Saturday, January 11, 2014

Our First Math Competition!

Today I took 12 of my students to their first math competition. We had no idea what to expect other than it would be a 16 question exam, 45 minutes long and no calculators.  We also knew the topics would be algebra, geometry and miscellaneous elementary topics.
We met at the school and took a bus over to the high school where the competition was being held.  The kids were really excited and it was so cool to see them happy and pumped up to take a math test on a Saturday morning!  Of course their motivation was the prizes they could have won $100 for the highest score, $50 for 2nd highest and $25 for 3rd place.
Once we got there they were taken to the exam room and I headed back to hang with the parents.  At 12 we headed to the gym where they had a luncheon set up for us.  The kids joined us and they were still all smiles, but were blown away at how challenging the test was!  I was happy that they got to keep the copy of the test and an answer key.  I swear the problems looked like they came directly from the Palette of Problems section in NCTM's Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School journal.  So, while they were challenging problems, they were do-able. The only one they probably wouldn't know how to do was a system problem with 4 variables.  I'm definitely going to start giving them problems each week from Palette of Problems.
After lunch they announced the winners and top 10 teams (there were 25 teams), we already knew we didn't do well, but the kids didn't seem too upset, well I take that back, after we found out the winner had a perfect score, my one student (who has gotten 300's (perfect score) on the last few NJAsk tests, kept saying over and over "how did she get them all right!"  I'm happy that he is one of my 7th graders, he will be on our team next year too and seems determined to do better next year!
They did get a certificate and a free sundae at Applebee's for participating.
Here are the QCA Mathletes with their certificates!

They also noticed and commented on how they were the only school that was all African-American and Hispanic.  They realized that they need to get out there and represent more.  They are already asking me to find more competitions for them to go to!

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Math Workshop Model in my 7/8 Classroom

Over the summer I participated in a great book study on Minds on Mathematics; Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep Understanding in Grades 4-8 by Wendy Ward Hoffer.  I loved the book and it was laid out so clearly that I was 100% sure that I was going to use the math workshop model exclusively with my 7th and 8th grade this year.  After the PD on my new textbook series (Math in Focus; Singapore Math) I wasn't so sure the workshop model was going to "work" for me this year.  While I really like our new curriculum, the way it was presented to us was very "scripted" Now I know that sounds totally awful, but I thought that for this year, I would stick as closely to it as possible since I was new to Singapore Math.  Now that we are in January, I feel comfortable with the text and methods and finally feel ready to give the workshop model another go!

Something I realized this week, is that the best way for me to get started implementing the workshop model  is to keep it simple! Basically my struggle with implementing the workshop was trying to find "juicy problems" that fit the skill I'm trying to teach.  Well, I decided that what I am really trying to accomplish with this is giving the kids more struggle time.  I had been doing an I do, we do, you do model and only releasing them to the you do when they demonstrated understanding, which a lot of times was the whole period.  Now, I model a general problem and then get them to work.  Its almost been a "duh" moment to me, they aren't going to ask questions and struggle with problems  until they start working on them!  So far they have been doing a great job of coming up with questions that spark really good conversations.

I also realized that I don't have to do math workshop every day with every lesson!  Started a great activity today with 8th grade that I can't wait to blog about, had them go out around the school timing how long it takes to walk to certain classes and how many steps they take, then they are going to graph the data and answer some questions about the slopes and intercepts, we finish it up on Monday so sometime next week I'll work on that!

I'm using my circle tracker on my clip board as a checklist to make sure I'm checking in with everyone.  I don't really keep any  formal recording of it.  I fill in the circle tracker with results from the entrance ticket/exit tickets that I collect.