As I have said before, I teach 5th grade so I am constantly trying to get my kids up and moving. The math curriculum we have is….kind of boring. The written format for math workshop is essentially- whole class lesson on the rug, then the kids go off and complete workbook pages. It’s just not fun-and kids need to have more fun in math. And let’s be honest, it’s no picnic for me as the teacher either. So, last year I made a pact with my class-at least 2 days a week we don’t do workbook pages. Instead, I pull something from another resource or modify the scheduled lesson in another way. Yes- this does sound time consuming but it’s really not.
As a Type-B teacher, I am always pulling things last minute from Pinterest or from someone else. One of my favorite things to do on non-workbook page days is to take the problems from the pages, put them up around the room and have the kids walk around and solve them. Essentially they are just doing the pages but in a fun way that gets them moving around the room. It requires very little work on my part. Sometimes I have them do their work on post-its and stick them to the poster the problem is on, and other times I give them a recording sheet that I collect.
To differentiate, I try to throw in a few problems that are simpler, and some that are more challenging. Sometimes I set a timer and tell the class to solve as many as they can in a given amount of time. Other times I tell them to solve at least 3/4 of the problems available. This allows students to pick and choose which problems they try, and puts less pressure on them, making it a bit more fun. ** Anytime you can give kids a “choice” do it! They love having control, and you inevitably are dictating that choice.
So if you are looking for a quick and easy way to spice up your math workshops and get your kids up and moving, try this strategy!
It has become a routine the last few years of school to start off the year with the Week of Inspirational Math. The WIM was developed by Jo Boaler and her team at Stanford University. Her site, YouCubed has countless open ended math tasks that encourage teamwork, critical thinking, and problem solving. I use her activities quite a bit throughout several units we do in 5th grade.
The WIM is made up of 5 lessons, each with a quick video to show the students. Each day there is a central theme including messages such as making mistakes are important, speed it not, visuals and tools help us learn, working with others helps us see things a new way, and confidence is key. The best thing about the WIM is that the lessons are all planned and laid out for you. They are basically idiot proof (for teachers!) which makes it such a good way to start off a busy start to the school year. All of the activities are low floor high ceiling, which means they are approachable to all students.
One of my favorite activities is called Four 4’s. In this task, students need to make different equations using ONLY four 4’s to make different numbers. For example 4+4+4+4=16 and 4 x 4 +4 +4= 24. They can use any operation they want, the only rule is they can only use the number 4 and they must use all four. What I love best about this activity is I get to see what operations my students are comfortable with. Some use fractions, some exponents, while some stick to addition and subtraction. Regardless of their level they can each be successful and challenged in their own way.
When my students create a new number, they write their equation on a sticky note and add it to a class chart. I keep the chart up in my room all year and when students come to me and say “Mrs. Sullivan I’m done with my work” I can point them in the direction of the Four 4’s board and they have something challenging to work on next. Anchor activities like that keep me sane in my classroom.
The Youcubed site is free to join, and there are 3 full Week’s of Inspirational Math currently available on the site. That’s 15 lessons all planned out and ready to go to enrich your math workshops! The lessons are each broken up into grade level ranges to no matter which elementary level you teach, there is a lesson appropriate for you!