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Math Classroom Structure
by Gail Englert

A response to the question:

I would like to get some ideas of how to structure the daily math classroom for students of various abilities.

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I have been teaching 5th grade math for 5 years and I have attended many workshops and seminars on strategies for teaching math.

However, I would like to get some ideas of HOW to structure the daily math classroom for students of various abilities. I am searching for some proven ways to structure your math classroom. I actually want proven ways to structure my daily math class; things such as center work, review of homework, new lessons, remediation, enrichment, etc.

Dan

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Dear Dan,

I teach fifth grade, and tried something a little different this year. Let me start off by telling you that my "math time" schedule was horrendous... 25 minutes before lunch, and 30 to 45 minutes after lunch, depending on the day... I began most of the math periods this year with a short quiz of some sort, often a "pretest" over what I was introducing. Students could complete the quiz and turn it in to me. They could then do either of these: congregate in the back of the classroom to go over the answers to the previous night's homework, (if it was he type of assignment that could be shared that way), or use some of the math activities in the classroom individually or with a partner.

As they shared answers, or used geoboards, calculators, tangrams or any of the other math materials in the room, I quickly checked over the pretest answers and then grouped students according to their ability to demonstrate understanding. The remaining minutes before lunch were used to go over questions they had on homework, or to share any "insights" they had about the materials they were exploring.

After lunch, the ones who seemed to know what to do were assigned a corresponding enrichment activity to complete "in the back" independently, with a partner, or alone. The ones who didn't appear to understand worked with me "in the front" of the room. For the last ten minutes or so of the period I gave the ones in front time to work alone or with a partner, and went to the back to review what they had done.

While not a perfect solution, it seemed to create an opportunity for those who were "ahead" to work a bit deeper, while those who were a bit confused were able to get more attention. The students complained on days when we couldn't follow this arrangement, so I assume they liked it. The groups were very fluid, with different students "qualifying" to work independently on most days. Almost 80% passed the Virginia Standards of Learning test given this month, some with advanced scores, and several who didn't pass were very close to the cut score of 70%, so I think it was pretty effective in helping them learn the objectives.

-Gail, for the T2T service

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