Posts Tagged ‘math’

The Untold Challenge of Teaching 6th Grade Math

January 19, 2020

 

It is rare to find a Primary teacher with a mathematics background. Usually, Primary teachers are far stronger in the Humanities (Liberal Arts), than Maths and Science.

It is for this reason that many opt not to teach 6th Grade math. By that stage, the concepts are too challenging for them to explain (that is if they can solve them at all). It is not uncommon for brilliant teachers to request never to be placed in a 6th Grade classroom, specifically due to the overwhelming nature of the math curriculum.

But there is a hidden challenge in being a 6th Grade maths teacher. One that doesn’t get nearly as much recognition and affects even the most confident of maths teachers.

What do you do with kids who simply don’t get concepts he or she have been taught every single year along the way, with no success?

How do you teach equivalent fractions to a child that’s already had it well explained, has already been shown it on a Fraction Wall and has already been exposed to manipulatives?

The same goes with telling time. If a child doesn’t know how to read an analogue clock by Grade 6, it isn’t because teachers haven’t practised skip counting by 5 and described the function of the minute and hour hand.

In fact, it is very unlikely that the teachers along the way have erred in their explanations. So going into the year thinking your explanation is going to be so much more effective than the previous ones is perhaps a touch conceited.

Some may just settle for explaining the concept once more in the hope that another shot maybe all the child needs to become successful. And if it doesn’t work – “Well, at least I tried.”

I believe one is compelled to find a new and fresh, sometimes even unorthodox way of teaching the material. There needs to be a completely different style of imparting the skill in order to break the gridlock. An outlandish game or activity can sometimes do the trick.

Of course, this is easier said than done.

 

Special Announcement:

I am donating 100% of the royalties of my hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian, during the month of January to those affected by the devastating bushfires in my country, Australia. This book is perfect for children aged 9 to 14 and the ideal class novel for Upper Primary students. Please leave a comment to indicate your purchase. You can buy a copy by clicking on this link.

Teach Math Like Its Never Been Taught Before

March 15, 2018

math-problem

When you begin teaching your 5th or 6th Grade Math class, you often start with a high dose of ego.

You tell yourself that you can easily set any struggling student right by carefully and clearly explaining the skills and processes involved.

And then reality sinks in. It’s clearly not as easy as that.

There is a reason why your struggling students have continued to struggle throughout their first 5 or so years of schooling. It’s not the strength of the teachers they’ve encountered, because chances are, there have been some extremely adept teachers who have used tried and true methods for helping those student bridge the ever widening gaps.

Many teachers have expressed a reluctance of teaching 5th sand 6th Grade Math due to the introduction of concepts and skills which many Primary teachers find difficult. In truth, the major test of a 5th or 6th Grade teacher is not the skills itself, but rather the challenge of helping students learn skills they haven’t been able to grasp from their talented and competent previous teachers.

In order to cut through, teachers are therefore required to change things up. To employ slightly different ways of teaching the same skill. The following are some adjustments that work for me.

  1. Integrate the Skill in a Game – Kids love winning and try to avoid losing at all cost. Game play provides an incentive for children to learn skills that they may have ordinarily have claimed was too difficult. Dice games are the best because it provides a randomness that allows weaker students to often prevail over stronger students. I am constantly blown away by how effective game play is to break through to kids who usually struggle with Math.
  2. Change the wording – The wording of Math is so scientific and technical. Does it have to be? Absolutely not. So change it up. Instead of numerator and denominator, I use top bunk and bottom bunk. It helps. It doesn’t mean I will never teach them the right terminology, it just means I am more focused on the skill that the wording which can often intimidate.
  3. Reinforce the Objectives of Math – There is a reason why Math was invented and kids need to know that to be able to relate to it. I tell my students Math was invented for 2 main purposes. Firstly, to save us time. So instead of having to add 7 +7 a total of 8 times, I can just apply the sum 7×8, which is much quicker and easier. And secondly, for fairness. When I am dividing a birthday cake, everyone wants an equal sized piece. It turns out that children deeply value fairness and relate to the idea of resorting to shortcuts. Why not then explain how the skill of the day fits into one or both of the above categories?
  4. Bite Sized Pieces – I can’t tell you how many students I have confronted in the upper years who weren’t able to read time from an analogue clock. The big mistake, as I eluded to earlier, is to think that a careful and patient demonstration of what the big and little hands tell us will work. Again, you can bet that plenty of highly competent teachers have tried without success. My strategy is to break up the skill into small, bite-sized pieces. I tell them to ignore the hour hand. Pretend it doesn’t exist. Just focus on the minute hand. The next step is to show them the function of the minute hand and not move on until they get it. Only then do I introduce the hour hand. The problem that I have found is that reading an analogue clock involves a level of multitasking which kids (boys especially) find very intimidating. Take it slowly. One skill at a time. They respond better to that.
  5. Use What They Know – Students tend to do much better with currency than decimals. This is quite ironic, as decimals and currency are essentially the same thing. I tell all my students who struggle with decimals to pretend that 0.75 for example, is 75 cents. It helps! Math professors would be irate if they found out I was doing this. They would remind me that students will become unstuck when they encounter a decimal like 0.751, which doesn’t work with the currency technique. So what! Once I have taught them through currency their confidence levels are so high, I have found they are quite receptive to learning the differences that exist between decimals and money.

