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Math Tasks: Help your Students become Math Explorers!



I love using math tasks in the classroom and I think you will too!  This is part 2 in my Math Tasks Blog Series.  If you haven't seen Part 1...make sure you check it out first!!!



In Part 1, we learned all about math tasks and the benefits of using them in your classroom.  In this post, we will focus on the structure of math tasks and I hope you keep reading to end because there is a math tasks student helper freebie just for you!!! So let's jump right in!


What is the structure of a math task?
A math task consists of three parts.  They are the launch phase, explore phase, and share phase.  Depending on the level of the task, it can range anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.  These three phrases make math tasks very engaging and fun for all students.  In future blog posts in this series, we will explore each part of a task in-depth.

3 Parts of a Math Task
Below you will get a more in-depth look at a math task and how each part looks using the following task as an example.


The Task
Angel and Ben are brothers.  They love to eat apples after school.  Angel put five apples in the basket.  Ben put seven apples in the basket.  



A) How many apples did Angel and Ben put in the basket?




B) Who ate the most apples?  Draw a model to explain your answer.



1. Launch Phase (Approx 10 min)
The task launch will help students to understand the context of a problem and will pose a mathematical challenge for students.  Connecting to students own lives will help to eliminate learning barriers.  For example, we use a lot of visuals at my school because we have a high ELL student population.  If we are solving a problem about rabbits, it is important for students to develop some context and vocabulary to help them be able to focus on the math.   

An Example of the Launch Phase 
You can use a picture visual to launch the task.  A visual launch is just one of the many ways to present the task to students.  Students will have time to look at the visual, ask questions, and tell what they see.  This is a fun and engaging way to hook your students.  See the example below!

What to Do: 
I would display a graphic like the one below that is related to the problem.  Ask students What do you see?  What do you wonder?  Tell me about the picture. What questions do you have? etc. 
Students may say things like I see apples.  I notice apples in the basket.  I wonder how many apples are in the basket.  Who do the apples belong to?  I like to record the answers in a t-chart labeled notice and wonder. After you have hooked them, you can now present the task.








2. Explore Phase
The explore phase allows students the ability to solve problems using their own strategies learned from previous grades and from current instruction.  This is usually done in small groups and students can use various manipulatives.  Advancing and assessing questions are being asked during this phase as the teacher circulates to groups or partners.  

What to Do
Allow students a few minutes to work on the task independently. Then allow students to work in small groups and share their strategies with their team.  They can compare solutions and have math discourse about the task.  As they work, make sure to circulate and prompt them with questioning to check for understanding.  During this time you are also picking students to share during the share phase.  Make sure to order them the easiest solution to the most complex.  You can work with a group if you need to during this time like the picture below.




3. Share Phase
The share phase is a whole class discussion where students can present their thinking and strategies to the class.  Students can compare solutions and talk about misconceptions.  This phase allows students to see that there may be one answer to a problem but there are a variety of ways to get to the answer.  Always remember the quote below.



I hope you enjoyed reading about the three parts of math tasks and are able to get started with letting your students explore math concepts.  

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4 Benefits of Using Math Tasks!





I love using math tasks in the classroom and I think you will too!  Math Tasks may be new to you or you may be an expert, but I wanted to share some of the great benefits of using math tasks in the classroom.  There are so many things I want to share about math tasks, so I am making this a math blog series.  Stay tuned for even more ideas!






What are Math Tasks?
A math task is a problem(s) that allow students to explore different math concepts or ideas.  They move beyond the basic textbook lesson and encourage students to collaborate and communicate about math ideas.




4 Benefits of Using Math Tasks
I will be referring to some of the 8 Math Teaching Practices because they align completely with math tasks from the National Council of Teachers for Mathematics(NCTM).


Promotes Reasoning and Problem Solving
Math tasks allow for multiple student levels.  They are great for encouraging multiple solution strategies. I love that students are able to share their strategies with their peers.  Math tasks call for students to make sense of a problem and promotes productive struggle in solving.  I'm currently reading Taking Action: Implementing Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices.  It is perfect for learning about the Math Teaching practices and math tasks.






Hands On and Engaging
Students are encouraged to use different manipulatives and tools to help them solve problems.  Students get a choice in the way they solve the problem.  For example, if you are doing a task on adding, more than likely you have students at all different levels.  Your struggling students may decide to use manipulatives to solve and your more advanced students may decide to draw models and equations.

Encourages Math Discourse
Students gain an understanding of math ideas presented by their peers.  By taking time to allow student to discuss their strategies, students are able to compare approaches and analyze problems.



High Level Questioning
During a math task it is important to pose purposeful questions. These questions should be to assess learning or advance the learning.  Questioning should happening throughout the entire math tasks process.










If you need help with number talks...check out my Number Talk Tips post and my How to Do a Number Talk post.


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What are Math Tasks?  A math task is a problem(s) that allow students to explore different math concepts or ideas.  They move beyond the basic textbook lesson and encourage students to collaborate and communicate about math ideas.










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5 Tips for Number Talks

So you learned in my first post in this series about Number Talks and how to do them in your classroom.  I recommend reading that post here if you haven't already.  There is a freebie in it for you!

Number Talks: 8 Tips and Tricks to better Number Talks!


I introduced number talks at my school on last year and they have made a difference in many classrooms. I know they can for you too! I have put together a list of tips that will help you as you continue your number talks journey.  In this post, you will learn my top 5 tips for better number talks.

