My Maths class this week

This week. it is like a roller coaster ride with my maths class. The week started off badly as they were unfocused for the first 2 days.  Particularly on Monday, I  really feel lousy after coming out of the class. They do not seem to be listening at all and are all restless.  After all these years, I feel that one of my weakness is in maintaining discipline in class. I have a tendency to be very “lenient” with them. Guess this is something that I need to work on.

But, things turns out for slightly better for the last 3 days.  Why? I set expectations and routines for them and become more firm with them. I talk to the few disruptive ones and tell them to be mindful of their behaviour.  They are still not perfect in class but they are slowly improving. I think I will drop a call to their parents and praise them for the improvement.

What really marks a good end to the week is seeing that making efforts to do their mini-tests! I can see their intense look and determined to do it.  One of my boy (he happens to be one of the disruptive ones) who scored zero in the first test  manage to get close to 10 marks for the same test. That really makes my day.

To others, the mini-test is easy. But for my class,  I need to celebrate small success.  Yes, there are lots of gaps to covered but I will shoulder on as I continue to creatively balance between the dept’s demands and the students’ needs.

I am determined that there should not by any more “U” grades coming from my class! Last year , I was petty upset with myself as I do not manage to get all my students to go beyond U grade. I will not let history repeats itself. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching Maths in 2017 (Part 2 – Reflecting on P6 Maths Program)

For this part of the reflection, I am going to look  at Maths Program as stipulated by the department and how that can be further strengthened and improved. Generally, I have no issue with the bold and forward-looking strategies of the department (e.g. with no use of workbook, making mathematics reasoning visible through journalling, use of technology for formative assessment).

In fact, at the beginning of the year, I was excited about this.  But, a strategy is only as good as its execution. The devil is in the details and the implementation is even more challenging in the P6 critical year. The students are not enculturated in such way of mathematics learning and may not possess the necessary dispositions and skills.

(1) No workbook

In this year, students did not buy workbooks. Students were expected to do questions (in textbook) and referred to them whenever necessary.

But, I believe that this was the first year most of the students were experiencing this. The students might not have the habit to refer to the question in one place and their answer in another place.

This might create extra cognitive load for my students as they needed to flip to the relevant page (provided they had written the page and question number) and refer to their answers. My students were already ‘put off’ by maths and this extra step was not going to make them love Maths more.

I am all for the idea of ‘no workbook’ as this allows teachers more time to create meaningful learning experience for the kids. I do not dispute that.

But, the P6s might not be ready for this as this could be their very first year experiencing this. It would be good that if this has been implemented in earlier years (say P4). So, once they are in P6, they will have the habit with doing work in the exercise book.

(2) Making mathematics thinking visible through journalling

Students were to write a journal entry explaining their mathematics reasoning. This is a very good idea. But, our P6s might not have the necessary skills and disposition for meaningful and in-depth journalling. They were likely to provide journal entries that lacks depth.

Why? Again, this could be the first year they were doing mathematics journalling and they do not have the necessary skills and dispositions for such meaningful journalling. Meaningful journalling takes time and students should be trained over the years for that. We cannot leave it to the students to ‘journal’. They need to be trained over the years.

So, it would be good that the department can come up with some consistent scaffolds for such meaningful journalling over their 6-year. These scaffolds and structures would be used consistently over the 6 years.

I am definitely all for mathematics journalling.  This why I was doing a variant: Through making their mathematics reasoning through videos.

However, my challenge was finding the common scaffolds and apply these scaffolds consistently. It would be good that the Maths Department, with their wealth of expertise, can come up with something the teacher can use.

(3) Formative Assessment using technology

I am all for this provided this is meant for assessing the simple-to-do work problems (e.g., 1-mark or 2-mark mechanical word problems). I was using the platform extensively for my class and they enjoyed it. I would even give them differentiated problems based on their results.

