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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Math In Practice: Fifth Grade

Welcome back to my second post about the Math in Practice series from Heinemann.  You can read my first post about this series, Math in Practice: Proficiency and Beliefs, by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post.  You can also go to the website for this series and download a sample for each grade (a link is included at the bottom of this post).  Fifth grade's sample just happens to be the volume module, which is exactly where I was headed in math.  The fifth grade has fifteen modules in total that cover all the CCSS for mathematics.  Each module includes the following:
  • The content standards associated with the module, as well as the progressions for the module
  • Visual representations, discussion starters, and writing prompts to get students thinking more deeply about the mathematics
  • Literature connections
  • Ideas for differentiation
  • Center ideas for practice
  • "I can" statements and more
Today I am going to dig into the math in the fifth grade volume and talk about what I really liked.


I started with the Introduction to Volume: Counting Cubes lesson (pg. 249).  The students each cut a piece of centimeter grid paper into a 12 x 12 square.  Then each student cut a corner of their square out, folded the paper, and taped it into a box.  Some cut out a 2x2 square from each corner, others a 3x3 or 4x4. I made sure that each table had several different sizes being cut.




We used the boxes to begin our investigation into volume.  Students compared their boxes and figured out how many centimeter cubes it would take to fill the bottom of the box.  We talked about the area of the box and how to label the units and then we talked about the number of layers needed to fill the box, which led to the formulas of base times height (volume = b x h) and length times width times height (volume = l x w x h).


Then we started putting the various sized boxes together so that my students could begin to see the additive nature of volume.  We had a lot of fun putting 2, 3, and even 4 boxes together before calculating their total volume.


The next day I used the worksheet included in the online resources and brought in a bunch of boxes.


My students measured and calculated volume over and over, giving them a lot of practice.




These were all great activities and my students really got a grasp on volume, but a few days later we were working with measurement conversions and this is where I really fell in love with this resource.  I went through my files and pulled out the questions I had used previously.  I thought they were great questions.  I'm actually pretty good at writing math tasks. But when I opened up module 11 and found tasks that required more of my students than the ones I had previously used, I got really excited.  Here's a few examples:

Mr. Short had 5 pieces of wood to create the border for his garden.  
Each piece of wood was 80 centimeters long. 
His garden was 5 meters long and 3.5 meters wide.  
Did he have enough wood to make a border for his garden? Explain.


There was so much to this problem! My students were converting back and forth between meters and centimeters, discussing perimeter, trying to figure out how many more pieces of wood he needed to buy and how much he would have left.  It was a really great problem that not only gave my students practice in converting measurements (which was my goal), but it reenforced their knowledge of perimeter, created a lot of good mathematical conversations, and had students completing a lot of different computations.

Next, I used a question that required the students to combine 3 times: 43 seconds, 2.5 minutes, and 37 seconds.  I was surprised at how many students made the mistake of adding like there were 100 minutes in an hour.  When they started seeing two different answers emerging, everyone went back to recalculate.  Then they started talking to each other to see what they were doing differently.  When someone discovered that the problem was not considering the number of seconds in a minute, we had a great discussion and students were able to correct their mistakes.

I saved my favorite problem for last.  It included a list of some of the heaviest land mammals.  Their weights were all given in kilograms.  Students were asked to convert some weights into grams, compare some weights, and combine weights.  The questions required adding, subtracting, and converting through multiplication.  The questions were really great and of course, animals are always an engaging topic.

I really wish this book had been in my classroom at the beginning of the year. There's so much in it that I can't wait to use next year.  My next post will be about some of the activities in grades K-4, so please come back for that.  In the meantime, here are a few links that may be helpful:

My first post about this series is Math in Practice: Proficiency and Beliefs. You can also view more information about this series at Heinemann, where you can also download a sample for your grade level.

Happy Problem Solving!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Math in Practice: Proficiency and Beliefs

There are a few things that I always love.  Getting packages in the mail, peanut M-n-M's, and great math tasks are up there pretty high on my list of great things.  Take a look at what came in the mail.

This picture shows the fifth grade set, plus samples from all grades and publication information.
This is one of Heinemann's newest publications.  Math in Practice comes with two books: A Guide for Teachers and Teaching Fifth-Grade Math. But don't worry there's a set for every grade K-5.  I thought I would take a peek in the fifth grade set and see if it was worth a blog post.  But I have to admit...it's better than I hoped.  So instead of a blog post, I've decided to make this into a small series of posts.  Today will be Part 1, Math in Practice: Proficiency and Beliefs.  Our mathematical beliefs are so important to us as teachers, as well as to our students.  What we believe as math teachers affects the way we teach, the way we look at students, and the way students think of themselves as mathematicians.  So let's dip into the introduction of A Guide for Teachers.


