Today I introduce a Math Message/Journal. This is a small blank notebook where students jot down our daily "quick math" response. I tell students that each day I will give them one or two quick math problems to solve, and to be prepared to share their strategies and thinking with their classmates.
The Math Journal provides a place for students to write down their solutions to problems each day, or to record their thinking about mathematical terms or processes. If I just use write on/erase off boards, there is no written record of student thinking. The written responses insures that all students are at least trying to solve the problem.
On the board I write: " At home, students found that 16 people use clocks. At school, students found that 9 people use clocks. How many people use clocks, altogether?"
I ask children to solve the problem in their new notebooks. I ask them not to yell out the answer, but to write down what they think. I tell them they can write a number, draw pictures, tally marks or any other way they solve the problem.
I usually give students about 5 minutes (or less as needed for most of the class to have something written in their notebooks). I walk around the room looking at what students are doing to solve the problem, and helping those who seem to be stuck.
After most of the students are done, and before the attention in the room wanders, I ask for a volunteer to share how they solved the problem. I ask for other ways that students might have solved the problem. Often everyone wants to answer so I limit this to three or four volunteers, asking each one if there strategy is different. I am seeking other strategies, so that everyone has an opportunity to reason about thinking of others, and potentially to develop more sophisticated strategies themselves. In the reflection in this section, I explain in greater detail the structure and purpose of this critical part of the math lesson.
I have already laid out the math tools that I want students to explore. (Not all classrooms have the same materials so you will need to decide which math tools you have that are appropriate for the lesson.)
I hold up each tool one at a time and ask students if they know what it is and how it is used.If no one knows how to use a material I will ask a student to demonstrate how to use the tools while I explain how it is used. (Usually most of the tools are familiar to students.)
Around the room I have set up tool stations. I tell students that they will have a chance to visit each center for 10 minutes to explore the materials. There will be examples of things they might do at each center, but they can also explore other ways to use the tools correctly.
I tell the students that today they will use their Math Journal (the one they used to solve a problem earlier in the lesson) The Journal is to record their mathematical thinking, strategies, and problem solving. As students go from center to center, they will have a minute at the end to record what they did. (For materials, such as the template, they may want to draw it in their Journal.)
I divide the class into as many centers as I have created. I remind children of my attention signal and that I will ring it in 9 minutes, so they have time to Journal and clean up before moving to the next center. I let one group at a time move to their materials and begin.
As students work, I circulate among the groups listening to what students are doing, asking questions and offering assistance as needed.
The Common Core Mathematical Practices includes the appropriate use of math tools (MP5). This initial "tools" lesson develops students' awareness of what tools they have access to in the classroom that they may choose from later on when they need to solve a problem on their own. In the reflection in this session, I share the reason for this open-ended activity.
After students have visited every center, I have students clean up their last materials, bring their Journals and come to the circle. I bring a sample of each tool that students used to the circle.
I hold up one material at a time and ask students what they did with it, what they discovered, and possibly to share something they drew or made. I usually ask several students to share out for each material.
I encourage students to use mathematical terms as they describe what they did, or provide appropriate terms during the discussion.