Archive for October, 2013

Math Catcher Outreach: seeing mathematics in our lives

Posted on: October 31st, 2013 by jnovakowski

This week I attended a session presented by the SFU Math Catcher Outreach Program to a group of Combined Studies students and some other invited students at Hugh Boyd. The main goal of the program is:
 to generally popularize mathematics and to increase students’ awareness about the presence and importance of mathematics in their lives. 

Dr. Veselin Jungic (Dr. J) is a mathematics professor at SFU and coordinates the program. He and two of his students shared their personal stories with mathematics, engaged the Boyd students in some mathematical thinking and presented some examples to help the students “see” the math in the world around them. We then were able to handle some amazing three-dimensional geometric models including some created by a three-d printer.

The students particularly enjoyed our opportunity to create our own geometric models.

More information about the program can be found HERE.

A big thank you to Leanne McColl, Teacher Consultant (Aboriginal Education) for organizing this event for our students.

where is math in our classroom?

Posted on: October 27th, 2013 by jnovakowski

In September, I kind of got a little ahead of myself when working in Louesa Byrne’s K/1 classroom at Thompson. Louesa has been investigating the use of Story Workshop with her young students and I said, hey, why don’t we try a Math Story Workshop! We used Book Creator and the students created little scenes and then used the audio tools to record their voices telling their math stories.

A question emerged from a little five year old…What is math? Wow. Big question! This was the “getting ahead of myself” part and I realized it right away. It was September in a classroom with many students who had no formal school experience. Part of me thought it was great they really didn’t know what math was…should we be compartmentalizing everything anyways? Couldn’t we just look at everything as learning?

So last week we backtracked a bit and did a class brainstorm about makes up mathematics. Many students were able to contribute ideas to the class chart and I could tell some students were still unsure.

Louesa set the students up in partners with an iPad to share. Two days before I came in, Louesa had introduced the Haiku Deck app to the class and they learned how to start a new slide show, search for an image and add text. I popped into the class at the end of the day and tweeted out that the students were working with Haiku Deck. Within seconds, the good folks at Haiku Deck tweeted back! So fun for the students to see there are lots of people interested in what they are doing!

The students worked together and took two photographs each, using the iPad. They walked around their classroom looking for math and I followed along with my iPad, amazed at the different things they found and created. The students added their text and then we had a little sharing circle so we could see everyone’s Haiku Decks.

And here is the collaborative one that I created with the students on my iPad:

exploring ways to represent learning in intermediate math classes

Posted on: October 24th, 2013 by jnovakowski

The Quilchena intermediate teachers are engaging in a collaborative professional inquiry this school year, looking at ways for students to represent their learning in mathematics. Alongside this, is looking at forms of assessment that are authentic and honour the different ways that students are representing what they know.

The teachers are beginning to use math journals as a way for their students to record mathematical thinking and today during our team meeting, I suggested the importance of opportunities for oral rehearsal before students record their thinking in writing and diagramming. I shared some examples of screencasting using the iPad as a way to capture mathematical thinking and to have “evidence” of this for assessment purposes.

I spent the last block of the day in Ms Simpson’s grades 4 and 5 class. This week, the students had been working on using benchmarks to help them estimate when adding large numbers. They were doing a game from their textbook aimed at practicing specific skills. As the adults circulated in the classroom, they asked the students to explain their approaches to estimating the sums of a pair of numbers.

I pulled out my iPad to use the ShowMe screencasting app with one grade 5 student and captured his thinking in the ShowMe below:

We shared the student’s ShowMe with the rest of the class and the students and teachers were intrigued by the use of technology in this way. I think this oral and visual capture is a great way for students to sort out their thinking and show what they know. I’m looking forward to continued work on this inquiry project this year.

counting on fall: math stories

Posted on: October 24th, 2013 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

This week I visited Ms Teramura’s and Ms McKenzie’s Kindergarten classes at Errington Elementary.

We read the first few pages of Counting on Fall by Lizann Flatt and then I role played a math story using a bear and an eagle puppet along with some acorns the bear had gathered for a snack.

The students were then asked to tell their own math stories, using materials set up on tables around the classroom.



Although many of the students did not specifically tell math-related stories, they enjoyed creating stories with the materials, and the adults in the rooms had the opportunity to ask students to count the different materials they were working with to assess one-to-one correspondence and general number sense. The two videos below were created using the Vine app:

note: click off the red X by the speaker icon in the top left hand corner of each video in order to hear the audio

looking closely: finding treasures

Posted on: October 17th, 2013 by jnovakowski

The kindergarten students in Mrs. Grisdale’s class at General Currie went outside on a beautiful, crisp autumn day to spend over an hour looking closely at nature’s treasures. We had all sorts of amazing finds – chestnuts, acorns, leaves of all sorts, special tree bark, mushrooms and dandelions seeds.

This class spread their wings and travelled a little farther than they usually do when they go outside. General Currie has a huge park area and many older trees. The children found many many treasures and I noticed an acorn or too being quietly placed in pockets. The students were on a treasure hunt looking for acorn “hats”.

This class has been working on observing using their five senses and you could really tell by the types of comments the students made – they had so many great descriptive words and great connections!

“It’s like a belly button on the tree.”
“English Bay” (ESL level 1 student connecting white birch bark to tree she saw at English Bay!)
“Leaves are falling from the sky.”
“It is prickly.”
“There was red transparent stuff stuck to the tree.”
“The bark is smooth and bumpy. It’s white like in the book.”
“I found a rainbow of leaves.”
The kindergarten students were excited to be scientists and took pride in the special tools they were given to look closely when they were outside. One little guy asked if he could use the Olloclip on my iPod Touch and after taking a few photos exclaimed, “That’s like a magnifying glass for your camera!” 

