Category Archives: 4th Grade

Number Talks Inspire Wonder

Often when I do a Number Talk, I have a journal prompt in mind that I may want the students to write about after the talk. I use these prompts more when I am doing a Number String around a specific idea or strategy, however today I had a different purpose in mind.

Today I was in a 4th grade class in which I was just posing one problem as a formative assessment to see the strategies students were most comfortable or confident using.

The problem was 14 x 25.

I purposefully chose 25 because I thought it was friendly number for them to do partial products as well as play around with some doubling and halving, if it arose. When collecting answers, I was excited to get a variety: 370,220, 350 and 300. The first student that shared did, what I would consider, the typical mistake when students first begin multiplying 2-digit by 2-digit. She multiplied 10 x 20 and 4 x 5 and added them together to get 220. Half of the class agreed with her, half did not. Next was a partial products in which the student asked me to write the 14 on top of the 25 so I anticipated the standard algorithm but he continued to say 4 x 25=100 and 10×25=250 and added them to get 350.

One student did double the 25 to 50 and halved the 14 to 7 and then skip counted by 50’s to arrive at 350, instead of the 300 she got the first time. I asked them what they thought that looked like in context and talked about baskets of apples. I would say some were getting it, others still confused, but that is ok for now. We moved on..

Here was the rest of the conversation:

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I felt there were a lot more wonderings out there than there was a need for them to write to a specific prompt, so I asked them to journal about things they were wondering about or wanted to try out some more.

I popped in and grabbed a few journals before the end of the day. Most were not finished their thoughts, but they have more time set aside on Wednesday to revisit them since they had to move into other things once I left.

What interesting beginnings to some conjecturing!

Division: What’s Left Over?

Interpreting remainders is something the 4th grade teachers and I talk about a lot because so many students seem to struggle with it. Students can typically determine if they need to divide and find a way to get the answer, but if the remainder impacts the response it becomes more difficult. I believe the struggle is not so much about the remainder, but more about students making sense of problems. Many students love to compute the numbers in the problem and get an answer quickly, however they rarely revisit the problem to see if their answer makes sense. I found an even more interesting thing in their work today though that left me thinking about how their solution path impacted the way they dealt with the remainder.

I launched the lesson with a story. If you read my post on numberless word problems, this will be very familiar. I posed the following story to students and asked what they noticed and wondered:

Mrs. Gannon is having a picnic and inviting some people. She is going to the grocery store to buy bottles of water and packs of hot dog rolls. 

Since the students were on the carpet in front of the SMARTBoard and there was not much space to stand and write on the board without trampling a kid, I decided to sit off to the side and type their responses.

After they shared the things they noticed and wondered (in black font below). I told them I would give them some information that would answer some of the things they wondered. After typing in the numbers, I asked if what they noticed and wondered now (typed in red font below).

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(Side note: The cost of things is something I would love to weave into a lesson in the future because that came up a lot and will be great to see what they do with some decimals.)

Since they noticed how much water Mrs. Gannon needed, I wanted to see how they dealt with the hot dog rolls because the remainder would make a difference in the answer. I asked them to find how many packs of hotdog rolls she would need.

Some divided and got 4 r 4 as their answer (the skip counting on these pages came after their chatted with their group.

Some skip counted to get the packs of water and hot dogs:

Others used some multiplying up, some right, some interestingly not:

While I could probably talk for a while about all of the interesting things they did in solving the problem, the most interesting thing to me today was looking at who got the correct answer of 5 packs on their first try.

This is what I noticed as I walked around:

  • The students who went straight to dividing said their answer was 4 remainder 4, no reference to the context, no mention of using that remainder for anything.
  • The students who skip counted nailed it on the first try. They said as they counted they knew 32 rolls were not enough for everyone so they needed to keep going to 40 so everyone got one. They mentioned the context throughout their entire explanation.

I continued the conversation with Erin, the reading specialist, when I got back to the room. We started talking about how this contrast could play out in two different scenarios:

  • On a standardized test, given this same context and answer choices of 4 and 5, the students who could efficiently divide may choose 4, while the skip counter would have gotten it correct.
  • On the same test, give a naked division problem, no context, the efficient divider gets it correct but what about the skip counter. Can they think about the problem the same when their is no context or does skip counting make most sense with a context?

Because I thought it would be interesting, before I left, I asked them how many people she could invite so she had no leftovers at all. Fun stuff to end the class…

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And of course, some students are just funny….

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What Is It About These Questions?

Today, I gave the 4th graders four questions to get a glimpse into how they think about multiplication and division before starting their multiplication and division unit. Michael Pershan had given the array question to his 4th graders last week and shared the work with me. As we chatted about next steps with his students, I became curious if the students think about multiplication differently depending on the type or setup of the problem.

Here were the questions:

After sorting 35 student responses I found the following:

  • 17 students got the area question wrong but the two multiplication problems on the back correct. Not only correct, but with great strategies based on place value.
  • 8 students got all of the problems correct, however the area was found in many ways, some not so efficient with lots of addition.
  • 10 got more than two of them incorrect. Some were small calculation errors on the back.

So, what makes almost half of the students not get the area?

Here is the perfect example of what I saw on the majority of those 17 papers:

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Then I did a Number String with them to hear how they shared their mental strategies. I wanted to get more insight into some of their thinking because a few students had used the algorithm on the back two problems.

They did great. They used the 10 and 20 to help them solve the problems and talked about adding and removing groups of one of the factors. I was surprised on the final problem of 7 x 18 that no one used the 7 x 20 but instead broke the 18 apart to find partial products.

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This makes me think there is something about that rectangle that makes them not use the 10s to help them decompose for partial products. I would love others thoughts and ideas!

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After reading the comments about area and perimeter, I wanted to throw another typical example of what I saw to see what others think of this (when I asked her she could easily explain partial products on the second and third problem)

 

One Hundred Hungry Ants – 4th Grade

Next year, we are restructuring our RTI block to be a time when students are working in small groups in their classrooms. This is a really exciting change from our previous model in which students were pulled from their classroom for intervention. This change will shift our Learning Lab focus to planning small group activities, however the first, REALLY important, piece we need to focus on is how small groups work in the classroom. I think the K-1 teachers have a much better sense of how centers work within the classroom, although we still want to move from the current centers to more strategically planned small groups. So, with only a week and a half left of school, Erin and I are playing around with some ideas in the classrooms as a part of our planning! Fun!

Erin and I planned for a 4th grade class today where we were going to test out a small group scenario. We started in a way I imagine everyone could kick off the year next year, involving students in the process. We asked them what they needed in order to learn in small groups. Below are all of their great responses, most of which were accompanied by an example of something they had experienced during small group work.

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I launched the small group task by reading One Hundred Hungry Ants aloud, pausing occasionally to ask for predictions. After the reading, I didn’t preview the task, but instead sent them off to work in their small groups. This was for two reasons: to see if the wording of the task was clear enough for students to follow independently and to see how they worked as a small group. We choose to give everyone the same task today to see how it went but we are trying different small group tasks tomorrow.

Each group had a journal, storyboard, and this task card:

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They worked for about half an hour and had some great conversations. I especially liked the conversation sparked by the third question because number choice is something I find so interesting. They also had to do some serious negotiating to decide which number they would do as a group since everyone had different reasons. In one group a student wanted to pick 2 because they would “get there faster,” another wanted 75 because “it could make a lot of combinations, but be less than 100 so they could still make it in time.” In another group, a student was saying he didn’t want any prime numbers because you could only do two lines with them.

This one was great because they changed the storyline from finding a picnic to getting to Dairy Queen, but when they get there they had forgotten their money so they still got no food. Different story, same ending.

This one was so interesting because, unlike the book, they used the commutative property, seeing the arrangements as different situations, which the book did not do:

This group saw a lot of doubling going on in their arrangements when they chose 50 instead of the 100 in the book:

We came back together and talked about the patterns they saw.

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While the math conversation was interesting and I can definitely see some great generalizations stemming from this work, tonight I am thinking more about the questions I am left with about small group work…

  • Could a teacher work with primarily with one group, realistically, without continuously checking in on the others?
  • How can we structure the work so everyone in the group is working on the recording at the same time and can see what is being written? We saw a lot of the journal or storyboard sitting in front of one student. Not that the others weren’t contributing, but they all couldn’t see what was being written. I think dry erase boards can work well here.
  • What type of formative checkin can we do with each group that doesn’t add to an already growing pile of papers to be graded or give feedback?
  • How do we control the noise? The students were not being purposely disruptive or off-task, they were just loud and began talking louder to hear one another.
  • What does this look like at other grade levels?
  • How can we keep this interesting for students to do every day while not making it a planning nightmare?
  • How can we embed more student choice in the task?

More to come tomorrow when we tackle these tasks:

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Formative Assessment

Assessment always seems to be such a broad, hot topic  There are rubrics to help create assessments, rubrics for reviewing assessments, and tons of reading about the benefit of assessments. While I agree assessment is an important topic of conversation and all of these things can be helpful, I just lose a bit of interest when it becomes so cumbersome. I feel the longer the rubric and steps to create an assessment, the more detached the assessment becomes from student thinking.  This could be completely be my short attention span speaking, however the way assessment is discussed feels either like data (a grade or number-type of data) or a huge process with tons of text in rubrics that I really, quite honestly, don’t feel like reading. Not to mention, I just love looking at student writing and listening to student thinking when planning my immediate next steps (formative) or checking in to see what students have learned over a longer period (summative). This is why I find the work we are doing each month in our Learning Labs such a wonderful way to think about formative assessment in an actual classroom context, in real time.

This passage from NCTM’s Principles to Action really captures how I feel about the work we are doing in our Learning Labs:

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In this most recent Learning Lab in 3rd grade, we planned the activity together using the 5 Practices model and reflected after the lesson. Since this blog is always my thoughts about student work, I thought it would be great to hear what the teachers took away from the activities we are doing in terms of the students’ understandings and impact on their future planning, formative assessment.  

The teacher mentioned in the blog said, I was surprised by how quick many of the students defended their responses that 1/2 will always be greater than 1/3, and then proving this response using visual representation of the same whole ( which is an idea that we have made explicit). I was impressed with “skeptics” in the crowd that were looking to deepen their understanding around the concept by asking those “What if” questions.  Going forward, I want to create opportunities that push and challenge my student’s thinking. I want them to continue to question and explore math – especially when it uses the word “always.”

Another teacher who taught the same activity after watching it in action in another classroom said, “I learned that almost half of my students assumed they were comparing the same size wholes.  They agreed with the statement, and each student gave at least two different ways to prove their thinking (area and number line model were most common).  The students that disagreed almost all provided their own context to the problem, such as an example with small vs large pizzas, or a 2 different-length races being run.  I found it so interesting that almost all students confidently chose one side or the other, and were able to defend their thinking with examples (and more than one-yeah!)  I was excited to see that they could be so flexible in their arguments as to why they felt as they did.  Three students responded that they were unsure, and gave reasons to support both sides of the argument. This impacted my instruction by giving me such valuable formative assessment information with a simple, non-threatening prompt.  It took about 5 minutes, and gave me tons of information.  It was accessible and appropriate for all.  Students were comfortable agreeing or disagreeing, and in some cases, saying “unsure-and here is why.”  I was most excited about that!”

She also said, From this activity, I learned that I really needed to revisit the third grade standard to see what is actually expected.  It says they should recognize that comparisons are valid only when the two fractions refer to the same whole.  My statement didn’t have a context, so how cool that some were at least questioning this!   This impacted my planning and instruction by reminding me how thinking/wondering about adding a context to the statement would influence their responses.  I am also reminded that I need to stress that students must consider the whole in order to make comparisons accurately.”

Earlier in their fraction unit, the third grade teachers used the talking point below to hear how her students were talking about fractions. (This work is actually from another teacher’s class, but you get the idea;)

A teacher who did this activity reflected, “From this activity, I learned my students had only ever been exposed to a fraction as a part of a whole (and wanted to strictly refer to fractions in terms of pizza). This impacted my instruction by being sure to have the discussion that fractions can represent parts of a whole, but we can also represent whole numbers with fractions.”

To me, these reflections are what assessment should be….the teachers learn about student thinking, the students think about their own thinking, and what we learn helps us plan future lessons with our students’ understandings in mind!

More examples from different grade levels where the teachers and I learned so much about student thinking that impacted future instruction:

Kindergarten: Adding

Kindergarten: Counting

1st Grade: Fractions and Adding

2nd Grade: Counting and Leftovers

4th Grade: Division

5th Grade: Fraction Number Line

Rhombus vs Diamond

Every year in 5th grade, when we begin classifying quadrilaterals, students will continually call a rhombus a diamond. It never fails. While doing a Which One Doesn’t Belong in 3rd grade yesterday, the same thing happened, so Christopher’s tweet came at the most perfect time! (On Desmos here: https://t.co/rZQhu2SGnR)

Of course I had to pop into the same classroom today and try it out! The lower right was so obviously a diamond to me that I was curious to see if students saw the same thing and if it changed their reasoning about the rhombus as a diamond.

Here are pictures of the SMARTboard after our talk:

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After great discussions around number of sides, rotations, decomposition and orientation, they finally got to the naming piece. Honestly, I was surprised names didn’t come up as one of the first things. It started with a student saying the square didn’t belong because it is the only one that doesn’t look like a diamond. The next student said the lower left was the only one “that didn’t have a name.” When I asked him to explain further, he named the square, rhombus, and diamond. Because I knew at the end of our talk I wanted to ask about the diamond vs rhombus, I wrote the names on the shapes. Another classmate added on and said the lower left “may not have a name but it is kite-shaped and looks like it got stuck in a tree sideways.” I asked the class what they thought about the names we had on the board and it was a unanimous agreement on all of them. Funny how quickly they abandoned their idea from yesterday, so I reminded them….they were not getting off the hook that easy;)

“Yesterday you were calling this rhombus a diamond, what changed your mind?”

