Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fear of the Algorithm ~ The Meek Moose Dishes on New Math Part II

So, Sunday, I started a horror story about math over at Virginia is For Teachers.  This was prompted by a few things.

First, that I'm in grad school to get certified as a math specialist. (I'm thinking I might have bitten off more than I could chew there)
Second, that I'm teaching fifth grade this year after a ten year hiatus and I'm having to get re-familiar with multiplication and decimals.
And third, my school is trying really hard to move away from traditional math teaching to a conceptualized approach where kids really UNDERSTAND why numbers work the way they should.

When I was teaching second grade- this wasn't too huge of a deal.  Young kids- relatively new to math anyway, and we're just in addition and subtraction.

The focus is on manipulating the numbers:

Short little bits like this- parents don't mind.  It's when you start messing with "regrouping" that they get upset.

Can you remember when we stopped saying borrow and carry and drop down and started using the word regrouping?  Parents really got upset then too- but fifteen years later, they've adjusted.  So just think of it this way- 15 years from now, they'll stop being upset about expanded form and new math.  But why wait that long?  Let's look at educating parents as well as our kids to build a bridge between the two systems.

The first thing that sends chills of horror through those raised on the algorithm is the horizontal equation. What adds the fingers down the chalk-board cringe to the entire situation is when the smaller of the numbers comes FIRST.

This one right here- might make your brain hurt:

47 + 89 =

However- any algorithm loving math nerd can solve this in a wink.  We just do this:

And now children learning "new" old math all over the country begin to weep.  Because they've just solved the problem doing simply this:

What's missing is the bridge between the two.  A middle ground so that the kids can see how to get to the traditional algorithm, and the parents can see there is a method to the madness.

Here's one possibility:

Fewer steps decomposing a number looking for friendly numbers.

Or this one:

Decomposing just the bottom number and using the ones place to create friendly numbers.

Either way, eventually the step needs to be taken to explain that the "1" that unceremoniously got plopped on top of that 8 in the first example of the traditional algorithm, actually means, "1 group of 10".  Here's one easy way for parents to show that in their own traditional algorithm style:

Now let's look at subtraction.
Same horror story, just reversed:

87 - 49 =

Good old traditional getting it's borrow and carry on!

So here is a decomposing method used to keep the integrity of place value when the student is manipulating the numbers.  Parents REALLY really hate this one:

Both students and parents hate this black magic right here - adding when you're supposed to subtract! Whaaa??? (Although it is probably the coolest):

There are two different ways to bridge this to the traditional algorithm.  Note that both attempt to keep the student focused on place value:

What's important to remember is that the end game is for students to understand numbers so well, that they can do much of it mentally.  It's not to actually slow down calculation.  When students AND parents can see the progression from one method to the traditional algorithm, life gets better,  The magic kitchen table gets more magical.

On Thursday I'll return with Fear of the Algorithm Part III - multiplication and division.

Monday, July 6, 2015

In the Full Swing of Summer - The Meek Moose Makes a Monday

Aside from some required Professional development three days this week- I am actually doing NOTHING this summer.

I didn't sign up for any classes. Partly because I'm tired, and partly because I'm being rebellious, and partly because I decided to get a masters degree as a Math Specialist and it starts at the end of August and I figured that was enough.

I did not agree to take on any sort of job at all.  No tutoring, no summer school, no helping out at a friend's store.  Being a slug and a mediocre Mom is going to be amazingly consuming.  Plus, I figured I would be getting ready to teach fifth grade, and that would be sure preoccupy my thoughts that were not directed towards eating and watching the spawn of my loins.

I DID decide to go horse back riding once a week.  And I'm doing Maker Camp on-line with the kids.  And I have a pile of books that are nothing like The Hunger Games piled up near my pillow to read. I admit, a good portion of them are professional.  But I also decided to go to the library once a week to read a young adult chapter book to get ready for the move from Biscuit to big kid books. I, of course, haven't started that library pilgrimage yet.  Maybe Friday.  I'll pencil it inside my imaginary day planner right now.

I also decided I'd try to make more of a schedule for myself to blog.  I know, I know, I say this all the time. I should at least be able to stick to it for the summer.  That's a good four weeks longer than normal New Year's resolutions.  Should count for something.

Of course, to blog, I sorta have to do things and think about things other than where I can find lemon seeds to harvest on Sims4. That damn tree in Oasis Springs isn't mature!  I can't get a seed from it!  Curses!  Anyway - #geekmoment

So- I'm going to be doing some stuff I find on Pinterest for fun!

This last week I decided to try out this little ditty on my Outside Recess Board from Homegrown Friends:

I had even tweeted about the experience and heard back from Homegrown Friends on Twitter!  Super nice people!

If you click on the picture, it will take you to their blog page, as well as a video of kids doing this art so you can see the dynamics of it.

