Sunday, October 5, 2014

How New is NEW Math?

New Math.  Parents hate it.  They don't get it.  It's not the way they were taught and they can't understand why learning so many strategies and taking more steps to solve 52-18 actually helps their child.

The Common Core standards are too difficult, not age appropriate, and focus on unrealistic math strategies.  I've heard it all and have had my blog and Facebook fan page targeted and spammed by people who oppose Common Core.

A couple of weeks ago, someone sent me this message on my Facebook Fan page. "NO COMMON CORE!!!!!!!!!!"  If I sat down and counted all of the times this happened, it would take me quite some time.  Most of the time I ignore it, delete it, and forget about it.  This time was different.  I sat down and wrote a thoughtful response with the goal of trying to hear what exactly this individual thought was so bad about it.  

"I have done a lot of reading on common core..I have also listened to teachers and other educators speak on the is NOT for our not be deceived by this junk that is being dangled in front of our schools by the government by the race to the is all about who will sign up for common core first so they can get the money allotted by the federal is only one more way the Federal trying to own us..thank you for responding and thank you for actually was the idea of people across the waters..that is the root of it all.."

This was a perfect time for me to educate this individual.  After a handful respectful comments back and forth to each other this was her final post to me:

"Ya know you really sound like someone who wants what is best for the children and that is all I want...I am not aware as you are of the actual everyday or long-term problems or even of possibly some better things from it...I hope in the long term it can somehow lead to something better for any and all involved.  I am glad there are educators in our system like yourself. Just these messages we have shared makes me to know you care. That is one thing that this world is lacking,many just want the dollar they work for and are willing to just blindly walk on in whatever is put before them. As a teacher(you), it is so good to know you are making the best of a situation you may not entirely agree with but are willing to drain all of the good out of it for the children. I pray everyday and will include you in My prayers that God will guide you and help you in all aspects of your life....I really appreciate you for actually taking the time to say.." Hey You Share With Me Why Say That!!!"..haha..My impression of you is "awesome"...if you ever need to bend an ear about anything..I am here for you.."


I actually could't believe it.  Maybe me taking a few minutes to interact with this person helped change one individual's perspective.  If we were to all take a minute to educate just one person on what Common Core actually is, and let them know that educators aren't set out with the goal to confuse their kids, would those against Common Core really still despise it?

In my conversation with this individual, I sent her some pictures that I really think helped her see that this "new math" isn't really all that new.

I just moved into a new house with my husband.  My mom unloaded and endless amount of boxes on me that she had been storing for years.  I sat in my office looking through my old papers.  I'm not kidding when I say she must have saved EVERY. SINGLE. THING I brought home.  Looking through my 3rd grade folder was what I was most excited for since I have taught 3rd grade for 5 years.  Look what I found!  My 3rd Grade math student journal.  I immediately ruffled through my stuff and took out the one I used to teach my students last year.  I was in 3rd Grade in 1993.  Surely, there should be vast differences in the curriculum because of the Common Core Standards, right?

As I flipped through the pages I found that many of the pages remained similar - if not identical. 

This is the same probability lesson I teach every year.  I totally forgot doing this in third grade.  In my classroom, I have students color in the blocks on their page to help them visualize what the questions are asking.  We also underline key words such as "sure," "more likely," and "3 times as often."

Scoring 10 Basketball Points.  First, let's ignore the fact that I thought my page when I was 9 was very "ok."  Please excuse the unnecessary amounts of praise I gave myself in my book.  :)

I will be the first to admit, this is really difficult for students.  This is another page I didn't remember doing back in the day, so I was surprised to find something I found difficult to teach was something identical to what I learned.  Parentheses confuse students at first, but they tend to pick it up quickly.  This math page forces the students to dig deeper into parentheses and find multiple ways a basketball team could score to get 10 points.  I always introduce parentheses by putting my hands on either side of my mouth (to look like parentheses) and I whisper to my students "do this first."  Now, whenever they see the parentheses, they picture me with the "parentheses" around my  mouth telling them to solve that part of the problem before they do the rest. 

These are two identical (except for the illustrations of the animals) pages that help students learn to estimate weights of animals.  For example, one question on their student page could be, "Which animal(s) weighs about 3 times as much as an Atlantic Green Turtle."  Students use mental math to find an animal that has a weight similar to their calculation.  

Ok, now here comes the doozie.  During Curriculum Night, for the past 6 years I actually tell the parents that the math curriculum teaches multiple ways to do multiplication.  I also tell the parents to not worry,  just because it's taught doesn't mean it's the only strategy I'm going to force the students to use.  I also let them know that I did the same exact "crazy math" when I was in elementary school and I think I turned out just fine.   My old page is on the left.  I was apparently so confident that I decided solving these problems in pen was a good choice.  Yes folks....1993.  It hasn't changed a bit.  So is "New Math" really all that new?  

Nope!  If you look at the bottom of my old math journal (I don't know why they would take this portion out of the new's very helpful) "New Math" really isn't new math.  It's actually REALLY REALLY OLD MATH.  :)  Moreover, this illustrates nicely that the Common Core standards didn't create these methods, since they were obviously being taught in the United States decades ago.  If you're not fond with a particular math strategy, that's perfectly fine, but don't blame the Common Core.