Students explained that the lower right actually looks like a real diamond and the rhombus doesn’t now that they see them together.

“Can we call both of them a diamond?” I asked. I saw a few thinking that may be a great idea. I had them turn and talk to a neighbor while I listened to them.

We came back and they seemed to agree we couldn’t call them both a diamond because of the number of sides. They were really confident in making the rule that the quadrilateral one had to be a rhombus and the pentagon was the diamond. I pointed to the kite and asked about that one, since it has four sides. “Could we call this a rhombus?” They said no because the sides weren’t equal, so not a rhombus. And because it didn’t have five sides, not a diamond either.

Thank you Christopher! All of these years of trying to settle that rhombus vs diamond debate settled right here with great conversation all around!

Next up, this one from Christopher…

 

Fraction & Decimal Number Lines

Recently, our 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers had the opportunity to chat math for 2 hours during a Learning Lab held on a professional development day. It was the first time we had done a vertical lab and it felt like perfect timing as 3rd and 4th grade would soon be starting their fraction unit and 5th would be entering their decimal unit. Prior to the meeting, we read the NCTM article, “Identify Fractions and Decimals on a Number Line” by Meghan Shaughnessy, so we started the meeting discussing ideas in the article. We then jumped into playing around with clothesline number lines and double number lines, discussing what they could look like at each grade level based on where students are in the fractional thinking.

I have co-taught number line lessons in both 5th grade and Kindergarten this year, but both were a bit different in not only number, but organization. In 5th grade we used one clothesline with the whole class, while in Kindergarten we used tape on the floor and students worked in small groups. Leigh, 5th grade teacher, was interested in trying the small group number lines on the floor. As we planned the lesson, the one thing we thought would be difficult about having small groups is getting around to each group to hear their conversations, especially when we were planning cards purposefully to address misconceptions and misunderstandings. However, knowing we would have the two of us circulating, as well as two 3rd grade teachers who wanted to see the lesson (yeah!), we knew we had plenty of eyes and ears around the room to hear the math conversations.

During the lesson, in groups of three, students placed 24 cards on their number line. There were two sets of cards, so after placing all of their cards, each group visited a number line with a different set of cards to discuss. Instead of boring you with all of the number choices we made, here are a few of the choices in cards and the reason(s) we chose them:

1/3 and .3: Students often think these two are equivalent so before the decimal unit we were curious to see how they were thinking around that idea and how they used what they knew about fractions or percents to reason about it.

0.3, 0.33, 0.333, 1/3: The 1/3 and .333 were there to think about equivalency, while the others were there to think about what is the same in each and how much more each decimal has to make it larger. Which you can see caused some confusion here:

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2.01 and 2.08: We were curious about the distance they put between these two cards.

1 6/9 and 1.6: We wanted to see how students compared fractions and decimals when they can’t easily convert 6/9 into a decimal. Then, if they began thinking 6/9 and 6/10, how would they decide on the larger fraction and then how much distance do they put between them?

The group below practically had them on top of one another:

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While this group had a bit of a space between them:

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2.8 and 2.80: Tenths and hundredths equivalency. They all seemed to handle this with ease.

.005 and 1/100: Curious to see the placement in relation to the other numbers. This 1/100 is close to 0 but I wonder about it in relation to the .2. Definitely a conversation worth having!

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2.8 and 2 7/8: To see how they compared the 7/8 to the 8/10.

After they visited other number lines, they had a chance to meet with that group and discuss card placements they agreed with and placements they did not. Groups then made adjustments accordingly…

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Here was a group’s completed number line and my first stab at panoramic on my phone!

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The journal entry we left them with was, “Which cards were the most difficult to place on the number line? Why?”  Many were just as we suspected.

 

The conversation as I walked back over to the other building with the 3rd grade teachers was, what does this look like in 3rd grade? Could we use array images to place on the line instead of the fractions? Could the pictures include over 1 whole? What whole numbers would we use? Do we play with equivalent pictures with different partitioning? Being mindful of the students’ second grade fraction exposure, below, we are planning on trying out something very soon! I am thinking the cards like these on Illustrative, with the pictures but no fraction names at this point.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.G.A.2
Partition a rectangle into rows and columns of same-size squares and count to find the total number of them.
CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.G.A.3
Partition circles and rectangles into two, three, or four equal shares, describe the shares using the words halves, thirds, half of, a third of, etc., and describe the whole as two halves, three thirds, four fourths. Recognize that equal shares of identical wholes need not have the same shape.
…and then could the journal could be, “Can you name any of the fractions on your number line? How do you know?”…or something like that!