What is mathematical proficiency?  This is such a loaded question and I know my answer has drastically changed over the years.  Proficiency is so much more than getting the right answers or knowing all of your math facts.  So what do we want out students to do?  Page 4 gives us a list of ten things we want our students to do.

  • Understand the big ideas  I can't even count the number of times I have taught a lesson and focused on getting my students to the right answer rather than the big idea.  
  • Create models of math ideas  Modeling mathematical ideas is not just for young mathematicians.  Our older students can use models to think deeper, show their understanding, and justify their thinking.
  • Have computational fluency  This is so much more than memorizing facts, it includes performing operations with decimals, fractions, and whole numbers in efficient ways.
  • Have a strong sense of numbers  Number sense is something we talk about a lot in the lower grades, but older students need it too.  We want them to compose and decompose quickly.  We want them to perform computations in a variety of ways, make predictions, and interpret solutions.  This all requires a strong sense of numbers.
  • Understand the math procedures they do before memorizing them  Getting to an efficient algorithm is important, but not until they have a deep understanding.  We need to allow time for students to export concepts and develop their understanding first.
  • Understand how math ideas are connected  Our students can't build on prior knowledge, if they don't see or understand the connections.  Everything in math is connected, our students need to see this.  
  • Solve a variety of math problems  Students not only need to know how to perform computations, but they need to know when to perform them.  Applying their math skills to real life situations is important.  They need to learn to use their skills and strategies in complex situation.
  • Reason mathematically  This includes analyzing, proving conjectures, and drawing conclusions.  Reasoning mathematically is so much more than getting the right answer.
  • Communicate their math ideas  The conversation is so important in today's math class.  Rich mathematical discussions can allow students to share their ideas, defend and refine their thinking, and learn from one another.  Students also need to learn to communicate their ideas through writing.
  • Have a positive disposition  I love math and I want my students to love math.  I don't remember ever having a first grader tell me they hate math.  But by the time they get to fifth grade, I'm shocked at how many kids have a negative attitude toward math. We have to change their attitudes if we want them to persevere through hard tasks, take risks, and feel confident in their own abilities.
I honestly can't tell you how excited I am about this book series.  A math book for each grade that is full of fabulous tasks and questions and holds the same beliefs I do about teaching math?  I didn't even know that was possible.  But this is it.  You can use this with whatever program your district currently uses. It's not a full math program, it's a book filled with great tasks, questions, hands-on activities and teaching resources.  I have already been using some of the fifth grade content and that's what my next post will be about, but there's a book for each grade. You can check this resource out at Heinemann.  You can also read my second post about this series here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Task Problem Tuesday

 I'm pretty sure I made a goal for regular blogging back in February and here we are almost in May.  Life just gets in the way sometimes!  But here I am back for another Task Problem Tuesday.  If you missed my first post in this series, you can read it here.

Sod in the Park

I completely forgot to take pictures of my students with this task, but it was such a great math task that I am going to post anyway.  We are pretty much right in the middle of testing right now, but I still have a few math standards to cover before we test math.  I am also just coming back after a student teacher and wanted to get my students back into math with me, so I planned a task that allowed my students to use a wide variety of mathematical skills and required some real mathematical thinking.  Here's the background information:

I was really surprised by the number of students who had no idea what sod is.  After reading the background story and talking about what is happening in the story, I passed out the worksheet below. 



The comparison question was required and the two questions dealing with the cost were included for those who finished early or needed a more challenging component to the task. The task requires quite a few math skills.  I thought my students would use all of these:
  • total area of the park and total area one roll of sod will cover
  • dividing the total area by the square footage per roll to find the number of rolls it will take to fill the park 
  • comparing each company's cost for the same amount of sod
  • multiplying whole numbers and decimals 
Most students found that Greener Grass and Simply Sod could easily be compared by doubling the price at Greener Grass.  But when it came to comparing Love Your Lawn's price to them, some realized they could triple Greener Grass to compare it and other students just couldn't figure that out until someone showed them.  My favorite was the student who didn't see that Grow It Green was half of Love Your Lawn and instead decided to multiply 12/18 and $2.40 because he knew he wanted to find the price for 12 of the 18 square feet.  I was pleasantly surprised to see someone comparing companies by multiplying with fractions and thinking in terms of ratios.


It was great to see my students try and tackle this from many different angles.  Our whole hour of math was filled with productive talk and difficult problem solving.  For those students who blazed right through the comparison task, the last two problems on the bottom provided some more difficult problem solving opportunities for them.

