Friday, September 30, 2011

TheRecord - Is your child struggling with math?

TheRecord - Is your child struggling with math?

This is a great article from the Waterloo Record (via the CP). It might be worth clipping and posting, physically in a spot where parents can see it, and posting on your classroom/school blog. i've included a link to the original source above, but here's the article in its entirety below...

Is your child struggling with math?

Lack of conceptual understanding may be at fault

TORONTO — Now that children have settled in to their school year, teachers and parents might be noticing that time spent on math homework doesn’t necessarily add up to a successful outcome.

A Calgary educator suggests that some kids may not be getting the deep conceptual understanding they need.

“One of the things we’re finding is teachers tend to have kind of a rich range of interpretations for concepts, but they’re not always aware of the range of interpretations they have or that they’re using,” said Brent Davis, a professor and chair of mathematics education at the University of Calgary.

For example, he said there are at least 12 distinct interpretations of multiplication offered between Grades 1 and 7, “but only one is made explicit: repeated addition, repeated addition, repeated addition.”

“So kids also need to be made explicitly aware that it could be understood in terms of area making, in terms of hopping along a number line, in terms of stretching a number line, in terms of scaling, and the list goes on,” he explained.

“Teachers are aware of these and use all of them. They just have forgotten that they know them.”

“I’ve actually visited high school classes where they’re talking about multiplication of matrices, or multiplication of vectors, and how do you add a vector to itself? ... Even so, the teacher says ‘multiplication is repeated addition.’ It makes no sense.”

At cocktail parties, parents will tell him they liked math or were good at math until about Grade 6.

That jibes with the fact that the big explosion of interpretations around basic operations happens about Grade 5 or 6, he said.

Ron Lancaster, a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto, said he feels strongly that educators need to present math in a different way to kids who don’t get it.

“To light the fires and get them excited about the subject, I’m all for using puzzles and games. There’s a field called recreational mathematics that involves some beautiful engaging mathematics, you know, that’s really neat and intellectually very strong,” he said.

He also suggested an approach that involves art — for instance studying the work of the late American artist Sol LeWitt.

“Much of his work is very mathematical. That’s something that kids could study and learn about, and then end up learning the mathematics through the back door.”

In the area of literature, he recommended The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa.

“It’s a great novel that incorporates a lot of mathematics into the story,” he said.

Lancaster described a visit to Paris earlier this year when he used his camera to make a video of the Louvre as his boat passed by. He said it would be great to show students the video and ask them to figure out how fast the boat was going.

“You can look up the length of the Louvre using Google maps or Google Earth ... so now you know how long the building is and you can look at the video and see how long it took to take the video, and you can calculate the speed.”

An approach like this can turn kids on in mathematics, he said, while dry lectures and worksheets turn them off.

Tracy Solomon, a developmental psychologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, said she can’t emphasize enough that the comfort level of parents when it comes to math will have an impact on their children.

It is “such a shame” when adults transmit to kids a fear or loathing of math, she indicated.

She said moms and dads can do a lot to help their little ones become comfortable with numbers starting at an early age.

“For example, you can practise counting tasks with small sets of objects,” Solomon said in an interview.

Beyond counting, they can spend time discussing baseball and hockey statistics or playing games that involve a scoring system. Board games that involve strategy might also exercise the “math muscle.”

“Math is part of your everyday life,” she said, noting that kids can count cupcakes at the bakery and help to figure out costs at the supermarket checkout.

“We all use it and we all have to use it.”

When it comes to learning and homework, children have to be focused and develop self-discipline so they’re not distracted by other things, she noted.

Society in general — and a lot of teachers — have a tendency to label kids as being good at math or not, and there has to be a willingness to reach all children, she said.

Practice is key, and a lot can be done to close the gap between those who enter kindergarten with a familiarity of number, measurement and geometry terms, and those who don’t.

As for hiring a tutor, Davis said it can help if the instructor has a sense of the interpretations they’re using, but there’s nothing worse than a tutor pushing kids through rote application.

“We don’t need people who are good human calculators any more, and frankly, as someone who has instructed mathematics at the post-secondary level, people who come from heavily rote-based tutoring are lost in first-year university,” he said.

“They simply are not prepared to grapple with the conceptual complexity of the concepts that arise.”