By the time your students have reached 5th Grade, they already have a sense for whether they like a subject and whether they are proficient at it. It’s so hard to turn the unconfident and unenthusiastic learners around.

But don’t give up. Just do it differently.

Michael Grossman is the author of the hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian. You can download a free ebook copy by clicking here or buy a copy by clicking on this link.

Click on the link to read A Maths Quiz That Manages to be Racist and Sexist

Click on the link to read Introducing the 5-Year-Old Math Genius (Video)

Click on the link to read Parents Struggle with Modern Day Math Questions

Click on the link to read Teachers Deserve Blame for Maths Disaster

Our Students Show us Up All the Time!

November 7, 2015

bobby

 

You just know when there’s a badly worded question that our students will pick up on it. Take the worksheet above for example.

 

 

Click on the link to read Hilarious Video of Children Eating Candy

Click on the link to read Helping Kids Learn from Failure

Click on the link to read How Babies Learn (Video)

Click on the link to read Celebrating Our Mistakes

Teachers Deserve Blame for Maths Disaster

December 6, 2014

 

cat

 

Teachers almost always come from a humanities background. It therefore doesn’t surprise that they tend to feel more comfortable teaching English, History and Geography more than Maths and Science.

A very experienced curriculum coordinator recently told me that it is very common for primary teachers to skip fractions because they aren’t confident with the topic to answer some of their own text book questions let alone explain it to their students.

 

TYPICAL student teachers have the maths ability of a 12-year-old child, leaving them ill-equipped to teach the subject — let alone even pass a Year 9 ­NAPLAN test.

The warning comes from leading univer­sity maths lecturer Stephen Norton, who said that half his students would not pass the Year 9 national numeracy test, even after three or four years of tertiary study.

“Every year I test my students and they’ve got the understanding of a Year 7 or Year 8 kid,’’ the senior lecturer in mathematics education at Griffith University told The Weekend Australian. “They struggle with fractions and proportional reasoning and anything to do with algebra. They should have mastered this by the end of primary school. I believe it is our responsibility in univer­sities to make sure we can remediate that.’’

Dr Norton tested the maths ability of all 125 students who enrolled in a Griffith University graduate diploma of education — a one-year course for those who have a bachelor degree in another field — last year and this year, as well as 40 students in the third year of a bachelor of education course in 2013. Barely half the would-be teachers knew how to convert 5.48km into metres — and 17 per cent failed to convert 6kg into grams. Only 16 per cent could convert temperatures from degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit, using a formula written on the test paper. Just one in four knew how to convert a fraction to a percentage.

Barely one in five students could find the highest common factor of the numbers 28 and 70, and just 13 per cent knew the lowest common multiple of the numbers 40 and 140. More than half the students could not answer the question: “If the total cost of three tickets is $5.64, how much will 10 tickets cost?’’

Just one in three students knew how to calculate the areas of rectangles and triangles.

The alarming results of the only publicly available tests of student-teacher numeracy in Australia will fuel calls to reform the teaching of mathematics at schools and universities.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne has already flagged the introduction of compulsory literacy and numeracy tests for aspiring teachers. The most recent OECD Program for International Student Assessment test reveals that four out of 10 Australian teenagers lack basic maths skills.

