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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Task Problem Tuesday

This is a task that I found while walking in New York City last fall.  I took pictures of the parking structure and prices, but didn't pull it together in time to use it during the school year. I've never posted a problem that I haven't used, so I hope you like this one and I will definitely use it next year myself.  I love that this problem can be used in my unit for volume or multiplying decimals. It also includes adding and subtracting with decimals.  Anytime that I can review one concept while teaching another, I just can't let the opportunity pass.  So let me know if you like this one.

Unparalleled Parking

Unparalleled Parking Task by The Research Based Classroom

The parking structure is 14 sections long, 4 cars tall, and 2 cars deep.  Living in the west, I had never seen anything like this.  I immediately began thinking of all the math involved in this picture and started snapping pictures.

Task Problem Tuesday at The Reseach Based Classroom

When I got home, I looked up their actual prices to create the chart below.

Unparalleled Parking Math Task by The Research Based Classroom

The questions for this math task are endless.  Here's a few that I came up with:

  1. If the parking structure fills up for an event, how much money would the parking attendant collect?
  2. Wednesday is street cleaning day and it is illegal to park on the street during the hours from 5:00 am until 5:00 pm.  All of the residents of the local apartment buildings need to get their cars off the street.  How much would it cost you to park at Unparalleled Parking during this time?  
  3. You enter Unparalleled Parking every day at 6:30 pm and leave at 8:00 am.  What day of the week will be the cheapest?
  4. How much would the parking attendant collect if the parking structure only filled up three-fourths of the spots during an event?
There's no end to the questions that could be asked about this picture. You could even let your students write questions of their own.  To grab my photos and a pdf of the pricing sheet, click here.

Happy Problem Solving!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Reading & Writing Poetry

For my last writing workshop unit in the spring, I taught a poetry unit.  I have to admit that teaching poetry makes me nervous.  And for a good reason.  I quit teaching for 7 years after my second baby was born and when she went to first grade, rather than go back to teaching full time, I decided to take a creative writing class at a local university.  We had three major writing assignments for the semester and then for the final we picked our best two assignments to revise and turn in.  One was a short story, one a memoir, and the third was poetry.  When I received my poetry assignment back, I also got a short note from the professor encouraging me not to use the poetry assignment in the final.  So it's not just my opinion that poetry is not my thing.   That note just keeps popping into my head every time I think about teaching poetry. I'm not sure how well I can teach something that I can't do myself, so I knew I really needed to enlist some good poet mentors for this unit.


I started by finding 12 different poem types to teach: couplets, quatrains, cinquains, alphabet poems, limericks, ubi sunt poems, doublets, free verse, found poems, acrostic poems, picture poems, and villanelles.  I typed up small definitions for each poem type that my students could glue into their writing folders and my plan was to explore a new poem type each day and have the students work on writing one of each.  I used the R is for Rhyme by Judy Young book for many of the examples.
Clicking on the cover will take you to Amazon.
Then I started looking for poems we could use as shared text to read and analyze.  Because of where we were at in U.S. history, many of the poems have a civil rights theme.  I put these poems on chart paper, but you could easily throw them up on the screen with a projector. 

Then I went through lists and lists of literary devices and picked out some that I thought would be good to teach.  You can see my complete unit plans by clicking on the picture below.  Links are also included on the document.


I ended up adding a few days to the plan for writing the more difficult poems.  A day was fine for the couplet and quatrain, but free verse, found poems, and especially the villanelle needed more time.  I also threw in a few writing days where students could work on any poems they needed to finish up or any poem type they wanted.  I threw in a day after  3 or 4 poem types were taught and then again after another 3 or 4 types were taught.  I checked off poem types as we went to make sure that all of my students were completing at least one of each poem type.  I split it into two check off periods, but next year I will check off on a weekly basis just to make sure that no one gets behind.

Final Projects

For our final project, each student had to pick 5 poem types to include in their book of poems.  These are the poems they were required to edit and revise.  My students were required to also put a text box on each page explaining the type of poem, so they got points for the poem itself and for the explanation.  Bonus points were given if any of the literary devices were used.  You can grab my assignment sheet and grading sheet by clicking on the picture above.

This young poet not only integrated social studies into her writing, but was determine to use all the literary devices she could.

I was surprised that I didn't get more free verse poems put into the final projects.
Many of my poets liked having some rules when they wrote.  I think this poet was creating her own rules.
Limericks were one of the class favorites.
Unfortunately this happened while we were writing villanelles and this young poet created a limerick within 5 minutes of the fall. I think it was everyone's favorite poem.  

Doublets were created by Lewis Carroll and they can be very difficult to compose, but my students loved playing with the words to change one letter at a time.
I know he says he hates them, but this poet had a lot of fun sharing this poem with the class.  He thought he was so clever.
This ended up being a really fun way to end our year of writing.  While I usually write along with my students, this time I just shared mentor poems and that worked out great too.  Who knew that a poetry unit would be so fun?  As you start planning for next year, remember that April is National Poetry Month and Tuesday, April 24, 2018 will be Put a Poem in Your Pocket Day.  You can grab my student assignment for the day here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Task Problem Tuesday

Welcome back for another Task Problem Tuesday.  This is a really fun line plot task, with "really fun" being the key words according to my students.  They really loved this task.  I introduced line plots by putting one on the board and letting my students talk about what they knew, what they could infer or discover, and what mathematical statements they could interpret from the data.  Then we headed right into working on line plots for the next two days.  This task is actually the third line plot task we did.

