Hi everyone, my name is Tony. I’m going into my 7th year of teaching, all with the Halton District School Board. I’m very proud to be first high school teacher to contribute to this website and I’m hoping that more secondary level teachers will join this group.

I’m qualified to teach math, computer studies, and special education. I’m extremely passionate about helping students in all those subject areas. Although I love what I do now, my career got off to a very rocky start 7 years ago. I went into my first year of teaching full of confidence and optimism but things quickly spiral out of control. I was confronted with all kinds of classroom management issues and I felt totally unequipped to deal with them. Despite putting so much time into lesson planning, I always felt like not enough was accomplished day in and day out. Worst of all, I felt I didn’t really have someone that I talk to about my problems. At several points of my first and second year, I seriously thought about quitting this professional.

I’m really glad that I didn’t because now I actually enjoy going to work. I can honestly say that every single day I feel like I’m making a difference in kids’ lives. I hope that I can be of some help to you if you are going through the experiences that I had. I look forward to getting to know you and contributing more postings to this great website.

In my math curriculum class in teacher’s college we were tasked with creating our own math resources that we would use in a classroom of our own. It took me a while to choose a concept to focus on, but being the crafty person that I am, I knew that I had to create something with colours and paper and moving parts–something that was exciting and hands on! After doing some research (I mean searching around Pinterest, really) I had come up with the topic that my math manipulative would cover: fractions! Fractions seem to be a tricky concept that start in Grade 1 and continue all the way until the intermediate grades, so I figured that I couldn’t go wrong with creating a math resource that could be tweaked to work with almost any grade and aid in one of the more abstract concepts in math.

So, I present to you…a fraction mosaic board (inspired by this activity found originally on Pinterest)! I loved that students got to have fun and create something and then find the math behind it, so I wanted to make my own reusable version of this project and share it with you! I promise, this board was very easy, affordable, and quick to make. It took me about 1 hour and cost $10. And I swear you can do this even if you wouldn’t call yourself a crafty person.

Supplies:

Cookie sheet (can find at almost all dollar stores now!)

Stick on magnet strips

Construction paper (4-5 colours)

Scissors

Washi tape

Permanent marker

Measure the width of the magnet strip and cut one strip of each colour of construction paper to match the size of the magnets.

Cut the magnet strips into 3 inch long pieces (this will help flatten out the pieces and make adhering the construction paper much easier).

Remove the tape from one magnet strip to reveal the sticky side.

Take one strip of the construction paper and line up the end with the magnet strip. Stick the paper to the magnet.

Cut remaining paper off of the end of the magnet strip. Then, cut the magnet into smaller mosaic pieces (I cut mine in about ½ inch long pieces to make squares)

Repeat until you have the desired amount of mosaic pieces in each colour. I played around with the amounts a lot, but I wanted numbers that would be easy to divide and reduce so I ultimately used 16 blue, 12 red, 14 yellow, 10 green, and 8 orange = 60 pieces in total (tweaked a little bit from the picture below).

Once mosaic tiles are complete, decorate the cookie sheet however you wish. I used Washi tape to create a table and permanent markers to create titles. In the left column, students can store their tiles, in the centre they can create a picture, and on the right they write their fractions that they made with a dry erase marker

This can be modified and used for almost any grade when looking for practice with fractions. I also created an accompanying “instruction sheet” that I would most likely put right beside this to make it a centre. And then for older grades, I would suggest extending this activity with follow up questions. I created some questions at a grade 4 level dealing with reducing to lowest terms and looking at equivalent fractions. Accompanying questions could easily be made up for adding or subtracting the fractions, multiplying and dividing, and almost any other related fraction task.

Feel free to send me a message or leave a comment if you would like a copy of the accompanying documents or have any questions about this DIY! If you have any other fraction, mosaics, or cookie sheet activities that you have done with your students, share them below–we always love to hear new ideas!

