Tag Archives: Multiplication

Are stations the answer?

My time as a math coach taught me that stations are the bomb! I observed masterful first grade teachers regularly manage many different math levels without breaking a sweat. I experienced fourth grade teachers manage a room full of wiggly students during flex blocks and everyone was “getting what they needed.” Somewhere along the way we begin to believe that our students can sit for longer, focus for longer, and we don’t need to use stations to reach all learners.

A few years ago my district purchased the Connected Mathematics curriculum. I had used previous versions of the curriculum in the past and many of the problems were interesting and rich. The new version is clunky, disjointed, and difficult to use. Many of the problems are long, requiring several class sessions to complete with very little conceptual understanding. My students lose interest and are unmotivated by the time we finish a problem. The math they may have gleaned from the problem is lost in the euphoria they feel to be done.

As the year came to a close and I reflected on what went well and what didn’t, I was reminded of the times my students were engaged, challenged, and motivated to learn. The times this happened the most this year was when I was using stations in my classroom. They felt as though the tasks were interesting and at their level.

I began to think about my first unit in terms of stations using the math workshop model thinking about how I could use the best parts of the CMP curriculum. I came up with four stations including one where I will meet with students in small groups. These small group meetings will force both remediation and enrichment to happen within the station rotation.

Then I ran across this tweet….

After I read a little about responsive stations it seems like this is exactly what I need to add to make my stations even more productive. By first spending time to teach the necessary skills before starting a new unit I can really meet my students where they are. Looking at what students know and how to build off of that I can make all students feel successful.

So, my first unit is no longer my first unit. I need some station work before we start the first unit. The skills they really need to have solid are their multiplication and division relationships. I started planning my stations here. I think this will also be a great time to teach some of the classroom routines that need to get done at the beginning of the year so I’m only going to use three stations. More to come…

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Partial Products

Every year I spend too long reviewing basic algorithms. This year I’m going to jump in feet first and begin by doing partial products to develop both the multiplication algorithm, and then the division algorithm. I know the majority of my students know the multiplication algorithm but only a handful of them can explain why it works.

Last year I spent some time doing partial products with base ten blocks and students really seemed to expand their knowledge of these basic algorithms. I found a great activity to expand on what I did here.

Once students understand this activity they can then begin to draw generalized rectangle models to lead into the distributive property.

 

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Numeracy.

When students enter middle school, we hope they have mastered numbers. By mastering numbers, I mean, having strong numeracy skills and knowing the general processes for the operations.

Unfortunately, most students in the sixth grade are still struggling with numeracy. This is going to be a strong focus for the beginning of my year. (Yes, I know it’s awful to drill multiplication facts, but it has to be done.) I didn’t focus on these skills as much as I should have last year, and when we reached fractions some students just couldn’t keep up. They didn’t have the automaticity that was necessary to work with fractions.

I recently came across a book by Pamela Weber Harris, Building Powerful Numeracy for Middle and High School Students. This seems to be the answer to my problem. In it she outlines basic strategies and models, beginning with addition that students should know, and the number strings to teach them.For example:

39 + 41

23 + 31

Well, you get the idea. The question becomes how to fit it into 45 minute periods? Hmmm…

Some ideas I’ve been thinking of for drilling multiplication (it doesn’t look as bad in italics) :

A Friendly Game of Nubble

Multiplication War

Missing Number Problems

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