When my students and I create learning goals and success criteria, we always talk about the 4 areas of achievement that they must work towards: knowledge/understanding, thinking, communication, and application. Generally speaking, it is the 'thinking' component where they are getting stuck right now. The ability to communicate the processes they followed in order to solve a problem or complete a task is beneficial for both them and myself. They are simply not 'going the extra mile', even though the tools they require to do so are right in front of them.
With the above information in hand, I decided to set things up for them using technology as a tool to engage them in becoming a little more excited with the work we are doing and to allow them to better 'connect' to our learning in mathematics. I decided to use the iPads and iPod Touches to help me get the students excited and focused on learning more about addition and subtraction and to provide them with another opportunity to share their 'thinking' in how they attempt to solve computational problems.
Using an app called Mathopolis, in combination with the the "Counting Strategies" anchor chart and a graphic organizer created to guide them through the process, the students were expected to solve addition and subtraction problems by choosing appropriate strategies and communicate their thinking using pictures, numbers, or words AND conference with the teacher about their experience.
I chose the Mathopolis app to help with this challenge for a number of reasons - it allows the user to select the operation they would like to use (+ - x / ), the factors they would like to work with (1's, 2's, 3's, etc), and the difficulty level (easy, medium, hard, not timed) they will work at. Moreover, it seemed like a fun game where the students become Math firefighters in a fire & rescue game. When I showed it to them and demonstrated how it worked they told me that they wanted to try it and that it looked like it was fun and 'challenging' (their words, not mine!). I have provided you with some screen shots of the game:
I created a graphic organizer to guide them through their work. It allows them to record their addition/subtraction problem, the strategy(s) that they will use to help them solve the problem, and show their work using pictures, number, and/or words. Here is a photo of what it looks like:
Their task was to play Mathopolis and to use the worksheet to guide them in formally recording what they did for at least 3 problems. All my students have unique needs, but I have a few who have great difficulty with writing. Their job was to seek me out for one problem and take me through it.
The students got to play a cool math game on the iPad/iPod Touch, use an anchor chart to help them with counting tasks, a graphic organizer to systematically lead them through their task, and work with one other classmate. As they journeyed through this task I circulated the room to listen to their conversations, observe them, and conference with them.
It was a lot of fun and it was very productive. The students were focused on their task and they were enjoying themselves! Here are some of what they produced:
Some of the students chose to identify more than one counting strategy! I loved hearing them talk about their work - very proud of themselves. What's even more exciting is the rich conversations we had about what they were doing. Some of the students even delayed completing the third problem because they were worried that I would take the devices away. After a brief "teachable moment" about honesty and making decisions that would "lead them towards Jesus" (part of our classroom philosophy) I assured them that because they were working so hard I would allow them more time to enjoy solving addition and subtraction problems by thinking out loud.
I would love to hear your thoughts/comments on this lesson and the use of the technology. Please feel free to share by commenting on the blog or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org .