Thursday, 12 January 2017

Maths Warm Ups - My Thoughts

In Agency maths warm ups are an important part of what we do.  They are a great way to reinforce important elements of number sense and strand and explore various concepts in different ways.  In agency maths warm ups usually take the form of games, songs are visual problems such as agent eyes.

As warm ups traditionally (as the name suggests) happen at the beginning of the session they are a great way to hook children in, engage them, excite them and motivate them.

I am always really sad to see this time used for monotonous recall of facts or speed tests.  I'm not sure about you, but if at the beginning of each maths session I had to recall with speed lists of basic facts I wouldn't be excited, engaged or is highly likely I would be stressed and not in a great state for learning.  In fact I still have memories of these lovely warm ups that I dreaded as a learner...they did little to warm me up, and a lot to turn me off maths.

It is my belief we need to be very careful about the message we give children about maths.  Warm ups are a great opportunity to show children that maths is everywhere, it is not just numbers to mindlessly add up, subtract, multiply or divide...but it is about patterns, problems, questions and wonderings, it has real world purpose.  Warm ups are short, but very important, they can either open a child up to learning that day, or they can completely stress them out and shut them down.

Our most reluctant/struggling mathematicians will often pose the question "where will I use this, what is the point?"  I know I hated maths and this was one of my main arguments for completely shutting my mind off to an adult, with a new understanding of maths and the part it plays in our world I am constantly seeing how it is used, its purpose and why everyone needs to open their mind to this fabulous part of learning.

I now see maths everywhere around me:
*At the orthodontist while he was measuring the angles of my son's teeth on an x-ray working out how much movement he needed....incredible
*Watching my daughter get her eyebrows done, watching the beautician line everything up just right.
*Watching the caretaker as they working out how much mulch they will need to cover a certain area
*Looking at the calculations spray painted on roads just before maintenance happens.
----and so on and so on, maths is everywhere!

...I want this for our children (my agents and your agents) I want them to understand what maths actually is and it is not a narrow line of basic facts on a page.  I am certainly not undermining the importance of number knowledge, but I am saying there are ways we can teach this without alienating many children from mathematics forever.

Visual maths was a real lightbulb moment for me last year...yep it has probably been around for years, but it was quite new for me.  This along with the work of Jo Boaler really helped me to see maths in a different way.  I now use 'agent eye' images in most agency sessions and really want to keep a record of all the problems agents pose from these images.  I then had another lightbulb moment and wondered...what if we all did that, what if I opened up a google doc with an image for the week and each agency spent some time posing mathematical questions around this same this would be an awesome resource, a great way of making agencies aware of each other and what amazing problems we would then have for later exploration.

I'd love for all those establishing their own agencies this year to join fact I'd love to work out ways of us sharing with each other, ways of making each number agency aware that there are lots of divisions around New Zealand, what a super way to make connections that would be.

I have linked the first visual image I was thinking of using below.  We don't go back till the seventh, and it is likely our agency wont be up and running till week 3 or 4, but once we are I'd love to start sharing weekly links with different images.

As it is a google doc, questions/problems that the agents come up with can just be written underneath the image.

So my challenge to you is are your math warm ups exciting and engaging learners?

Agent Eyes Number One

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