Blog #5 Hands ON Math

In my 6th grade elementary class I am witnessing these kids slowly become teens. I’ve noticed their level of focus is very different with a substitute then it was with their usual teacher. I also noticed that the chatty kids are immediately corrected for interrupting by their normal teacher and the substitute allows the talking to continue for several minutes before she would do anything. My point is, the response time to correcting bad behavior seemed to matter, the quicker its corrected, the better the results were. The transitions from subject to subject happened fairly seamlessly. They still line up and follow a leader but I’ve noticed less instruction was required for the sixth graders upon arriving to class than in 4th for example. Getting class to focus as a group, on the other hand, seemed to be a little bit more difficult.

What I really wanted to blog about was a technique being used in elementary schools called “hands on math.” The intention of “Hands On Math” is to teach children basic multiplication and division and then progress them to more complicated equations  that solve for different variables. The system is set up like this: each student has 10 red “pawns” (they look like chess pieces) and 10 blue “pawns,” several cubes of both red (+) and blue (-) and with numbers 1-9 on the side, plus a board with an old timey money scale drawn on it. the children then use the pawns to represent variables, have the colors correspond to if they are positive or negative or not, and then use the number cubes to represent the numbers in the formula as well. if the number is 19 then the students use a 1 and a 9 to represent this higher number. they then add or subtract like variables and numbers from each side, they write their steps down as they physically work the problem out. If one side has an extra pawn or cube remaining on one side, they know they have made a mistake some where. This way the children dont lose their place in each equation. The final step is that each student must work each problem backwards to recheack its validity. Brilliant.

I cant wait to teach this in my eventual class!

To wrap things up she keeps special baggies for each set of math pieces and keeps them in a bucket. If the children have questions, I’ve noticed that they pick up on how the teacher got to the solution faster than if it were just written on the paper. Techniques on teaching math that are similar to this are being used in Asian countries today, needless to say, their achievement scores are making us look lazy. We need to be implementing new strategies for teaching.

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