first 6 weeks · first grade · K-2 · math · mathematician

Building Confidence in the Math Classroom

Hi, friends!  I’m back at ya again with some back to school math tips.

One thing that I think is really important at the start of the school year is making math accessible to all students and showing them that math is more that just the basic operations.  I recently talked about how during the first month of school I like to do lots of “non-math” math activities, like guided discoveries of manipulatives, to build the buy-in to math.  Another thing I like to do is make an anchor chart that stays up most of the year showing math actions.  Since I’m not in a classroom right now I can’t show you an actual chart, but I can show you this handy paper sized version that I made today.  =)  wwt_mathematicians-take-action

Generally, the way I would make this chart would be organically with my students on the carpet during a math lesson.  I would have a list that I made ahead of time of things that I wanted to be on the chart, so that I could guide them if they struggled.
I would launch this lesson by saying something like this, “Mathematicians, one of the coolest things about math is that there are so many different ways that we can do math!  There are so many math actions that we do every day!  In fact, there are SO many ways to do math that sometimes we might forget about them, so we’re going to make a chart of all the different actions we can take that we could describe as math.  Hmm, what’s an action–something we could–that would count as math?”
 And then I wait (read: silently hope and pray) for a student to get the ball rolling.

Generally, about 8 actions is all I would want on a chart.  I could settle for 6 and feel okay about it, but I wouldn’t really want to go higher than 8.  And to be clear, this is a chart based on a hypothetical first grade class, but it’s probably appropriate for 2nd grade as well, and somewhat appropriate for K.  And in the interest of transparency, I totally wouldn’t expect first graders to suggest to me finding equal shares as part of a math action chart.  But (as an adult) I need symmetry, so I had to find an eighth action.  =)  I love making this chart with students every year; it’s a really fun way to get them thinking about math beyond the operations, and it’s a great way, as a teacher, to get a bird’s eye view of what they think about math.  I feel confident you’ll see the pay off if you try something similar.

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