Musings and Strategies From the Teachers Next Door

Posts tagged ‘5th grade’

It’s True! Math Makes Sense!

I had been losing sleep. I had been wracking my brain. I kept coming up with NOTHING.

Even the shower, which is normally where I do my very best brainstorming, was not helping me with this ever perplexing problem.

How in the WORLD am I going to help my students understand division??

Oh, I had tried all the strategies I could think of. I had tried manipulatives, acting it out, actually having the students divide anything I could think of to try to help them “get it”. And they did. For about a minute or until they spotted a double digit divisor and then it was as if the concept of dividing had morphed into a calculus problem. I had a problem. And it was pretty huge. We work a lot with division in fifth grade.

And then….a life line. I hadn’t asked. It just appeared as if out of nowhere and at EXACTLY the right moment. Graham Fletcher came through with this post. What I love about this post is that now I have been introduced to Joe Schwartz and Nicora Placa. Two more awesome educators who share some really awesome ideas, strategies, and experiences aimed at helping elementary students grow into great thinkers, problem solvers, DIVIDERS. I’m pretty sure that isn’t a word, but who cares?? Do you know what they shared? This treasure!!!!

My small groups this week underwent a division intervention. As we went through the lesson, and we’re folding strips of paper, making quotients, and subtracting, inevitably, in EVERY group I heard a collective, “AAAAHHHH!” It was a gasp. The room got a little brighter. They UNDERSTOOD!!! One of my students said, “Oh. So THAT is why you subtract!”

One of my students who has struggled to understand math probably most of her elementary years, was in one of my groups. She diligently went to work. She was very quiet the first day, not sharing much, but always busy. She worked hard. The next day, as we went to groups, I met with those students again. This day was quite different from the previous day. The girl who had struggled, was now the teacher. She took over the group and taught division as if she had been born dividing.

Now THAT is an awesome week! I love it when my kids take over and teach one another! I love it when educators come together and share! So a huge shout of thanks goes to these awesome collaborators. Math really DOES make sense!

 

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Inertia

spacesuit_inertia

 

The other day in our reading acceleration group, as we were immersed in a close reading activity, a student raised his hand.

“Inertia?! What’s that?!” He asked. While he is an excellent student and one who dives into any available material that involves science, he hadn’t yet been exposed to Newton’s First Law of Motion: Inertia. He verbalized a question that surely was running through many students’ minds and it opened a door. We began a discussion of this law of motion and the students left with a new found understanding of a concept of which they had previously not known. Excellent.

But I continued thinking about inertia. When April and I partnered together to begin this blog and to really immerse ourselves in the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math in our classrooms, we never imagined the resistance that we would encounter. Not toward us, but toward the change that is necessary not just to implement a STEM program, but to investigate and experiment with Project/Problem Based Learning, or really make any changes to the manner in which we instruct.

Now, the discussion in the classroom was based around the physics application (discovered and shared by the students, incidentally). While it was intended as a physics discussion, the implications it has upon us individually was astounding. Simply put, as we well know, inertia is the law that states that an object that is in motion, stays in motion until another thing or force affects it.

But look at the other definitions! According to Webster-Merriam, the definition of inertia is:

  • lack of movement or activity especially when movement or activity is wanted or needed
  • feeling of not having the energy or desire that is needed to move, change, etc.

So what contributes to our inertia as a society? Why do educators experience inertia? I continuously ask myself this question because if we could motivate beyond the inertia, then the future of education would not look quite so dim.

What, then, motivates us? I think it is different for everyone. It could be that teachers want to see profound results first and that would motivate change. After all, who wants to reinvent the wheel if the wheel works well enough? It could be that teachers haven’t been given the professional learning experiences necessary to learn how to accomplish what is being asked. Would those experiences motivate change?  The list goes on and on. And in life, is there not a long list of the “why” something wasn’t or couldn’t be accomplished? More than likely this list includes all things that are just “out of our control”.

I don’t think that is the root of education’s inertia. I don’t think that most of us demand proof before we begin and I don’t think, as a whole, that we are complacent. Think about what drives you  to be more, do more…even if it doesn’t mean financial gain?

How do we then motivate a league of tired, stressed, overworked, underpaid professionals to kick it up a notch? EMOTION.

Ignite the passion. Let passion be the opposing force that acts on our inertia. Choose to be positive and let your positiveness, excitement, and drive affect those around you. That is how we “finish strong”. That is how we affect change. That is how STEM will eventually be integrated in all classrooms. That is how we will begin to relinquish control of our classrooms and hand it over to those who should be in control of their learning and growth: our students!

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