Making Sense of Math
When do kids fall out of love with math? I have taught kindergarten, first, and second grade and at each of those levels my students always loved math. Then when I would discuss math with upper grade level teachers that attitudes of students had changed. Even my students that once loved math and were so confident have evolved to students who dislike math. So what changed?
This past school year I got the privilege to observe some other math classrooms both primary and intermediate grade levels and the common difference I saw between the two was the use of manipulatives. In lower primary classrooms it seems a math lesson could not survive without the use of manipulatives, while in intermediate classrooms, math lessons are more centered around technology. Given the status of the current school year I’ve become more and more concerned about how my math students will learn at home with no concrete manipulatives. Will my students’ love for math as first graders be non-existent because my lessons will be like those classrooms I observed? The thoughts of my first graders not absolutely loving math is one that haunts me. Then I realized, manipulatives do not have to stay inside the walls of a school.
I am centered around manipulatives for math, and the time I’ve spent in primary and being a visual and kinesthetic learner myself, I knew that this year I would need to combine manipulatives with technology for my math lessons. I am also the student who gives up if something seems too hard, but becomes passionate when I discover how to solve something. I need to make sense of things, in all areas of life in order to comprehend and learn, and I’m sure most of my students aren’t any different. Therefore I am titling my project, “Making Sense of Math” because I am hoping that giving my students the tools to learn these concepts concretely will allow them to learn math at a higher level of understanding.
If I could make my lessons both hands on and virtual, I could keep the love for math within my students alive. If I could keep them engaged through hands-on materials, combined with engaging technology then my students could make sense of challenging concepts and could maintain their confidence. If I were to receive this grant, I would be creating manipulative bags for each student within first grade. Within these bags I would enclose manipulatives that can be used for all standards and interactive games such as place value blocks, dice, geometric shapes, counters, blank laminated graphic organizers, rulers, connecting cubes, etc.). By including these items in individual bags, I can limit the amount of touching contact between students, allow the students to utilize the bags for at home virtual learning , and decrease the amount of transition time within my lessons when we go back to in-person learning. My last few items listed for this project are for STEM purposes which will allow me to utilize low-tech STEM in addition to the higher tech STEM that I plan to utilize within lessons. The circuit lights and motor kits will allow my students to create circuit game boards that will require them to use their math skills from lessons into real-world game design applications.
To measure the effectiveness of using manipulatives combined with technology for at home learning I would compare the beginning of the year lessons, those that are before I have received my materials and am able to distribute manipulatives to those lessons after manipulatives are received by students. This will allow me to see the effectiveness of using manipulatives within the same students. I would also administer surveys to parents about math learning before handing out materials and conduct another survey after a few lessons with materials to get some form of observations during at home learning. For in-person learning I would alternate lessons between manipulatives only, technology only, and a combination, comparing exit tickets and other assessments to determine the most effective method of lesson design. I can rotate manipulative groups, comparing exit slips and other formative assessments to collect data to support the use of manipulatives. This will allow me to see the difference within the exact same lesson content, delivery, and strategies.
If my project is successful, then my students’ love for math and learning can continue during at home learning and hopefully inspire other teachers to use hands on manipulatives and materials along with technology more often. So often technology is pushed that teachers forget it’s still acceptable, even beneficial to use manipulatives too. Math isn’t a one or the other subject area. Lessons don’t have to be solely technology focused or hands on focused, they can be combined. I firmly believe that math is a subject area that needs to come alive, and while that can be achieved through technology, our students also need the sense of touch.