Mind the Gap: Filling in Missing Math Skills (with Math Chapter 4 Workbooks)
Have you seen the bumper sticker that says, "If you can read this, thank a teacher?" Perhaps a more appropriate slogan would be, "If you can read this, count to ten, wash your hands, wait your turn, work well with others, and remember which day the school cafeteria serves the good pizza, thank a teacher." Your to-do list as a teacher is never-ending, and yet, somehow, you seem to get it all done and done well! Teachers really are superheroes!
In the midst of doing all these things and so much more, teachers are constantly striving to help meet the needs of their diverse learners. Sometimes, this involves providing enrichment opportunities for advanced students who are ready and willing to go above and beyond. Oftentimes, however, teachers spend an extraordinary amount of time trying to fill in the gaps for their students. This is common in all subjects but seems to be particularly pronounced in math. Students often enter their classrooms in the fall with lost content knowledge thanks to the summer slide or because teachers were forced to rush through standards at the end of the previous year in an attempt to prepare students for upcoming state assessments. Students seem to have considerable gaps in mathematical understanding. How can teachers help fill those gaps from last year while still pressing forward with the content they need to cover this year? We've compiled a list of suggestions that may help!
Idea #1: Flip Your Classroom
No, we don't mean you should start flipping tables upside down or hanging desks from the ceiling, even though that may be one way to release frustration or keep your students engaged (and in their seats!). Rather, we're suggesting taking a "Flipped Classroom" approach to your instruction.
In flipped classrooms, class time is reserved for active learning. In a traditional classroom setting, teachers introduce new content at the beginning of class. Students then briefly practice that new task as a group. Then, they continue to practice on their own, at home, before returning to class the next day. The flipped classroom concept calls for something different. Here, students watch direct instruction videos or lectures about new concepts before coming to class. They may be asked to read their textbook in preparation for the upcoming topic, listen to a short audio lesson, or review teacher-created notes. When class is in session, teachers can spend that time on active student engagement. This provides more time to focus on differentiation, mixed ability levels, and supporting students with different learning preferences. The "practice" happens in class with the support and guidance of the teacher, rather than after class when students are at home working through challenges on their own.
Teachers can create screen recordings while working through digital content such as online textbooks or resources such as YouTube or Flipgrid to create quick videos that introduce and teach key concepts ahead of time. The power behind this methodology is that students can watch, pause, and re-watch the videos multiple times before coming to class. In a season of distance learning, hybrid instruction, and face-to-face interactions, video content from a flipped classroom is immensely valuable, as parents will have access to the content as well. Supportive adults or siblings can sit with younger learners, watch the videos, and help to identify potential problems that may need to be addressed during class time.
A flipped classroom doesn't have to just use video instruction. Depending on the age and ability level of your students, you could instruct them to read the upcoming lesson in a textbook or visit a website that has prebuilt videos that will cover the next concept. If, however, you would like to create your own short videos, here are a few tips for success.
Tips for Creating Content Videos:
-Stay Focused: Each video should focus on just one concept or topic. Remember, the goal is to help students prepare for the next topic, not all future topics. If you are working your way through a series of lessons, each video should focus on each lesson's content.
-Keep It Short but Go Fast: Does this seem to be contradictory? It really isn't! Videos for a flipped classroom should not be any longer than ten minutes. When you are teaching and recording, remember that pace is key! You don't need to go as slowly as you would when teaching live. Students have the ability to pause, rewind, and rewatch the video in its entirety as many times as they'd like. It is better to err on the side of moving quickly and keeping their attention than going slowly and having them disengage.
-Ask Open-Ended Questions: As you present your content, be sure to ask a handful of open-ended questions. Students can answer these during your next whole-group class session. These questions will not only serve as an accountability component, but will help guide your students' thinking as they are watching the videos, as well.
-Have Fun: Let's be honest: Teachers and students are both facing immense stress. When you think about creating short content videos, think about what your students will want to watch. What do you want to create? If your students will be plopped on the floor of their living room watching your video in preparation for tomorrow's lesson, how can you keep them engaged? The answer may be simpler than you suspect. Be silly! Have fun! Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself and give your students a reason to smile. Can you present multiplying fractions while wearing a goofy hat and glasses? Our typical teacher voices normally work just fine when we are all together in one classroom, but when it comes to keeping students engaged on a screen, we have fierce competition from Hollywood and the countless video games most of them play. A little fun can go a long way in helping students remember the content you're covering.