I decided I'd like to do this one because I needed some wall art for my bedroom. I got these cheap canvases from Walmart- different sizes and enough for each person in my family to make one. And I chose colors for the paint based on my bedspread and room decor.  My first thought was to do the process painting on wrapping paper, and then stamp it onto the canvas.

Ha!  So you can see the trouble we ran in to from the beginning.  The wrapping paper was too flimsy, and her legs too long to get a good swing.  We did eventually try the stamp method with this though.

But it wasn't the look I was wanting.  We relocated to the back yard to try Ye Olde Swing Set, and tried painting directly on the canvas this time.  Long legs and low swings continued to thwart us.

We decided to just sit in the swing the regular way and I'd hold the canvas like a human easel.  This worked better for us.

So I went about having each of the kids make one, and my parents, and even tried to get my dog to walk across the first little one we had tried down by the tree swing in the front yard.  And I made one of course for a total of six paintings.

We all ended up covered in paint, especially since the littlest decided that this was the perfect way to paint using karate moves.  That he has no training for, I might add.  Like I need him to be able to chop me with any precision.  Anyway- I hosed the kids off- which made them happy as clams- and all was well.  Except for the dog.  He is still most displeased.

You might be noticing that art work already up on the wall.  That's from the littlest, during his "I love Sharpies" period.  Picasso would be proud.

To get these hung up on the wall in a decent arrangement, I utilized Pinterest again- recalling an old pin from my old Pinterest account.  I found this one here today, I think the original one I was thinking of was from Martha Stewart- but this one from BHG is the same thing.

So, the basic idea is you make paper templates of the art, and then you can move them around using tape getting them just right without destroying your walls.  Mine was already destroyed of course, but moving the papers around did make things easier.  I had a bunch of very large sheets of construction paper that I used to make the templates.

 I took me three or four arrangements until I decided on this one.  And I found two other little pictures I had around the house to add to it to make it a bit more symmetrical.

Voila! Family art, bedroom wall covered, no more sharpie. Trifecta of success.

As far as getting rid of the wall paper border at the top?  That is another battle I will have to wage with  my mother.  But until I prevail- this makes for a much nicer atmosphere in my room.

Be sure to head over to Tara's page to see what everyone has made this week!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

What You Fear, Comes Upon You - The Meek Moose Reflects

Here we are, two weeks in to summer vacation, and I'm still having teaching nightmares.

I can't say that I have a variety of teaching nightmares- they all involve the same elements.
1) I'm not wearing a shirt
2) I can't find a bathroom with a door on the stall
3) I cannot control the class

I get the last one.  It makes sense as to why I would have anxiety over that situation.  Who doesn't?  I think this is what the parents who visit our classrooms and whisper "I could never do what you do!" are referring to.  Maintaining control over 20+ personalities that could mutiny at any given moment.

The other two- yeah, I don't know.  I guess I need a dream analyzer for that one.  Although, thinking over number two (pun completely fortuitous), ever walk in to a place and just think "I cannot poop here!"?  That one might just be universal.

I can remember watching some sort of documentary on dreams where someone said they believed nightmares were only rehearsals for a real life crisis we imagine we might experience.  And therefore the purpose of the nightmare was to figure out a solution so that we would be best prepared when the real moment came.

I'm going to tell you right now- I do not want to show up to work without a shirt.  And I don't see how that could happen anyway.  If I really want to come to terms with the no door on the bathroom stall, I suppose I could go to a roller rink (if they even have those anymore) because I remember that being the norm in the 80's.  For some reason, no door made it easier to go when you were wearing skates.  I guess.  I'm not buying it though, thinking about it now thirty years later.

The controlling the class problem - now there's the sticky wicket.

I know why I'm having the anxiety.  I'm leaving my comfort zone for the past seven teaching years of being in second grade.  I was told in May that I would be teaching fifth in the fall.  During the meeting I tried to keep upbeat.  I did mention my reservations of teaching that grade level- but I remained calm, nonchalant, if you will, during the meeting.  I had decided to not show fear.

The car ride home however- seeing as I have a commute of over an hour - I had plenty of time to really work myself up. I like second grade.  Second Grade is my favorite.  I'm good at teaching second grade.  I like what I teach in second grade.  I'm taller than second graders.  I feel successful with second grade.  I don't have a standardized test in second grade. Second graders accept me as an authority figure.

And that's the heart of it there.  The testing and authority issues.

I've taught fifth grade before.  My first four years I was a fourth grade teacher.  And then I taught fifth grade for two years.  Now, granted, this was over ten years ago, and "back then" tests were taken with pencil and we taught an entire lesson on correct bubble filling techniques.  But the crux is still there - I'm not good at teaching to a test.  I taught with colleagues who had very high pass rates every year.  They knew how to teach directly to the standards and get the results they wanted.  I can remember this one man I taught with one year - he was revered as a great example because he always go the highest pass rate in math - "I don't tell them anything that won't be on the test."

