Slice of Life: Math Redux

I’m afraid my mathematical confidence peaked in third grade. Perhaps it was the fractions of fourth grade. Whatever it was, at eight I discovered math phobia.

Reading in fifth grade resuscitated my belief in me. Maybe that’s that’s why I’ve loved teaching reading to fifth graders.  I have not wanted to step away from the literature and grade level I’ve loved. But a position cropped up, and the possibility of promoting cross-content area thinking with students as well as the opportunity to learn something new convinced me to try to fourth grade to teach all subject matter, including math.

It sounds good in theory, but my math memories of scary words like addend, need to be addressed.  I’m approaching this challenge in the way I know best, with books. A stack to be exact. And a few conferences to attend. The first was a conference on Cognitive Guided Instruction (CGI) hosted by Cotsen last weekend.

Megan Franke provided the keynote starting as any researcher-educator might by asking the audience their definition of CGI.  While I was a newbie to this work, I felt at home in the pedagogical stance. Here are some of the answers given by participants:

  • Provides students with multiple gateways to have success and opportunities to participate.
  • Starts where students are in their development
  • Designed to grow student’s thinking
  • Encourages students to be curious
  • Empowers students
  • Unlocks patterns and underlying concepts
  • Focuses on children’s ideas, not teacher’s ideas
  • Problem-solving is not just about solving problems; it’s what you do when you don’t know what to do.

The small group sessions I attended highlighted the idea of unpacking problems, inquiry-based teaching and listening to students thinking to guide their thinking.

Understanding story problems as a story first: think about what you know, what you need to solve and what are the rules or constraints of the problem. Stories? What do I know, and what do I need to figure out. Sound familiar?

Inquiry-based learning to discover patterns by counting objects to make groups. Symbolic concepts become concrete:  three-dimensional representations of numbers called squared or cubed become just that. So much of what I learned by memorization and rote came to life. Wow! Could I possibly become a math geek?

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.

18 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Math Redux

  1. Congrats! I look forward to reading about your fourth grade adventures! I love this quote: “Problem-solving is not just about solving problems; it’s what you do when you don’t know what to do.”

  2. It sounds like you are going to love it! So much of literacy instruction can be transferred over to math instruction! Exciting “math geek” adventures to come, I’m sure!

  3. What an exciting adventure for you, Julieanne!! You already know where they need to be at the end of 4th, which is such powerful knowledge to have.
    I am really looking forward to hearing about your math geek adventures!

  4. That sounds fabulous! I think change can be good. Those very lucky fourth graders! Can’t wait to read all about it.

  5. Be careful, your passion for teaching is showing. You are definitely an educator, thinking deeply and constantly about your students and your pedagogy. I look forward to following your journey into 4th grade.

  6. I think your post did more for my math confidence than 12 years of schooling! Love the connections you made — it would be great if students learned these connections as well. Thanks

  7. Funny, but I am thinking of leaving the self-contained as I just want to teach reading and writing. I like math and I love CGI but I am finding it a struggle to do it all. I know you will do it all fabulously. Enjoy the switch and all the learning you have in store. Sounds like the perfect gift for you – a life long learner!

  8. I am right there with you! The reason my teaching certification only goes up to 6th grade is because I’m afraid of math after that point. I taught 4th grade for 8 years. I assure you…you will be able to handle it. It will probably even be eye opening for you and reteach you some things you struggled with in your own childhood. Let me know if I can help with anything!

  9. Recently I read something about math workshop that really spoke to my literacy mind. I’ll send it your way. So excited to learn more about your journey.

  10. Congratulations on taking a new challenge, Julieanne. You may find many connections in those math “stories”, crossing over to ELA, too. I love that you’ve already begin the learning after attending that conference. Best wishes!

  11. I believe you can become a math geek. Math is fascinating when you approach it with a curious mind. it is exciting that you will be a fourth grade teacher.

  12. My heart swells with joy for you. I taught several years in fourth grade (mostly self contained) and LOVE everything about this grade and age! I think we both have/had the same math anxieties…you will do great! 🙂 I’m sitting here thinking about all of the fun I had in fourth-the science experiments, the novels, the math (story problems are puzzles and who doesn’t love a puzzle?), writing, the state history. LOVE it all and hope you do, too! 🙂

  13. You are going to do wonderfully well! One of your concluding statements says it all– “So much of what I learned by memorization and rote came to life.” Yeah for change that makes us grow, Julieanne!

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