As good readers, we always talk about text-to-self, text-to-text, or text-to-world connections. Before, during, and after reading. Why not the same for math??? Throughout our lessons we might hit upon some schema that the students should know, but what if they don't remember (I know... that NEVER happens, lol) or what if they didn't really understand it, or what if they remember it WRONG?! As I started reading the chapter these are some of the quotes that really hit home and opened my eyes to the way we teach math. Now these are not things we didn't already know but it really drove home the need to discuss their prior knowledge as a whole more before, during, and after the lesson. I am a firm believer in that students learn so much from each other so why not have them share their background knowledge with each other?
"What students already know about the content is one of the strongest indicators of how well they will learn new information relative to the content."
"When students begin to recognize the mathematical connections not only within the discipline, but also to their lives and to other content areas, their understanding becomes deeper."
Prior knowledge can be grouped into three categories: attitudes, experiences, and knowledge.
Have a class discussion at the beginning of the school year about math: your student's thoughts and feelings on the subject. What have they liked and disliked about the subject? What would they like to see added to their math block? Most students have a fear or anxiety about math and this would be a great way to alleviate that.
Have you ever seen that Disney movie Donald in Mathematician Land? My students watch it every year and they are always so surprised by how math can connect to everyday life! I think the biggest "aha moment" for them is when Donald shows them how they can play pool like a professional just by knowing angles, lol. Have students look for math outside of just their math block. Use a Math Log (similar to a reading log) to see what they can find at home or help your parents get involved with a Math Newsletter. I've attached an editable PowerPoint of a sample math newsletter that you can send home to help parents have a better understanding of what is being asked of their kids. (Print it as a PDF and "Scale to Fit" to get rid of the white sides)
Like I said before, kids are going to have different experiences but why not let them learn from each other? Let them make the actual connection from the new concept or procedure they are learning about to the things they already know. "If student's have nothing on which to hook new information, it is very difficult for them to construct new meaning."
Kinds of Mathematical Connections: Look familiar???
Math-to-Self: Even though you know that your students have a wealth of knowledge in their brain, especially about math, they might not understand how to pull it out and use it to their advantage all the time. As the teacher, you will need to explicitly teach and model to students how to make the math to self connection. Whether it be with numbers (7 is my age, how much I get a week for allowance, 7-11, etc.) or skills (percentages: coupons, sales, interest rates, tracking my data, etc.) The more this is done, you will gradually release the responsibility of this strategy onto your students and soon they will independently be doing it on their own!
Math-to-Math: When students create links between their present and past math learning, they are enhancing their ability to solve problems and construct new mathematical understanding. Just think about it. Without know multiplication, you wouldn't be able to do division as easily. Then think of all the different ways students divide. No more just long division! They are using all of their mathematical background knowledge to figure out what works best for them: long division, adding and adding and adding some more (I hate that one!), groupings, arrays, the list could go on. And you didn't necessarily teach them all of those ways but they created that link on their own.
Math-to-World: The more students are exposed to math, the deeper their understanding. In a previous post I discussed a newsletter with parents, but you can also challenge them by asking them to do a Math Hunt: find math in everyday life. The weather, movies, elections, sports, newspaper, etc. Math is not only found in math. Math is found in Science, Reading, Social Studies, Art, Music, P.E.. When making your lessons, try and think of ways to incorporate the "math angle" so your students can see that math is everywhere!
Have y'all ever heard of DynaMath? I LOVE it! It's a Scholastic Magazine they publish each month or so and it is all about math in the real world. They talk about movies, current events, books, tie it into science and social studies, etc.! Each article is geared towards a specific math topic and there are problem solving questions at the end of each article that require you to practice said skill and have read the article to get your answers correctly! Have I mentioned that I love it??? We use it for one of our math stations as enrichment but if you find a specific article that is gear toward what you are teaching you could always photocopy it and do it whole group :o) There are also extra practice sheets and quizzes online for teachers to reproduce if you wish. It is a GREAT way to tie in math and real world connections. Click on the image below to check it out. You can even look at a digital issue (the whole magazine) for free online. If your schools doesn't have the funds to get a class set then this is another option.
*No, Scholastic did not pay or bribe me to say all of that, I, and my kiddos, just REALLY enjoy this magazine*Now the question is, how to do all this? When you are planning your math lesson it can be difficult to just "wing it" when coming up with connections on the spot. As you are deciding on your think-aloud, make sure you can come up with connections that are authentic and ones that you'll be able to use sentence stems with that your students can become familiar with and use when they are independently making connections.
- You want to make sure your students know what schema is and how to build it! I love the schema roller technique. Choose a math topic and write down all your schema based on that topic. Tear apart everything you wrote down and lay it on a desk. Take a sticky lint roller (that's your brain) and roll it over the desk. This shows the kids that everything you've ever learned is now stuck in your brain, you just have to find it :o)
- Daily math stretches - these should be brief and each student will be complete one discrete part of the stretch, and then the class will meet together to discuss the task. The students should be the primary contributors to the discussion, you facilitate. I know, I know it's difficult, but we have to let go y'all :o) Another good idea was the "How did my family use math last night." This really gets them thinking about their math-to-world connections!
- Use anchor charts that they can refer back to!
- Current events (discussed above) and children's literature can be an essential tool to making connections! In every chapter so far they have mentioned how important children's literature is and I cannot agree more! I like that for this chapter though it was not necessarily math picture books that they discussed. Any book that you read you can find math connections in it!
- My final point that I found very important was that this is a strategy... NOT THE LESSON. Although this strategy is important and will be very helpful, do not spend a lot of time on it. It is not your main lesson (usually).