The Canadian Press

Monday, September 26, 2011

Engaging in Deeper Thinking

Click this link for an interesting article on Encouraging Your Students to Engage in Deeper Thinking. Having students share their thinking through a community that encourages Math Talk allows for making that metacognitive process explicit. More importantly, modelling that skill (at EVERY grade level) will only help them with that process.

If you still haven't clicked the link, here is an excerpt to encourage you...

What you share models your own thought process, and from there you can train students to exploit their own stories, thoughts, and musings to help create a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Creating a classroom culture of storytelling leads to deeper connections, deeper commentary, and ultimately higher achievement. It is a version of Think Aloud, a strategy many elementary teachers use faithfully, yet an all-important process underutilized by many of us in the secondary levels.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Count Me In Too

Here is an interesting site that i somehow stumbled is an interactive website based out of New South Wales. In the words of the website itself, it is based on a professional development program developed to support the effective teaching of mathematics in years K-6. The program melds findings from research about how children learn mathematics, with research on effective professional development. It has three major components:
  • A theory of number development based on research from around the world and described in a learning framework;
  • An individualised Schedule for Early Number Assessment used by teachers to place each child at a point within this framework; and
  • A professional development program designed to assist teachers better understand how children learn arithmetic.
Here is a link to the main page: click here.

The reason i came across the site itself was due to a search i was doing looking for Numeracy resources connected to Indigenous people, which this site has some pieces on.

Monday, September 19, 2011

We Want YOUR Input!!!

Please take the time to fill out the Professional Development survey for Six Nations Education Staff...

Click here to take survey

Friday, September 16, 2011

Enriching Math

Here's a new site (to me, anyway) that i came across somewhat by accident. It is called Nrich Maths ( and it is best described on the website itself:


The NRICH Project aims to enrich the mathematical experiences of all learners. To support this aim, members of the NRICH team work in a wide range of capacities, including providing professional development for teachers wishing to embed rich mathematical tasks into everyday classroom practice. More information on many of our other activities can be found here.

On our website you will find thousands of our free mathematics enrichment materials (problems, articles and games) for teachers and learners from ages 5 to 19 years. All the resources are designed to develop subject knowledge, problem-solving and mathematical thinking skills. The website is updated with new material on the first day of every month. For guidance on how to find the right resources for you, go to the Help section of the site.

I tried a few of the activities, and i can definitely see how it would be an enriching experience for students. i am adding it to the website list on the right.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

NEW Gap Closing Resources

This just in from the MATH GAINS page (accessible from the EduGAINS link on the right)...

Gap Closing: ePractice

  • Gap Closing Grade 6: ePractice activities for students to consolidate their learning and get extra practice. Web-based, interactive activities available 24/7, with built-in feedback and multiple options for student users. Click on "Gap Closing Grade 6 Number Sense" under Learning Materials on the MathGAINS home page in the left menu to try these out yourself or to download for use with your students.

Reporting Updated Info

This was just posted on EduGAINS, as well as an updated Questions and Answers section for September 2011...

Materials used for the Regional Progress Report Sessions are available for previewing and for use by boards and schools to conduct their own local sessions. However, it is advisable that local in-services using these materials take place after board teams have attended one of the regional training sessions.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Please consider attending Grand Erie DSB's After School PD...

Enhancing Mathematical Understanding through Effective Numeracy Blocks

This session will focus on enhancing students’ understanding of math concepts through effective use of the numeracy block. Emphasis will be made on developing three-part lessons which incorporate a problem solving approach. Participants are asked to bring either their Math Alignment Scope and Sequence or their Mathematics curriculum documents.

Time: 4:00 - 5:30
Date: November 8, 2011 Location: NSSC (Waterford) E-Center: 9402
Date: November 9, 2011 Location: JBLC , 347 Erie Avenue, Brantford E-Center: 9403

This is just ONE of the workshops offered, but the only one specifically relating to math. For more details on the other workshops, feel free to e-mail me OR check your staff room info board.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Caribou Cup Returns!!!

Have you registered your class for this year's Caribou Cup Contest??? Use the link on the sidebar OR click here to go to the site to register.

Grades 3 to 8 can participate,
The math learning is great,
I'm sure you can't wait,
Help your students accelerate...


For more info, please contact me. It would be great to see students that have written the test in the past continue to write it this year, as they most certainly should see a progression in their abilities to solve problems and think about math in a fun context.

Contest dates are available on the Caribou page, and are also listed below:

October 12th
November 16th
January 18th
February 15th
April 18th
May 9th

All grades participate on the same day, and all contests occur on a Wednesday.