Social media has arrived in math education with a new website called Sokikom. Introduced at ISTE 2011, Sokikom is a massive multiplayer social learning game for elementary students. The research-based program is based on Social Learning Theory, the idea that people learn by observing others’ behavior and using these observations to model their own behavior. Sokikom has created a safe, fun environment where students can join teams, compete with each other, and develop their math skills.
The game is aligned with the Common Core State Standards and NCTM Focal Points and follows the guided discovery learning model, which allows students to explore different solutions to each problem. The program also features Challenges, individual learning activities in a self-paced environment. In addition to games, there are also animated lessons with adaptive instruction for students who need additional help.
For now, there are three games, each of which covers a strand of mathematics. Frachine involves fractions, decimals, and percents; Opirate focuses on mathematic operations and algebra; and Treeching includes measurement, algebra, patterns, time and money. A new game with an emphasis on geometry will be released at the end of the summer. Kids can either play individually or in a multiplayer mode. When playing individually, the program adapts to the student’s level. On teams, the students help each other to solve the math problems. Since the website is for young students, it does not include a chat feature, but instead uses predefined signals and hints for kids to communicate with one another.
An engaging social media game may be a great way to keep kids’ math skills sharp this summer. And parents can keep track of their kids’ progress through a web-based interface, even receiving alerts when their child reaches a math topic with which he or she struggles. As social media and online gaming become more popular, why not engage kids in math learning in an environment that they will find stimulating and instructive?
Children all learn differently, but what would be a good and consistent way to assess what is the most effective instructional method for each student? In an article for 3 Quarks Daily, Sarah Firisen shares the success that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® has had on the productivity and environment of her workplace, and she proposes that the test might be similarly effective in schools. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) was developed in the 1940s by Isabel Briggs Myers to determine people’s psychological type based on personality preferences. People can express preferences in four categories: favorite world (extroversion or introversion); information (sensing or intuition); decisions (thinking or feeling); and structure (judging or perceiving). An important point emphasized by the Myers-Briggs Organization is that all types are equal, so no one should be scolded or punished for their type.
Many early studies for the MBTI were done with high school and college students, and teachers have found that knowing their students’ personality preferences allows them to tailor their instruction to reach students with a variety of learning styles. Additionally, understanding personality type allows both students and teachers to recognize and appreciate different ways of seeing and approaching problems. The Murphy-Meisgeier Type Indicator for Children® (MMTIC®) is structured similarly to the MBTI but is designed specifically to be administered to children and teenagers.
Students’ psychological types can evolve over time, and they will inevitably have to do work that doesn’t cater to their strengths, but an indicator of personality preferences is informative for educators as well as for students themselves. For more information on MBTI and MMTIC, check out the Center for Applications of Psychological Type (CAPT), which offers many resources for using psychological type results in the classroom.
Do you think knowing your students' various personality types would be helpful in tailoring instruction to their different learning styles? Be sure to let us know in our online survey!
If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you know that I’m a big sports fan and that I love to integrate sports into math lessons whenever possible. I think that doing so is just one way that we can bring a student’s world into the classroom. In the past, I’ve used baseball players’ batting averages or the percentage of wins of a basketball team to demonstrate a math concept. But when I opened up the sport page of my Sunday paper this week, I came across far more extensive mathematical content. As a New York Yankees fan I was proud of Derek Jeter for reaching the 3,000-hit milestone, but I think I may have been more excited to see the mathematical spread that highlighted his accomplishments. You can find the graphs from the article in New Jersey's Star-Ledger newspaper, which includes an analysis of Jeter's 3,000 hits, and how he compares to others aiming for 3,000.
You don’t have to be a Yankee fan, or even a baseball fan to appreciate the graphs displayed on these pages. They are more than your standard bar graph and require the reader to read and analyze to a greater depth than is typically necessary for newspaper graphs. When I first envisioned using this in a math class, I thought about using it as a tool for differentiation. In middle school, not every student would be able to extract information from some of these graphs. However, advanced students may find these graphs challenging and rewarding to decipher. I plan to search for a series of more simplistic graphs appropriate for other students. Then, by developing a series of individualized questions, I can have students at a variety of skill levels analyzing sports graphs that are appropriate for their ability.
