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Hitting the Books

September 6, 2010

Week one is under our belt.  Yahoo! It was a  week filled with learning new names and new routines and establishing the foundation on which this year’s learning will be built.  It’s often hard not to succumb to the pressure to dive into academics during the first week, but making the time to carefully establish relationships and routines pay off in the long run.  If you’re the slightest bit tempted to get into the muck, check out a new book our friends at the Northeast Foundation for Children, called Doing Math at Morning Meeting. This gem will allow you to begin introducing math activities in fun, non-threatening ways which encourage students to view themselves as mathematicians while making it a fun start to the day.

Whether or not you use the Responsive Classroom approach, if you’re a K-5  teacher then you probably start your day with some sort of gathering or meeting.  These types of meetings are rich with expressive and receptive language experiences, social skill-building, organizational strategies, and movement/coordination.  But where’s the math?  This book proves there is much more math to be done at the beginning of the day than simply weather and calendar.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics makes the case for fostering math skill and achievement:

In this changing world, those who understand and can do mathematics will have significantly enhances opportunities and options for shaping their futures.” Mathematical competence opens doors to productive futures.

Children need explicit math instruction and practice but also the powerful example set by adults who use math in real ways during the course of the day.  How often do you use math in your job? Your personal life? How do you see things around you mathematically? Whether it’s sorting laundry, budgeting for shopping, computing tip on a bill, observing symmetry in a patio or piece of art, or in designing a garden, math is a part of everyday life for most of us.  Take a few moments to point that out and begin the dialogue.  children will begin to see their own worlds “in a math way.”

Roxanne Kriete, Andy Dousis and Margaret Berry Wilson  have compiled dozens of math activities in Doing Math in Morning Meeting. They open the doors for teachers to bring more math to the start of the day and to build on the attitude of seeing your world through a math lens.  Wondering how to add one more thing to an already packed school day?    The authors assert that if you take “1/3 of morning meeting x 180 school days = 30 extra hours of math.”  This assumes you take 10 minutes each day to slip in a little extra, which produces an annual yield is 6 additional weeks of math instruction. Amazing. Achievable. Even if you did half of what they recommend, that’s a leap!

What I love about this book is the simple premise that a little bit of “extra” math adds up to much more exposure and practice for learners. Games and activities which are cross referenced by both grade level and NCTM standards.  There are group activities that allow individuals to:

  • apply learning, not learn new materials.
  • take risks in the safe and familiar morning meeting format.
  • take time to practice skills and express their math thinking.
  • feel empowered to see everyone as a “math thinker”.
  • as a group, focus on practice, application and extension of skills taught during math workshop.

Perhaps the best and most useful feature of the book is the user-friendly and comprehensive organization of the content.  Choose your grade level (K-5) and start perusing for ideas you can use. Tomorrow.  Next week. Next winter. All year.  They’re linked by NCTM content and process standards, specific content and skills,  and morning meeting component (message, sharing, activity).  It also outlines how to prepare students for success and how to address necessary vocabulary.  There is  a subject listing that allows you to find an activity to support your math content or a particular skill that your students need additional practice.

As the school year unfolds, consider the ways in which you discuss and view math.  If you could use some refreshers to enliven and enrich morning meeting, or need suggestions for a more mathematical way to view the world, Doing Math in Morning Meeting is a sure-bet.

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