But...but..BUT! There's gaping holes in those standards- things that are important to know!  Things that make life more interesting and meaningful and who cares if no one asks a multiple choice question about it? This is why I don't get great scores.  I am a dang hippie when it comes to standardized education.  I don't care about making the standards fun or enjoyable - I care more about the other things that make us people.  I care more about who the kids end up being later rather than right this moment.  And I'm not saying that teachers that get good passing rates on the test don't also feel this way - I hold out hope that somehow they just found a way to balance it out.

This little ditty has been circulating a lot on the web.  For folks like me that are intrigued and inspired by the STEAM and Maker Movements - this becomes a bit of a salute the flag anthem moment.

Now- I should clarify that I don't dislike standards. Standards, after all, help us make decisions all the time.  According to my standards, should I date this man holding an AK-47 for his on-line dating profile? No.  According to my standards, should I feel comfortable using this public restroom that has obviously been sterilized recently? Ummm, well, ok.  According to my standards, should I eat this delicious gourmet cupcake rolled in bacon? YES.

But I also don't mind standards when it comes to curriculum design - it does not bother me that second graders learn about the forest, or that fifth grade learns about the ocean.  It does not bother me that every grade level learns about George Washington. I do not mind that standards progress in difficulty in mathematical concepts over time. I AM bothered when gaping holes in understanding are left, or that the pace is too quick for child development, but having a road map in general does not bother me at all.

As artsy fartsy as I am, I'm not the type of person that does well with "Today Koalas! Tomorrow Zucchini!" sort of thematic teaching.  If you want to be dragged down dark alleys in search of interesting restaurants not mentioned in the travel guide, my sister is the one you want.  We would make quite the duo on the Amazing Race, I'm sure.

I just don't like the testing part.  It doesn't show growth.  It doesn't show how much work a child put in to their year, or take in to account how they might be feeling that day.  It's a one take selfie photo.  Horrors!  I take at least twenty before I pick one that is acceptable.  I know I'm not the only one.  I also don't like how the testing is turned into a spit to roast a teacher on.

What does any of this have to do with the nightmare I had about controlling a class?
Because I wasn't very good at it ten+ years ago.  I was the kooky Aunt who they knew loved them and it didn't matter.  Why did they need to do what I said?

Here I am, young me.  In the midst of a rocky marriage that will be failing in the next two years.  Coming to terms with the autism in my oldest - watching him in a preschool play where he's an elephant at a circus and he leaves his troop behind to come stand at the edge of the stage and just stare into the audience.  I can remember this girl I taught, Brooke, asking me why that upset me so much, and I remember I told her "Because I know all those things I imagined him doing when he got older aren't ever going to happen."

I can remember my last year in fifth grade, sitting down with my principal, a man I greatly love and respect even to this day, and him telling me I would be going to second grade the next year. "You'll just be a better fit there." He said.  My scores had just come in.  They were the lowest out of eight 5th grade teachers.  The kids liked me.  Some of them still talk about the projects we did that year - the movies we made of being Native Americans, the plays about the revolution.  The book report projects where they made a robot.  But none of that was on the bubble it in test.  Second grade was to be a "better fit" for me.

And it was.  Without the fear of a test looming over me- I taught them to read, and write, and understand numbers.  We performed plays, and made dioramas, and thrilled at science experiments.  All the pressure was gone.  And I was taller, and just had to use a mommy voice to bring them back under my wings.

And I am terrified of going back to fifth grade.  I am terrified of losing what I know is me and giving in to the test.  But I am also terrified of not getting good scores. It will be me, a seasoned fifth grade teacher, and a brand new teacher.

I will not necessarily be taller.  Some will be just as tall as me, and some taller.  I don't know if ten years of teaching experience under my belt has made me less of a Kooky Aunt and more of a Commander-in-Chief.  Will I be able to celebrate the growth and change in my students and not give in the the pressure of the test?

I just don't know.  Further reflection necessary.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer has Arrived - The Meek Moose Gets Current

Like one of those corporate guys who answers his phone with "Go!" We're just going to dive right in. Pretend I haven't been away for months.  Roll with it, Kittens.
3, 2, 1 ... Blast OFF!


My youngest is four.  He is the exact definition of a boy:

Click to go to Little People and Me shop
He is armed with my horse riding boot and a SpiderMan balloon from the Dollar Store.  I don't believe the balloon stands a chance.  But I'm thankful he is not thinking it would be funny to hit me with the boot.

My apologies to the state of Florida.  His Grandmother informed him that saying words like f*ck, sh*t, or damn "Make God really sad!".  So now he has for some reason adopted "Florida" as his go to curse word.  We are assuming that, like us, God is having soda go up his nose each time the boy rages since my mother hasn't said anything about it.