If you would like to use this task, you can grab the file with the story and the worksheet here.

Happy Problem Solving!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Revolutionary Portraits


I wrote this post for another blog last year. But I just did this art project with my fifth graders this year and they came out so amazing that I thought I would share my post here at The Research Based Classroom too.

I'm sure your day is just as packed as mine is. There's so much to teach and so little time to teach. That's why anything that can be integrated just makes sense. I have to admit that integrating has actually been a little more difficult for me this year. Maybe integration in education is a higher level planning skill. Right now I am so focused on what I have to teach, that I'm not spending enough time on how I can teach it. But I was forced into thinking about this a little more this past week. Our district visual arts specialist was coming around to observe an integrated art lesson. As a grade level team we had already come up with some ideas for integrating the arts into our curriculum, but none of those ideas fit into what I'm teaching right now. So I started trying to find something that would. I'm pretty much on the road to rebellion in social studies and I just bought this really great book. I have been really excited about this book and it hit me while I thumbing through it the other day that we could do something with portraits and quotes from the Revolutionary War figures we were learning about.

Click on the book cover to go to Amazon.

Once I had decided on portraits for the art lesson, I went looking for some tutorials on drawing portraits. I was thinking that some face proportion help was what I needed, But then I found this portrait lesson on Deep Space Sparkle. I loved the way her student's Modigliani inspired portraits came out. So I decided to try oil pastel portraits of Revolutionary War heroes and heroines. I created a PowerPoint to help us get started. On the first page I put a handful of Modigliani portraits that we looked at together and started creating a list of characteristics of his work. Then we picked a hero or heroine from the Revolutionary War to draw. Everyone had a picture of the person they chose and we went to work. We drew with black oil pastels on black construction paper. After we finished coloring in everything, we went back and traced over all of the black lines once again to make everything stand out. I absolutely love how these came out.


Right now the pictures are all hanging in the hallway and my students have made name tags for each one. My next stop on this road to rebellion will be adding short biographies telling about the extraordinary things each of these heroes and heroines did during the war and maybe we will even add some quotes among the artwork. 

2017 Update: This year I had my students pick anyone they wanted to draw. I created a list of about 30 people from the revolution that they could choose from, but I didn't limit it to just them.  Then everyone was required to email a picture of their person to me. I put the pictures into a PowerPoint so that my students would have access to the pictures while they were drawing. You could also print out the pictures if you don't have a class set of devices. I also assigned them to research their person. They looked for information about their person before the Revolutionary War, during the war, and after the war. They then used their research to write a paragraph, which is hanging by their portrait. I liked this better than last year because it gave us a chance to learn about more people.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Part Two: An Inquiry Based Journalism Unit

Today I am sharing part two of my journalism post from last year, where you can see the final products that my students created and hear what I will be changing for this year, as well as what I absolutely loved.  This is an inquiry based journalism unit that integrated our state reports in social studies with our writing workshop. You can read my first post that explains the assignment here.
A fifth grade statement on the importance of gun control.
You could have a boring day or you could go to these interactive sites!
Arizona is probably best in the spring.

This author pretended it was back in the 1800's, just after the Civil War, so that she could argue for racial equality.
What? You can't view a moose from an airplane? And you can shoot a bear legally, but it's against the law to wake one up for a photograph. These are hard to believe.
I love that this Alaska newspaper was titled "The Last Frontier." The breaking news is from WW2.

I love all of the symbols of California that she used in her masthead.
"Donald Trump, love him or hate him....." Great voice. There were a lot of political editorials written.
This student is obsessed with WW2 and even though his state was North Carolina, he found a way to write an editorial about support for WW2.

This student's middle name is Gehrig and he was so excited to write an obituary for someone that he shared a name with.

What will I do differently next year?

First, I did really great with setting deadlines for rough drafts and revisions on the first five articles everyone did. But when we got to the four student choice articles, I didn't set deadlines and I really wish I had. Many students waited until the last minute and then either tried to throw 4 different articles at me on the last day or just put their articles in the final product without a rough draft or revision. I think the choice articles would have been a lot more thoughtful and complete if I had set dates.
Second, I also didn't spend as much time with the inquiry part on the choice articles and you can tell by the quality of their work. Next year I will continue pulling up mentor texts and letting the students work together to discover what a good article in that particular genre looks like.
Third, I need to enlist the help of others. I don't have enough devices for everyone to work on their research at the same time. So next year I am planning to ask the computer teacher to help them with their research during their computer time. I may need to have them do some more research at home too.
Lastly, I want to tighten up the amount of time we spend on the unit. I didn't know how long we would need and that probably led to me moving a little slower than I needed to.

