Musings and Strategies From the Teachers Next Door


     One of the changes I have decided to make this year in my math classroom, along with probably most of Georgia’s math teachers, is to really help students think through problems so as to be articulate with their thought process. Yes, this decision was SOMEWHAT inspired by the new Georgia Milestones assessment, but not entirely.

I have already been quite vocal about my passion for the 8 SMPs. Focusing on these has revolutionized my classroom. No one ever says they are done! EVER!  We received a new student last week from a county just outside of Atlanta. He is extremely bright! He began class by answering my bell work using just a number. That was it. Nothing else. And there he sat. The students seated nearby took one look at that and audibly gasped. It caught my attention. When I inquired the group as to the problem, the students quickly pointed out that “the answer isn’t good enough!” Inwardly, I smiled as I walked on. I didn’t have to say a word. My students understand that there is more to a correct answer than the number. They also understand that they are never done.

This knowledge, mantra, whatever you want to call it, came about because from day 1, we have talked about the 5 Finger Method of problem solving. I owe a huge amount of thanks to both Mike Wiernicki and Turtle Toms for their hand drawn rubric that I found in Mike’s virtual filing cabinet. I discovered,over the course of the first week, that when presented as it was, my elementary kids had a very hard time recalling all that they needed to include in constructed response questions. So, I made it a little simpler. But the premise is the same. I love that by starting with a “What I know” and a “What I need to Know” Tree Map, students of all levels know where to begin which provides an entry point for all learners.

My absolute favorite portion of the rubric is the “connections”. In my classroom this is where they connect the problem to other math by using the inverse operation and checking, but it can also mean “make a connection between the math you used here and your home or community”…it is SO fun to watch the students make those connections.

So, as a thanks to both Mike and Turtle, and in an effort to pay it forward, here is a 5 Finger Method pack. It includes the visual, a teacher rubric (for grading purposes), and a student rubric (in an easy to understand format for grades 3-5).

While there are other methods to solving constructed response math questions, such as “ACE”…my opinion is that you can “ACE” a constructed math question but yet fail to make connections and ultimately bomb on those standarized tests that require a constructed response.

I hope you find this to be as helpful in your room as I have found it to be in mine! Happy Labor Day!

Five Finger Rubric Slides


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