Friday, February 26, 2010

Organizing a Math Lesson

Planning maths is a constant around here. It takes a lot to stay ahead of the game when not using a math curriculum. I have several books that are always open, and more that are always bookmarked that help me in the planning process. I also keep track of plans, ideas, and games with gobs of notes in many different places around the house. So, how do we pull it all together so we can actually enjoy a fun math lesson? It’s not all that hard, to be honest, and I like to use a three stage planning process.

1. Decide what we want to teach. Sometimes I have predecided this, or I see a weakness one of the kids has and I decide we need to focus on that area for a while. There are many great resources out there for helping decide what to teach children based on their age and grade level. One of the best free resources I’ve found comes from World Book. It breaks down what children should know from Preschool through Level/Grade 12, and it covers a lot more then maths. So, if you’re curious where your kids fall compared to what they might learn in a schooling system you can always check there. You could also invest in the “What Your Child Needs To Know...” series, but I prefer to go with free when I can.

2. After deciding what we’re going to learn I have to deicide how we’ll learn it. My favorite resource, which you probably all ready know, is A Collection Of Math Lessons. We own the Red and Blue books thus far in this series and each time I read through a section of the books I have this feeling that I’m peeking in on someone else’s math lessons. The ideas are simplistic and represented in a very gentle way, two features that truly appeal to me. They are, of course, the first resources I turn to, but not the only ones. I also like looking in Meeting Math Standards With Picture Books, which uses picture books to teach various math lessons.

3. Lastly we look for ways to tie it all together. This would include our math journals, games, hands on work, and the occasional worksheet. Our math journals are where we store our game sheets (when a game requires one), math vocabulary sheets, and other bits and pieces. Sometimes I’ll make the kids papers with 3-6 problems on it that help them use previously learned skills, they also tuck those in there.

The games we play may vary from day to day and week to week. I will often let the kids pick a game if they want. Jayden’s hand down favorite is Tens Concentration. He can’t get enough of it. Morgan loves them all. I often pick a game we’re more familiar with to start our lessons, and one that will help us work on the new skill or master a skill we need more practice with. We have a variety of resources for picking games which are not limited to, but include Family Math, A Collection Of Math Lessons, Card Game Round Up, The Kid’s Everything Math Book, & various places online that I’ve bookmarked over time (I’m actually trying to compile an organized list of these games and the topics/skills they cover. A bit nerdy I suppose but,..) I also have a new book on my wish-list called Mega Fun Math Games & Puzzles for the Elementary Grades.

I often make the kids “worksheets” which include a few problems to work on new skills and a few problems to work on skills they should know. I often include one problem on the paper that is a skill they struggle with. However, if you’re not up to making your own papers or want to do a drill paper or whatever you can make your own worksheets here or here.

We’ve also really enjoyed using the book Math Minutes put out by Creative Teaching Press. Now, I’m going to be honest here and say that I wasn’t entirely sure which level to buy and was planning on getting 2nd & 3rd grade for my boys. In the end I purchased the 3rd grade level with the idea of going back for the 2nd grade level later. Thus far, and we’re not SUPER far in yet, my boys have had no issues with the problems at hand. Yes, this includes my 1st grader. Because we learn together we learn the same stuff at the same time, sometimes pared down when the younger one needs it. Thus, my kids might know things that are above their grade level, but they might also be unaware of things that are on their grade level or below. It all evens out in the end.

Once I have all my plans made and manipulatives (if needed) gathered together I present the lesson to the boys. Often times we present the skill to them and then continue to play games and openly discuss it over the week ahead. Other times they catch on so quickly that we mention it once, play a few games scattered over several weeks and that’s that. Yet, other times we may stick with a particular skill because while they grasp it there’s still an obvious need for more work on it. I kinda of take my cue from them.

In fact, I tend to take notes on those cues too. I’ll write things down in my planner like:

“Mon: M, understands the concept of place value, but struggles with the ten’s area. J, understands concept of place value but struggles with thousands.

Tues: M, did much better today and seems to have fully grasped it. We’ll continue playing various place value games before introducing written work on this concept.

J, still needs reminder that we say thousands first, but otherwise doing quite well. Again, continue to play games before giving written work with this concept. “

I tend to keep notes on other various subjects too as it helps me plan my weeks ahead and know which areas the kids need more work in and which ones only need the occasional glance or reminder. I don’t often use anything fancier then our “What we did this week” page in the planner.

Keeping notes also makes starting conversations quite interesting. Jayden was struggling with addition when he first started. He’d see 2+2 and say 22. So, one day while cooking breakfast I made up a story about the farmer, his cows, and his sheep. The farmer couldn’t sleep because he couldn’t figure out how many ears, feet, and tails were in various word problems.

It sounds like a lot more work then it is, and generally as long as I know what I want to teach in a week then the plans come together quite quickly. It also helps having my notes to refer back to so I know which games or problems the kids need for review work.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Kendra! I need to come back to it and read it more carefully, checking out all your links. Math is my weakness. :)

Kylie said...

oh Kendra, thanks so much for this post. As we start a new math workbook here I have been wishing we could throw it out the door! Your math posts inspire me to get moving towards that.

I am now working on one lesson a week being outside of a math book af any sort, wish me luck. Gotta start somewhere right!

Can you recommend a good book full of word problems around the grade 2/3 level?

Kendra said...

One small step Kylie! :D As for word problems I tend to make our own up, BUT those math minutes have one word problem in them each day. There's also an entire book made by the same company that's just word problems. I don't own it, because for now making up our own works. I snitched that idea from A Collection Of Math Lessons. ;)

Here's a link to the word problem book I saw and was considering: 5 minute math problem of the Day Ebook Did you check out the Counting On Frank Post? We were also discussing that on the Aussie Homeschool boards (the book I got the ideas from, not the blog post! lol)

It's not word problem, it's more like read a story and do a fun math lesson. I like to use that when we introduce a new math concept!

Kylie said...

Thanks Kendra, much appreciated. :)

Kylie said...

Kendra, just in case you haven't seen this:

Might make your job a bit easier. :) :)

Kendra said...

Wow, that's one amazing list!!

Renee said...

Well, I know this post is probably old, but I couldn't read it without commenting and thanking you for sharing. My daughter LOVED math when we started homeschooling in first grade and I've managed to kill that for her. I know she would respond to living math, and this post is a great kick in the pants to get started down that path. Thanks so much!

Renelle said...

Hi Kendra, Back to pick your brain again!
If you had to pick one math resource (game, book, anything) what would it be?
I'm desparate to improve maths for ds8. I'm just a bit clueless, but I have found lots of info here for us so thankyou once again!!
Blessings, Renelle

Thomas said...

I was talking to a retired math lecturer last week, (you know, who used to teach future maths teachers), and she was saying how many school kids struggle with higher math because they never mastered the basics.
Kind of puts it in perspective just how important the early maths really are. If you're bogged down by 17 + 48 then how can you have a hope to solving a linear equation?
So keep persevering and definitely keep inventing games. Just like you say in the post, I found wrapping maths into stories works wonders.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I love to use math games and recently came across a great site where you can print a huge variety of great games for free: