Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Educreations in the Math Classroom to Capture Mathematical Thinking

This summer we were chatting about our favourite digital tools on Twitter and sharing some tools we would like to explore this upcoming year.  For my #Peel21st blog hop post, I wanted to talk about finally breaking through with Educreations.

The screen capture apps are well-known, as is the Educreations vs. Explain Everything debate (both have their pros and cons). I also know you can produce beautiful finished products with screen cap apps, but that's not what I want to talk about. I do think screen cap apps are a new text form all to themselves, but that is a subject for another post.

Pattern Clip

In the sample above, not much more happens than a short discussion of a pattern they built, but you can see and hear their thinking about patterns start to develop. Educreations work can be messy, and "in the moment ", and that's what we want in the math classroom. I have seen students who own the app use it as a sort of notebook, capturing thinking on the spot, even taking a photo of a textbook page and drawing all over it.

Here's another video.

Pattern #2

At this point you know we haven't developed long lists of criteria or a learning goal yet. We are still playing.

The inquiry cycle I prefer is this:
-play with the math
-look at what we did (in this case we watched about 12 pattern Educreations)
-bring out common misconceptions
-do mini-lessons as needed (on finding a rule from t-table, or graphing a pattern, e.g.)
-look at more and different types of patterns (not just blocks)
-develop criteria for the assessments we will use

Third very unique pattern

What I am saying here is that I like screen cap apps more for "in the middle" assessments than for summatives. You want conversations and observations all in one app? You got it! Evidence of mathematical thinking? Sure.  I think screen cap apps could be one of the most powerful assessment tools we have.

Puppet Pals by Debbie Axiak http://debbieaxiak.blogspot.ca/ ​
IFTTT by Jason Richea
Notability by Phil Young http://wp.me/p3RGo2-1Jb

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

On a balanced math program, and knowing things, "all the way to the bottom"

You might know I got obssessed with Jordan Ellenberg's book, "How Not to Be Wrong."  It's not written for teachers, specifically, but it has lots of lessons and inspiration for us.

Here's one:
On Mathematical Knowing

I've spent lots of time thinking and wondering about why we spend so much time fighting about math. I jokingly talk about the #MathWars a lot, but in truth it's time to lay down our arms. One can stake out a position on the "back to basics" side, or the "discovery" side, but the truth is, and always will be, somewhere in the middle.

@PeelSchools, my employer, recognizes this-we have a balanced math instruction document now (as do several other boards).  There are many voices of moderation out there.  Practice needs to be balanced with problem-solving.  Number facts are the scaffolding upon which strong mathematical buildings are made, so they must be known.  Yes, students can "discover" a whole lot of math, but they usually need a lot of guidance to see what they found means.

One thing both "sides" agree on is- actually, forget that, there are no "sides". We ALL stand for student understanding, and being able to use math skills and concepts.  (One common debate is how and when we "know" a math  fact, versus how and when we "understand" a math fact- i'll leave that one to the researchers and cognitive scientists)

Perhaps the best strategy, in any given situation, to borrow from Mr. Ellenberg's quote, is the one that helps our students know the mathematical big idea or concept under study "all the way to the bottom."  If we are working with circles, that means the deep pleasure of finding pi using circles and string, AND developing, using, and applying the circumference formula.  Seeing how grade 3s can move beyond repeated adding as their schema of multiplication develops, AND help them start to know their facts with practice and games.  Watching junior students apply their sense of what proportionality means, and watch their toolbox full of strategies grow.

What we are not fighting about is the beauty and utility of mathematics-we all agree about that. Our methods and our means should help our students follow their thoughts about math deep down, all the way to the bottom.  Let them find the spark (with our guidance, of course)...