The federal Education Department’s newly released 2013 teacher survey shows that only two-thirds of primary teachers and a quarter of high school teachers were trained at univers­ity to teach maths. Five per cent of the nation’s high schools had at least one ­unfilled vacancy for a maths teacher during 2012.

The official survey found that almost a third of teachers involved in teaching numeracy wanted more professional development on the job.

Queensland’s Auditor-General has found that one in three maths teachers in Years 8 to 10 lack a tertiary qualification in mathematics. Dr Norton said half the students he taught flunked his entry test — although their results improved by 30 per cent after they completed eight weeks of maths study, including 32 hours of face-to-face instruction.

“Most prospective primary teachers struggle with upper primary mathematics upon intake,’’ he said.

“It is interesting that the third and fourth-year undergraduate students were on par with the entry postgraduate students.

“Inability to carry out accurate division and convert a decimal to a percentage, or to carry out basic whole-number problem solving, prior and post learning, was cause for concern.

“Most students found any mathematics associated with fractions, proportional reasoning and algebra challenging and in many instances this was only partly remediated over the study time.’’

Dr Norton — who has a PhD in mathematics education and a master of science, and taught maths and science for a decade at Brisbane high schools — called for more face-to-face maths instruction for all trainee teachers.

He said he believed he was the only academic who tested trainee teachers’ maths ability before and after their maths instruction.

 

Click on the link to read Proof that Maths Can be Cool (Video)

Click on the link to read How Kids Learn Maths

Click on the link to read A Father’s Priceless Reaction to his Son’s Report Card (Video)

Click on the link to read Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

Click on the link to read The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Proof that Maths Can be Cool (Video)

December 2, 2014

 

What do you get when you add a proud father who happens to be a sports star and a child who can calculate difficult equations in his head? A great endorsement for mathematics!

 

Click on the link to read How Kids Learn Maths

Click on the link to read A Father’s Priceless Reaction to his Son’s Report Card (Video)

Click on the link to read Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

Click on the link to read The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Click on the link to read Top 10 Math Apps for Children

 

Brilliant Teacher Alert! (Video)

December 27, 2013

Take a bow Mr. Wright! You are an inspiration!

Meet the Armless Math Teacher

September 21, 2012

I love stories about remarkable people overcoming adversity:

A woman born with no arms is proving to children they can achieve whatever they want to – by teaching them with her feet.

Mary Gannon, who works at a Lakewood, Ohio middle school, writes on the board, types on her computer and hands out worksheets with her toes.

Ms Gannon, who teaches maths and science, grew up in a Mexican orphanage and was adopted by an Ohio family when she was seven.

She joined the school last year as a substitute teacher and now tutors 6th, 7th and 8th graders full-time, driving to work in a car with the number plate: ‘Happy Feet.’

Speaking to Fox 8, she said hopes her determination teaches the children a valuable life lesson.

‘I’m doing what I wanted to do, what I love to do,’ she said. ‘And if you set your mind to whatever you want to do and you love to do then – go for it – no one can stop you.’She said she does not like being called handicapped or even different ‘because it has a negative bias’, she said.

Click on the link to read Maths is a Very Poorly Taught Subject

Click on the link to read The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Click on the link to read Top 10 Math Apps for Children

Click on the link to read School Fires Entire Staff!

Putting Your Children to Sleep With Math

August 1, 2012

 

A fun and interesting math activity to do nightly with the kids:

Bedtime Math (TM!) was created by Laura Overdeck, an astrophysics graduate and mother of three in New Jersey who turned a fun activity with her kids into a website of the same name. Overdeck told NPR’s Ashely Milne-Tyte that Bedtime Math — or maybe bedtime math — started when her oldest child was two years old. Every night, while tucking her in, Overdeck would ask her a math problem. Her daughter loved it so much, they began doing it every night. More kids came along and the challenge of creating one problem that would keep three different kids of three different ages engaged became ever greater.

Overdeck worked it out. Her friends got interested. The website was born. And now, Bedtime Math is a thing (or at least I think it is. I keep hearing about it this summer.)

In February, Overdeck launched her website, where she posts daily problems and puzzles for kids of different ages. More than 5,000 people subscribe to her daily emails. They’re pretty cute and work nicely as short bedtime stories, too.

