When I first started teaching fifth grade math, getting to know the standards was where I spent most of my time. Doing the math myself, learning different models to support students, getting to know where students are going and where they’ve been.

It was an investment of my time that has paid off because it made me a better teacher. So let’s get started…here’s how knowing your standards can help you as a teacher:

I use math tasks in my class on a weekly basis. Since I truly know the standards I’m able to revise and supplement the tasks as needed. This is so important because I know it is a valuable use of our time in the classroom, and I will be able to truly see the learning of my students.

Using models in the classroom is SO IMPORTANT for supporting student learning. You are able to make informed decisions on the models you put in front of students when you know the standards.

Oof, this one is so important. When you know the math and truly understand where students have been and where they need to go you are able to ask them the right questions to get them there! It’s so important as math teachers to ask questions that get students thinking without giving them too much or jumping in to save them. It truly is an art! Knowing your standards help you do just this!

Asking the right questions and facilitating meaningful discussions go hand in hand. When you have a clear understanding of the standards you not only able to ask the right questions but also use student responses strategically! This makes for great discussions and learning!

When you know the math you able to anticipate misconceptions and misunderstandings that students may have! When you are able to anticipate them you can plan for this and address them in a more productive way.

So now what?

Read books, collaborate, learn from others, ask questions to help you get to know your standards

Plan for these things! Pick tasks that address the standards, think about what models students will be using, what questions you’ll ask, and anticipate what misconceptions students will have

Teach and reflect! The more you teach them the better you’ll know them BUT make sure you reflect so you know how to do it better next time!

Collaboration, team work, working together…so important in the math classroom.

Here’s why it’s important: when students listen to other’s explain their math they learn. Hearing different perspectives pushes students to evaluate their own math and learning. When students help others in math they learn. Students improve their own math, use of academic language, and communication skills by working together. Having students collaborate puts the heavy lifting on students, and puts you the teacher in more of a facilitator role. Overall, it supports a safe, welcoming, and positive classroom community for students!

So let’s talk about some structures and routines I love to use in my math classroom to encourage this value of learning and growing together!

*sidenote: I’m going to push the idea of collaboration a bit, and include some structures that may seem a little less traditional when it comes to working together. I think any time students are hearing each other’s thinking and providing feedback is another way for them to collaborate and learn and grow together!

So here we go!

Rally Coach

Probably one of my all time favorite cooperative learning structure is Rally Coach. Here’s a short little breakdown of what it looks like in my classroom:

>Students work in partners

>One is assigned the role of mathlete, which means they are DOING the math

>One is assigned the role of coach, which means they are observing and offering help

>After each round the roles switch

Here’s what this structure encourages:

>requires students to truly observe and listen to their partners math and math thinking

>students explaining their math

>students giving feedback to help push their peers thinking and give encouragement

>communication: asking questions, explaining their thinking, etc

Numbered Heads

Another great cooperative learning structure that encourages collaboration and working together. Let’s talk about how I use it in my classroom:

>Students work in partners

>Each student is assigned a number or object (like peanut butter and jelly)

>That number corresponds to a role

>After each round the roles switch

Here are some of my favorite roles: student 1 solves one way, and student 2 has to solve a different way (different strategy, model, etc) and then they talk about how they solved and evaluate each other’s math. Student 1 solves and student 2 checks their works and is the one to share out during the debrief!

Here’s what this structure encourages:

>teamwork and working together of course!

>depending on how you use it: offering different ways to solve the same problem,

students observing others math, students explaining their own math or the math of

others

>giving students the opportunity to critique and give feedback

Heads Together

This is a new structure that I started using this year and really like! I usually use it as part of our pre-brief before a task is given for students to “make sense” of the task together OR after students have been given the opportunity to solve as part of our debrief. It’s pretty simple but here’s how I use it in my classroom:

>Students are in groups of 3 or 4

>Each student is given a number

>Students put their heads together and discuss (I usually keep it open-ended at first and then may have some more targeted questions for them to discuss)

>When we come together to discuss as whole group I use the numbers given to students to share out, for example “if you were a 1 can you share something your group talked about?”

Here’s what this structure encourages:

>students learning together of course

>students asking each other questions, providing feedback, explaining their thinking, etc

>putting the heavy lifting on students to make sense of a problem or explain how they

solved

>students hearing multiple perspectives

“Fish Bowl”

This strategy is typically used as a discussion strategy so it is a little outside of the box when it comes to collaboration but hear me out! It’s the perfect way to debrief a math task, have students listen to others perspectives on solving, and then respond.

So here’s how I use this strategy in my classroom, it’s definitely a modified version:

>students sit in a circle (usually positioned at the front of the room and I usually have the board available so students can access that if needed)

>3-5 students are chosen to be the “fish” and discuss how they solved (I pick these students strategically based on observations when the students are solving the task)

>Their role is to show and explain how they did the math and solved

>The students in the circle are listening and taking notes during this time

>After all students have shared the students in the circle are then able to critique, agree/disagree, ask questions, etc

Here’s what this structure encourages:

>listening and responding to different perspectives

>students explaining their math

>students giving and receiving feedback

>students doing the heavy lifting and you the teacher stepping back as facilitator

>learning and growing together of course!

okay that’s it!

I encourage you to try one of those structures in your classroom!