Problem of Practice

Please feel free to take a look at how David solved my Problem of Practice, here.

Problem of practice: The problem of practice I am identifying and trying to solve occurs during my Response to Intervention time in math class. I would like to find a method and/or tool to assist me in closing the gap between my high and low performing math students. Overall, I would say the majority of my students have strong number sense in response to our daily number talks. As we progress through the year, most students apply this number sense and the patterns they have recognized to larger numbers. However, a handful of students struggle to apply the knowledge they have to newer and more difficult content. For example, they struggle with tasks similar to, “Tell me what ten less than 72 is,” or, “Tell me what ten more than 36 is.” These types of questions/tasks should be computed mentally by the end of first grade.

Context: Our first grade room is located just outside of Grand Rapids at Godfrey Lee Early Childhood Center. We are a Title I school that serves mostly hispanic families. The majority of the parents I work with speak Spanish, so in order for me to communicate with them a translator is necessary.  We have a large, flexible learning space and on average 24 students in the room. There are 5 tables in our room with 4-5 students at each table. All materials they  need throughout the day are stationed right in the center of their tables. There is a kidney shaped table where students come to work with me. We have access to 1:1 Chromebooks, 6 iPads, an Apple TV, a projector, a document camera, 1 OSMO, 3 Makey Makey’s and my teacher Macbook Air. Purchasing apps/programs can be requested through our technology team.

Our math block has flexibility but on average takes up 75 minutes of our day. The only adult in the room during math instruction is me! Generally I structure my math block to consist of a number talk followed by a mini lesson followed by centers. Working with me is one of the centers and my low performing math students meet with me each class period for about 15 minutes. The other math centers can consist of activities on the iPad or Chromebook, OSMO time, cutting/pasting math activities, hands on activities, reading a math book, partner projects, group projects, etc. The centers consistently are changing based on their needs and levels.

Some advantages to consider: Classroom teachers have full support from administrators and the technology team. We are encouraged to try new things and take chances (so the possibilities are endless!). Students are very comfortable using technology and problem solving while using the technology.

Some limitations to consider: Students generally enter our district performing lower than your average K or 1st grade student. Most students do not receive academic support at home due to their parents lacking a higher education or any education at all. The majority of our students only speak Spanish at home as their parents do not know English.

Content: One of the major challenges students face is recognizing the patterns on the 100’s chart and internalizing those patterns to help them solve problems mentally. We spend time before each math class completing various number talks (Counting circles, Magic Ten Rod – page 47, Look Quick,Rekenrek discussions). Students have a strong number sense (especially with the numbers 0-10) as we progress through our year. By this point in the year, students should be writing and counting from 0-120 by ones, tens and fives, understanding that 10 can be thought of a bundle of ten ones called a ten, comparing numbers using >,<,= and that a two digit number can be broken down into tens and ones.

Pedagogy: During our math block, problem solving, curiosity and elaborating are modeled from day one. We work to create an environment that fosters all the different ideas that come to the table. Students know the be respectful of others ideas and to try to learn from them. During lessons, I provide models, representations and vocabulary for students to access at any time. We often engage in Kagan Cooperative Learning strategies to promote participation and the opportunity to be the teacher for someone else.  As mentioned earlier, our math block is structured as so: a number talk/Kagan Cooperative Learning strategy, followed by a mini lesson followed by centers.

The majority of my assessing is done through formal assessments with an additional summative assessment provided by our Mathematics Instructional Coach at the end of each unit (there are six units total). I use my results formative assessments to place students in groups and assign different tasks during center time. The results from the summative assessments help me to address any gaps students have.

Our district utilizes the Georgia Math Curriculum through which students practice and learn to make sense of problems and persevere to solve them, reason abstractly ad quantitively, construct viable arguments, model with math, use tool appropriately, attend to precision, look for and make sure of structure, and look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

I believe the practice I need to refine is finding a better way to collect and assess the formative assessments happening each day during class–providing me with some insight as to how to support the low performing math students.

Technology: The wealth of technology in my classroom provides many opportunities for myself and my students. Students are provided with pencils, crayons, markers, white boards and manipulatives of every kind (unifix cubes, base ten blocks, clear counters, chips, etc.). Some days we use those materials and some days we don’t need them!

Our access to technology allows me to project anything from my computer or iPad through the Apple TV. The iPads allow us to use programs (in groups or in our centers because we only have 6) like Plickers, Kahoot!, Popplet, Aurasma, QR codes and other various math related apps. One of the drawbacks of using these programs was that if the students created anything, I had no place to store or showcase their work (usually they would just show me their work quickly and move to the next center). The Chromebooks have allowed me to “flip” math instruction inside the classroom occasionally–where students can access and watch videos from our classroom website. They can also access different videos or programs online. I would like to explore different options for what I can do with the Chromebooks in my classroom–in the hopes that Google Classroom will be an option next year! I feel as though one of the drawbacks with the Chromebooks was that I wasn’t using them as effectively as I could have.

This past year, I really focused on integrating technology seamlessly during my literature block. Now, I am ready to focus on using it to enhance my math instruction.