Our schools are using both the "Everyday Math" and "Investigations" math programs with elementary students, both of which are constructivist in nature. A major complaint of parents with these programs is that students don't receive enough traditional practice in order to build automaticity of basic skills.

My question is this: What kinds of complementary math materials do you use with your students?

Tags: elementary, math

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These are all great resources! I am adding them to my bookmarks. Thank you!
Hi Donna,
Just like Greg, I have set up websites on my website for students to use at school and at home for math practice. One special site to check out is: http://nlvm.usu.edu/en/nav/vlibrary.html
Check out my website for other sites at: www.mackinacfurtrader.org.
I hope this helps.
Mark B.
It's going to take time, but it's never too early to start to educate parents that "automaticity" is not a goal that can be achieved simply through practice. It might actually be damaging kids who start to believe that they are "bad" at math when they are simply not developmentally ready.

So instead of offering math materials that will actually be subverting your constructivist materials - maybe you should try to hold the line and promise parents that they will see better results for their kids if they trust you.

Some parents will never believe you and will drill their kids anyway. Let them go buy workbooks if they have to. But why are you trying to provide stuff that's undoing your own good curriculum?

I'd say - hold the line and stick with the constructivist methodology.
Sylvia,

What a subversive thought!

Seriously, why is it that memorizing the times tables is considered to be the preeminent math skill necessary for math success for all elementary age students? Why do people believe in the value of Flashcards above all else?
Boy, if you could answer that one, you'd do us all a big favor!

Basically, I think that it's a culturally held belief, and extremely hard to dislodge. It just seems so obvious, that if you do something a lot, it will suddenly stick in your head. It's falsely compared to practicing an instrument, or a sport, which is not the same.

It also fits with the current testing craze, where it again seems obvious that if kids could just memorize some key facts, they could get better scores. What's not obvious is that this kind of drilling rewards kids who are going to get it anyway, and convinces the rest that math is boring and/or they are bad at it. It makes it LESS likely that these kids will eventually develop any real understanding.

It's become a cultural rite of passage, maybe even with a little hazing thrown in. Lots of adults have bad memories of being forced to memorize the times tables, and yet, assume that there is some magic about it. Like the belief that good medicine has to taste bad, it's burrowed down deep in our root brains.

I think it's also a misunderstanding of Piagetian developmentental stages, that there is some sort of mental train track, and if you just shovel a little more coal in the engine, kids can get "there" faster. That's not true. It's not like if babies just practiced crawling more they would walk sooner.
Donna,

Have you read any of Constance Kamii's books on developing math concepts? There are some good activities that support learning. Your district really needs to work with the parents to develop a better understanding of mathematics. Math is more then memorizing a "fact" or a table.

Dan Rehman
Constance Kamii is a giant in this field and her videos and books are important for anyone teaching K-4 math. I had a chance to hear her speak just last week and was once again impressed by her lifetime of work.

I have a blog post brewing about what she said; I'll be sure to link it back to this conversation.

Here's a link to her books on Amazon.
I used Everyday Math in the previous district that I worked in. It was 1st grade, but my partner and I would give them "Mad Minute" timed addition and subtraction tests daily. It only took a minute in the morning. We would send one home for the kids to practice the facts with their family.

In the district I currently work in, we use TIMS from the University of Illinois at Chicago. It is very similar to Everyday Math. Now I am teaching 4th grade and I give timed multiplication/division quizzes daily. I give them about 3 minutes to get through a full page of problems. Again, they take those facts home to practice.

I'm not sure if that helps, but it calmed some of the fears of the parents. They liked seeing their children work on more of those traditional pieces of math.
Hi Kate,
Have you considered that what you are doing to calm parents fears may be undoing the benefits of the rest of your curriculum?

Everyday Math and TIMS are both very focused on helping kids develop number sense in a way that supports individual development. It relies heavily on kids being able to take risks and talk about their solutions to problems. Quizzing them sends the exact opposite message and makes it less likely they will take the risks that the TIMS curriculum asks them to. This is not balance, it's tension.

By giving them all the same math fact quizzes, it's going back to a standardized developmental model. It's like teaching out of two textbooks at once - confusing, I think.

The kids who already "get it" will do well, the kids who don't panic about tests will do well. But it tends to convince the kids who don't do well that they are bad at math, leading to worse problems down the road.

Daily quizzes mean you value these timed tests quite a bit. Is it really parents who are driving you to do daily quizzes that are counter to the rest of the lessons you do every day? You say that you aren't sure if it helps - why not stop it for a while and see what happens?
I use a lot of five and ten frames and then move and dot cards to supplement my math. I teach first grade. It provides students with enough traditional practice that parents don't seem to complain too much. I also give them a few addition and subtraction problems in class everyday that only take about 5 minutes to complete.
We are in the same boat as you with a combination of Everyday Math, Investigations, and Marilyn Burns resources. At this point, we are trying to work in Zip Strips (from 5 Easy Steps to a Balanced Math Program). This is a QUICK, procedural based, review across strands.

An example for grade 7:

1. estimate the height of this room in meters
2. what is ½ of 84 ?
3. State the formula for the area of a rectangle
4. what is the next term in the sequence 2,5,8,11, …
5. list the factors of 12

An example for grade 3:

1. estimate the length of your pencil in inches
2. name a fraction bigger than ½ but less than 1
3. what is 9 + 8 ?
4. How many sides does a quadrilateral have?
5. what is 20 – 5 ?

It should only take about 5 minutes to do it and then you "expose" the answers for a quick check. You don't want to take a lot of time to go over it. You also want to continue to give them the same "types" of problems until they begin to show mastery then make changes to new content.

The other thing that we are really working on over here is transfer of understanding from "real world" type applications to "test based" type of questions to make sure that they are able to take their understanding and apply it in any given situation. Typically, we use released test items and more "skill based" items for this.

I hope this helps!

Hi Dani,

This is very interesting. Can you give me some examples of how you bring in "real world" type apps to "test based" type questions? I am also curious to know your take on the thread above about the limited value of learning multiplication facts.

 

Thanks.

Sheela

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