Thursday, August 24, 2017

Building Community in Mathematics Class

The best way to build a math community is through doing mathematics together.

I'm sure we all remember the first day of school when we woke up excited and ripe with anticipation about how our year would play out, only to be hit with a day full of rules, syllabi, and boredom that didn't actually look like a typical school day at all.

So let's flip that switch and start the year with mathematics, modeling the classroom we want to have all year. Norms are not set and learned in a day; they are nurtured and develop through discussion throughout the entire course of the year. By starting the year with an accessible, engaging, mathematics task and reflecting on what went well and what could be improved, we set the tone for this conversation and mindfulness about how our classes function to continue throughout the year.

I like to use this form to help gather students' reflections on the day.

Lots of folks in Twitter-land have great activities to use that they have generously shared. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Sara Van Der Werf's "100 Numbers to Get Students Talking" has been fun for me to use with both middle school students and adults in professional development sessions. Establishing what group work looks like is achieved through purposeful scaffolding and photographs that she describes in her blog post.
  • Annie Forest uses "Me In Numbers" to share some information about herself while also giving students a chance to showcase their number sense by providing a bank of numbers for them to reasonably match to a statement. I love how she then gives the students a chance to make their own that she attempts that night. 
  • Sarah Carter uses "Broken Circles" to help establish group norms and roles. I love that it is a little variation from the wordy, algebra-heavy problems I tend to use, giving another access point to engage more learners. (Sarah also shares her awesome posters for classroom set-up).
  • I also love these two books, which have card sets with clues to help kids work together to solve a math riddle. Get It Together has lots of levels and categories of problems, and even has a sample on its site to whet your palette. United We Solve is similar, and has a sample in the preview at this link.
  • Get started with your daily number sense routines right away! Number talks are my jam, and I love using WODB at the beginning of the year since they are so open-ended, but there are many, many more.
Regardless of the task, focus on access, engagement, and reflection built around mathematics!

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