Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Week 3: Why are we having 5th graders practice their counting?

It is week 3 and I have been given the change to teach daily the introduction/warm-up session for all three 5th grade homerooms that come into the Math classroom I am student teaching in.  I find it a great way to break into  the students getting to know me and my styles, as well as getting to know their abilities and quirks.  It begins with the students coming in and choosing a popsicle stick that tells them where to sit.  This is followed by a Problem Of the Day (P.O.D.) which the students complete on their whiteboards independently, then check their answers with peers, then I go over the answer with them on the big whiteboard at the front of the room.  We review any tricky spots and move on to homework checks.  Once again the students check their answers with peers, and any tricky problems are gone over as a class by request of the students.

Then we practice counting.  Initially, this seemed like a silly thing for 5th graders to be doing, but by practicing their skip counting, their fact family awareness has increased.  The current topic in math is division, specifically the traditional standard algorithm, which takes a bit of mental math.  By having the students practice skip counting (of 60, 70, 80, 21, 17, etc.) both orally as a group and on paper for a 1 minute sprint, students become more and more familiar with the number patterns that can be seen throughout math.

Being skeptical, I asked my cooperating teacher to show me some data backing up the claims that practicing counting in the 5th grade could help students with their math.  She pulled out tracking and data sheets with a baseline and the increase of student performance increased beyond what I would normally thought to happen or have seen happen in other classrooms I have been in.  While it was slow to start while students learned and practiced the counting, when multiplication and division problems were introduced, students had a steady and strong increase in their academics without fail.  This means even struggling students were making gains beyond what had been expected for them.

All from something they were introduced to as younger students, and creating practical applications.

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