But look out, Gulf of Mexico!  You may be next.


The horseback riding lessons began as a birthday gift for my daughter.

But then she went on vacation to Disney World, the lucky duck, and I took her lesson for the week.
I look like a natural, no?

Eventually- the horse named Tom and I worked out a deal where he grumpily allowed me to ride him as long I tried to not take too many pictures.  He's not much of a Diva.  He's older, completely happy with going last in line, and is very much in tune with his "inner mosey".  Which is fine.  I don't really have any fantasies about galloping through the fields of barley or anything.

I hope to go once a week for the rest of the summer.  I'm not sure what I will be able to manage when school starts again- but I will hold off thinking about that for now.  

Riding is very peaceful.  They are majestic animals with beautiful eyes and soft snuffly noses. It is immensely relaxing to brush his coat and comb his mane and pat him gently on the neck.


I disrupted my peaceful bliss by reading all three Hunger Games books over the weekend on my Kindle.  I'm blaming Flamingo Fabulous.  We watched the second movie on our beach vacation together and she was saying how the books were better than the movies. (Aren't they always?  Why did I have to think I needed to know for myself?)

I was fine until the end of the third book.  It was disappointing with Finnick of course, but I was ruined for life in the last chapters with Prim.  And just when I was almost over it- they brought in the damn cat, limping home after more than a week's journey in the wilderness. "FLORIDA!!!!!!" I scream from the rooftops. "Gulf of Mexico!"

I cried for a good hour.  I hate those books.  I refuse to watch the third and fourth movie.

Now I need something happy to read. Help me  dear people!




My daughter took a video of me the other day, and I had to come to come to terms with it.  I've gone spherical.

And I don't want to be.

But I don't want to be a stick either.  I do not want to ever give up bread.  I just want to fit into pretty clothes and not look like I'm about to explode out of them.

So, I'm looking at trying to change my eating habits, and possibly exercise.  I say possibly because I'm not a fan of sweating.  But I found some funny work out posters that appeal to my sense of humor, so I think I will give it a go.

Click to link to tons of other workout posters
This site used to have lots of superhero themed ones- but then DC Comics got a bit hot and bothered and told them to take it all down. But whatever.  I will still pretend it is the WonderWoman workout- so take that DC comics!  

But yeah, I don't see myself being able to do any of those things in the middle there...


Let's think this through- I spent the weekend reading three books I didn't have to read.  and I just made my bed for the sake of being able to write the sentence that I made my bed.  And my plans after this post is to very probably play Sims4 indefinitely because I am at that level of slug.

I should be getting my mind wrapped around switching grade levels next year.  And getting some materials made for teaching about the brain that I'm absolutely fascinated over.  But I can't seem to get myself out of the let-me-sleep-until-noon funk.

*HeavySigh* Meh.

Be sure to head over to Farley's blog to post your own Currently, and read up on some other fabulous things teachers who are not in a funk are doing.

Peace out, Kittens!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ladies with Class Blog Hop ~ $40 TpT gift certificate up for grabs!

The collaborative blog Ladies With Class are hosting a meet and greet blog hop!  Come check out everybody and get some great freebies and a chance to win $40 for TpT!

 Thanks Mrs. Hug-a-Bug for the great job on our graphics!

I get excited about Spring because I am way into nature lessons with my kids.  I get to play around with frogs and butterflies, and hatch chicks and garden!

Hey, had you heard that gardening helps with depression because of the nutrients in the soil actually act as an anti-depressant?  Way cool!  My students are city kids, and not many have had a gardening opportunity- so they have a lot of fun with me this time of year.

I've been out looking for frog spawn lately, but haven't found any.  I don't want to order it from somewhere on-line, but I think I might be forced to.  Sheesh.  And I'm hoping that this year I'm able to do butterflies without a catastrophe like I had a couple of years ago.  I have already picked out the chicken eggs I'm going to attempt to hatch and have decided not to have them until a bit later in May so that I don't have a Memorial Day hatch date like last year.

This weekend I'm at a science retreat at a State Park in Virginia.  We're going to be doing all sorts of activities from Project Wet.  I can't wait to bring back what I've learned to my classroom and get my kids out to the pond preserve behind our school!

To celebrate Spring- I'm offering one of my first clip art packs as a freebie this weekend. (It's usually $4)  Click the pic to go to my store and get a set!  If you download and leave feedback- that would be awesome!

I've also decided to put all of my spring themed art and teacher resources on sale for 20% off, grab yourself a deal this weekend!

And last but not least, I'm giving away  winner's choice from my store to THREE lucky winners. Enter using the rafflecopter below.

But don't forget to hop ALL the way to Ladies with Class to try your luck at winning a $40 TpT gift certificate from all of us! Enjoy the hop and get yourself some great freebies!

Next stop? 
Lopez Land Learners