Click on the link to read Making Maths Fun is Not Mission Impossible

Click on the link to read Maths is Taught So Poorly

Click on the link to read  The Obstacle Course that is Teaching Maths

Children Exposed to Poor Maths Teachers: Ofsted

May 22, 2012

I am not particularly surprised by the finding that bright students, in particular, are being failed by poor maths instruction. It’s been my experience that most teachers come from a strictly humanities (i.e. English, Politics, History) background. These teachers often shirk maths and science as it isn’t their forte.

In a damning report, the watchdog warned that the scale of underachievement at school was a “cause of national concern” that risks robbing the country of well-qualified mathematicians, scientists and engineers.

It said that many of the most gifted children were “insufficiently challenged” at primary and secondary level after being set the same work as mid-ranking classmates.

Inspectors insisted that too much teaching focused on the use of “disconnected facts and methods” that pupils were expected to memorise and replicate without any attempt to solve complex problems in their heads.

Large numbers of pupils are also being pushed into sitting maths GCSEs a year early – forcing schools to completely ignore many of the most demanding algebra topics, it was revealed.

In a highly-critical conclusion, Ofsted said that teaching was not good enough in almost half of English state schools, with almost no improvements being made in the last four years.

I realise that what I am writing is a gross generalisation, but I believe that maths is generally taught in a very abstract and monotonous way. No wonder the students are not benefitting from maths instruction at the primary level. Traditional maths teaching involves worksheets, a mindless array of algorithms and plenty of other rote styled goodies.

The tragedy of it all is that maths can be taught in a completely different way. I find the basic skills of maths the most refreshing and creatively exciting subject to teach. The fact that maths is a composite of everyday skills means it translates wonderfully to problem solving activities.

A Teacher Spits on a Student and I Lay Blame on the Student

February 21, 2012

Teachers that spit on their students should be punished accordingly. It is unprofessional, unhygienic and completely unacceptable behaviour. But there is more to the story of maths teacher David Pecoraro, who was caught on camera spitting at a boy and has since been relegated to administrative duties as a result of his moment of madness.

The video shows clearly a teacher pushed to the edge of sanity. A student trying to attach his used gum on the teachers rear is rightly put in his place by the teacher. Teachers, especially male teachers, are extremely sensitive with the dangers of being accused of inappropriate behaviour. Students that purposely touch a male teacher’s backside are putting that teacher in a very uncomfortable position.

The video also shows the lack of respect he was getting from his other students. As he screams “I want to teach you maths”, we see a student sleeping and others laughing and goading the defiant, foul-mouthed, gum chewing student.

A teacher was secretly filmed on a cell phone struggling with a male student before appearing to spit in the boy’s face.

David Pecoraro, a high school math teacher, is now working in ‘administration’, after the footage was uploaded to YouTube.

Pecoraro, who taught at Beach Channel High School in Queens, New York, has a row with the student for a few minutes before the confrontation turns physical.

Pecoraro is being investigated on allegations of corporal punishment.

The teacher, who has been in the profession for 19 years, can be heard saying in the clip: ‘You can’t make contact with me, that’s illegal.’

He then tries to explain a math problem to the student who is ignoring the lesson and covering his head with a jacket.

At one point, the student, whose identity isn’t revealed, appears to try to hit the teacher.

Pecoraro then tells the teenager: ‘You’re going to go to jail, you don’t touch me… I want to teach you math.’

The altercation is witnessed by a few other students in the class – along with one boy in front of the camera who is asleep with his head on the desk.

The row continues until the teacher appears to spit at the student who then spits back at him.

The grainy film cuts out after Pecoraro can be seen dragging the student out of his seat.

As bad a this teacher’s actions was, the behaviour of the class was absolutely deplorable. This video should be enough to implicate at least two students with some fairly serious breaches of protocol. First there was the student who should be expelled for inappropriate touching and insubordinate behaviour. Then there is the student who filmed the incident. I don’t care how juicy the footage is, any student filming class and uploading the footage on YouTube deserves to be punished.

Instead, I fear that the only person punished was the one who wanted nothing more than the ability to do his job without being touched, mocked or harassed. If those two other students got off without punishment, it reinforces their despicable behaviour, and allows them to continue their bloodsport.

I pity the replacement maths teacher. I fear they are mere fodder for the next potential YouTube hit.


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