Monday, April 24, 2017

Students at the Forefront: Blended Learning & Math

Math seems to be at the forefront of many districts’ agendas. With the Common Core State Standards launching in 2009 and textbook publishers having to recreate their curriculums, many districts were left with their teachers having to come up with their own curriculum that met the new state standards. Luckily, the publishers have caught up and we are back to being able to adopt a Common Core aligned math program. In my district, I was one of the many teachers that chose to pilot a few different curriculums.

However, like many schools these days, our district is moving farther away from traditional teaching methods in which we teach specific subjects at specific times (which is what the curriculum publishers supply us with) and is instead encouraging us to teach in a more blended learning/project based learning approach. Blended learning combines digital methods and traditional teaching methods in which the teacher is present, but the students have more control over the pace in which they learn. Project Based Learning is when students work to answer a question, problem or challenge over an extended period of time. In addition, when incorporating technology into our curriculum we keep the SAMR Model at the forefront of our minds so that we know the technology that is being used is meaningful and transformational in our students learning.

While finishing up a recent graphing unit in second grade, my teaching partner and I decided to put the scripted curriculum aside and relate our students knowledge to a real life question that affects every student in our school…”What is your favorite spirit day?” Yes, I know, a hugely important topic in the age of a five to ten year-old. Needless to say, their engagement in the topic was impressive.

First we had to decide what the choices of our survey would be, which included past spirit days and new ones the students had never even heard of (i.e. twin day...spoiler alert, it was a huge hit.) After the students voted on the final four choices they worked in groups to visit classrooms around our school to gather data with tally marks. When returning to the classroom the students turned their data into a hand drawn bar graph, pictograph, and line graph. Our main goal though was to see what the entire school voted as their favorite spirit day and with that, we needed to combine our data.

I took the students data and created a Google Sheet with each of the individual classroom’s data. This information was sent to all the students through Google Classroom for the students to view. The students logged into their Google Classroom accounts on their iPads and began to calculate the total number of students per grade level and the total number of votes for each choice.

A second sheet was also sent to the students through Google Classroom with a copy made for each student where they would log their very own tabulations for the total number of votes and number of students for each grade level. After they finished and submitted their sheet, I was able to individually assess the students on their totals before we went over the results as a class.

After the students finished their totals and we went over the results as a class, as well as all the different methods students used to be able to solve the problems, they took the final data and created hand drawn bar graphs based on both grade level specific results and entire school results.

With this project there is a wide range of ideas you could give students who finish early. Early finishers were first given the task of totaling the entire school’s results by taking all the individual grade level data and totaling it up. Further ideas include using the data to create graphs within Google Sheets itself, after they had drawn their bar graphs so as to check their hand drawn graph against a technology created graph. Finally, students could work collaboratively in a Google Slides project to present their data to the school during a whole school assembly, or in our case, as a suggestion, supported with data, for our student council.

Ann-Marie Skaggs has been teaching elementary school in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2005. She has received her Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Dominican University. Her passion lies with technology in education. She is an Apple Teacher and a General Board Member of North Bay CUE. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @TeacherSkaggs and on her blog at

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