read that correctly.  60 pounds of rice.  I’m sure there was some sort of proportion lesson in there (3 cups of white vinegar, and one bottle of food coloring= 20 lbs of colored rice), however I was so inundated with blue rice, red rice and green rice…that I’m not sure I can eat a sushi roll or have rice pudding again without thinking of this experience.  The operation as a whole took up half my garage.  But the kindergarteners are loving it.  And Mrs. Z is a happy camper.

Speaking of Mrs Z and her kindergarteners…there is great news to spread around.  She and I have been chosen to speak at the California Math Council’s Palm Springs Conference in November.  After our initial excitement, she and I realized that we have 90 minutes to fill with all the great learning we created in her classroom.   We are revising our presentation, but we are highly anticipating the whole experience.  There will be plenty more on that in later posts.

Until next time….

Kristen