However, the answers in the platform might not be correct at times, which might lead to misconception in students. For example, if 3.05 is rounded off to 1 decimal place, both 3.1 and 3.10 are both accepted. It would be good that the Maths Department can set up some Google Doc for the all Mathematics teachers to input such inaccuracies. This would help further strengthen the platform in terms of mathematical accuracy.

In essence, I am all for the bold and forward-looking vision for the Maths department. The question to ask: Are our student enculturated to this type of Maths learning?

Hence, there is a need to put structures and process in places over the 6 years to ensure the vision can materialize. It might be a challenge for a P6 Maths teacher to implement the strategies in class in which students are not prepared for over their years in school.

But, I am glad that I ‘somehow’ survived the year by making meaning of the bold strategies and contextualized them appropriately in my class.

Teaching Maths in 2017 (Part 1 – Reflecting on teaching maths my way)

This is the 2nd year I am teaching the most academically-challenged maths class. It is time to take stock on what I have done and see how best I can move forward next year. It just seems that I am destined to teach such group every year. I am more than happy to take up such challenge as I love to help this group of kids to clear Maths with minimally a E!

 

(1) Addressing students’ learning gaps in fundamentals

I try to close the gaps in their fundamentals that they are facing. However, I feel that I should have done more if I have been  more daring to “ditch the syallabus” and focus on their fundamentals”. Focusing on their fundamentals has to be done in Term 1 and should feature regularly in my maths lessons.  Like for a ten-period week lessons, at least 2 periods needs to be devoted to their fundamentals.  So, starting for next year, I am most likely to drown them with lots of mechanical sums in the very start. This can be achieved thru

(2) Making their reasoning visible through video recording

This is something I will continue next year. But, I would need to put in scaffolds in place to make their reasoning visible (e.g., stating the criteria). I have tried to scaffold their learning this year but I should have been more consistent in the way I use my scaffolds. I also ought to provide more feedback to my students about their video.

In essence, making their reasoning is vital and critical. It is challenging but it needs to be done. I do think about the scaffolds but somehow, after the 101 things I need to do, I sort of lose the discipline and am not very consistent in which I apply it. This is a note to myself. I must be more consistent and disciplined next year in the use of video in providing feedback !

And , I also need to allow my students to critque their peer’s videos. This is something I have not done this year.

(3) Gamification

Gamification of Mathetmatics learning (e.g., using Kahoot) is something that I will still continue to use next year.  Making mathematics learning fun is cruicial and I need to think more ways to gamify their learning. Perhaps, I should consider using MyDojo

Seeing my students excited and learning Maths spurs me on (even it means more hardwork for me as I need to input the questions!)

(3) No WB

This year, the Maths Department goes without the WB.  I do see the value in not using WB so that teachers can spend more time creating meanignful learning for the child. There is no need to ‘rush through the WB’.. But, having gone through a year without WB, I feel that it might be better for the kids to have WB so that they can refer to the worked examples. The current textbook examples are just not enough.  For this group of kids, I will position the WB as a ‘notebook’ in which the kids will take down the worked examples and do some do-able sums on their one,

So, what is my plan next year? Yes, the kids won’t have WB officially. But, I will buy WBs for them. In this way,  I do not have the pressue of completing every single question in the WB (well, it is my money anyway) but the kids will have more worked examples to refer to. A win-win situation!!!

 

Final Lap for PSLE

Yes, it is Term 4 and three more weeks to PSLE.

Now, I need to give it all for their final lap. Good to see some of them finally making more efforts but is that enough? I guess I will just stay positive and focus on what they are doing now..

My plan for them

(1) At least 2 papers 1 in Week 1 an Week 2. For Week 3, 1 more paper 1.

Will then assign koobits homework to focus on their mistkes

(2) Focus on MCQ and get them to explain to explain the process for some significant questions.

I really hope that all of them can clear PSLE and move on to secondary school!

Representation on percentage

So, is 1/10 = 10% ? That is the question.

Let me offer my 2 cents worth of this topic.

Let’s get back to the basic. What is percentage?

