Two weeks ago, I declared Friday a catch-up day in my Standard (grade-level) math classes. We had front-loaded a bunch of content….kids were all over the place in terms of material and content…and Math Blasters were due. I’ve written about Math Blasters in other posts and they are back with us for another year, a combination of spiral review and pure torture for teachers, which means they are exactly what we need to be doing! It’s sort of like what they say in yoga–the more a pose makes you twitchy, the more likely it is that it’s exactly the pose you most need!
So, we start the year with fraction operations for both Standard and Extended classes on their Math Blasters. And we give all students a copy of our fraction notes, the algorithms that students simply must follow. We’re no longer in the business, in the 7th grade, of teaching alternative models or deep understanding of algorithms from 4th grade–if students haven’t mastered the algorithms by now, our focus becomes making sure that they have a resource so that they are practicing with accuracy.
My colleagues and I have made a deliberate decision to expect students have access to this algorithmic resource as part of the mentality that we are training our 7th graders to use their resources–it’s not about the answer, it’s about using the resources, seeking out resources, not doing the work incorrectly just to get it done, but taking the time to use the resources. If they don’t learn to do that now, they are lost for the rest of the year and, as I’ve blogged about recently, sometimes in their adult lives!
It takes time to have students use resources, but it pays off as more and more Math Blasters come in with increasingly accurate work on the first try.