Allison Dyjach is a Faculty of Education student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @AllisonDyjach, or follow more of her Bachelor of Education experiences on Instagram @allisondyjach.

We all know that getting students to learn the factors that go into a multiplied product can be a tricky task, and simply writing out a list, reading it out loud, and trying to memorize it by rote is not going to help a student truly understand what this “factor” thing even is. This past week, I was blown away by this seemingly simple task that my mathematics curriculum professor handed to us. With only a set of snap cubes and a number line, my fellow teacher candidates and I were completely engaged in this problem solving activity.

Phase 1 complete; all of our factors lined up!

First, each group of 4 was given a bag of snap cubes and a number line drawn out on a strip of chart paper. Then, we hear, “blue cubes represent the number 2. Put a blue cube on every number where 2 is a factor.” Simple enough. Next, we move on to green, which is 3, yellow for 4, red for 5, and so on up to 10. We stack all of the cubes on top of each other to make a bright and interactive representation of all of the factors for numbers 1-24.

Now, here is where the brain switches its function and the real application comes in. We are told to keep all of the cubes connected as they are, but shuffle them around and mix them up for a minute, and then…place them back on each correct space, just as they were. This was a little bit more difficult than anticipated, but eventually by working through each number and finding the relationships between the different colours (as well as some prompting questions from the professor…), we were able to get the model back to its original state.

Phase 2: time for some problem solving!

After leaving class, I knew I had to share this activity. What a rich learning task for students and a great way to dissect what is actually behind a factor and a product. The only way to truly learn and understand math is to manipulate its components, apply them and problem solve with them. I could see an entire lesson being based on this activity, because if it was able to get a bunch of 20-something teacher candidates’ brains working in overdrive, I’m sure it could be just as engaging in a younger classroom.

Do you have any go-to activities when you tackle factors with your students? Would you use this activity in your class? Share your thoughts with us in the comments or send a tweet our way @RookieTeacherCA!

Allison Dyjach is a Faculty of Education student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @AllisonDyjach, or follow more of her Bachelor of Education experiences on Instagram @allisondyjach.

“All students can learn mathematics and deserve the opportunity to do so.” -The Ontario Curriculum, Mathematics Grade 1-8

When I ask you to answer the math problem 5 + 7, I’m sure that most of you could come up with the answer of 12 pretty quickly. But, if I asked you to explain the process or steps that you used to get to the final answer of 12, it might take you a bit more time to think about it. This same thing happens when we ask students math questions. They are often able to give us an answer, but when we ask them to explain their answer, describe a strategy that they used, or even just write out their answer step by step, we can be left with something in between a blank stare and a beyond puzzled expression. Although our students may be able to give us a correct answer on a test or worksheet, we may have no idea what process they are going through to get that answer. The same goes for a wrong answer. If a child gives a wrong answer, but we can’t seem to figure out where they veered off course, we won’t be able to guide them back onto the path to success.

During my most recent school placement, my school ran a professional development day on a new classroom tool called “Number Talks.” Some of you may have heard of the concept, developed by Sherry Parrish, but to me this was brand new. The main purpose of a number talk is to dissect a mental math problem with your students, and discuss and evaluate the different strategies that can be taken to solve that problem.

For example, I used a number talk with my Grade 4 students when discussing how to show a specific time on an analog clock. Students were tasked with telling me how they would show 7:35. I emphasized to them that they not only had to give me the right answer, but if they wanted to respond they would also have to tell me how they knew where to put the hands on the clock.

The “Number Talk” response signal. Photo: http://hzn165.blogspot.ca/2012/11/day-38-number-talk-with-1st-graders.html

The Number Talk incorporates another great strategy that can be used not only during these discussions but also as a general classroom management strategy. When students are thinking of their answers, they are not to put their hand up or shout out any answers. Instead, they hold a fist on their chest, and if they can find one way to answer the problem, they simply stick their thumb up. If they find a second way that they can solve the problem, they stick up another finger, and so on. This way, the teacher is able to assess students’ understanding, but other students are not distracted (or discouraged) by their peers’ progress.

