This year I have been reflecting on my math instruction. My class this year is unique in that I have about 50% of students preforming below standard and about 25% preforming two grade levels below standard. Additionally, this year I am pressed for time and find with time restraints and a classroom of diverse needs teaching math can be very challenging. Thus, for this module I want to learn about ways technology could help to meet the needs of all my students. I am going to specifically, focus in on the areas of: strategy development, fluency and automaticity with in computational skills (e.g., addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). I decided to focus on this area as research has shown that students who fail to develop these foundational skills are more likely to experience difficulties in math curriculum later (Miller, Stringfellow, Kaffar, Ferreira, & Mancl, 2011).
Research has show that student’s conceptual understanding aids their development in building their fluency and automaticity (Kling and Bay-Williams, 2015). According to Kling, fluency is developed when students have the opportunity to deliberately and explicitly move through three developmental phases by building reasoning strategies. Kling finds that children generally begin solving math facts through counting (Phase 1), progress to using reasoning strategies to derive unknown facts (Phase 2), and finally, develop mastery with their facts (Phase 3). If students simply memorize math facts as rote facts, they might fail to develop important conceptual understandings, which puts them at a disadvantage when attempting to engage in more advanced math work (Kling & Bay-Williams 2015). I found the analogy below helpful in illustrating the importance of student’s development of strategies and reasoning. Learning Scientist Claire Cook states:
Math is not about memorization per se — “just as a master chef doesn’t go about selecting the right ingredients in the right amounts because he’s memorized recipes, but rather because he knows what he’s doing at that level without thinking about it too hard or too explicitly.” (McGraw Hill, 2019).
Number Talks are one avenue to build students conceptual understandings. They build students number sense and focus on student’s understandings of math strategies and abilities to reason when solving problems. Students just like the master chef from the analogy above do not solve math problems based on memorization but instead draw from a repertoire of strategies and reasoning.
How to use Flipgrid for Number Talks
With all that being said, Number Talks do not entail technology. Nonetheless, I feel that you could integrate technology into your Number Talks meaningfully into your classroom. Using Flipgrid you could pose a number talk to students. Students then have the ability to listen to, process and formulate a strategy to solve the posed problem. After having formulated a strategy students can record and justify their reasoning on the Flipgrid. Students could also listen, interact, and critique other student’s responses. When thinking about implementing Flipgrid in this way I think that as a teacher you would have to be intentional about when you choose to use it and how you will address misconceptions and give timely feedback.
When’s a meaningful time for Flipgrid?
After having a whole class or small group Number Talk around a concept (eg., addition) students could go back and apply their new learning on a Flipgrid which may have a new related Number Talk or ask students to reflect or analyze the strategies they just covered. This offers students a chance to apply and reflect on their learning and allows teachers the ability to formatively assess what students know and which strategies or misconceptions students may have.
Addressing Misconception and Timely Feedback
If students are interacting or learning from others Flipgrid posts I think it is important for the teacher to give timely feedback to students. Especially in cases which students have misconceptions that may be perpetuated on the grid. However you decided to give feedback I think it would be powerful for students to then go back to their original post and address their misconception and/or add on new learning. This shows other students that making mistakes is part of learning and that as a class community we value growth mindset.
Other Online Programs
There are many types of programs out there (Prodigy, Front Row, Xtra Math, Khan Academy, Dreambox) that could provide students with practice and/or where students can apply strategies they have learned. Many online programs are adaptive, provide instant feedback and tend to have incentives or awards built in. These options may be helpful for students who struggle with math and could increase motivation and confidence (Outhwaite, Gulliford, and Pitchford, 2017). Additionally, these programs may provide the teacher with information and can be used a progress monitoring tool. Teachers can use the data from the programs to address misconceptions, review or teach strategies or concepts and set goals with students.
When choosing an online program do your research and be intentional. Using the SMAR model you could assess how to purposefully integrate the programs to meet your students needs. Additionally, if using the program as an intervention the National Research Council, has outlined many helpful components and states that math interventions be highly and correctly targeted to be effective (Burns, VanDerHeyden, and Boice, 2008).
How do you use online math programs or technology in your classroom? Do you have any programs that you’ve found beneficial to your students learning? Leave a comment below.