Allowing Students to Thrive in Math Class using VNPS
How do we get kids to build their conceptual understanding of math and not just see it as a set of procedures or steps to follow? How do we build confidence in their ability to do math, and see themselves as Mathematicians? These are questions that I am constantly considering as I program for my grade ⅞ students. They need to see the real world in the math they do. They need to have the conditions set up so that they can have organic conversations about the math they are doing. They need to not feel the pressure of “all eyes on me” when I am doing my math. Incorporating, #VNPS like “Wipebooks”, into my physical space and program have allowed me to ensure that I am setting up the conditions so that my students can thrive in math, and critically think about math concepts and relationships..
Critical thinking in math develops from providing students with “rich” problems to solve. When we consider an effective math program, providing students with the chance to solve multi-step or multi-concept problems, students make connections on their own, and see on their own relationship between strands. As an educator, it is important to me to not teach math in “silos” but to spiral math concepts, always embedding ‘understanding of number’ into everything we do - as it is the foundation of all of the other strands (Geometry, Measurement, Data Management, Probability, Algebra). These rich problems allow spiralling to occur, as during a 3 part math lesson, a minds on might focus on the “mental math” required for the task, and the “Working on It” portion would allow students to apply the skill worked on earlier. Some of my favourite places to get “rich” problems are:
2. Marian Small’s ‘Good Questions: Great Ways to Differentiate Math Instruction’ &’Open Middle Questions’
Creating a Social Math Class with VNPS
Teens love to be social. They love to work together with their friends towards achieving a common goal. Working on a #VNPS allows the physical space in a classroom to be maximized. Students have a space that is separate from other groups and, using a Wipebook, can really be placed anywhere in the room. Wipebooks allow students to change their thinking quickly with the ease that they wipe off, and with one side graphing paper, and one side blank, they are easily adaptable and user friendly across subject areas. I really have seen collaboration between students increase since I have used Wipebooks in my classroom. By giving each group only one marker, students share their thinking and record what their group members are thinking. As I am walking around and visiting groups, I make a point of passing the marker to other students in the group so each group member feels connected to the learning. Using vertical surfaces allows students to check out other groups’ thinking, and see a variety of strategies organically. The teacher-led debrief after is so powerful, as we focus on student work located on a Wipebook that is easily seen by all students in the class. They also work great for a ‘Gallery Walk’, leaving charts up allows one person to stay at their work, and others rotate around purposefully and with intention.
Wipebook Flipchart for all Subjects
Not only are the Wipebooks amazing to use for math, we have used them in every other subject area as well! One of my favourite ways to use Wipebooks outside of Math is to put a different picture prompt at the top of each Wipebook. Students in their groups write ‘3 Sentence Stories’ about what they see in the picture. By writing these on vertical surfaces like Wipebooks, students can on their own be inspired by other pictures and other groups writing. These spawn wonderful independent writing pieces after providing students with collaborative think time.
Katrina Brown, June Rose Callwood PS, Thames Valley District School Board.
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