I love being a principal and loved being a teacher. One of my favorite subjects to teach students was math. I also greatly enjoyed teaching teachers about math. Prior to coming to Burlington I had the opportunity to provide professional development to teachers in several districts in Massachusetts and New Hampshire on teaching math and specifically ways to differentiate instruction for all learners. One of the great things about being a principal is that I can share this knowledge with staff daily.
When I went from teaching sixth grade to second grade, I became aware of a spiral. I saw the instruction I was providing in second grade being the foundation for future higher level math and science. For example, a traditional algorithm with regrouping which is similar to what I imagine most of us received instruction in school had multiple steps with the main one being “carrying.” This was not a bad instructional approach. However, students often didn’t get the concept of place value. The partials method on the other hand, another way of doing multi-digit addition I found had many added benefits.
Solving a multi-digit problem with the partials method would look something like the example below.
40 + 20 = 60
8 + 9 = 17
60 + 17 = 77
Grasping the concept of part to whole relationships is an underlying concept to grasping algebra, fractions, and balancing chemical equations. Often in the past students would simply just memorized computational facts. When student arrived at older grades in the past, they often didn’t have number sense.
I greatly appreciate how parents reinforce the importance of reading at home. It is wonderful how parents read to their children at night, have home libraries with fiction and nonfiction, and model being a reader for their children. Students are learning how to read at school and parents are helping to instill an enjoyment and love of reading at home.
There are likewise many things that can be done in the home to help instill number sense. One of the best ways is having your children help you cook. Their is an unbelievable amount of math involved in cooking. Also, children love to create. It is a way to make abstract concepts such as math be concrete in the manner of food. Furthermore, it is a great way to teach sequencing, following directions and health.
Cooking with your child is also a terrific bonding experience. Food Network Celebrity chef, Giada De Laurentis, has talked in interviews about how she came to the United States in the 70's and didn’t speak a word of English. She found the adjustment very difficult. Giada found that learning to cook helped her to feel better about herself and boost her confidence. Dr. Robert Brooks would call this building an “island of confidence.” Capitalizing on children’s strengths is a way to boost children’s self-esteem. The smile I have seen on my first grade daughter's face when we sit down to a dinner she has prepared is amazing. It is the same smile I saw as I teacher. As a principal I continue to regularly see this same smile from students and teachers delighting in their student's achievements. It is why I love being a principal.