Each day, except Friday, in my classroom, we spent two hours of our morning on mathematics. Most of my colleagues are astounded that I put this much time toward math every day. I will admit I'm astounded that they are astounded by this. Our reading scores have consistently risen over the years with the implementation of RtI and the interventions we have in place in our school. My current school has a LOT more support than other schools I have taught at in terms of reading.
This is great. However, when I look at my data, and the school's data collectively, I wonder why we don't have more emphasis on math. Last year for awhile, we did have a math intervention teacher (who is now my 4th grade colleague!) but the position didn't last very long so being able to see growth was not as easy as it may have been if the position had been a full year.
As such, when I volunteered to take the split classroom (because no one in my district wants them since they can be a pain), I knew I had to do something about MATH. I am a language arts nerd. I live it, breathe it and love it. I'm a reader and a writer. It's what I do. I can excite a classroom of children about those things just by showing my own excitement. That's cake for me.
Math, on the other hand, was the subject I abhorred in school. It made no sense to me. I just didn't "get it". Once I became a teacher and had to "get it" so I could, in turn, help my students, a light bulb went on for me. Suddenly, all of these years later, I GOT IT. I understood. I vowed to ensure that my students would understand too. Thus four days per week we spend at least 90 minutes but usually 2 hours on math in my room (the exception is Tuesday because we have a special first thing in the morning).
We start with Calendar Board. I got this idea from Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6 and I LOVE it. Most people think of calendar as something that you do with little kiddos to graph weather, talk about what day it is, etc. Not so with this calendar. I purchased her bundle pack so I have the set for grades 3, 4 and 5. I am teaching the 5th grade version with my class even though most of them are 4th graders. I find this to be acceptable because it is pushing their number sense--it REALLY forces them all to work, manipulate numbers and make sense of what they are doing. A few are still struggling with parts of it but I know that is totally normal! As the first weeks of school have passed, I have given control of calendar to my students. We "pass the marker" so they can have a turn to write on the boards too. They love this and it keeps them engaged (because I ask them to pick the next student by choosing someone who ISN'T paying attention before they pick anyone else--boy does that work!).
My calendar board sits right on the white board. It takes up a TON of space but I don't use my whiteboard much so it's worth giving up this space for something that is so important.
Next we go over their homework. I also purchased the Spiral Homework pack from Stephanie. I purchased the 4th grade version for this for two reasons. 1) They are already being pushed with their number sense with the 5th grade Calendar Board and 2) most of my students show Number Sense to be their weakest area on the MAP test. By balancing my instruction across the two grades like this, I am making sure my kids are being challenged when I am there to help them with Calendar and reviewing concepts they should already know how to do with their homework. It is brilliant and they are starting to really get it.
It only takes us about 10 minutes or so to go over their homework each morning and they really like that I just check that it is done and then they correct it themselves. This provides instant feedback for them and if they are struggling on any of the problems, they can see me go through it again on the board. I have had parents praise this homework policy so far this year because it's the same sort of thing every day and it is very much a review of BASIC math that they need to know. (And it's CCSS aligned so it's awesome.)
Finally, in the last 45 minutes or so of our math time, I teach my groups. Originally, with our numbers from last spring, I would have been split right down the middle with 14 4th graders and 14 5th graders. Due to students moving and other shifting around, however, I have 17 4th grades and 11 5th graders. It isn't a horrible split but it can be a bit challenging for grouping sometimes. What I have done, and has worked so far, is to have one grade do their math boxes and/or games and technology while I work with the other grade and then switch. Often what happens is it takes me about 15 minutes to actually go through the lesson with the group and then send them off for independent practice. This provides me with anywhere from 15-25 minutes, depending upon how long calendar and homework review took that day, to roam between kids and offer help and support. Additionally once those children finish their independent math practice, they are able to use the technology in our room for math games or play traditional paper-pencil games for extra practice.
I got Math It Up! on TpT earlier this month and that is something we'll be introducing this week. Everyday Math has a lot of games that go with the program as well (and I have all of the apps on my iPods for the class to use also) which provide hands-on learning opportunities but are fun too.
Probably the most surprising discovery so far is when my 4th graders had a lesson that asked them to make constructions with compasses and the math templates (which include pattern block shapes). They begged me to make that activity a Fun Friday activity and teach the 5th graders how we turned the hexagons into cubes. So we did this and now, I am amazed when I see children choosing to use the templates and compasses to create geometric pictures during their independent math time.
I have inadvertently turned them on to that sort of math curiosity and it is brilliant!