1.  Set a Timer
Number Talks should be between 5-15 minutes depending on the amount of time you have in your math block.  Number Talks are very engaging and sometimes you can lose track of time.  Setting a timer will keep your math block on track.  You can always continue a number talk over to the next day if you are not finished.  If you need a timer resource, check out the free online timer here.

http://www.online-stopwatch.com/countdown-timer/

2. Develop an Ongoing List of Strategies
Your students need visual reminders of the strategies you have taught them and that they already know.  As you introduce strategies, add them to a strategies anchor chart.  When students are prompted to use strategies during number talks, they can refer to the chart to help them solve the problem.  A struggle I have seen as a teacher is that most students choose the same strategy.  This is a great way to get more diverse strategies from students. Check out the example below!



3. Set Expectations
It is important to establish an inviting culture and climate for number talks.  Before beginning, make sure to set expectations as a class.  These expectations should be discussed and explained by the class.  Check out the example below!

 
 
4. Plan and Rehearse Number Talks
When you do a number talk in real time, it can be hard to record on the spot.  I have found that rehearsing and planning before hand makes it flow better.  I am also able to think of strategies students may use and practice recording the strategies.  I have a freebie number talks planning template for you!  Check it out here!





5.  Student Math Conversations
Allowing time during number talks for students to have math conversations enables students to think deeply about math.  You can establish math talk partners and change them periodically.  Below you can see some of the accountable talk stems I use for number talks.  They are editable and available in my TPT store. 



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My Favorite Back to School Read Alouds


I love reading books aloud to students and seeing how happy stories make them.  This is a great way to build a great classroom culture at the beginning of the school year.  If you want to see some awesome read alouds for back to school then you are in the right place!!


1. The Night Before First Grade by Natasha Wing
This is a great book to read to first graders.  It talks about the previous year in kindergarten in the book.  It helps the kids to think about the previous year and a brand new year.  It also discusses it being okay if you are not in the same room with a friend from the previous year.

Image result for the night before first grade


2.  Mouse's First Day by Lauren Thompson
This is a good book that has surprises on each page.  The kids guess what mouse sees at school just by looking at a small piece of the item.  For example: a pencil.  Just a fun read aloud.




3. First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
This book has my name written all over it.  I think I am more nervous on the first day than my kiddos.  I truly have sweaty palms and the nervous shakes.  But after a few weeks its smooth sailing.....hopefully.






4. Howard B, Wigglebottom Learns to Listen by Howard Binkow
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book!  My mom bought it for me and it so good with teaching students the proper rules for school.  In the beginning of the book Howard doesn't listen.  It shows the bad things that could happen from not listening.  By the end of the book, it shows Howard listening.  He is happy at the end because he is a good listener.






5.  David Goes to School by David Shannon
This book is a must for the beginning of the school year.  It goes well with a rules lesson.  Each page shows a rule that David breaks.  At this time, for each page, we discuss why David should not act this way.  This book really helps the students think about good vs. bad choices.



I have the perfect sort to go with this book. Click here to get it for free!
 
Setting expectations freebie for primary learners is perfect for your back to school lessons.  Watch your students learn how to become responsible citizens by reviewing these key good versus bad behaviors!
 
 
6. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
I like to use this book to discuss bullying and names.  It is important to teach students about bullying because even at a young age it happens a lot.  We have a lot of fun using this book to complete activities using each student's name.






7. Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin
This is the newest book I have added to my collection.  We had so much fun jammin with Pete. I love my BLUE shoes! I love my BLUE shoes!  They really danced along and sang the song.  The cd of the book is awesome and it was a fun book for the first week of school.






8.  The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
I think this book will forever be my favorite back to school book.  It is just so sweet and the students really love the kissing hand secret.  I don't know if this book was out when I was little but I know I would have loved it.  I definitely needed it! I was such a daddy's girl and wanting to stay at home with him.





9.  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle/Bill Martin Jr.
What more can I say?  One of the most popular children's book I know. Love it!!!





10. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
A great book for letter recognition and matching uppercase/lowercase letters.  The video is super cute! It is on YouTube here!




 

I hope these read aloud suggestions help make back to school a breeze!

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This is a list of 10 awesome back to school read alouds that are perfect for the first week of school.

 
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How to make your own Guided Math Toolkits?


I love the Balanced Math framework which includes Spiral Review, Mental Math, Content Lesson, Guided Math, Centers, and Closure.  On last school year, I helped my school implement guided math toolkits for all teachers.  I have been getting many questions about how we use them and what’s included.  If you are looking to make your own guided math toolkits…..you are in the right spot!


Why and when would I need a guided math toolkit?
A guided math toolkit is very helpful when you are doing small group math lessons and rotations.  It is a way to have everything you need on hand and in a convenient place.  Our guided math toolkits consist of various math manipulatives depending upon the grade level.

What materials are needed to get started?
I will list the contents for each toolkit below by grade level.  Other than that…you will need a bucket and a label to put on the bucket.  I used the freebie labels from The Creative Classroom.  You can get them HERE!

Guided Math Toolkit Materials
120 Charts from Carson Dellosa

Counters from Lakeshore

Ten Frame Dice from Lakeshore

Pattern Block Dice from Oriental Trading

Foam Math Dice from Lakeshore

Ten Frame Flashcards from Lakeshore

Number Lines

Ten Frames from Lakeshore

Mini Dry Erase Clocks by Lakeshore

Dice within Dice from School Specialty

Pattern Blocks 

Place Value Blocks from Lakeshore

Fluency Flash Cards from Lakeshore


I hope these Guided Math Toolkit Ideas help make your guided math a breeze!
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