Word from the authoritative source : The MOE syllabus doc !!!

2007   : “expressing a part of a whole as a percentage” Source [Link] – Pg 27

2012 : “expressing a part of a whole as a percentage”  and this expression 3/10 = 30% appears in the syllabus doc.  Source [Link], pg 55

So, what does this say ?

Base on the statements on the syllabus doc , we can come to the following conclusion:

(1) There is nothing mathematically wrong with 1/2  = 50 %.  Why?

Percentage as part of the whole

and fraction as “part of the whole” [2007 , Pg 15] and [2012, Pg 37]

So, from these two statements, we can infer that percentage and fraction as part of the whole. So, the use of equal sign is total legitimate here

We write 1/2 = 2/4 as they are equivalent . So similarly , 1/2 = 50%.

Such expression can be found in 2012 syllabus doc  [2012, Pg 35]

(2) So, is the use of equal sign legitimate here?

3/5 = 3/5 *100%

My view is of yes as 100% is just 1 whole so anything multiply by 1 is still 1!

3/5 = 3/5 *100%  = 60% is definitely valid and mathematically correct

There might be differing commentary of the use of representation . I guess the best is to based our understanding on the authoritative source in the context. In school, the authoritative source (it does not matter if you like it or not), is the syllabus doc.

Well, do not think that students should be penalized for such expression (e.g, 1/2 = 50%,  20% * 3 = 3/5) . After all, these expressions are deemed mathematically correctly from the authoritative source aka syllabus doc.

Illuminating students’ comments

“Thou one should not ignore the students’ comments”

As teacher in the classroom, sometimes, we can get too engrossed in finishing the syllabus that we would brushed aside students’ comments. We are too focused on the teaching and not on students’ learning. Sometimes, their immediate comments after some specific lesson activity can be illuminating and provide insights what they are thinking. Let’s face it, they are not “me”. How can I , then, assume that I know what they are thinking?

This week, my students made some insightful comments that make me modify my lesson on the spot.  Here are the two incidents:

(1) Mathematics – Geometry

In this geometry problem, there is a triangle enclosed within the parallelogram. I was trying to get them to identify the equally opposite angles in the parallelogram. Surprisingly, they could not seem to identify. I then asked them why they were not able to do so. One of the student commented, “But, there is a triangle there”. It is a simple but yet powerful comment that made me realize that they might have thought once the figures were “mixed up”, they could no longer apply the property.  I immediately explained to them that was not the case.

Since knowing they are “mixed up” over “mixed figures”, I would be mindful when I go through similar question with them.  This includes getting them to highlight the figure so that they can apply the relevant properties.

(2) Science – Wordy question

My students were supposed to do a question in the activity book. One of the student made this comment, “It is too wordy. I do not understand”. I was quite surprised as this question is not that wordy and that was even a picture to make the question clearer.  Instead of brushing off this comment and say “just read”, I decided to model how I would use the picture to help me understand the question.

Without looking at the text, I would look at the picture and tried to guess what was going on. This would give me some idea what the question was all about. I then read the question to “double confirm” my guess.

Being cognizant of the challenge my students were facing “wordy problem”, in my subsequent lessons, I would make it a point to model how to use the picture (if any) to best understand the question.

The pressure is on!

The Maths prelim results is out. I am looking at my students’ performance. I am having mixed feelings.  They could have done more better if they have been more thorough in their work. But, on the other hand, I am happy that they are not giving up. They are still willing to work hard for their Maths. As advised by my colleague, I am going to get them to have them to “spot the mistakes”. Have just posted some wrong answers on SeeSaw and will get them to identify the mistake.

I am under pressure in taking this group of kids. The pressure does not come from the management. But rather, the pressure comes from me. I have to admit I am very attached to them (Yes, they do make angry at times). I feel like if I do not give 200%  to them, I have let them down.

Wish me luck as I lead my little rascal to the final lap. I will do what I can to get them out of their primary school by the end of the year.