After students were given ample time to figure out their answers, we took time to hear different strategies of knowing where the hands should go on the clock to show 7:35, some including counting by 5’s, going straight to 7:30 and adding 5 etc. We listened to all of the different methods that students had used, discussed their effectiveness (eg. counting by 1’s to get to 35 was not found to be very effective by my students!) and talked about which strategies different students preferred to use.

I have to say that as someone who grew up simply memorizing math times tables and addition facts, this was a wonderful concept to be introduced to. I found them to be extremely effective as a “Mind’s On” activity and to get students thinking about how math operations and concepts really work. Although math is generally a subject that allows for very little deviation, this activity shows students that there are often ample strategies that they can use to solve math problems. Number Talks give them that bank of strategies to use for math problems, and it also allows teachers to learn what is really going on in the minds of our students, even if we are asking them “simple’ questions like 5 + 7.

“Number Talks” guidebook by Sherry Parrish. Photo: https://grade2commoncoremath.wikispaces.hcpss.org/Number+Talks

There are some great resources out there for teachers interested in incorporating Number Talks into their classroom. This article written by the Parrish gives a short and simple introduction into the concept and even walks through an example with student dialogue and diagrams.

For further learning, you might want to consider buying Sherry Parrish’s book “Number Talks Common Core Edition, Grades K-5: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies.” Youtube is also a great resource to see some real Number Talks in action. Here is a favourite of mine, but just by searching “Number Talk” you will be able to find many more.

Do you use Number Talks in your classroom? Do you think this is a useful strategy to help kids delve deeper into math comprehension? What are some other strategies you could use to help understand students’ mental math processes better? Let us know what you think below!

Allison Dyjach is a Faculty of Education student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @AllisonDyjach, or follow more of her Bachelor of Education experiences on Instagram @allisondyjach.

Multiple interpretations…?? Let’s find out where our kids are going wrong.

What math resources are you using for the upcoming year? Share your resources below…let’s build our Resource Bank.

I would recommend Dr.Marian Small’s “Making Math Meaningful.” It provides examples of misinterpretations and how to guide students to finding solutions

“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.”

photo by: digital_trash, via flickrcc.net

How are you discussing global citizenship in your class? The charter is available in many languages, please consider using it in literacy, science, social sciences, art. Even in math we can calculate how much waste we are making, how much populations are growing, the decline of resources. Ecology must be embedded within our teaching, we can’t wait for it to be mandated in the curriculum. We will need future generations to think creatively about upcoming problems. As mass media and globalization connect people, we still must maintain our preserve our diversity in the web of life.

Never underestimate the difference one person can make. Always be open to be surprised by the possibilities of your students.

Communication is an essential piece in the learning process – it provides students an opportunity to justify their reasoning or formulate a question, leading to gained insights about their thinking. In order to communicate their thinking to others, students must be given authentic tasks to reflect on. Through cooperative learning, students can learn from the perspectives and mathematical processes of others. Further, they can learn to evaluate the thinking of others, building on those ideas for their own assessment.

The purpose of the Math Word Wall [MWW] is to identify mathematical language that students need to understand and use. If they are unfamiliar with this vocabulary, they will struggle to effectively apply strategies in the problem-solving process and will have difficulty communicating their thinking with others.

♦ Introduce math vocabulary using relevant objects, pictures and/or diagrams. Visuals are KEY!

♦ Clearly explain word meanings and make connections frequently

♦ Do not teach math vocabulary in isolation — use open-ended questions to helping students understand mathematical ideas and model how to use mathematical terms correctly.

Using literature in math can spark students’ imaginations, helping to dispel the myth that math is dull, inapplicable, and inaccessible. Reading about math can help reach at-risk students who struggle in the mathematical process, opening their minds to the ever-present phenomenon in their world that is math!

