Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mathematical Comprehension Connections

Remember: photo guilt:

I pass this tree on my morning walk.  It amazes me.  I can't even figure out where these other twisty branch deals come from.  Is it part of the tree?  Is it another plant twisted on top of it?  Are they living symbiotically, or is it hurting the tree over time?  

I just finished up a week at a county math conference.  I will admit that my favorite part was being able to hang out with a small group of teachers I work with.  It was fun to blend social silliness with academics.  But the academic part was great as well- really has my wheels turning, looking forward to put it into practice in September.  One of the books we read during the week was Accessible Mathematics: 10 Instructional Shifts That Raise Student Achievement by Steven Leinwand.  I'll talk about that book in another post- but it is a quick read- but pretty powerful.

 I also used the time to make my way through chapter 3 of Building Mathematical Comprehension by Laney Sammons.  In this chapter the topic is connections.  On page 85 Laney quotes Marzano saying "research shows that what students already know about the content is one of the strongest indicators of how well they will learn new information relative to the content."  Sheesh- and I wonder why they struggle.  I mentioned in my other post how meaty this book is.  And this chapter took me a bit of time to process.  I'm pushing myself to take what I know about teaching reading comprehension, and seeing how I can transfer it to the math lesson. 

Teaching connection strategies has always come easy to me during reading.  And many of the great comprehension techniques Laney mentions in her chapter are from one of my favorite books Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading by Tanny McGregor.  Being familiar with these strategies helped me mull over the math piece.  Which goes to show how powerful it is to be able to make connections to comprehend.  Reflecting on this point has pointed me in the right direction- if I teach the reading portion first- which they seem to be able to grasp ahold of relatively easily- I then have provided them with an initial connection when I bring it up again in math.  In reading, I teach how to make text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections. We make a concentric circles poster, we practice, we make thinking stems charts, the whole nine yards.  So now what I have to do is to teach the same sort of thing in math class.

Math-to-Self connections:  Easy enough- this is the math about me stuff we do all the time.  I know that I am 5 feet seven inches.  I know I weigh one hundred million pounds.  My house number is 141.  There are seven digits in my phone number- and it goes on and on.  We have daily math experience that we might not even realize.  In the grocery store- I make a math decision every time I compare two check out lanes and decide which one I will get through quicker.  At home I cook- therefore I juggle time, temperature, and fractional parts of a whole. During my commute I manage distance traveled over time when I check my clock at certain check points to note how much longer I have and will I be there on time?  I also have ingrained in me probability of acceleration or deceleration based on whether I'm going up or down hill behind a big rig or a lady on her cell phone.  I am always judging distances between cars and making decisions on whether to pass or stay put.

And I've said easy enough- BUT.  Are my students having these experiences in which they can make connections as well?  In my student population- probably not.  So it's going to be on me to beef up that part of my curriculum and provide some experiences to build upon.

I got stuck on this part of the chapter: Math-to-Math connections.  I was seriously, what the hey? for a page or two until she gave me some examples.  I even wrote a note to myself in the margin:

Luckily though- it turns out that math to math connections aren't as hard as I initially thought.  Take text-to-text connections - The Rough-Faced Girl is like Cinderella in that both were treated unfairly by jealous family members.  So- if I have that experience measuring when I'm baking, then I can connect that math knowledge to fractions.  And even though I just said they aren't that hard- they are still going to be where I need to spend some serious time building those connections with the kids so that we can make them naturally.  It comes down to precision planning on my part.  No more "winging it".  Which is going to be quite the challenge for me.
Across all of these, math-to-self, math-to-math, and math-to-world(which can be easily handled through current events) the importance of modeling in a teacher think aloud is going to be key.  And you have to KNOW what you are going to say beforehand.  You have to pick exactly the right example so that you can make a natural connection and not a forced one.  And when it comes to the right example- I really think there is something to be said about NOT using one straight from our adopted curriculums.
I ran across this TED talk on Pinterest today: 

 It's 11 minutes- but worth the time.  Yes- he is talking about high school- but what he's saying about the text books are true for any grade.  And his methods for taking apart a text book questions and actually making it relevant is also applicable to any grade level.

Overall, what I'm discovering is that the good teaching is going to take more effort and time.  And maybe that's what's been wrong for so long- we went on auto-pilot for a bit.  So here I go- switching back over to manual control.

I've linked up this post to the book study going on at Primary Inspired:

And hey hey!  There's a giveaway going on at Shifting Teacher K-2.  Christin is celebrating 100 followers- and The Meek Moose is providing Winner's Choice.  head on over, wish her a congratulations and try your luck!
How much planning do you put into your math think alouds?  Are you doing a math think aloud?  Are you making connections?  Do you want to try? 
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1 comment:

  1. FYI That is another plant growing on the tree. It is like a jungle vine and if allowed to grow it will eventually kill the tree. I have them on my trees in my woods and I try to cut them with a saw so they won't kill my trees!