Yes, I’m a fan of math, as well as the Yankees, so of course I was immersed in these graphs for a while. But, I think students would also find these unusual displays intriguing. It shows that data analysis doesn’t just include bar graphs, circle graphs and histograms. These images may even inspire students to think of alternate ways to display this or other data…why not let them get creative?
In a recent blog post
, I discussed that more than three quarters of students in Korea enroll in private tutoring, the highest rate in the world. More than $19 billion was spent on private tutoring in 2009, more than half the amount spent on public education in Korea. Then this past week, the New York Times published this stark contrast
: The Galloway school district in New Jersey will soon vote on a proposal to limit weeknight homework to 10 minutes for each year of school (i.e., 20 minutes for second graders and so forth). On the table is also the consideration to ban assignments on weekends, holidays and school vacations.
From a research angle, this could be a wise move. The New York Times reports:
Research has long suggested that homework in small doses can reinforce basic skills and help young children develop study habits, but that there are diminishing returns, said Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. The 10-minute guideline has generally been shown to be effective, Dr. Cooper said, adding that over all, “there is a minimal relationship between how much homework young kids do and how well they test.”
Several schools around the nation have already implemented new homework policies. One school replaced homework with individualized “goal work” that can be completed in class or at home. Another is prohibiting weekend assignments in elementary grades, one introduced a homework-free winter break, and a gifted and talented program made homework optional. At a Montessori school that I visited this month, students chose their own homework assignments. Their teacher told me that the third graders started with easy assignments but later gave themselves more challenging ones, so they naturally choose to progress.
Maybe part of the problem is not the amount of time spent but rather the homework assignment itself. I recall the time flying by when I created a rubber band-powered car for science class for days but spending an hour to fill in the blanks on history worksheets felt like an eternity. While I agree that kids should have time to play and just be kids, I worry that limiting homework time would also limit more creative and meaningful projects. More than 500 people have also put in their two cents on the NYT site.
A recent NPR report points to blended instruction as a solution to school budget cuts that are reducing the number of classrooms and resulting in increasing class sizes. In a blended learning curriculum, students are able to spend part of their time receiving traditional classroom instruction from the teacher, and part using an instructional program on the computer. Students generally remain engaged and on task while working independently on the computer, allowing one adult to supervise a large group of students. And these students can receive personalized digital instruction.
Schools like KIPP Empower Academy in South Los Angeles have been able to maintain the benefit of small classes even in the face of tighter budgets. Kindergarten students break into two groups, one of which works on a small-group lesson while the rest of the class works on computers. Then the groups switch. In the Rocketship Education charter schools, elementary school students rotate through their different subject classes and spend 100 minutes each day in the computer lab (with up to 100 kids working in the lab at a time). The computer lab provides a place and time for students to practice the skills and concepts they have learned in class. Teachers can review reports on what students are struggling with and how long they have spent working on a topic.
In an interview, Rocketship Education’s co-founder John Danner extolled the benefits of using a blended approach to teaching. He points out that some facets of instruction are done best by computers, although teachers are not replaceable. Computers can teach basic skills very effectively through adaptive instruction. Teachers are invaluable for social and emotional learning as well as implementing project-based learning and developing critical thinking skills.
As technology use in the classroom increases, what do you think are the most effective ways to use it? And what should the teacher’s role be in providing and facilitating instruction?
I never stop reading. During the summer, I try to squeeze in some non-fiction, but I always find myself searching the internet for new ideas and tips that I can use in the classroom. My most recent find is from the website www.jimwrightonline.com. Jim Wright is the creator of the Intervention Central which provides a plethora of information about how to meet the needs of intervention students.