Now, for all those who still disagree that this math is unnecessary, you can continue to think this way.  I will still believe that exposing students to multiple ways to solve a problem - even if it takes more time - even if it involves more steps - develops better thinkers, problem solvers, and provides the students with a deeper knowledge of what they are doing.  

And for all those teachers out there who think there is no end in sight to the backlash you are getting from parents - don't worry.  It won't be long until you get to teach the babies of the students who were in elementary school in the 90s.  They'll get it.  :)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Science Experiment Vs. Investigation - What's the Difference?

When I was in middle school, I had an amazing 8th grade science teacher who made the class so engaging and fun.  Although I can remember in detail many of the activities we did, one thing really stuck with me - the difference between a science experiment and an investigation.

It's important that when we are teaching science, not to get the terms confused since the two terms are pretty different.  In teaching third grade, I very rarely did a complete science experiment, but we did investigate many different topics.

I created this graphic to explain the differences between the two.

Hope it helps!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Quick Homework Collection System

Do you feel overwhelmed at the beginning of the day when students are entering your room?  Some can't unzip their coats.  Others hand you notes from home.  Homework is sprawled all over student desks and counters.  The end of the day is just as crazy and the last thing you want to do is sit at your desk sorting through homework to grade.  You take these piles, clip the similar papers together so they don't get mixed up, and place them in your bag to take home.  Why does this have to be so much work?

Well, it doesn't have to anymore!  I bought these hanging file folders about five years ago to organize papers in my classroom.  I originally bought it to hold extra work the students could choose to work on if they finished something early.  I always had a drawer storage system for students to turn in homework.  It worked pretty well, actually, but I still had to sit there and clip everything together at the end of the day before putting it in my bag.

Last year, I realized I could use this to collect my students' homework. When they enter the classroom they sort their homework and place it neatly in the correct slot.  We even worked on having the papers placed in the folders in the same position (top of the paper to the left side).

Now, at the end of the day, I unhook the organizer from the door.  This folds up neatly and has an elastic string on it to hold the whole thing together.  I just place this in my school bag and take it home.  It's so simple and quick and will definitely make your life much easier!

If you're interested in trying this out with your students, I put a link below to where you can purchase this on Amazon.  This organizer kept me so organized over the years and I'm sure you'll find a million ways you could use it in your classroom!


Friday, August 29, 2014

Matter Unit and Anchor Chart

One of my favorite science units to teach is Matter.  It's challenging enough to not be too watered down, the students make a bunch of meaningful connections, and there are so many fun activities for the students to do to enhance their understanding of various topics.

I really like starting off my unit on Matter sitting on the rug with an anchor chart.  There are so many super cute anchor charts out there, but I'm definitely not the most artistic person, and I really like to create them with input from my students.  To prepare for this one, I wrote the title on top of the page and Solid, Liquid, and Gas in bubble letters.  Then, with the students, we completed the rest.  First, we talked about the molecules in each state of matter.  With help from my class, I filled in each subtitle with molecules the way in which they would be arranged in that state of matter.  Then, we came up with definitions and examples for each.  It's quick, simple, and interactive.  I would display this somewhere in my classroom for students to refer to during the whole unit.

In the past, I've taught both third grade and fifth grade.  In Illinois, matter was a part of the fifth grade curriculum, while in Ohio, I taught it in third.  I created a unit on matter two years ago for my third graders to enhance what was in the science textbook.  For the past few days, I updated this unit to include over 30 more pages.  I really found that my students responded well to the posters.  I had them on a bulletin board in my classroom and they definitely referred to them multiple times throughout the unit.  In addition to the student pages and science investigations, I included 8 different exit slips that require the students to respond to a question.  The task cards are perfect for a center, playing scoot, or using as an assessment.  What I really loved the most is that most pages in this unit can be used for a grade.  I never seem to have enough grades for science and social studies, so this really helped me out in understand what my students had masters and what they were still struggling with.  If you're interested, you can grab this unit at my TpT store HERE.

 Matter Unit
Matter Unit 
Matter Unit

 Matter Unit
Matter Unit

Monday, August 18, 2014

Teacher Tips - Advice for New Teachers

With the school year soon approaching (or for those who have already started), many teachers seem to feel overwhelmed at the thought that they are now in charge of not only educating little minds, but with everything else involved with being a teacher.  Whether you are new to teaching, transferred to a new building, or are teaching a new grade level, tips for getting through the day are always appreciated.

What helped me survive was the book, The First Days of School by Harry Wong.  It was actually a requirement for my student teaching seminar, and I also received a copy when I was hired into my district.  There is so much that you can't possibly learn in college, and this book definitely opened my eyes to how I should be planning for the beginning of the year.

Well, it has been a few years since I've opened this book and it's currently buried in a box as I'm in the process of moving.  I still wanted to offer some tips, so I looked to some of my blogging friends and Facebook followers for help.  They put together a list of 35 tips to help you out.  These teachers have some wonderful blogs that you can visit for more great ideas by clicking on their tip.