Are you one of the lucky ones? You know, the ones who get to teach math AND language arts…or math AND language arts AND science? Or are you one of the poor, unfortunate souls who only gets to teach one subject area? :-)
I’ve had the opportunity to do both. As an elementary teacher for 12 years, I taught all subjects – math, LA (reading, grammar, spelling), science, social studies. When I moved to middle school, the subject load was reduced a bit. The first year, I taught science and LA (reading, grammar, spelling - which was 2 periods). The second year, our 6th grade went to teams of 2, and math was added to everyone’s subject load. I didn’t mind the addition of math, because I really like teaching math. BUT, planning for all those subjects made me feel like I was an elementary teacher again…..except the content was more difficult, the class periods were shorter, and the grading took longer. It was pretty overwhelming. Planning labs, literature circles, discovery math lessons…..it was a lot. This lasted for only a year, and then we went back to teams of 3 (most of us, anyway), and I went back to science and LA for 2 or 3 more years. Then the math teacher on our team retired, and I got to switch from science to math (plus LA). After several more years, our teams grew to 4 and then 5 teachers, and I was responsible for teaching just math.
Do your middle school math students struggle with problem solving? Do they get to the end of the word problem and then guess at the operation they need to choose (maybe not realizing that there are multiple operations)? You probably see this with some of your students, while other students do very well with problem solving. What methods have you found to help those who struggle? What methods can you use to help each student at his or her current level?
I’ve used many strategies over the years, to help students sort out how to make sense of word problems and how to approach them. These methods didn't have a specific name at the time (like close reading or talking to the text), but some would fit into these categories.
For Upper Elementary and Middle School Classrooms
Have you been here?
You’ve only got a week or so before the winter break begins….and schedule changes mean you’ll miss a couple classes during that time. You’ve finished the current topic, and there’s not enough time to fit in another unit. You know that sometimes kids have trouble staying on-task at this time of year, as they are looking forward to break!
But you don’t want to waste class time ....
So what do you work on? What are some fun, but academic things you can do during math class to help the students keep practicing and learning? I've got a few quick ideas for you:
5 Tips for Middle School Math
The math homework dilemma – to give or not to give (IF you have the option in your district)? How much to give? To go over it all or only review some of it? What will be most helpful to your students?
Maybe your experiences have been similar to mine: I’ve adjusted my practices from year to year, sometimes spending a lot of time reviewing homework, but other times spending little; some years giving homework related to the lesson, other years giving homework that was basic skills practice; some years lots of problems, other years just a few. There seemed to be pros and cons to each.
Thinking about this topic yet again, I decided to look for some research to see how we can help students get the most out of the homework we assign.
A Fun Way to Check Multiplication Problems
Middle school students still like those fun seasonal activities! Many years ago (I have no idea how many) I used this pattern coloring activity with my middle-schoolers. I don't remember where the idea came from, and I had even forgotten that I ever used it! However, I was looking through an old "November" file to find some ideas for a fun activity for a sub day, and found the tracers and examples in my file.
Once I found it, I DID remember that the kids used to really enjoy this activity. They had fun creating the patterns and deciding what colors to include. So, I gathered materials (graph paper, tracers, colored pencils, thin black markers, construction paper) and left them for the sub, with these directions:
Using Your Time Effectively and Efficiently
Having the perfectly-run math class....that's been my goal, year after year. Somehow, in middle school, it has consistently tried to evade me!
In other posts, I've shared that I taught elementary math for years, and always had an hour for math class. That hour gave me the time I wanted to have good warm-ups every day (sometimes taking up half the class with one particular problem that led to additional discussion/extension!); the hour gave me the time to go over homework the way I wanted to. And it still gave me time for a new lesson and practice.
But when I got started teaching math at the middle school, with "44"-minute periods, that was all over. (They aren't really 44 minutes - the students get no time between classes for switching, so switching time comes out of the 44.)
Hi, I'm Ellie! I've been in education for 25 years, teaching all subject areas at both the elementary and middle school levels.