Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Wrote this post a while ago, and then forgot to publish... so it's a bit out of date but a record I want to keep.

We are now approaching our 'big' maths test of the term, and I have some concerns
(The test will include early number systems, adding and subtracting fractions (same or different denominators), reducing fractions, and some work with proper/improper fractions - further work with fractions and decimals comes later in the year; also number sequences.)

1. There are a few learners who never got adding fractions with different denominators right. I hoped to do remedial work with them during this last week but the timing didn't work out.
2. A small group are also struggling with reducing fractions, and changing mixed to improper fractions (and linking those terms to what they stand for).
3. We have to write the test at the very latest on Friday.
4. In the meantime, we have to continue with our new module on number patterns and sequences.
5. While I can do some whole-class revision of the problem concepts, there isn't time for enough, nor would the learners (majority) who are doing well with them, tolerate that.

So far I'm thinking:
  • I really should have caught up with the first problems a while ago, and in future I need to make sure to respond quickly to any problems.
  • Whole class revision: maybe creating a colourful foldable or summary sheet together will be interesting for the class and of use to those who need it.
  • It would be a good idea to schedule a special lesson in my extra maths time slot, to work with learners who need it. It is on Tuesday. I'd then still need to set them a small number of revision exercises to maintain/consolidate their knowledge leading up to the test. 
Problems I've encountered in teaching the fractions unit:

- To start with, the learners had a weak foundational concept of what fractions even are, and what fraction notation represents
- Though we did some good cutting and pasting activities to understand equivalent fractions, we really needed to do some more manipulatives work when it came to mixed/improper fractons. I'm only realising this now, though time would have been a problem anyway.
- What conceptual understanding learners have of fractions, tend to get clouded by confusion over computational strategies (where and how to multiply and divide, add and subtract - to find equivalent fractions we multiply or divide both the numerator and the denominator, but when to use which? Depending on the operation, there are different methods to determine what to multiply or divide by...) and perhaps we learnt these too much by rote, without understanding WHY. This could be a weakness in the Jump Math programme, or else in my interpretation of it.

While a week ago I had a class of mostly positive, achieving learners, more of us now seem to be on morassy ground... and I would hate to end what was meant to be a confidence building phase, with some learners drowning while others are rearing to go for the mountains and frustrated at our pace.

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