The article School-Wide Strategies for Managing Mathematics caught my eye because it provides suggestions, as well as an accompanying rationale, for seven key areas of mathematics intervention:
- Applied Problems
- Encourage Students to Draw to Clarify Information
- Improve Performance through a 4-Step Problem Solving Approach
Understand the Problem, Devise a Plan, Carry Out the Plan, Look Back
- Boost Fluency through Explicit Time Drills
- Motivate with Errorless Learning Worksheets
Include answers to problems for quick-check approach
- Two Ideas to Jump-Start Active Academic Responding
Break a longer assignment into shorter ones with immediate feedback; Allow students to respond to easier items orally rather than in writing
- Motivate Students through Reinforcers, Interesting Assignments, Homework Planners, and Self-Monitoring
- Consolidate Student Learning during Lecture through the Peer-Guided Pause
Students work in pairs to review concepts in lesson
- Increase Student Engagement and Improve Group Behaviors with Response Cards
Use individual whiteboards to elicit response from students
- Maintain a Supportive Atmosphere for Classroom “Math Talk”
Model behavior and allow students the opportunity to talk through concepts
- Support Students through a Wrap-Around Instruction Plan
Includes assessment, direct instruction, guided practice, feedback, and review
- Unlock the Thoughts of Reluctant Students through Math Journaling
- Help Students Avoid Errors with the Individualized Self-Correction Checklist – Remind students to pay attention to their common mistakes
- Balance Massed and Distributed Practice
Provide lots of practice on recently learned skills while also encouraging opportunities to review older material
- Teach Effective Test-Preparation Strategies
- Preteach, Model, and Use Standard Math Terms
Review these suggestions and try adding just one or two to your instructional practices during the new school year. Let us know how it goes!
Here's a book to share with your students that is both fun and educational. The Grapes of Math: Mind-Stretching Math Riddles, by Greg Tang, offers a innovative and engaging way to address word problems with students. It consists of sixteen problems, each written in poetic form.
In the introduction, the author states his objective for the book, which is for students to learn what he considers to be the four most important lessons in problem solving. These four lessons are:
- Looking beyond the obvious for the “smarter” solution
- Strategic thinking for easier addition
- Incorporating a variety of skills to achieve the answer
- Identifying patterns and symmetries
Each of the word problems is on a two-page spread, with a poem on the right and the visual representation of the poem on the left. The simplistic rhymes have an easy rhythm and the final couplet is designed to point the reader toward the aforementioned smarter strategy to get the answer.
The Grapes of Math is intended for Grades 2-3. Click here for a sample lesson plan.
Children and teenagers love video games even though they often struggle and fail in their first attempts to move to the next level. Judy Willis, a neurologist and educator, suggests in her Edutopia blog that the video game model provides a strong framework for classroom teaching. Students remain interested when they are faced with achievable challenges, like moving to the next level in a video game. They need to feel like they are not needlessly repeating the same tasks over and over. But students should also not feel overwhelmed by what seems like an unachievable assignment. What motivates students to keep after a challenge is the release of dopamine that creates a pleasure response when they succeed. Completing a task that has already been mastered does not stimulate the same dopamine response.
In her blog post, Willis suggests some ways to implement the video game model in the classroom through scaffolding. Even within a particular topic, students can work at a skill-appropriate level for which they have adequate foundational knowledge. For example, when learning about finding the mean, some students may need to work with basic numbers while other students can calculate the average of decimals or fractions. They are all building their understanding of the mean, but they are facing individualized, achievable challenges.
Students’ progress should be measured in increments based on their individual starting points. Here are some possible ways to record incremental progress:
- Use rubrics to break down assignments into their constituent parts and track students’ improvement in individual skills. A boost in one area will give students the dopamine-pleasure response even if they are unable to improve their performance in all areas at once. If students see progress, they will be more motivated to continue working hard.
- Use flexible classroom groupings, placing students in groups based on their level for each topic covered. Since students face different achievable challenges depending on their mastery of various topics, they are not stuck on one math track.
- Create effort-goal progress graphs for each student with their number of successful attempts at a practice on the horizontal axis, and their time spent practicing on the vertical axis. With this method, students can see and be proud of their progress from their individual starting point. Since these graphs do not directly compare skills, students won’t feel embarrassed if they are further behind than their peers.
