Monday, September 3, 2012

Place value game - includes decimals

 Here is a box link for downloading the MS Word file.  
It includes the instructions, game board and cards.

Place value and decimal fractions feature large in the South African Grade 6 curriculum. This is a game I made to help learners become more familiar with place value, and how numbers change when we multiply or divide them with 10, or multiples of 10.

In particular I'm using this game as a springboard to get learners to think about shifting the digits to different place values, rather than blindly adding zeroes/moving the decimal point.

Learners work in groups, each group has a 'place value board' and a marker with a single digit, which starts in the Units place, and can move towards the left or right through different place values.

Teams elect to draw a yellow or red card, which will instruct them to multiply or divide by a multiple of ten - effectively, shift the digit along the board. Red cards say multiply or divide by 1000 or even 10 000; yellow cards only have 1, 10 or 100. Depending on their choice of colour and the operation on the card, they will shift their marker and write the resultant 'new total' on the card, before choosing a new one.

The first team to make it 'off the chart' on the left hand side wins. Going 'off the chart' on the right has a penalty e.g. temporary suspension from the game.

                                      *                                        *                                     *

I've tried it out once, last week.

What went well:
My girls understood what to do, got going, and all too soon one team had won.
They enjoyed the game.
When we had to do similar operations later in the week, I could remind them of the game, and they'd find their feet.

What could have been better:
I did not shuffle the cards well enough, so there were too many multiplications coming up, too few divisions. This meant one team won rather quickly.
I should have left more time for the game, perhaps: 10 minutes for getting into groups, intro, distributing stuff; 15-20 minutes for playing, 10-15 minutes for an individual activity answering problems like the ones that come up in the game.

A note on the document (see link at the top). Here in South Africa we use a comma to indicate the decimal point - mainly at school (eccentric, I know).  We leave spaces between sets of three place values. I've adapted the Word document to follow the US convention, but anyone can change it.

This was a first try. I'm new at this and open to corrections or suggestions!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Sunday Funday - Homework policy

It's our school policy that learners should get Maths and English homework every day Monday to Thursday. Homework should help them develop/practice skills but should not take too long - many learners travel long distances and get home tired in the late afternoon.

We've also been seeing poor compliance with homework.

The solution we've come up with (actually my Maths HoD's idea) is to create a weekly homework sheet for Maths and English classes. This gets glued into special 'Homework Books' (notebooks) on Mondays and we encourage parents to check and sign these sheets daily.  The homework on the sheet gets done in the Homework Book for the subject, which makes quick correction at the start of the lesson easy.

It's a challenge to have the sheets ready every Monday but so worth it to avoid power struggles around getting homework noted down in diaries. When parents come on board, and many have, it makes a huge difference and even former reluctant 'homeworkers' start taking pride in their consistent efforts.

The homework sheet differs from teacher to teacher - many just highlight upcoming tests and quizzes and indicate the textbook exercises to be done for each day. I usually add some custom excercises and use the back to print a worksheet. 

Learners earn stars or stickers for homework assignments completed neatly and without errors, these  eventually add up to Merits. Homework repeatedly not done can lead to a detention.

That's it, it's been working for us. 

Sleep and the female teacher

Julie at I Speak Math named sleep her favourite thing of the week. This reminded me that my biggest personal challenge to myself this year was getting enough sleep. Can't say I've done well at it.

I normally go to bed at 10 with my husband but I'm no good at working at night so get up at 3 most days to do marking and prep. Five hours is not enough and definitely does not constitute 'beauty sleep'. Something's gotta give somewhere because besides being bad for my complexion, lack of sleep
- makes me crabby and less able to handle the ups and downs of a school day (and be a good teacher)
- my mom had breast cancer (which she fortunately survived brilliantly) but I've been trying to find out what might have triggered it.
She was always up well before the rest of the family (though not as early as I'm getting up now).

This is what I've found out:
1. Continued lack of sleep contributes significantly to breast cancer risk. (Read here.)
2. The California Teacher's Study investigated health trends among more than 130 000 female teachers and school administrators. Female teachers had a higher risk of breast cancer than the average population.
Are there some dots to connect here?

I'm not writing this to scare anyone but to motivate myself and others to look after ourselves. Which comes at the end of the list much too often.

P.S. Bit of good news: us female teachers are less likely to get lung or cervical cancer. Less living on the wild side, I guess.

Also kinda good, among the many negative health impacts of not sleeping enough is obesity. So I'm hoping I can sleep myself thin :)