Sunday, October 2, 2016

Yes, they can! Problem-Solving Activities for Kindergarten Students

Digital problem-solving activities in kindergarten? My students can’t do this.

We’ve heard that several times since the release of Classworks Applied Mathematics. That’s why when I ran into a teacher in the school cafeteria who said, “My kindergarten kids love the new math activities,” I had to find out more.

Interview: Alyssa Harris, 
kindergarten teacher, Trip Elementary, GA 

Were you using any digital math instruction with your students before Classworks Applied Math?

Not for whole-class instruction. I used printed exemplars for our “problem-solving Fridays.”

Did you have any apprehension about using digital problem-solving activities with your kindergartners?
Before I attended Classworks Winter Professional Development, I wouldn’t have thought to use them with my kids. During the training, we got to play around in it as a student and as a teacher. When I saw there were kindergarten activities that were already differentiated, I was excited to try them.


Were you concerned about your students’ learning how to navigate the technology in kindergarten?
No. I knew it would be a little work upfront to teach them how to use the tools. But, most of these kids have already played on a phone or an iPad, and they’re quick learners! When I put them in groups, I usually have one student who is really proficient with the technology and can help the others if they need it.

Do your students like working together on the problems?
They love it. Anytime they get to interact with technology, of course, they’re thrilled. Also, they like working to solve the problem together. Many of them can’t read yet, so they use the audio feature to listen to the problem. They’ll talk about the answer they should choose and why they think it’s the right answer. To be able to have math conversations at this age is so valuable and builds an important foundation for future learning!  

How do you use the Applied Math activities with your students? (See Mrs. Harris’ lesson plan)

At the beginning of the week, I introduce the concept, and we complete some activities to get comfortable with it. I give them a “ticket out the door” each week, which is a formative check to determine how they grasped the lesson. I use that information to determine how I will differentiate using the Applied Math problems. The next day we complete the Applied Math meeting problem as a whole group. This helps me to confirm my grouping and reminds them how to use the tools to solve and show their work.

Next, I put them in groups and my advanced students work on the Expanding problem. Students needing additional support with the concept work on the Progressing problem.

I love how the problems are already differentiated but address the same grade-level standard. That’s hard to find and time-consuming when you have to do it yourself!

How do you facilitate the discussion when they are in groups?
I’m always walking around, listening, and prompting where needed. For my Progressing group, I’ll walk them through the hints if it looks like they need more guidance. You’re always trying to strike that balance of helping them to get it but also letting them work it out on their own. Some of my kids like to draw or record their responses. We come together as a class to discuss and I’ll show the problem on the whiteboard. The students take turns sharing how they solved it and why they used the method they chose.

How do you plan for using Applied Math in your lesson for the week?
I create the math lesson plans for our grade level with another teacher. I look ahead for the following week to see what skill we are covering and search for an Applied Math activity to match that skill. I also pull the teacher resources for the activity and check the DOK levels. Reviewing the common misconceptions listed helps me feel prepared for the lesson.

Have you seen a difference in your students since incorporating Applied Math into your weekly lessons?
I see a big improvement in the level of engagement and the way they talk about math. At this age, they aren’t having deep math conversations, but I can see their higher order thinking skills at work. One of my advanced students, in particular, is really thriving using these activities. It was hard to find math activities to challenge her, but these do. Her confidence level with math has soared.