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6th Grade Students Experience Singapore Math

Many of the 6th graders at Athena Middle School are experiencing a new twist on mathematics: Math in Focus – A Singapore Math Approach.  The math curriculum in Singapore has been recognized worldwide for its excellence in producing students high skilled in mathematics.  Students in Singapore have ranked at the top of the world in mathematics on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) over multiple years.  Because of this, Singapore Math has gained interest and popularity in the United States.

“Mathematics is an excellent vehicle for the development and improvement of a persons intellectual competence.” -Singapore Math

Students have been working with unifix cubes and the “bar model” to solve complex ratio and proportion problems.  This strategy was particularly successful with 12:1:1 math classes and students with special needs.  The idea is to go from concrete tasks to pictorial to abstract.  Many math teachers tend to start with abstract, while Singapore suggests to start with concrete tasks.  This is also a key concept of the Common Core Standards.

Well done 6th grade teachers, Mrs. Mayer, Mrs. Schreiber, Mr. Titus, and Mr. Smith for undertaking this challenge and engaging your students in different ways.  These teachers have devoted many hours in planning and professional development to help their students to be successful and truly understand mathematics.  Well done!

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Every Student Learned Using iPhones and

On January 5, 2012, Andy Brown and Julie Mayer taught a 6th grade interactive lesson on volume using manipulatives, an iPhone, and a web based service called Evernote (  Mr. Brown built a box out of cubes while asking students reflective questions to get them to understand the concept of volume.  After the the box was built, a picture was taken using an iPhone and uploaded to an Evernote notebook.

Students were very engaged in this lesson because the picture they saw Mr. Brown take was instantly shown on the SmartBoard in their classroom.  Individual students were then assigned dimensions and built boxes of their own out of cubes (see photos below).  The iPhone was used again to take photos of their individual boxes and post them to the Evernote notebook.  Then, the class had a discussion about the concept of volume and had to calculate how many cubes made the box.  Every student was able to discover how to find the volume of a rectangular prism.  They are now ready to dig deeper and learn how to show more sophisticated work in the coming days.

Great work students and teachers!

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Geometer’s Sketchpad in Action

Mrs. Mayer engaged her students using the dynamic software program Geometer’s Sketchpad.  In both of Mrs. Mayer’s 12:1:1 classes, she asked high level questions that challenged her students to think.  Her students responded with great answers using appropriate mathematical language and did an amazing job with the program!  Mrs. Mayer’s students used Sketchpad to measure the three angles of a triangle.  Even though all students in the class had different size triangles, they all came up with the same angle sum–180 degrees!  This was a great constructivist lesson that allowed the students to discover mathematics, rather than be told mathematics.  Teaching assistants Mrs. Arsenault and Mrs. Hale also did a great job working with students and facilitating conversations.

Students were also challenged to answer the following questions that pushed mathematical thought:

  • What is the sum of the angles in a triangle?
  • Could we have 2 right angles in a triangle?
  • How can you prove that this is an obtuse triangle?

Students commented on how fun Geometer’s Sketchpad was and asked if they could download it on their computers at home.  Mrs. Mayer and her students clearly met the learning objectives of the lesson and will likely remember them for a long time.  Well done!

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