Math in the Garden

Ronald (Ron) Douglas Frazier via Compfight cc

The Atlantic recently ran an interesting piece titled Math in the Garden by Nadra Kareem Nittle.

“As class got under way on a recent fall morning, the first-graders Jessica Brimley teaches at Los Cerritos Elementary in Long Beach, California, still hadn’t mastered the concept of estimation. When Brimley told the children they’d be using the technique, a boy’s hand shot up to ask for a definition.

But Brimley wasn’t just going to give him the answer or point him to a dictionary. Instead, she used nature to demonstrate; after all, her classroom isn’t indoors, but in the school’s 48,000 square-foot garden, an approach teachers at Los Cerritos and elsewhere are using more and more to engage students.

To help the students understand estimation, Brimley held up a ruler, explaining how some farmers use the the measuring tool to plant precise rows.” Read the rest of the piece here.

How Turning Math Into a Maker Workshop Can Bring Calculations to Life

Sometimes something unexpected — such as a banana keyboard — can provide a hook for students who may need it the most.  In this Mindshift piece a teacher finds ways to inspire her students and turn them into learners who love math.

By Author :

“It might have been the banana piano. Or perhaps the bongos, made from lemons that students had plucked from the citrus tree at school. Elizabeth Little, who teaches middle school math and science, doesn’t know exactly which of the hands-on projects she introduced to her remedial math class turned the class around. But by the end of the school year, all her math students, not just those needing extra support, were clamoring for more math.

How did this happen?

Little teaches at Martin Luther King Jr Middle School in Berkeley, California, where classes like sewing, woodshop, and metal shop — what she calls “practical ways of learning math” — are no longer offered; tight budgets and renewed emphasis on academic learning have eliminated them. But Little couldn’t bear to subject already disengaged students to yet another ho-hum class of multiplication tables and long division.

Instead, she took a gamble and brought some materials to school for her students to play with: a sewing kit, the 3-D doodler she’d just been given, her son’s marble-run set and a MaKey MaKey device she knew nothing about, donated by a friend.” 

Read the rest of the article here.

“Memorizers are the Lowest Achievers” New Math Op-Ed

flickr photo by martinak15 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

From the Hechinger Report, a new Op-Ed by Stanford Professor Jo Boaler:

“It’s time to debunk the myths about who is good in math, and Common Core state standards move us toward this worthy goal. Mathematics and technology leaders support the standards because they are rooted in the new brain and learning sciences.

All children are different in their thinking, strength and interests. Mathematics classes of the past decade have valued one type of math learner, one who can memorize well and calculate fast.

Yet data from the 13 million students who took PISA tests showed that the lowest achieving students worldwide were those who used a memorization strategy – those who thought of math as a set of methods to remember and who approached math by trying to memorize steps. The highest achieving students were those who thought of math as a set of connected, big ideas.

The U.S. has more memorizers than most other countries in the world. Perhaps not surprisingly as math teachers, driven by narrow state standards and tests, have valued those students over all others, communicating to many other students along the way – often girls – that they do not belong in math class.

The fact that we have valued one type of learner and given others the idea they cannot do math is part of the reason for the widespread math failure and dislike in the U.S.

Brain science tells us that the students who are better memorizers do not have more math “ability” or potential but we continue to value the faster memorizers over those who think slowly, deeply and creatively – the students we need for our scientific and technological future. The past decade has produced a generation of students who are procedurally competent but cannot think their way out of a box. This is a problem.”  

Read the entire piece here.

New Research on Teaching Strategies for Improving Algebra

flickr photo by Tom_Brown 6117 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

The US What Works Clearinghouse recently released a guide with new research on teaching strategies for improving Algebra.

Math consultant Erma Anderson said the guide offers three evidence-based recommendations for teaching algebra:

1. Use solved problems to engage students in analyzing algebraic reasoning and strategies.
2. Teach students to utilize the structure of algebraic representations.
3. Teach students to intentionally choose from alternative algebraic strategies when solving problems.

Read the entire report here.

Great Online Math Resources

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by breatheoutnow:

Our librarian, Rebecca Battistoni, recently shared these as part of her weekly update.  There’s something for everyone here, check one out!

“For elementary students, this author has a great website with math games perfect for the younger students.  Greg Tang’s books are here in the library, so why not design some lessons around his math books and online games?  Greg Tang Math Games
This site has math games at various levels, for the youngest student through basic algebra and geometry.  Be sure to scroll down to the links at the bottom of the page! Cool Math
For some challenging MS/HS online math games, try this site: Game On!
Finally, here is another site that not only has math games, but also business, economics, and real world problem solving simulation games for MS/HS.  Head over to Learn for Good.”