Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tales about Teaching Math and enVision

     The first subject I started to teach during student teaching was math. Growing up, I loved math. In fact, during freshman year I was a math major and took Calculus 3. Since then, I have been a peer tutor for math at my college. Last year, I took math for teachers and loved all the great ideas our professor gave us about how to teach math. He taught us so many different ways, we were definitely prepared. I found ways to make it fun with my fifth graders in the spring such as playing BattleGraph. I came in very excited to teach math to my first graders.

      Last year, the school I am at began using enVision. I had used enVision in my previous schools, and I was fine with it. It worked well with my small second grade class in fall 2011, so I figured it would be okay.

     The first unit for first grade is called "Understanding Addition." Each lesson has different parts you can use such as an online introduction to the lesson, a worksheet, a Common Core review, a workbook with differentiated pages (we assign homework from it), a lesson review page, and three differentiated games. Typically, my teacher told me that she starts with the introduction on the computer. Then, she completes the worksheet with the students. The front of the worksheet is always done together and uses manipulatives. On the inside, one page is labeled guided practice, and the other is independent practice. Finally, the back page has word problems.

     During the first math lesson, which was also the first lesson I taught during student teaching, our principal walked in to do a snapshot. At this point, the students were completing some problems independently with my teacher and I walking around to help. When his report came back, it said that 95% of our students were engaged, which is great for a first lesson in my book.

    Throughout the first unit, I noticed that my math lessons were not going as well as I would have liked. The same five or six students were always raising their hands to answer questions and participate. Most of these students would have been able to complete the lesson worksheet without my help. When I called on other students at random, they either were not paying attention or really did not understand what we were doing. Some of these students, I would pull aside the next morning to work with them in a small group on what they did not understand.

     Slowly, I became frustrated with having to follow our curriculum directly. We planned with the other math teachers, and I had to follow the curriculum and was expected to use the lesson worksheets. These worksheets are long and often confusing for my first graders. I did not have an issue with them in second grade, but in my opinion, they are not always appropriate for first. My students also had a very hard time with the manipulatives. They were not using them or putting them away properly, despite reteaching the procedures multiple times. I would love to use the differentiated games more, but there just is not enough time, plus it always leads to arguments or confusion.

     To finish the first unit about addition, I had a review day. Together, we worked on dry erase boards. Then, I gave each student a matching game. It had a problem, picture, and sum. I cut the pieces apart and put different amounts in different color bags. Then, I gave students who needed a challenge a bag with 15 matches, most students received 10 matches, and lower students received 6 matches. This worked well! First, I modeled how to make them and ways to make it easier such as sorting the three categories first. Then, I walked around as they were completing it to help students who had trouble with sorting. Most understood the math concept though!

     For the first unit, I did a pretest and post test, and I saw improvement in every student! Well, except for one girl, who actually understands it, but thought she would do so well that she did not listen to directions. Despite my frustrations, they really were learning. They may have not showed it to me in class, but they did understand it much more than before, especially the word problems.

     In my future class, I would love to set up some sort of math stations at least 2 or 3 days a week. This would allow me to challenge high students more, re-enforce lessons with students that need it, and review all of our skills through different engaging games and activities.

     If you have read this whole post, I am proud of you for sticking with it! Here is the addition matching game. It's not a colorful game because I don't have a color printer available to me, so I do my best by printing it on colored paper instead. EnVision uses a domino look for addition in unit one, so the pictures reflect that.

How do you teach math? What strategies have worked for you?
Update: After taking a pre- and post-test on the first section, I found that all of my students did improve and learn from this curriculum, even when I felt very frustrated with it.

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