Integrate the curriculum — teach mathematical concepts and skills through literacy

Helps to motivate and engage students in problem-solving experiences connected with real world

Addresses different learning styles and helps to promote an appreciation for both math and literature

Check out these resources for teaching mathematics through literature —

When students are encouraged to write in math, they examine, express, and keep track of their thinking, which is especially useful for assessment and differentiation. To enhance and support their learning, students must first understand the reasoning behind writing in math. Further, they need to understand how to write in math – explain and model mathematical writing using details such as pictures, numbers, and words. Students’ writing can be used as springboards for classroom ‘math chats’, highlighting different approaches to problem-solving.

Be sure to provide writing prompts –

What do you think? What idea do you have?

What are you confused about?

What did you learn?

Describe what was easy and hard for you.

What type of math concepts do you find interesting? Why?

When I hear this math word, I think….

If I could ask for one thing in math, it would be…

Tell me about your prediction. Were you right or wrong?

What strategies do you like to use the most? The least? Why?

When students are given an opportunity to talk about math, they are better able to clarify their own thinking, ‘talk out’ misconceptions, and learn from others’ problem-solving strategies. It is the role of the teacher to facilitate these discussions by engaging students in sharing and listening, questioning and responding, and agreeing and disagreeing. During ‘math chats’, the teacher can further assess students’ understanding of concepts and redirect or differentiate instruction based on the students’ immediate learning needs.

However, the classroom must be a safe and inclusive learning environment so that students feel comfortable to share and make mistakes publically. Students need clear, highly set expectations on what ‘doing math’ looks like, sounds like, and feels like in the classroom. Once the ground rules for respect have been established, then authentic mathematical dialogue and collaboration can evolve…that’s when the real learning begins!

Math think-alouds can engage students and help them to make their way step-by-step through the problem-solving process. Best of all, they can be used quite effectively both in school and at home! For more on getting students to talk, check out these Math Teacher Tools!

Teaching Overseas is something that has crossed many Rookie minds. The end of your B.Ed year is near, and you’re thinking about going global…You’re finding that the provincial job market feels rather saturated but you’re absolutely itching to start teaching…You enjoy teaching, you enjoy travelling, so why not do both! It is our goal that, by telling Jenn’s story, some of your questions may be answered and that your excitement for teaching abroad be affirmed.

Without further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce our newest (and furthest) Rookie, Jenn Graham.

photo: Jennifer Graham

Hiya pals! I’m Jenn and I’m rocking my rookie year across the pond. I wouldn’t change this experience for anything… except maybe the odd double double! For the next 10 months, I’m a full time teacher in an inner city, single sex Catholic secondary school in East London. The gals know me as their science, math, and phys ed teacher. After graduating from Brock’s con-ed program with a BSc, I’m totally qualified… right?! Regardless, I’m learning everyday. From structuring peer assessment effectively to learning the latest pop n’ glide steps, I’m stoked to share my experiences and welcome your feedback. Cheerio!

In my pre-service year, I quickly found that I was spending money out of my own pocket on a variety of different initiatives for my classrooms. I was able to save a lot of money (and time) by shopping at ONE store….DOLLARAMA! They have a wide selection of toys, stickers, games, pens, pencils, erasers, paper, crafts, seasonal selections, electronics, household items and more.

Here’s just one example of what you can buy for less than Two Bucks [< $2.00] at your local Dollarama store:

We would love to hear what you’ve found, used, and integrated into your classroom with purchases from the Dollarama. Please share in the comments section below, or send us a tweet @RookieTeacherCA.

The Rookie Teacher is committed to facilitating new teacher collaboration, offering ideas, information, and resources, and inspiring a future of life long learners. A wise educator once said, “Take Chances, Make Mistakes and Get Messy.” Thank you for visiting our blog and joining in on the discussion. Please take a moment to listen to The Lounge podcast.