Science Fair Ribbons

Along with the task, I gave students copies of the size of each ribbon for them to measure.  It would have been great to have actual ribbons, but I'm not that over the top!  Copies worked just fine.
Note: Make sure to have student round to the quarter inch when they measure the ribbons. I would also suggest having them measure with a partner so they can verify correct measurements before they get to the graphing.  We had a little issue with different rulers giving different measurements, so if possible, have everyone use the same type of ruler too.

This task requires students to:
  • measure with inches
  • convert from inches to yards
  • round measurements to the nearest quarter inch
  • create a line plot 
  • add fractions
  • divide a fraction by a whole number
  • interpret data 
  • calculate mean, mode, median, and range
IMO, any task that requires students to use that many skills while you teach a new standard is a task worth doing. This task is part of my Line Plot Math Tasks, which contains 10 line plot tasks.  You can find it at TpT.  If you are only interested in the Science Fair Ribbons task, you can grab all of the pages for it by clicking here.  Happy problem solving!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Math in Practice: Something for All Grades

Welcome back for my last post about Math in Practice.  Today I am going to take a look at the sample tasks for all of the grades.  You don't need to take my word about these tasks, you can download them for yourself at Heinemann.

Math in Practice: Teaching Kindergarten Math
The kindergarten sample includes Module 5: Comparing Numbers 1-10. The lessons included in the module focus on comparing groups of objects and comparing written numerals.  Student use counting and matching as strategies for comparing groups and determine more and less with activities such as Matching Bears, Towers of Cubes, and Just Enough Carrots. When the students are ready to move toward working with numbers, the module includes games such as Spin and Show 1 More, Roll and Compare, and Which Number is Greater.  The module is filled with vocabulary and math talk opportunities, plus ideas for differentiation, literature integration, and I can statements.

First Grade
The first grade sample is Module 12: Working with Money.  This module focuses on recognizing coins, knowing the value of each coin, and counting sets of like coins.  In the About the Math section of this module, the authors recommend teaching this throughout the year with brief experiences that are scattered.  Incorporating these skills into your calendar time is a great way to ensure that you keep going back to the skills again and again.  The activities in the unit such as Coin in My Pocket, Comparing Values, Counting Pennies and Dimes, and Counting Nickels would make great additions to any calendar routine. I also loved the student made Coin Poster idea.  Many of the activities such as What Is in the Purse, Race to a Dollar, and Who Has More Cents would be great for math center activities too.   This is a really great module for introducing money.  

Second Grade
The second grade sampler has Module 11: Exploring Time.  The goals for second grade include telling and writing time to the nearest five minutes on digital and analog clocks and understanding a.m. and p.m.  This unit includes lessons with movement, such as Make a Human Clock, as well as lessons that connect to what they already know about geometry and fractions with Splitting the Clock.   One of the things I like the best in this module are the questions to help student think about time and the difference between a.m. and p.m. such as:  "Brendan said he ate breakfast at 7:30 p.m.  Do you agree or disagree? Explain why."  There are also some great practice game and activities included.

Third Grade
Module 5, Rounding Numbers to the Nearer Ten or Hundred, is the third grade sample.  It focuses on rounding to the nearest ten, the nearest hundred, and understanding what rounding is and how it can be useful.  I love the use of number lines as a visual for this concept and the lesson that allows students to discover the rule themselves for rounding both to the nearest ten and hundred.  There are also several great suggestions for practice activities that would work great as math center activities.

Fourth Grade
The fourth grade sample contains Module 9: Multiplying Fractions by Whole Numbers.  It focuses on helping students understand that nonunit fractions (3/4) can be a product of unit fractions (3 x 1/4), finding the product of a fraction multiplied by a whole number and solving word problems using visual models.  I love the use of pattern blocks to show the multiplication, as well as number lines.  This is definitely another strong unit.

Fifth Grade
The fifth grade sample is Module 13: Exploring Volume. My previous post, Math in Practice: Fifth Grade, is about using an activity from the fifth grade sampler. We built rectangular prisms from graph paper as we tried to discover the formula for calculating volume.  You can click the link below to read about it.

You can read my previous posts about this series with these links:
Math in Practice: Proficiency and Beliefs
Math in Practice: Fifth Grade

I have to say that I am so excited to have this resource for the full year.  Math in Practice has a wealth of hands-on, engaging math activities that will benefit your students.  Among my favorite things in this series are:

  • Engaging activities
  • Rich mathematical tasks
  • Discussion ideas
  • Math vocabulary
  • About the math teacher information
  • Differentiation ideas
  • Practice activities and games
This is such an amazing resource that will enrich any math curriculum.  Check it out at Heinemann.  You won't be disappointed!

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'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!