Thursday, June 23, 2016

Six: Math Manipulatives, Tools, and Proceses

As you prepare for a terrific math teaching year ahead, affiliate with supportive organizations, establish a positive math teaching mindset, make time for a dynamic room set-up, create a website, build knowledge of expectations, and make plans to introduce math manipulatives and tools as well as the protocols for strategic use and practice.

Utilizing manipulatives help students to learn and apply math knowledge, concept, and skill.

To use math manipulatives, process, and tools well students need to know what they are and where they are located. They also need to understand the protocols associated with good use so that the tools, processes, and manipulatives are available when and where they need them.  You may couple the introduction of specific manipulatives with early year lessons, practice, and vocabulary review. Essentially beginning the year with these kinds of lessons lets students understand the playful, hands-on, and accessible discipline math is and provides them with engaging avenues for mathematical thinking, exploration, and study.

I've listed some of the tools, processes, and manipulatives I plan to use at the start of the year below. It's a list I'll continue to add to, and if you have suggestions for me, please let me know.

Grid White Boards and Pens
Students really enjoy learning math with grid white boards and pens. A great early year lesson is using the white boards to set up a coordinate grid, plot points, and create a picture. After that students can create another picture and set of coordinates to share with a friend. The most important protocol with regard to white boards is where to store them, how to clean them, and organization of the pens (and caps).

A great way to learn about rulers is to make your own rulers. An early year lesson on using a ruler to make a ruler introduces students to the language of measurement as well as benchmark fractions and the fact that the ruler is a number line. Later students can practice drawing lines of specific lengths, making margins, learning to start at the 0 point, and later practice using the rulers to draw designs. Early learning about how to use the rulers and where to store them allows students to access rulers whenever needed during the year as they complete projects, make math models, and study numbers.

Tiles are a great resource for all kinds of math teaching/learning, and at the start of the fifth grade year using tiles to review facts and arrays is a great exercise. Beginning with 24 tiles and asking students to make as many different arrays as possible is a great exercise for initial tile use and review of arrays, facts, area, and perimeter concept, knowledge, and skill.

Legos and K'nex
Building and creativity toys like Legos and K'nex offer positive math model making materials and free time play too that supports math teaching and learning.

Google Apps
Google Apps are terrific for math teaching/learning. Beginning the year with teaching students how to use Google table and draw to create math models is very helpful. Students in fifth grade will use Google apps to make number posters for numbers 0-100. The posters will include meaningful illustrations of the number, the numbers' factors and some multiples, number facts, expressions equivalent to the number and equations too. There's more information about this activity on this post.

Pattern Blocks
Early year introduction to the definition of a pattern and the properties/attributes of pattern blocks enables students to use these blocks all year to inform math study and project work as well as to have the lens of "pattern seeker" and "property/attribute identifier."

Tangrams are lots of fun to use and provide a great way for students to develop mathematical thinking and understanding of two-dimensional shapes and their properties. There are great online tangram exercises as well.

Origami Paper
Having a collection of origami paper, origami books, and online origami sites also supports math teaching and learning. In the past few years, we've had an origami expert come in to teach math with origami. Starting the year with a simple math origami activity introduces students to this wonderful math activity--an activity they can explore more at home and during their free time.

Math Books
Having a basket or book case filled with math related books is a great way to demonstrate to children that reading about math is a great way to learn math. There are lots and lots of great math books out there, so many that you could actually begin math class every day by reading a short excerpt from or entire math picture book. These books have been well organized and researched, so it's a great way to teach.

Online Math Games, Songs, and Videos
Introducing students to online math games, songs, and videos, and making those sites easily accessible via your math website provides another enjoyable avenue for math learning and teaching.

It may seem silly, but many students don't know how to use scissors well. An early year activity with paper folding and cutting can help students to study symmetry, right angles, and the properties of two-dimensional shapes. You can use this lesson to review scissor safety and protocols too.

Colored Pencils and Markers
Since the fifth grade year includes lots of math model making, students can practice making arrays using graph paper, colored pencils, and markers early in the year. This can be coupled with the tile lesson and will support students' model making all year. Students can learn how to use fine line markers to border edges, while using colored pencils to shared different model parts. Research has demonstrated that using color helps students to delineate concepts, parts, and ideas in math. An early year explicit lesson in this regard helps students to make precise models all year long.

Learning to use cubes provides a great opportunity for students to learn volume. Our cubes became difficult to connect last year, so this year I'll likely use sugar cubes. Or I may use this as an opportunity to teach students how to create nets and then use those nets to make three-dimensional figures, and later use those three-dimensional cubes to learn and study volume. The more we can deconstruct concepts with manipulatives and project work, the better able we are to help students develop deep understanding of mathematical concepts, knowledge, and skill.

Base Ten Blocks and 3D Models
At fifth grade I prefer using online base ten blocks to review the base-ten system, but it's also good to have some base-ten blocks available for trading games to build understanding. Last year I used the 3D printer to create a 3D base ten model which was a terrific exercise, one that would be great for students if you have access to 3D printers.

Teaching students to code early in the year will support students' creation of animated math models. In the past, I've used Khan Academy coding and Scratch in this regard. Prior to the Base Ten Number System unit, I'll make some time to review coding with students so they can animate models that demonstrate the "behavior" of the base ten number system.

I have many types of paper in my classroom. Organizing the paper well and introducing the paper to students will help them to choose the right paper for the right task. I'll discuss paper types and we'll use lots of different kinds of paper at the start of the year so students know what to choose and how to use.

Pencils, Sharpeners, and Erasers
So often students' hands get tired because their pencils are dull. We'll talk about sharpening pencils regularly so you have a good point. We'll discuss when to use an eraser and when crossing out is just fine. The goal here is to know how to use the tools well so that most of the focus is on developing a strong mathematical skill, concept, and knowledge foundation.