As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, communication in math is a focus for me as part of my Annual Learning Plan. Since returning to school after the holidays, I was thrilled to see so many of my students communicating so much more in math. They are really elaborating on their answers, and sharing their thinking in both their written and oral work. When completing words problems in groups and independently, students are showing their calculations as well as explaining the individual steps. They are breaking down what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Since September, the emphasis has been on communicating more, and this constant focus on communication, as well as the time spent modelling and practising this skill, seems to have helped. I couldn’t be happier!
For the past couple of days though, I’ve noticed a new problem that is starting to bother me. Students are clearly explaining their mathematical thinking, but their calculations are incorrect. Yesterday for Multiple Choice Mondays, I noticed a number of students going to the math cart to get the manipulatives that they needed to answer the questions. This has never happened before without me prompting them to do so, and I was just thrilled to see this change. When these students tweeted their answers to the multiple choice questions, they added and divided wrong, so their solutions were also wrong. I saw the same thing happen today as students solved a perimeter problem. They multiplied incorrectly, and got the incorrect answer. Yes, they know what to do, and yes, they explain every step, but how does this factor in when the solution is wrong ?
I’ve tried sending home website links and app suggestions that review addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. In the classroom, I pull small groups to also work on these skills. Maybe I need to devote more of my math class to reviewing mental math skills. Almost all of the students struggle with calculations to some degree. I don’t want to take a step back though when it comes to math communication.
How do you reinforce computations while also emphasizing communication in math? Should we be devoting an equal amount of time to computations and communication in math class? How do you determine a good balance ?
Aviva Dunsiger taught Junior Kindergarten to Grade 2 for 11 years before moving to Grade 6 this year. She’s passionate about using technology in the classroom to support student learning, and she’s presented on this topic numerous times both online and offline.
She enjoys maintaining her blog, Living Avivaloca: My Many Musings on Life and Learning. Aviva’s reflective writing about her professional practice inspires communication between educators, administrators and parents.
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