Day 17 (of 183) the power of primary numeracy
I still remember the furore that erupted when a Barbie doll was being sold that said some magic words: “math is hard”. It felt like that was the trend: math is hard….the subtext was: especially for girls.
Of course, one of the key questions is: who in elementary school loves to teach math? There might be one….maybe two in a given community…or perhaps district. Most of ‘us’ love literacy….and by that we tend to mean reading and/or writing (and sometimes guffaw the ‘other wannabe literacies’ such as numeracy, musical, physical, etc….) specialists. Numbers are something we often work with…not so often play with….
But we are seeing more and more awareness and willingness to work on numbers the way we do with words: differentiate, play, explore, have fun. Our own district has a pro-d group investigating numeracy – working on collecting the data and trying to work on better understanding the strategies, skills and sub-genres that make up numeracy. In a sense, we value language arts by breaking it out into reading, writing and oral language….math is…numeracy….or is it that numeracy is math? Really numbers can be so much more!
I was thrilled to sit in a class today where math was the topic. The teacher usually works with older students (grade 4/5) and last year had her class enthusiastically working on numbers for 90 minutes a day….with the ongoing feedback that her former students who are now in another classroom still confess that they like (or love) doing math!
While I was intending to focus on one student in specific, it came at a time just after I noticed a couple of tweets asking “What do good math classes sound like” and “what makes a good math class”….because the teachers swap around, I got to see someone who loves working with math working with students…..who were engaged. Who were talking on task. Who were receiving positive feedback for their successes. Who were receiving oral descriptive feedback about what they were doing and what they could do next.
There was the introduction of the concept (the older class is wrapping their head around negative integers) the practice and clarification of understanding. There was a game…and enough time for the kids to actually and authentically play the game….there was visual documentation of student successes (for eportfolios of course) and then there was the reflection activity – time flew for all of us. And it wasn’t quiet work. Students were talking/sharing/moving. The conversations were on-task and smiles on so many of their faces!
It’s great to see a lot of skilled educators working and thinking about enhancing the learning process around numeracy. Deconstructing the lock-step approach that textbooks are designed for help make numbers come alive. Educators who are passionate about their subject matter help inspire us all! To those showing us ways to enhance the learning of math and make it more entertaining, relevant and meaningful…thank you! And keep sharing your stories!