Hey hey I-Team! Happy March! To me, this month always welcomes the newness of Spring. I also know Spring is on the horizon when daily t.v. shows are interrupted because of the coverage of the NCAA Basketball Tournament known as March Madness. Then there's Daylight Savings Time which challenges all of us to Spring Forward. And in school districts across the country, there's the annual Spring Testing for the state. So needless to say, teachers continue to work hard making sure their students are prepared to show up and do their best on the test...which brings me to my next point...
A few weeks ago, fifth grade students in my school were introduced to decimals. The unit opened with students having to shade in base ten models based on a given number (i.e. 0.1. 0.35. etc.). This was important since the goal of the activities in this part of the unit was to give students a visual to see that each place to the right of the decimal gets ten times smaller (i.e. tenths, hundredths, thousandths, etc). I've found that students in fourth and fifth grade have a difficult time understanding this idea initially. This may be due in part to the fact that in the earlier grades, they learned that base ten blocks show how whole numbers get ten times larger when moved to the left on the place value chart (i.e. ones, tens, hundreds, etc.) For students in grades 4 and 5 to learn just the opposite when it comes to decimals...well, it's definitely a shift in thinking.
Then, I thought back to when I learned how to solve problems involving decimals. And you know what? I honestly don't remember my teacher giving me any base ten blocks or even a place value chart. I just remember her writing problems on the board and showing the class how to solve them.
Now to be totally honest, my dad gets the credit for explaining the place value of the digits to the right of the decimal. Although I didn't have a visual to make meaning of those values, I memorized what each place meant. What I learned later was that 0.1 really stood for 1/10; that 0.35 really stood for 35/100. I began to see that later, but when I was in fourth and fifth grade, I only remember learning because I did it the way my teacher told me to.
What's interesting is that there's more access to math resources that support students' understanding of math at a deeper level, or at least more than I remember having access to when I was in grade school. Interestingly, a 2022 report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that 36% of fourth graders and 26% of eighth graders are proficient in math. Of course we know that learning loss during the pandemic attributed to student achievement. But since returning back to in person learning, the insurmountable challenges that schools are facing continues to grow. What will these challenges mean for school districts when it comes to accountability? Can schools in underserved communities recover from the challenges they face on a daily basis? And can schools in general make progress in the area of mathematics? How can American students compete with students in other countries if test scores continue to decline each year?
On the Intentional Instruction Podcast, I am joined by my guest Dr. Joslyn Richardson.
Dr. Richardson currently serves as a math specialist and curriculum writer through the education department at Washington University. She shares her insight on best math practices that are not only equitable for all students, but also timely. Just click here to listen to the episode.
The Intentional Toolkit
Inside the Intentional Toolkit I've also included a few important articles that are connected to this blog post and podcast episode. To access them just click on the toolkit at the bottom of this page; from there you'll be able to open the PDF. As always, I hope you find these resources useful.
Well that's all for now, but I would love to hear from you. If there was something that was written in this post or if you heard something when listening to the podcast episode where you had an "aha" moment, share your positive thoughts or solution based comments below. If you listen to the podcast on Spotify, you can share your thoughts on that platform as well. The I-Team community is all about educating with purpose, so let's continue to educate, uplift, and inspire our youth. Until next time, go out there and be GREAT!