Thank you to Jenny Jorgensen, President of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Maine (ATOMIM), for her Eastern 1 blog post.
ATOMIM has had a busy and productive year. We’ve appreciated being able to meet virtually as a Board where we have been able to check in with each other, accomplish our work, and share what we’ve been learning. We are in the process of saying good-bye to some of our Board members and getting ready to welcome new ones. We are looking forward to our summer retreat which we are hoping will be in person this summer. It will feel great to actually be in the same space with colleagues again.
Another aspect of meeting virtually this year has included work sessions in breakout rooms. One of our Board members attended the NCTM Leadership Conference virtually last summer and brought the suggestion of work sessions to the Board based on information learned at the conference. We were able to use the breakout room strategy to plan a very successful virtual conference (with attendance from every region of our state as well as out of state) this past March. Although we are getting ready to have our last Board meeting for this school year, we will spend part of the meeting in breakout rooms talking about topics such as: 2021-2022 Book Study Planning, Mitchell Award work, and summer retreat planning.
Soon we will be announcing this year’s Jacqueline Mitchell Award. The award recognizes an outstanding mathematics educator who demonstrates a commitment to Maine’s mathematical community through dedicated service, just as Jackie did. It is always an emotional time for me and I’m sure for many other members who were influenced by Jackie and her work for mathematics educators. This year we opened nominations for the award to all of our association members and received suggestions for this year’s awardee. Keep an eye out for the announcement on our website.
This year many teachers in Maine participated in a virtual book study offered by ATOMIM. We read The 5 Practices in Practice: Successfully Orchestrating Mathematics Discussions in Your Elementary Classroom (or Middle School or High School) by Margaret Smith, Victoria Ball, and Meriam Gamoran Sherin. There were so many “take-aways” from this book study. Personally, I became more aware of my listening skills and the need to focus on what students were saying rather than anticipating their responses. I was also reminded to look for what students were learning in the process – there’s more to mathematics than the right answer and so often a wrong answer does have some correct mathematical thinking. The book study included a different choice of writing prompts every two weeks. It was a great way to participate in professional learning and benefit from reading responses from other teachers.
Even in the most difficult of times, when so many teachers are feeling overwhelmed, the ATOMIM Board members continued to focus on the needs of their colleagues; supporting, guiding, facilitating professional development and providing opportunities for networking that proved to be the lifeline for so many educators.
This blog for Eastern 1 was written by Ann Elise Record.
Ann Elise is a NH certified K-8 Educator as well as NH Elementary Math Specialist. She’s been an educator for twenty years in the roles of classroom teacher, K-5 Math Coach, adjunct faculty member for Plymouth State University, and currently Bureau of Education and Research presenter, contributing author to Fluency Doesn’t Just Happen with Addition and Subtraction, and an independent elementary math consultant providing training virtually and, when possible, in-person. Her passion is working with educators to help them implement best practices within the three basic pillars of classroom math instruction that encourage growth mindset messages: math fact fluency, word problem structures, and understanding progressions of the standards.
About seven years ago, I was leaving my 5th grade classroom and was going to be pioneering a new role in our district as a Math Coach K-5. My world began to open up as I embarked on my own in-depth journey of learning about early numeracy. I truly had no idea the expertise needed to facilitate learning journeys of our youngest students. I felt an urgency to share what I was learning with my teachers and serendipitously attended a webinar by one of my favorite math educators, Dr. Nicki Newton, on her creation of a Math Running Record. I instantly knew that I had an assessment tool (which is free!) that not only incorporated and codified early numeracy research, but also provided data that we could use to provide instructional responses for our students. Dr Nicki Newton calls them the GPS of fact fluency. We are able to see exactly where super slowdowns, inaccuracies, or inefficient strategies are happening so that we know where to begin exploring number relationships with the students and help them move forward on their math journeys.
Over the last seven years both as a Math Coach and, now an independent consultant who provides training on Math Running Records, I have seen them change the math climates in schools and districts as all stakeholders redefine fluency to be more than speed and accuracy, but also flexibility and efficiency. Previously math phobic primary grade-level teachers have shared that math has become their favorite subject to teach! Most powerfully, the very same strategies that are explored with basic facts are then naturally extended to larger numbers and even fractions and decimals down the road so conceptual understanding of core content is deepened as well. I’d love to share a bit about them in this post as well as share some resources on where you can join us on the path of creating positive math journeys for all of our students.
Beginning to learn math facts
Students’ math fact journeys begin when our students are in the counting phase of reasoning. So, when asked to add two amounts, they will use objects or fingers to show both of the amounts and then begin counting them all beginning at 1. Then, students develop the understanding of groups. They begin to “count on” starting with the first amount and counting up the other addend. A big step at this stage is recognizing the efficiency of counting on from the larger addend. Traditionally, at this point, many students are then asked to memorize the math facts using games and activities with all their facts. Unfortunately for many, they aren’t able to memorize the facts, so they continue counting on and thus are only in a counting phase of reasoning. This is actually extended to their work typically when working with multi-digit computation if they are using algorithms.