What did I love?

I love, love, love the inquiry based approach to writing. I loved the opportunity to learn from mentors who write on a daily basis as a career. It was good for my students to see that there are different types of authors. Not all authors write books. I loved that it fostered an awareness of what was happening in the world today and still gave us a chance to talk about topics of historical significance. But mostly I loved that we were able to learn about so many different types of genres and we could use all that we already know about persuasive writing, narrative writing, and informational writing to create really great pieces.

Happy writing from my fifth grade to yours!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Journalism: An Inquiry Based Writing Unit


I originally wrote this post last March for another blog, I thought I would share it here on The Research Based Classroom since I am getting ready to start this writing unit for the second time. One of the things I really love about teaching fifth grade is the opportunity to really integrate curriculum. I'm not sure if state reports are the norm in fifth grade everywhere, but at my school they sure are. So when I headed to fifth grade for the first time this year, I was already trying to think about how I wanted to do this a little differently. Last year our school book club read Study Driven by Katie Wood Ray and I knew that I wanted to turn my class state reports into more of an inquiry-based journalism unit. 

Clicking on the cover will take you to Amazon.
If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it. But you don't have to take my word for it....here is another recommendation. (Did that just sound Reading Rainbow-ish?) 

Back to the state report....think inquiry-based, study driven, real world writing models and mentor texts. Sounds like the components to a great writing workshop unit to me.


I started by gathering a collection of newspapers. I had no idea how much they would cost or how hard it would be to find them. I tried the grocery store...no. I tried a gas station....nope, not there either. I tried a truck stop....still no luck. Finally a Seven Eleven had them and they were $1.50 a piece! I had to run back to the car for a credit card, because I thought $7 could buy me 6 more papers. Who knew? 

After I had one paper for every 2 students, I allotted one writing period for them to go through the newspapers and make a list of the different types of writing they found. The came up with a fairly comprehensive list. 

The next day I gave each pair of writers a type of writing and the task of finding examples to determine what they could about how to write the assigned type of article. The students created small posters with the characteristics of each type of writing.






Once we had spent a couple of days discovering what newspaper writing looked and sounded like, we picked states and went over the requirements for their state newspapers. 

You can download my requirements by clicking on the picture.
You are almost caught up with us now. We took a look at several types of travel articles that I found for the state of Rhode Island. One talked about a single destination and the other was the top 10 destinations in the state. We read each of them together and used them to discover how to write a travel article. Then for homework my students went home to look up the possible destinations in their assigned state. Oh, how I wish for more technology at times like this. But when you don't have enough devices, you have to send it home sometimes. As my students came back to school the next day, they started writing their travel articles. About half are writing about a single destination and the others are writing an article about several possible places to visit in their state. I can't wait to see how they turn out.

Next up....obituaries. I'm not completely sure how this entire unit is going to look or how the finished products will turn out, but stay tuned and we'll find out together. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Task Problem Tuesday

I am excited to announce my new feature, Task Problem Tuesday. If you're like me, I'm always scrambling for a new task. It doesn't matter what mathematical topic I'm teaching, I'm always trying to come up with new task problems. And the more they relate to real life, the better. So once a month I am going to start blogging about some of my favorite task problems.  I picked Tuesday nights because I've been going to school every Tuesday night for the last two years working on my math endorsement, but my schedule cleared up in the fall. So welcome to Task Problem Tuesday.

Back in March I linked up with Miss Math Dork for her Math IS Real Life and I blogged about building garden boxes and the task I gave my students. You can read that here. When I moved into volume,  I extended the previous problem to come up with this new task.


These are the actual sizes of my garden boxes which are shown in this picture.


Mathematical Tasks:
1.  How much soil will I need to fill my boxes?

2.  I want to fill them with 2/3 dirt and 1/3 mink manure. How much will I need of each?

3.  Luckily my neighbor has too much dirt sitting on his lot. He will let me have the dirt I need for free.  However, it costs $170 dollars to have 7 cubic yards of mink manure delivered to my house. How much will it cost for the mink manure?

4.  Will it change the price dramatically if I leave the soil in each box 6 inches lower than the sides? How much would I save?

This task requires a lot of problem solving. Students were converting measurements, calculating volume, multiplying, adding, dividing, and subtracting. They were using whole numbers and fractions.  I ended up leaving the top six inches of each box empty. I'll add compost to them for the next few years to fill them up, we just got tired of shoveling dirt and manure and didn't want to spend any more money.  But here is how they looked when I planted the garden.

I'm not sure I wanted to know the total cost of that mink manure, but it was in the name of real life math. Happy problem solving!