Sunday, October 9, 2016

My new approach to "Do Nows"

"Do Nows", "bell ringers", "warm ups"... whatever you call them, I've been wanted to change my daily routine for a few years now, but up until this year my Do Nows always consisted of a quick review of what we learned the day before. While there's nothing wrong with this approach, and I occasionally still revert to this, what I've been wanting to do is to use this time to focus on improving my students number sense and mental math abilities. It's something I've always wanted to work on with them but could never find the time while trying to "cover" (my math supervisor hates that term!) the required curriculum. This summer after reading a lot about building number sense and daily routines, I decided the perfect place to build this practice into our daily routine was to steal the time from the Do Now time.

My three favorite resources for these new routines are Jessica Shumway's Number Sense Routines, Sherry Parrish's Number Talks, and a PDF I discovered online from San Diego City Schools entitled "Middle Level Mathematics Routine Bank".

Image result for number sense routinesImage result for number talks sherry parrish

The second week of school I started out with the "Number of the Day" routine from the "Middle Level Mathematics Routine Bank". I gave my students a random number and they had to write down 3 different ways to express that number. At first, they looked at me like I had two heads -- they had no idea what I was asking them to do. So I gave them a few examples. Unfortunately, most of them wrote down the super easy "+1" or "x 1" expressions, so I had to include in the directions that they could not use 1 as one of their numbers. The next day I gave them the stipulation that each of the 3 ways had to use a different operation. Gradually throughout that week I expanded the task so they had to use multiple operations in their expressions. I was very proud of one student who thought out of the box and was using exponents and parentheses!

I started out the third week of school with what I thought was a fairly easy routine - using mental math to add 10 to a random number, such as 37 or 148.  While most of my students found this easy, there were a few students for which this was quite a challenge.  I gave those students a hundreds chart and showed them that adding 10 just means moving down one row on the chart.  After a few days, they began to understand this concept.  So after the two-problem Do Now of adding 10 to a number, we did a "Count Around the Room" activity (Shumway calls it "Count Around the Circle" in her book).  They actually loved this and never wanted to stop!  I ended up going around the room twice each day.  Each day that week and the next I upped the ante and increased the number they were counting by to 20, 30, 40, and 50.  Some days we would count forwards, and some days we would count backwards.  The trickiest turns were the ones that required them to jump across a century (197 to 207 for example), but they improved on this as time went on.

The next week I changed it up and we multiplied a random number by 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50.  We discussed strategies for doing these calculations mentally.  I had explained to them that I wanted them to improve their number sense and be able to take apart numbers and put them back together again, so this was the perfect activity to demonstrate how that works.  We had "Number Talks" about all the different strategies they had used.  This brought us into the following week's Do Nows in which I taught them how to use the area model for multiplication so they were breaking numbers into their hundreds, tens and ones, multiplying using our mental math strategies from the previous weeks, and putting the numbers back together again.  That week I also showed them how to use partial products method instead of the traditional multiplication algorithm.  At one point we had 5 or 6 ways recorded on the board for solving one problem -- being the math geek that I am I was super excited!

What frustrates me is that after a few weeks of Do Nows consisting of "Counting Around the Room" by 30s or multiplying a number by 20 successfully, when my students are faced with the same type of problem in the content we are currently learning, they automatically reach for the calculator for these problems.  They are super dependent on their calculators, so trying to break them of this habit is going to be difficult.  I try to anticipate when they are going to reach for the calculator and head them off at the pass!  Hopefully after another month or so more of doing these types of Do Nows, they will gain more confidence and realize that they don't need the calculator for these mental math problems.

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