Wednesday, March 1, 2017

all time favorite reasons I love teaching math

Math is hands down my favorite subject to teach. I did not think I would say that but through college, I had some phenomenal teachers who made ME love math for the first time and inspired me to pass that onto my students.
So, without giving too much away I am going to jump into the reasons I love teaching math.

I don't think I truly understood math until I began learning how to teach it. It was during this process that I began to realize math is all about patterns and they're all around us! Did you know numbers connect!? WHAT!? Today, I love helping my students build their own knowledge of number and operations so they begin to make connections about how math skills are all related. 
One of the ways I do this is through my approach to teaching math facts. Instead of teaching facts by +0, +1, etc. I first teach numbers and then we brainstorm the ways to make that number. For example, the first weeks of kindergarten are filled with talking about each number 

From there, we move onto breaking those numbers into parts and transferring that to number sentences (obviously after covering what addition means). By December, my students have internalized many addition facts without a fact sheet, flash card, or drill. They also have a good understanding that there are many ways to make one number and how numbers are related (hello, MORE patterns!) This is an easy transition into part part whole relationships.
I also LOVE using my 100 number chart. We start using this tool the FIRST day of school to find patterns. Now, my students have their own and use it for fun - seriously, they find patterns during recess time. They think it's fascinating. That's the dream people!

I have been fortunate enough to not be forced to use a math curriculum. This means I have been able to create my own resources and tailor lessons to my kids (the dream!). Now, I know that many people equate making math fun to using games and I certainly do that too. But, it doesn't have to be just that. More than being able to do math, I want my students to see the value and joy in it. Numbers are crazy cool and figuring a problem out is rewarding. I make math fun in a number of ways.
  • Modeling - I am not above jumping up and down during a story problem, giving epic high fives (to myself), and talking through how awesome the math we are doing is. It translates, people. You know what doesn't? Forcing kids to fill out epically long math worksheets. It just doesn't.
  • Making it interactive - my story problems ALWAYS involve my kids and the things they are interested in (Pokemon, Shopkins, you name it). They have a buy in, they see the value, and it relates to their life.
  • Duh, GAMES - how is anyone teaching math in 2017 without games? Pinterest, TPT, Instagram - there are so many ideas and they are awesome! One of our current favorites is Salute. 2 students put a card on their forehead (a la headbands) without looking. A 3rd student tells them what their sum is (hello vocab). The students must then use that knowledge to figure out the number on their forehead. Insta-part-part whole practice! (Can you tell that's one of my favorite skills to teach?) 
If I never had to teach math whole group again, I'd actually be more happy than drinking my morning coffee. Stations are fun, they get the kids moving and talking about math, and they allow me to meet with small groups of kids. And seriously, it doesn't have to be hard. I have 4 stations - teacher table, math games (sometimes includes iPads), buddy work, and manipulatives (literally, this is kinda an excuse to sneak some play time in our day but also a chance for kids to use those manipulatives with a discovery approach). Easy peasy. Any time I introduce a math game at my table, I move it over to games. Having a small group allows me to differentiate which leads me to.....

Because I don't have to follow a curriculum and because I teach in stations, I can let students move at their own pace. One of my favorite joys is seeing students take those connections and run with them. For example, after spending weeks working on place value (one of the most important stepping stone skills in math), I had students start connecting that knowledge to this "big kid" problems they saw. Now, a group of my kids can do this:
AND they understand it. Do you know how excited they were? Math is the easiest subject, in my opinion, to differentiate and it's so cool to see kids take off. Once you master a skill, there's so many other ways it comes in handy (hello, back to number one!) 
Just like math is fun, it's also hands on. I mean, how else are you going to explain numbers, addition, etc.? Every good teacher knows math must be taught with manipulatives and the more the better. 
Kids are naturally drawn to cool little trinkets which makes math one of our favorite parts of the day. Sometimes I will ask a question and nobody wants to tell me the answer but as soon as I ask someone to show me they jump on it. Never underestimate the power of mini erasers, a pointer, white board markers (so easy and they love it), or even counters. My must have manipulatives are ten frames and ones (we build numbers every single day with these and I just made mine on index cards), counters (duh), mini erasers (when we get tired of our counters), and DICE. 

So, there are some reasons I love teaching math. I truly do think that it's such a fun subject that is unfortunately not celebrated as much as it should be. Students should be having fun and experiencing success with math every day.

How do you teach math in an untraditional way? 
Leave some reasons you love math in the comments. Happy teaching!

Oh, and since you made it all the way through this post I am going to reward you with a FREEBIE. I made these part part whole task cards to use as an around the room activity. Each card has a letter so it can correspond to a recording sheet. You could also use these in a pocket chart, for a center, or at your table. Possibilities are endless. Snatch it up! 

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