Idea #2: Focus on Key Concepts
No matter which math curriculum you use, most programs will begin the year with a brief review of concepts covered toward the end of the prior year. While this quick recap is always helpful, we recognize that it has been crucial this year. The expected slide for most students has, in reality, presented as a gaping hole. As you continue to work your way through this year's standards, be mindful of key concepts that may be missing. Before jumping into a new standard, you may need to review and recover the instruction that was lost from last spring and use that as a springboard to your grade level. Below are some topics typically covered in the spring that you may need to address before moving forward:
Your first-graders may need some direct instruction in the following areas before moving on to the more complex grade one standards:
-Count numbers to 20
-Compose and decompose numbers 11-19
-Identify and describe shapes
-Describe and compare measurable attributes
The following first-grade topics may need additional review as you jump into second-grade concepts:
-Use models and strategies to add tens and ones
-Use models and strategies to subtract tens
-Time and money
-Reason with shapes and their attributes
Consider addressing these second-grade topics with your third-graders. These are likely to be the areas that teachers struggled to adequately cover at the end of 2019:
-Add within 1,000 using models and strategies
-Subtract within 1,000 using models and strategies
-Shapes and their attributes
Students may need support in these areas as they prepare for fourth-grade standards:
-Understand fractions as numbers
-Fraction equivalence and comparison
-Solve time, capacity, and mass problems
-Solve perimeter problems
Your new fifth-graders may have gaps in the following fourth-grade topics. Consider spending some time on each of these lessons and concepts from the previous years:
-Understand and compare decimals
-Algebra: Generate and analyze patterns
-Geometric measurement: Understand concepts of angles and angle measurement
-Lines, angles, and shapes
Chapter 4 Math Workbooks
Idea #3: Review, Review, Review
There is power in practice! Whether you are revisiting key concepts from previous grade levels or reinforcing your current standards, your students need ample time to practice their math skills. Engaging and creative workbooks provide this opportunity. edHelper has created the perfect solution for the practice problem! Packed with pages your students will want to do, these printable practice books focus on key skills and offer opportunities for spiral review.
Grade 1: This printable practice book is a perfect fit for your first graders who are continuing to develop their conceptual understanding of subtraction. With the perfect combination of practice problems, word problems, and puzzles, students will have a chance to use different strategies and tools to solve subtraction problems with their facts up to 10. Embedded within the book is also an opportunity for students to go online or use the "Let's Play" app to continue grade-level appropriate practices. These fluency exercises are the perfect solution for students who need additional practice and have gaps in concepts or confidence!
Second Grade Math Book - Using Bar Models in Addition and Subtraction
Using bar models as a strategy to identify missing digits in addition and subtraction problems is a fantastic strategy for young mathematicians. Any time we are able to use visual representations when working with math problems, students are more likely to comprehend the equation. This entire workbook strives to do just that! Your second graders will be excited to use these pages-which are filled with fun and creative word problems, engaging images, and multiple opportunities to "see and do" math-as they continue to master the bar model strategy.
Grade 3: Nothing is missing in this third-grade subtraction workbook-except for a few numbers! Students will enjoy using these engaging two-step word problems, bar graphs, and subtraction practice problems as they continue to strengthen their skills and build fluency with the subtraction of numbers up to 10,000. The workbook, with built-in brain breaks and callouts for online practice games, will give students a chance to not only focus on current skills but also revisit those that may need additional support from last spring.
Grade 4: The Chapter 4 math book, which is filled with grade-level appropriate (and fun!) math problems, uses toys, birthday parties, and fancy pets to help students approach and understand data. Whether it's analyzing the graph to measure the length of Flavio, the fancy pooch's hair, or using tables and tally marks to total the amount in coins collected by garden gnomes, your students will want to do these math pages! Coupled with callouts for online fluency practice, multi-step word problems, and themes they enjoy, this practice book is the perfect solution for supporting all of your striving 4th-graders.
Fifth Grade Math Book - Multiplying and Dividing Fractions and Mixed Numbers
One of the most challenging math concepts in fifth grade is multiplying and dividing fractions and mixed numbers. While these standards may cause a bit of anxiety, especially for those students who are struggling with gaps in their content knowledge or understanding, this chapter book provides creative practice opportunities to help students work at their own pace. It encourages students to use drawings to visualize the fractions being multiplied. This scaffolded support helps to prepare them for additional practice opportunities later in the workbook. Multi-step word problems starring silly and fun characters and settings will continue to support fluency development and deepen conceptual understanding. Don't forget about the "Let's Play" app or online practice included, as well! With just five minutes of purposeful playtime, your students will continue to build their skills and their confidence. Have them log in to your class page where you can track their progress or allow them to play on their own.
There are countless ways to help fill the mathematical understanding gaps left from previous years. Focusing on key concepts, flipping your classroom, and providing ample opportunities for review are just a few suggestions. Ultimately, as the classroom teacher (and local superhero!), you will have the best insight as to what your students need to make up for lost instruction time. Lost learning will not be recovered overnight, but step-by-step and standard-by-standard, you will continue to help your students succeed.