What is Fluency?
When teachers are expected to report out to parents on the progress of their students on mastering their math facts, often the students are given timed tests, because fluency has been narrowly defined as speed and accuracy. There are many issues with this, not the least of which is that it has repeatedly been shown to be the start of math anxiety. There are many long-lasting effects on self-efficacy throughout students’ lives. Fluency is so much more than speed and accuracy. It includes flexibility and efficiency as well. The more we provide opportunities for students to flexibly work with numbers and use derived facts to help them solve the ones they don’t know, the more their number sense will develop and their speed and accuracy will naturally improve as well. Additionally, they will be moving from using counting strategies into additive reasoning.
Using Math Running Records to Determine Starting Points and Growth
But where do we start with our students who have been identified as being “behind”? After 14 years of poring over the math fact research, as well as her own action research, Dr. Nicki has developed a math interview that provides us data on all 4 aspects of fact fluency: accuracy, flexibility, efficiency, and relative speed (although the students have no idea we are keeping track of the time it takes to say an answer). With an interview protocol for each operation, the Math Running Record allows us to zoom in on exactly which set of facts are causing super slowdown, inaccuracies, or inefficient strategies and then to determine where the students are on the levels of strategies such as counting, mentally using counting strategies, using derived facts, or having mastery with understanding.
Benefits of a Math Running Record
Armed with the asset-minded information gained during the interview, we can then provide targeted explorations and activities that will meet the students where they are and help move them forward. The huge bonus to this is that not only will students be mastering their math facts, but they will be developing a foundation of strategic thought that can then be applied to the content expectations of their grade level. If you want to learn more, the free Math Running Record recording sheets can be downloaded at www.mathrunningrecords.com. I also facilitate the Facebook group called Math Running Records with hours of content and support available to you. Here’s a video of me administering an addition interview with an adorable first grader. Here’s another video showing you the adorable reaction 2nd grader had when realizing she didn’t have to use counting to solve a subtraction problem. And yet another video that shows how the same strategies used for basic facts can extend to grade level content.
Frequently, I’m asked about the time it takes to administer the assessment and whether there is enough time to meet with each student. After gently encouraging a reflection on how much time is currently dedicated to assessing students’ reading abilities, I share that it should take about 10 minutes to meet with a student on one operation. I would suggest that we don’t have time not to do these assessments. Too often, timed tests are used to determine those students who are “good” at math which is entirely not true. There are many students who are not quick thinkers, but instead take their time to explore strategies and connections. There are also many students who can recite their multiplication facts who have no conceptual understanding of multiplication. When I ask those students who have given all the math facts accurately and speedily 4 x 17, many of them don’t even attempt an answer. Instead, they tell me that they haven’t learned that one yet. I had yet another 5th grade student who, when I asked him 9 x 5, took forever to tell me 45. When I asked him how he figured that out, he said that he knows half of 9 is 4.5 and that times 10 is 45. Whoa! He wouldn’t have passed a timed test, yet he was doing that level of sophisticated thinking. I would never have known if I hadn’t talked to him about this thinking.
Dr. Nicki Newton says that Fluency doesn’t just happen, it’s a well-planned journey which is why we called our book Fluency Doesn’t Just Happen. Dr. Nicki Newton, Dr. Alison Mello, and I are hoping our book adds to the conversation on fluency and the importance of exploring the strategies and number relationships in concrete, pictorial, and abstract ways.
I have created a fluency padlet full of explanatory videos, resources, and links to lots of free websites with fabulous activities and games. You can access it at www.anneliserecord.com/free-resources. Please feel free to reach out at any time. I’m always happy to talk math with anyone at any time! You can email me at . There’s truly nothing elementary about teaching elementary math!
New Hampshire Teachers of Mathematics (NHTM):
As with all of our affiliates, NHTM and educators across New Hampshire have been taking on the challenges of the pandemic. One of the considerations for NHTM has been in making our membership more accessible to New Hampshire teachers by offering a free basic membership. The basic membership provides updates on PD opportunities and membership in the New England affiliate, Association of Teachers of Mathematics in New England (ATMNE). Besides the free basic membership, NHTM is now offering a low-cost premium membership for schools and individuals which include additional benefits. Please visit our NHTM website to learn more!
Other NEWS from NHTM:
Michelle Morton-Curit, NHTM’s treasurer, is a 2019 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching (PAEMST) awardee,
NHTM’s first Virtual Pot Luck was held on 28 January 2021 – Theme: Favorite Tools for Engaging Students at a Distance,
NHTM is working on building resource and NH math employment opportunities pages on our website,
NHTM continues to strengthen and fine tune the Mathesis blog, and
NHTM has two Facebook groups: Middle and High School Resources (click to join) and Elementary Resources (click to join).
NHTM Spring Conference and Business Meeting was held on 18 March 2021. Trena Wilkerson, NCTM President gave the Keynote: Teaching and Learning Mathematics: Transforming Challenges into Opportunities to Move Forward.