“Mr. Speer, you’re the reason I like math”

This was a very welcome comment after a long week capped off by a rather scattered Friday.  Our schedule Friday was messy because of events in the middle and at the end of the day, which caused me to miss both of my 6th grade classes, which put me off from the beginning.  Throw in that one of our other teachers was out and her homeroom was being rambunctious for their sub, which meant that I had to help some with crowd control, and this comment made me feel very good at the end of the day.

I have found that I expected a little too much maturity right out of the gate, from my 6th graders particularly, so I am moving toward giving them some more structure.  This is going to include a more solid schedule for our daily problem (Mind Bender Monday, Table Question Tuesday, Numeracy Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, and Find the Flub Friday (I stole those last two from someone, but I cannot at this point remember whom… If it was you, sorry for not including credit, but I will if you leave a comment)).  I have also put a little more structure into my classroom, with my tables still forming groups of 2 or 3, but facing more in rows to keep attention at the topic at hand.  I am hoping that this will help some organization for them, and as they progress this year that putting the students in groups of 4-5 will be more of an option.

I have been having some thoughts because of a conversation with my Assistant Principal and a few tweets from Matt Vaudrey (@mrvaudrey) and Sadie Estrella (@waheabug).  My Assistant Principal is worried about our standardized test scores in computation, so she asked me if I give timed tests, which I do not, but I could see if I could find time for.  But the tweets by Matt and Sadie indicate that math should not be associated with speed, and that there is research to support this, so I feel a little stuck.  What I would like to do, particularly for my 6th graders who I have for a shortened period on Wednesdays, is to simply work with them on numeracy one day a week.  We will put away the “content” and simply work on number sense and related skills.  I would like to know if anyone has some good games to build these skills that don’t just seem like worksheets in a fake game shell.

I also struggle with this idea that math is not about speed.  I see our work with basic math concepts to be parallel with reading literacy.  I understand that reading literacy is not about speed either, except that to a degree it is.  We want to get to a point where we see a word, like “cantaloupe,” and we don’t have to sound it out, but we recognize it on sight and we also have an idea in our head what exactly that words stands for.  For my students, I would like them to see a problem like 7+8 in the same way.  So we don’t have to count up from 7 or get 5 and carry the one each time, but that they simply see that problem as equivalent to 15, 6+9, etc.  And I guess I don’t see how that isn’t about speed.  And even if I can draw a line between literacy and speed, how do I explain that to people who aren’t math teachers?  Because I feel that most of them will see that as memorization, even if I feel that there is more to it than that.

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