Grade 5 Students Engage in Smarties Extension Task

Math was always my favourite subject in school. As a student, it was an area that came easy to me. I was a master of learning the necessary procedure or formula and regurgitating it for the test. It was not until I started teaching that I realized in all my time in school, I had given very little thought to actually understanding the concepts I’d “learned”. Math is still my favourite subject; but now, for very different reasons!

I love challenging students to see things in new ways. I love the “Aha!” moment when students struggle through and find a strategy or solution to a problem. I love finding ways to excite students who “hate math” or are “bad at math.” (This is not an accepted statement in my math classroom. Please see Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets or Weeks of Inspirational Math for more information on why this is.) I am definitely the math nerd in my teaching team. I enjoy finding new ways to solve problems, and new problems to challenge students with!

Tech-Rich Math 

A sample Book Creator page.

Moving to ISD has transformed the way I approach teaching math. In our classrooms, students have the ability to document their learning on whiteboard walls and tables. Students are encouraged to photograph this and add it to their Math Book in Book Creator where they have the ability to further explain their thinking via text, video, or voice recording. The whiteboard surfaces are a great tool to allow students to engage in collaborative math tasks and attack problems in a non-threatening way! I have strived to create the thinking classroom that Peter Liljedahl discusses in this article. Technology has only helped to enhance this!

In the last two weeks, we have begun exploring the concept of ratio. For the first couple of days of the unit, students were asked to explore a selection of resources to work to construct their own understanding of what ratio is and how we use it. You can see the resources and activities they were given to work through in the Google Slideshow below. This time to explore exposes students to the big ideas we are looking to investigate and gives students the opportunity to refresh their understanding and learn from each other.

Exploring Ratio with Candy (and tech!)

For this week’s post, I’ve been asked to reflect on a tech-rich learning experience I have facilitated. While I do view the exploration time described above as a tech-rich experience, I actually want to reflect on a different math learning experience that came about quite organically this past week.

In order to engage students in thinking about ratio using concrete materials, we decided to investigate the colour ratio inside a box of Smarties. We collected this information, and found that the colour ratios inside each box varied greatly!

As a follow-up, I posed the following question: What do you think will happen to the colour ratio if you were to total up all your table group’s smarties for each colour? What if we totaled it for the whole class?  This had been the intended end of the lesson, but my students came up with some great ideas in response to this and we had to keep investigating! 

Data Collected – Added by students to Collaborative Google Slides

On Thursday, we went to work exploring this! Students added the data from their table to a chart in our collaborative Google slides so it was accessible for all. They then used the Numbers app on their iPads to create graphs to help visualize the data. As they graphed the data, students were excited as they saw trends starting to emerge. (The colour ratios began to approach 1:1:…1). This pushed them to go further. Many rushed to other groups to collect more data. Others played around more in Numbers to explore different ways of using the app. Many students extended their learning by digging deeper and investigating other trends.

This exposure to data handling was an unintended outcome of the learning, but one which engaged and excited students! Having access to technology helped to bring the math to life and allowed students to collaborate more effectively as well! What was intended to be a one-day activity, turned into a three-day experience that won’t be forgotten anytime soon!

What’s next?

I am always looking for ways to integrate tech into math learning in authentic ways. In what ways have you used technology to teach math? I would love to hear your thoughts!