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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Math in Irish Primary School

This morning I observed my CT teach an effective and engaging math lesson to his first class students. Each morning the students complete a mental math worksheet as they come into school in the morning. Today's mental math sheet had questions on both greater than and less than and weight. Some of the students were confused by a question involving the weight of a school chair and a bucket of water. They simply could not imagine which one would weigh more. My CT asked me to find a bucket or pot from the staff room and fill it with water. He then had all the children stand up. He said if they thought that the bucket of water would be heavier than the chair to stand on the right side of the room and if they thought the chair would be heavier to stand on the left side of the room. The students who thought they would weigh about the same were asked to stand in the middle of the classroom. Then he had the students come up one by one to lift both objects. The students were required to provide a proper sentence using more than or less than to answer the question, "Does the water weigh more than the chair?". I liked this exercise for two reasons. First, it was interactive. The students were so excited to try to lift the bucket of water from themselves even after they had seen several students go before them. Secondly, I liked that he had the students make a prediction beforehand. When students are asked to make a prediction they are more invested in the problem because they want to know if their guess is correct. My CT then went on to talk about weight in terms of kilograms. One full bag of sugar is equal to the weight of one kilogram. Once again I was sent to the staff room looking for a bag of sugar. Luckily I found one and the students were able to physically hold the weight of a kilogram. The bag of sugar was placed in each student's hand. My CT asked each student a different question once the sugar was in their hand. He asked, "Is a house more than or less than the kilogram?", "Am I more than or less than the kilogram?". The students were able to easily answer these questions because the weight of a kilogram was physically present in their hand as opposed to referring to what may seem like an abstract weight to students. The whole time they were covering weight, but they were also practicing more than and less than. Usually after going over mental math my CT switches into reading groups. However, today the students seemed to be on a roll with math so he decided to continue. He wanted them to practice adding by ten. First he had made the point to students that when they see a problem that reads "plus ten" they can just count by ten from that number. He then began to ask the students a series of plus ten questions. However, he asked the questions so enthusiastically that the students were so eager to answer. It was a simple concept, but he made it seem like they were doing extremely complicated math with ease. This really gave the students a confidence boost. It was incredible to see all the students anxiously waving their hands to answer the questions. A lot of them were so excited that they were giggling and fidgeting. My CT also complimented this exercise by using the smart board in his class. He had ten rods and cubes up on the board. When the students were asked to add then they came up to the board and moved a ten rod into the group. This made it easy for the students to see that while they were adding by ten the units were remaining the same. At the end of the lesson he said he wanted to review, but he wanted the children to do all the work because he was tired of teaching. One student was asked to come up with a number and call on another student to add ten to the number. If the student got the answer correct, they had to come up with the next number and call on another student to add ten to it. Because everyone in the class participated and were providing correct answers my CT told his class he was going to give them a challenge. He asked them to do the same exercise, but this time instead of adding ten they were to take away ten. Because the students had so much practice and a visual representation of adding ten, taking away ten was not a struggle for most. Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with today's math lesson. My CT got all the students excited and participating while incorporating several different math concepts through physical, mental, and visual representations.

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