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Spending Time

There are times during the school year when
I think I spend too much time on a math topic….not because the kids seem bored
with it or anything like that, but because I have to get so many concepts
covered that I’m afraid I’ll run out of time; so spending more time than
I’m “supposed to” occasionally stresses me out. But most of the time, I’m glad I spend so much
time on concepts, even though I appear to be “behind” when talking with other
teachers about “where we are.” When I say that I spend more time, it’s not that
I make the students do worksheet after worksheet; instead, we practice/interact
with the same skills in different ways, as I’m sure you do. For example, before
the holiday break, we worked on finding the GCF. In the past, most of the students
had only been taught one method to find GCF - by listing out the factors. I
taught the students the prime factorization method and the ladder method
(personally, I LOVE the ladder method, for most sets of numbers). Then we had the holiday break. So on our first day back, we briefly reviewed the methods and then I had
the students partner up (using the equivalent expressions partnering cards!)
and write short paragraphs to explain each method (and include their own
examples). That took most of the math class (after our warm up and
reviewing….only a 40 minute class). The following day, with the same partners, the students
started their GCF Footloose, which included listing of factors, finding GCF of
given numbers, and quite a few GCF word problems. The students in the first class period didn’t even get half-way
through the Footloose cards, and I started thinking, “Oh, no, now we have to
use another day to finish this tomorrow…or maybe we shouldn’t finish, just move on.” BUT, as I
listened to my students’ discussions, class after class, I decided that we
__definitely__ needed to finish the next day. And I definitely need to continue to spend
the same amount of time on topics that I have been spending, in all the
different ways I employ. Their discussions with and comments/advice to each other
were such a confirmation that spending this time is best for my students.
As they worked, I heard them finding factors of larger numbers by testing
divisibility rules (without me advising them to!), using
different methods to
confirm answers, helping one another by pointing out one another’s mistakes
(politely) – which means they can identify mistakes in work! I was so impressed
with their ability to communicate about how to complete a problem or how to
communicate disagreement with a partner.
I was impressed that they turned to each other for help and really tried to
figure out the answer before asking me. I was impressed with their increased use of math language! I love to walk around and listen to
them. I have my students work together quite often in the time that I spend on topics, and their discussions are continually improving, as are their collaborative thinking skills. Is the extra time I spend on topics worth it? Absolutely!

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