To hear more about Dr. Willis’ research, watch these video clips.
Is it too early to start teaching math to my five-month old sons? Don’t laugh…I’m only half kidding. During these summer months when I transition from teacher of many to teacher of two, I think about what I should be doing to ensure that my children are learning developmentally appropriate skills so they enter school years adequately prepared. By the time they enter kindergarten, many young children can count to ten and know their basic shapes. Some can sort objects by various attributes and others may be able to model addition by putting together sets of objects. But, is that enough? If I teach my children these somewhat basic mathematical skills, will it promote success throughout their schooling?
Now, I’m not a parent who is going to go overboard and force my kids to do math while simultaneously fostering their hate for the subject. But, I do want to prepare them to think mathematically. In my research, I came across a position statement from the National Association for the Education of Young Children that gives some advice on how to provide age-appropriate learning. The paper provides lots of great advice, but the part that caught my attention was the Guidelines for Developmentally Appropriate Practice. While many of you deal with older students, it is important to understand these guidelines and recognize that if these aren’t followed at home they should at least be followed in the classroom, regardless of the child’s age.
- Create a community of caring learners: Surround your children with caring people who can teach respect and help them develop positive relationships with others. Guide children as they learn to collaborate and investigate the world around them.
- Teach to enhance development and learning: Provide a balance of adult-guided and child-guided activities. Help the children learn through positive interactions and activities, but also allow them time to explore and discover their own interests.
- Plan curriculum to achieve important goals: Plan activities that are developmentally and educationally significant. Build on prior knowledge, and while goal-setting is important, don’t do too much too soon.
- Assess children’s development and learning: Monitor their progress. Children won’t always achieve a goal by a deadline that you have in mind, but ensure that they are continuously progressing towards that goal.
- Establish reciprocal relationships with families: This guideline applies when the children enter an early-childhood learning program. Parents and families must be involved. Many will not be aware of the aforementioned suggestions, so it is important that educators share such information with families.
I had a very specific reason for searching for this information, but it is important that the guidelines are addressed in any early-childhood program, whether informal or formal. The published statement provides additional details and may help you understand how to implement the guidelines for your particular students.
In a recent post, I wrote about an article detailing the four Jungian Learning Styles: Introversion/Sensing, Extraversion/Sensing, Introversion/Intuition, Extraversion/Intuition. It’s one thing to be aware of these four learning styles, but it’s more important to understand how to reach students of all learning styles in the math classroom. Luckily, the article that I have referenced also includes information about how the learning preferences apply to teaching math.
When addressing each of the styles, four major areas of instruction are to be addressed: Practice, Instruction and Feedback, Numbers or Manipulatives, and Student Mistakes.
- Practice: Sensing students need lots of concrete practice, while intuitive students don’t like to practice once they understand a concept. To address both learning styles, help sensing students develop a conceptual understanding while also providing enough practice for intuitive students. Develop engaging activities that require students to repetitively practice skills, but that can be tailored to the ability level of the student. Think about dice games where the numbers on the dice can be changed depending on student ability.
- Instruction and Feedback: Sensing students need more guidance before starting an activity, while intuitive students like time to work through a problem on their own. It’s important to provide continuous guidance and feedback to some students, while letting others work independently until they ask for help. Try assigning an activity and allowing intuitive students to work independently while guiding the sensing students in a more structured manner.
- Numbers or Manipulatives: Sensing students are more likely to use concrete objects to understand concepts, whereas intuitive students prefer to use numbers. To help all students, refer to manipulatives as a tool for solving problems and explaining solutions. Some students will use manipulatives throughout a problem solving process while others may just need them to help with their explanations.
- Student Mistakes: Some students have a deep conceptual knowledge while other students simply practice until a process is mastered. It’s important to probe all student mistakes to determine “students grasp the concept, are just using a procedure, are making careless mistakes, or still lack conceptual understanding.”
While the summaries above provide some information on how to address various preferences, refer to the article for more specific detail on addressing each of the learning styles. The suggestions may just give you one more tool for helping to understand your students and enable you to address each of their needs.