Friday, October 16, 2015

Building Mathematical Excitement! ~ First Thoughts on Spiral Math in Intermediate

The purpose of this post is to reflect upon my first experiences with spiral math and document the initial process of teacher learning and planning. As an educator new to intermediate this year, I feel grateful to be a part of this learning journey with my teaching partners. Last spring we gathered together with our consultant to develop a conceptual understanding of spiral math. What is spiral math? How is it planned and implemented and why? How might it benefit student learning? The prezi below gives a great snapshot of some of the theoretical understandings that support this approach.

During this session, we dove into the curriculum and began extracting big ideas that would be the foundation of our spirals - common threads weaving concepts and processes together. Grant Wiggins podcast on big ideas offers insights into the pedagogy of big ideas.

Our BIG IDEAS collection: 
-We represent our thinking in many ways
-We identify, connect and compare relationships
-We efficiently solve problems using multiple strategies
-In order to make sense of math we estimate, predict, interpret, infer, judge reasonability of our work and draw conclusions
-We recognize multiple ways of reasoning (proportional, algebraic, spatial) are embedded throughout math

Then over the summer I spent some quality time familiarizing myself with the curriculum and 'doing math'. Resources such as Edugains and Big Ideas from Dr. Small  were extremely helpful not only in developing awareness of the content, but also the conceptual knowledge and understanding rooted within mathematical tasks and ideas. Towards the end of the summer the group met back together again to start our curriculum sort. The purpose behind this task was to link specific expectations with our big ideas - finding commonalities and connections between concepts. Then we began grouping expectations into initial spirals- thinking about possible iterations to build complexity throughout. Now after 6 weeks into the school year I really see the value in dedicating time to this task. Organization is key! With that being said, flexibility is also essential. Spiraling has allowed me to be far more responsive to the needs of the learners - adjusting pace and complexity based on needs.

Here is an example of a rich problem with multiple entry points allowing for a variety of methods to represent and find solutions. In order to help develop a growth mindset, I often attempt challenging problems like this one for the first time with the students. In this case, I grabbed a bucket of manipulatives and started to model the problem. Some students used trial and error or equations and came to a solution much before I did. Other students who were struggling a little, looked up with wide eyes and smiled when I asked for a few more minutes to come to a solution myself before checking in with them and to please verify with each other and compare strategies. We are on this journey together. Me included! When I finally arrived at a solution, I jumped up in the moment and yelled "Yes!". It was a great moment for all of us. We are learning to celebrate our successes and our failures and to lend support to each other along the way.

I am also having a lot of fun bringing in math from the world around us. This has included examining data during the elections, you tube 'likes' for integers, and my favourite - pumpkin math! Helping students see math in context is something I hope to continue focusing on this year. Spiraling has allowed for the connection between and within concepts to become apparent.

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