I’m looking forward to working with this group of young scientists again!

looking closely in one small spot

Posted on: October 13th, 2013 by jnovakowski

This week, I returned to Blair to spend some time with the two grade one classes. First, we showed a few pages from the book One Small Square: Backyard by Donald Silver. There are also Woods, Pond, Tundra, Seashore and many other versions in this series.
Next, Mrs. Sato, Mrs. Quan and I took the students out into the Blair park to look closely at one small space/rectangle. The teachers had made simple frames out of manilla tag but more permanent frames could also be used – made out of twigs or popsicle sticks, framing mats or actual empty picture frames.

The frames really helped the students to pause and focus their observations. I suggested they act like detectives and see what clues they can find about what living things might have been in their small space. Although we didn’t see any animal tracks that day, we did see some tracks from a tractor! A student commented that “When I look closely, I can see square in the tracks, from the tires.”

The students walked around with their frames, looking up and looking down and then taking time to look closely at what they could see.

One student, who took her time noted that she noticed all these things in her small space: mushrooms, leaves, grass, twigs, chewed clover and moss.

The mushrooms were an exciting find. Comments from the students included:
“It’s a family of mushrooms!”
“There’s spikes on there.”
“The mushrooms are golden.”

For the next visit, we hope to take some clipboards outdoors to record our looking closely observations.

graphing rational functions in Pre-Calc 12

Posted on: October 13th, 2013 by jnovakowski

Last week I visited Ms Wagner’s Pre-Calculus 12 class at McMath Secondary. The students were using their graphing calculators to graph rational functions and then compare them. Ms Wagner provided the prompts: How are they the same? How are they different? These same prompts are used in mathematics from Kindergarten-Grade 12 to frame students’ comparisons and analysis. In Grade 1, students might compare how a square and a rectangle are the same and different and then fast forward to Grade 12 and the same open-ended questions lead to strong mathematical thinking about rational functions.

Knowing that the math department at McMath would soon be getting a set of iPads, I pulled out my iPad and asked a student if he would like to try something out. We used the ShowMe screencasting app and he took a photo of the screen on his graphing calculator and then recorded his thinking about the two graphs.

We shared his short screencast via projector and speakers and the rest of the class clapped…not what I was expecting in a grade 12 class! I think the students were already thinking of the possibilities for this technology in math and I am looking forward to working with them again.

looking closely at trees

Posted on: October 13th, 2013 by jnovakowski

Primary students all across Richmond are Looking Closely as they observe natural items outdoors.

Kindergarten and Grade 1 students in Ms Lo’s class at Anderson were read the book Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid and then we took the students outside to look closely at different trees – the shape, the bark, the leaves. The students matched up the fallen leaves on the ground with the trees they came from, sometimes having to look a little closely at the trees as it had been quite windy and the leaves were all over the place! The students worked in partners and chose an interesting leaf or a tree to draw, noticing and recording details.

One kindergarten student was particularly interested in the olloclip on my iPod Touch and he enjoyed taking some macro photographs of the leaves he was looking closely at.

Amazing photo from a five year old!

math screencasting in intermediate EFI classes

Posted on: October 2nd, 2013 by jnovakowski

On Tuesday, I visited Mme. Bird’s Grades 4/5 Early French Immersion class and Mme. Trewin’s Grades 6/7 Early French Immersion class at Bridge Elementary. Both classes had been learning about algebraic thinking and we used math materials and the Doceri app on the school’s iPads for students to communicate their mathematical thinking en francais.

The Grades 4 & 5 students thought of a pattern rule (ie. + 5) and the Grades 6 & 7 students thought of an algebraic expression (ie. 2n + 3) and then represented their increasing patterns using math materials. They then took a photograph of their patterns and opened the photo in the Doceri app. Using the app the students explained their pattern and created a chart or table using both the drawing features and the audio recording features of the app. The students were then able to play back their screencast to check it  over and then save it to the camera roll on the iPad.

Screencasting in mathematics is an excellent way to capture students oral explanations of their mathematical thinking, an essential element of our mathematics curriculum in BC.

Linked HERE  is a short Animoto video of some of the students from these two classes.

I also used the Vine app to capture the students’ french language use while they were screencasting and posted these clips to Twitter. If you go to and search the hashtag #sd38mathandscience you will be able to view the Vine video clips we shared with the world!

Looking Closely: what we found after the storm

Posted on: October 1st, 2013 by jnovakowski

This weekend a major wind and rain storm hit our area, bringing down leaves and nuts and branches. Two grade 1 classes at Blair Elementary headed outside to see what they could find.

First, we read the book Looking Closely through the Forest by Frank Serafini. The students enjoyed guessing what the different items were on the pages and we talked about “zooming in” and looking closely to notice details in what we were observing. The students were VERY excited to have the change to use “real” scientists’ tools and shared the magnifying glasses and cameras amongst themselves. They quickly learned how to use the zoom feature on the cameras.

We spent an hour outside noticing all sorts of interesting items. The students found maple seeds, mushrooms, acorns, moss, lichen, all colours of leaves, a worm, some wasps, a wood bug and pinecones.

The students had all sorts of ideas of what to do with all the photographs we took – “make a movie to show at an assembly”, “make a book, you know like last year”, “put them on the computer so we can do stuff with them,” “make a slide show” and “print them.” It’s amazing how much six year old already know about digital photography!

The students were also intrigued by my olloclip. Some of the students were very interested in the macro photos I was able to take with it.

I’m looking forward to looking closely at all sorts of outdoor wonders with this group of enthusiastic photographers and scientists this year!