If you were hoping for excuses to eat food while teaching math, this probably isn’t you blog post to read. Instead, I am writing about Yummy Math, which is a website that provides interesting lessons for students of all ages. While not the most visually appealing website, it is very useful for a math teacher looking for resources. . The lessons they have are about things that are useful or realistic (unlike the problems about buying 60 pumpkins or eating 20 candy bars). They are also aligned to standards. They have tags on every problem with the standards they are aligned to. There is also the option to search for lessons based on the standards you want to address. The lessons go from 2nd grade mathematics to high school. A one- year membership only costs twenty-two dollars and gets you access to all the materials that they have on the site.
As someone who will be student teaching next year, I’m always on the hunt for valuable resources to help me teach. I think that one of the best ways to do this is to find websites like Yummy Math. It can be a challenge if one wants lessons that are geared towards standards, challenging, and interesting to students, but we have to put in the work as teachers. It’d be great if we could come up with really fun yet challenging tasks for our students on a daily basis, but the truth is that there just isn’t always time in the day, especially if you have to teach five or six different classes each day. This is why great resources are important, and I’m happy to say I’ve found another one.
I volunteer at the local middle school in a resource room for an hour every Tuesday and Thursday, and the last time I went, the teacher suggested that I help students prepare for the standardized testing they’ll be doing in a week. Coming up with a way to help them broadly study eighth grade mathematics without knowing what they know stressed me out a bit, but then the teacher asked if I’d ever used IXL. She showed me it, and I’d have to say, it’s an impressive tool for review. It basically gives problems for each concept you could teach in math, language arts, science, social studies, or Spanish. For example, the teacher who runs the resource room said I should work on real life examples of area and perimeter. There’s a section called “area and perimeter: word problems” that I could use. It gives problems that are exactly as described.
The way I used it was by just going through the problems up on the board, but it’s really set up for students to use on their own. It presents a problem that the students have to answer. If they get it right, it adds to their “SmartScore.” If they get it wrong, it takes away from their score and gives them an explanation for how to solve the problem. It also keeps track of how long they’ve been working. After students are done, a teacher can look and see what each student’s areas of need are, which can help the teacher differentiate for their students. IXL can present information in graphs to show “your students’ growth, trouble spots, and even their readiness for standardized testing.” IXL is built around content standards, so it’s great for preparing for standardized testing. I think that it can potentially be a great resource, especially because of this reason, but it can be easy to go overboard with it.
While it’s great to have so many problems available, they are pretty simple problems. They should be used for repetition, not teaching. I could see some of my own high school teachers delivering a quick lesson and then just letting us loose on IXL for the remainder of class, which doesn’t help the students much. The problems don’t encourage much deep thinking; they’re better for practice. This is fine, I’d just had for teachers to become too in love with it and use it constantly. To conclude, I think that IXL can be great for practice and review, and it can help teachers learn more about their class more quickly, but shouldn’t be overused.
IXL Home Page
Some major goals of mathematics are to have a deep understanding of the content and to be able to make connections to other concepts. I decided to look around the NCTM website for articles about such things, and I found one called “Visible Thinking in High School Mathematics.” This article is about two main methods: Chalk Talk and Claim-Support-Question. I’m going to focus on Chalk Today, because it really caught my interest.
The main idea is to have a variety of posters around the room with questions on them, generally sounding something like “What do you know about (concept).” Forever however many posters there are, say five, that many different colors of markers are distributed among the students. Students with all the same color markers are sent to a poster, and are told to write what they know about the concept. This is a totally silent activity, which is why the author called it “Silent Discussion.”Students then rotate around the room and either respond to what other students wrote or write their own new idea.
Chalk Talk gives students the opportunity to look at other students’ ideas and get their questions answered at least partially by other students. For a question such as “What is a quadrilateral,” a student may have thought of a square, but with Chalk Talk, they can get the opportunity to see a non-square rectangle, rhombus, parallelogram, or any other quadrilateral, possibly with a picture and description. It gets them thinking outside the box. If they aren’t sure about something, they can ask, and the next group at the poster won’t even know who wrote it, and they can get an answer for their question. That’s ideal.
The posters really end up looking like a mess, but the teachers can somewhat gather what the class knows and doesn’t know, as well as where the class should go next. Even if questions get answered, it still shows that students might not quite feel comfortable with a concept. On the other hand, a question asking about a possible future direction from their new knowledge can make for a great transition into the next topic. Also, students enjoy getting out of their seats, and this is a productive way to do that. It is a great idea overall, in my opinion.
Visible Thinking in High School Mathematics
All through my life I now realize that I have always been an “active learner”. Meaning I would much rather work with materials and be able to talk and discuss things while discovering the learning rather than sitting and listening to lecture, reading, or writing. It was always much more important to me to see myself as being able to do something with the knowledge I was obtaining. Many other students are like this, and it is something that I want to be able to incorporate well into my classroom.
I found this article on NCTM called Using the 5 Practices in Mathematics Teaching by Keith Nabb, Erick B. Hofacker, Kathryn T. Ernie, and Susan Ahrendt. It gives five practices to use during the lesson to support active learning, and one for beforehand preparation.
0. Identify the Goal or Objective: Make sure before class you know what the goal of the lesson is going to be.
1. Anticipating: Predict how well they think students will do on a particular problem or lesson
2. Monitoring: Identify different strategies students are using in order to solve a problem. Ask and answer questions in order to further understanding, and document who is doing what on a particular task.
3. Selecting: Pick specific groups to share their work or aspects of their work.
4. Sequencing: Make sure that the sequence of lessons or material makes pedagogical sense. There should be coherence between lessons.
5. Connecting: Make direct connections between strategies and approaches and different content. Do this through questioning or focusing, either directly or indirectly.
The article then does on to show this method in action in two different calculus classrooms. Overall, I really liked the article. I definitely want to incorporate the five practices into my classroom. Specifically, it would be nice when taking a reasoning and sense making approach so that there is a more laid out way on how to guide students through learning and self discovery of the math.